October 28

Here we finally are at Mbennga! We got here yesterday morning and anchored in Vanga Bay . Dragon Lady was not here to our surprise although we heard them hailing us on the VHF radio – it sounded very faint. We guessed they went to Suva , the lagest city in Fiji on the main island of Viti Levu , which is fairly close. We talked to some people on another boat underway a bit north and they were able to reach Suva and relayed a call to them. We talked on the SSB radio and got the story. Apparently they had alternator problems (weird huh?) and went to Suva for repairs. They should be here Tuesday they say.  

We went and visited the village and Jordan made the formal presentation of waka (dried kava roots) and asked permission of the chief to stay and visit. The village is very small consisting of around 100 people living in 20 simple tin huts. These people are poor in material goods but the land feeds them. Fruit, vegetables and fish are found a plenty. We visited one of the families and I think it was the poorest people I have ever met. In French Polynesia – the habitations were equally simple but there is a elaborate welfare system supporting them. The hut was one large 20 by 15 foot room. The kitchen consisted of a cupboard in the corner with cooking being done outside in a small hut. There were two beds for the parents and three children. Other than that you sat on the floor on straw mats. Ben and Maria (their names) were very generous and welcoming. They made us tea and offered us bread and breadfruit. Jonah ran around with the village children who were in awe of this small imperious white boy with blonde hair. They apparently kept talking about the whiteness of his skin. The kids wore clothes that were well worn and torn. The hut contained one large trunk with the moms dresses hanging on a rod. That seemed the total of their possessions. Ben remarked that he doesn’t like to go to the city ( Suva ) because he sees all the things and he has no money, so he stays in the village. They were letting two backpackers stay with them in return for food gifts. Thomas and Kendra were two Californians who just graduated from school last year and are about to join the Peace Corps. They have been traveling around the Pacific since July and plan to end their trip in New Zealand .  

I was completely humbled by the material poverty of the people and by their mellowness. I can see how the indigenous Fijian culture must clash so with the Fijian Indians who are material and business orientated which is the cultural norm for them. I think local Fijians lust after the material stuff but do not understand the work and education required. They would much rather fish and drink kava all day. It is not really laziness from their point of view – its just that village life is rather tranquil and self sustaining.  

Ben  and the hitchhikers came and visited the boat after snorkeling. Ben enjoyed several Rum and cokes while smoking non stop with cigarettes given to him by us. We carry a couple of cartons for gifts. I made a bag with corn beef, rice and some magic markers for the kids. Jordan brought him back to the village and he gave the bag to Jordan and told him to go present it to his wife saying it was a gift from me. Fijian ways are sometimes strange.  

Today we were roped into going to church and to have lunch with Ben and Maria. We met them at their hut and our wardrobe had to be made appropriate. Despite me wearing a very modest dress to the middle of my calf’s, I was lent a long black skirt to put under my dress. Jordan was given a wrap (a lava lava in Samoa , the Fijian name escapes me now) and a white collared shirt. Jonah was ok in shorts and a collared shirt we dressed him in this morning. The church was a simple tin building with rough wooden benches and a tiny wooden cross. The entire service was conducted in Fijian and lasted 90 minutes. Oh yeah. The singing was nice but hey I could have missed the entire thing but we were trying to be polite and church is the center of most rural Fijian lives. We went and ate lunch at Ben and Maria’s where an cloth was laid on the mats and the dishes of food were laid out. Ben kept the omnipresent flies away with a straw fan while we sat and ate. They pushed heaps of food on us. I hate taro and breadfruit is like dry cauliflower. They had a curry which was nice and a dish with corn beef and coconut milk which was ok. It was the effort and expansiveness with which it was presented which was amazingly generous. Our material wealth must be incomprehensible to them.