Gramma’s visit to Fiji

My Gramma (Janet) has traveled A LOT.  She’s been to every province in Canada, every state in the US, and every continent worldwide, including Antarctica, some of them multiple times!  When she first heard we were traveling for 10 months, she decided to visit us at some point, just like she did during our year in Namibia.  It would have preferably been around Christmas time, but Vanuatu would be hard for her because we’d be doing some intense trekking there.  She has a replaced hip and knee, and just had cataract surgery a couple weeks earlier.  We’d be in New Zealand for New Year’s, but she’s already been there!  So since she’d never been to Fiji, and we’d be staying in one spot while we’re there, it would be the perfect place to visit us.

We met up at the Los Angeles airport on November 19th.  Coincidentally,  we were on the the same flight to Fiji.  It was a long 12-hour flight, but we were on a nice, new, quiet plane, and I think all of us got a bit of sleep.

We all rode the Ocean Dreaming boat to Tavewa Island, where Rhonda, Henry and Ben live.  We stayed with them for almost 3 weeks, but Gramma stayed for 1 week at Natabe Retreat (pronounced Natambe) just a bit down the beach, owned by Nikki, and Col, Henry’s relative.

Gramma did a lot with us during her visit.  She went handline fishing with us one day.  We caught mostly small reef fish that we put back in the water, but we ate some of the bigger ones for dinner that night.

And she visited the primary school with us that Henry went to as a kid. 

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Henry's old school "Nasomolevu" primary school

There was supposed to be a concert that the students would present before going on Christmas holiday.  Unfortunately, the music system didn’t work or something, and they couldn’t do the concert.  It ended up being an awards ceremony which went on and on, so we watched for a while, toured the school facilities then left.

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Though the audio didn't work, the kids still sang some nice songs.
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This is the bay that Henry used to swim across to get away from school on the weekend. Every Monday morning though, when he got back to school, he'd get strapped by the nuns!

Gramma ate lunch with us at Rhonda and Henry’s every day.  She ate dinner there some days too but twice, she treated the 4 of us to dinner at Col and Nikki’s.

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Kaia is enjoying her ice cream-mousse-berry-whatchamacallit dessert!
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No night together would be complete without the Douglas family's favourite card game, "Onze".

Col and Nikki’s place is really cool.  When it rains, there’s a little river that flows through the house, and a little bridge over it!

And one night, she treated all of us to dinner at Nanuya Lodge on a neighbouring island.

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If you like pinacolada...

After about a week with us on Tavewa Island, Gramma flew out on a sea plane back to Nadi to get on a cruise the next day.

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The seaplane that Gramma left on brought in two guests for Turtle Island resort. It costs $2000/night with a minimum 6 night stay. For that price, they carry you off the plane onto the beach while they welcome you with music.

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bye Gramma!

This wasn’t our final goodbye though, because her cruise stopped at the Blue Lagoon nearby (yes, where they filmed the movie) 5 days later.  While on the boat, she emailed us, saying that “everyone is welcome at the Blue Lagoon”.

The cruise boat arrived in the morning, and the 4 of us kayaked over to meet her around noon.

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Of course, we're playing Onze!

During a buffet lunch, we met some of Gramma’s new cruise friends, who one of which told us: “we’ve heard so much about you already, we feel like we already know you!”  The Fiji Princess, the cruise boat, can hold 60 passengers plus crew, but on her cruise, there were just over 20 of them, so there was plenty of food to spare.

We did a glass bottom boat ride too.  We saw colourful fish, coral, and lots of sea cucumbers!

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Rhonda, Henry and Ben came over in the motorboat in time for a Lovo dinner.  Lovo is a traditional Fijian meal where they wrap big pieces of pork, lamb or beef in banana and coconut leaves, dig a big pit, put hot stones and coals in, put the meat in and bury it.  They let it slow-cook for a couple of hours, then dig it up.  This makes the meat really tender.

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The dinner was delicious.  There was so much food!  One of the crew members said “Anyone else want more food?  Remember, the more you eat, the better you float!”

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Dinner was served on the beach.

Next we had Kava, which my dad will talk about in the next entry.  Then, some performers from the closest village came and did traditional singing and dancing called “meke”.  The dancers were super energetic and yelled “Bula!” a lot!

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The women then set up a handicraft market, where I got a shark tooth necklace!

At that point, she had to go back to the boat for the night.  We said our final goodbye to her, then went back to Tavewa in the motorboat towing the kayaks behind.

The next morning, the cruise boat passed by Tavewa when it was leaving.  We made a  big smoky fire with palm leaves and waved as it passed.  Through the binoculars, we saw Gramma waving back at us.  We hadn’t seen her in a long time and wouldn’t see her for an even longer time, but it was great that she visited us halfway around the world!

The cruise boat went to some swimming caves later that day.  The first part is nice and bright, but to get into the second part of the cave, you need to swim underwater for a few seconds.  We went there after the cruise did, and it was even a bit scary and hard for us because it’s dark and there’s not much room for your head when you first come up, so none of us thought that Gramma would have done it.  Later though, she emailed us that she made it in to the second cave.  We were very impressed.  Good job Gramma!

Jake

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