Lola & Toni in the Tonga

Holidays and Fiji Part 1
January 30, 2009, 12:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, it has been sometime since our last post, and quite a bit has past since Obama become president-elect and that swim in the Neiafu harbor.  At this point I am at a loss of where to start, but I guess I will start back before Thanksgiving.

The month was November in the year of 2008….ha ha.  Every year the Peace Corps staff provides turkeys to the volunteers for Thanksgiving.  Last year,  a good majority of the volunteers and our group who were still in training were in Vava’u and had a big celebration with all the volunteers, trainees and PC staff.  This year was a little different.  The trainees were divided up and sent to different island groups to attach to a current volunteer to get that “day in the life” feel of a Peace Corps volunteer.  So, the PC administration sent turkeys to all the different island groups as well as a box of parts??….because turkeys are very expensive here in Tonga.  So, here in Tongatapu we had about 20+ people for Thanksgiving and just didn’t think one turkey would be enough, so we ended up chipping in and buying another.  The problem was that there was nowhere to hold the feast, and the country director was leaving for the holiday..  In the end, Lara and I decided that our house was the best place to hold the holiday feast.  Unfortunately, we don’t have an oven, and I had two 15 lb turkeys to prepare and cook.   There are two ovens at the PC office, so I decided to cook them there the morning of Thanksgiving while Lara was at work preparing for a conference in Fiji that she would be attending the next week.  All the trainees and Tongatapu volunteers showed up with side dishes, drinks and even ice cream for dinner, but none of the Tongan staff we had invited showed up.  That is very odd because Tongans don’t usually pass up an invitation to eat.  Anyway, all the food was prepared, and Poki our faithful Unitarian Universalist led us in a very Unitarian prayer which included everyone stating what they were thankful for.   To make a potentially long story short, I think everyone got enough to eat, including leftovers, and all in all a successful Thanksgiving.  We definitely missed spending the holidays with family and friends back home though.

The week after Thanksgiving, Lara and her co-worker from the Ministry of Lands and Survey went to Suva for the annual SOPAC conference.  SOPAC is the regional geo-spatial organization in the South Pacific.  Her and her co-worker were to present on projects that the Ministry was working on here in Tonga.  I think it went very well from what Lara told me, and she had a great time in Suva.  Lara hung out with the Tongan community in Suva, but it took a while for them to figure out why Lara spent so much time with a 6 ft + Tongan woman and spoke in Tongan all the time.  Once they figured things out, they took very good care of her.  The funny thing was that we were to return to Fiji two weeks from the day she returned from there.  Anyways, she was able to scout out some good restaurants and bars in Suva for when we returned.


The highlight of the holiday season for Lara and I had to be our vacation in Fiji.  We were headed there on the 20th of December with another PC couple, Scot and Karen.  Although we flew in with them and were planning the first three nights with them, we had different itineraries for our vacation.   We also flew in with Phil, a volunteer in the Ha’apai group who had a 26 hour layover and then was off to Hawaii to visit his son and take a much needed break.  Of course the week before we left dragged on and on, and I was trying to finish up the last of my grading so I could relax on vacation.  It was quite an unbearable week.

First night in Nadi with Phil

First night in Nadi with Phil

Our first three nights were spent in Nadi. We were to find out soon that Nadi was one of the most touristy cities in Fiji and that Fiji had much more to offer. Regardless, we were very happy to be somewhere else and excited to travel a new country. We stayed in a small backpacker place which was affiliated with a larger nicer resort next to it. Although our rooms were pretty basic, they had air conditioning that we blasted the whole time we were there. So nice to be able to come out of the humidity into a nice cool room, something I hadn’t experienced in sometime. The first night we had dinner with Scot, Karen and Phil at a little quiet place down the street from the hotel. It was incredible food compared to what we were used to, or maybe it was just different. Nonetheless we enjoyed our first meal and cold Fiji Bitters in Fiji. The next day, Lara, Phil and I took a long walk on the beach to check out the surroundings. It in no way compared with the wonderful beaches we were accustomed to in Hawaii, but the views of the outer islands was definitely beautiful. After our walk, and for the next few days we hung out by the beach or pool of the neighboring hotel. The only way I could describe it would be “over stimulation”. There were all these young people running around in either small bikinis or surf shorts with no shirts drinking beer. We felt very old for one thing, and after coming from a conservative society like Tonga, we felt everyone else was very under dressed. Also, in Nadi town, we were harassed by craft salesman and followed by people trying to get us to come into stores or restaurants. It was overwhelming. We did get to see the Hindu temple in Nadi, which is very beautiful and had some pretty good food. It was an interesting introduction for our holiday.

After three nights in Nadi, Lara and I were separating from Scot and Karen. We were going North, and there were heading along the South coast for more beach. Our first stop was Lautoka, the second largest city in Fiji. Although we only stayed one night in Lautoka, we both really enjoyed Lautoka. There was plenty of shopping, a great marketplace, and some of the best Indian food I have ever had in my life. Lara kept suggesting vegetarian Indian food, and I usually prefer a little meat in my food, so I wasn’t completely convinced. After that first meal, I was sold. It was so delicious and spicy that I craved it for the rest of the trip. The hotel we stayed in was described as “a fine aged beer”, and I was sold on staying. It ended up having quite a bit of character, as well as a big front lanai we could sit on and watch the town go by. That night we met a Fijian woman who worked on one of the resort islands and was waiting for some guests. After hanging out with her, she had somehow convinced Lara to go to a local nightclub. I was not interested, and Mr. Bean was on TV! Mr. Bean I say, why would I want to leave that after not having TV for a year and a half? After poking and prodding, I broke down and went. Lara of course has a different opinion of the club, but I thought it painful to say the least. It was dark, incredibly loud, and a little uncomfortable. I sulked over a couple of beers and eventually convinced Lara that we should get going, especially after our new found Fijian friend had left. The next day, Christmas Eve in fact, we were headed up to the Northern most point of Viti Levu, the main island we were traveling on to a village called Rakiraki. By the way, everywhere we went, we went by bus. Fiji has a pretty incredible bus system. Unfortunately, only sometimes do they run on a schedule. Being that it was Christmas Eve, they weren’t leaving until the bus was full, and I mean full. Although, the bus was full, and a large Fijian woman decided to fall asleep on my shoulder, it was a beautiful ride. Fiji is very mountainous and very green, much like Hawaii. Also, Lara kept me entertained with all the interesting Indian snacks she bought at the cart in the bus station. After 3.5 hours, we arrived at Rakiraki, which was supposed to be a village. This so called village had almost as much to offer as the capital city of Tonga that we live in. It was pretty amazing, that people referred to this as a village. We stayed in a hotel outside of town about 8 kilometers (yes kilometers). Christmas was a quiet affair for us this year. None of the exchanging of gifts, Christmas trees, or mom’s ham and cheese croissants. We did visit the beach on Christmas, and although it was raining when we arrived, it turned out to be quite a pleasant day. Once again I will say that Fiji is an incredibly beautiful place, and it was much less touristy after we left Nadi.

Lautoka Hotel Lanai

Lautoka Hotel Lanai

Well, I have to cut this short since this is only part 1. Yes, I do know that we are out of date on what is going on with us, but we have honestly be pretty busy or distracted lately (even though we are volunteers) I will finish the second part soon and get on to more current events. Also, we have posted some new photos on the Picasa account. There is a link at the bottom left side of our blog that says “other photos” or something like that.