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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Invited to a Hindu Temple and Ganesha Feast

When a local repairman here in Savusavu phoned Jim to invite us to attend the Ganesha ceremony at the Hindu Temple, we were eager. "Don't eat meat on Saturday or Sunday," Pallay instructed. I thought for sure Jim would balk. I made him Eggplant Parmesan once for dinner and he complained for a month that the meatless meal bordered on starvation. But for Pallay, Jim agreed. This was the last day of the 10 day festival of Ganesha Chaturthi.

Jim and our host and friend, Pallay
I call Pallay a repairman because that's how we met him. Our big alternator gave us grief and fixing it was cheaper than buying a new alternator. But really, Pallay is Jim's friend. He's given Jim a tour of the town and showed him locations where to buy certain things. His rates have been more than fair and he's not charged us more for extra work. He's come to Hotspur several times to diagnose our alternator's behavior.

It was disappointing that on Sunday it rained, but that didn't stop the horde of Hindus from showing up to the small temple to worship. We could hear the bells clanging in town before we walked up the steep, paved road and multi-level steps. We trudged through mud to get to the door.

Men tended a celebratory fire pit outside and we removed our shoes. Women and little girls dressed in their finest saris sat on woven mats on the floor. A narrow path led to the Ganesha. Flower wreaths and food offerings brightened the altar. The second we walked in I began coughing from the rolling clouds of incense. The open windows helped a bit. We paid our respects to the altar by rotating a silver platter with candles, incense and marigolds around the deity several times and took a seat in the back on the floor.

Ganesha paraded through town
How these old women could sit cross-legged for hours on the hard cement was unfathomable. My legs began to buzz with numbness and I shifted uncomfortably. It took my mind off it when the boys on a stage began singing, playing the harmonium, drums and cymbals. Women got up and danced, long costume earrings and bangles jangling with their hip shakes. Some threw rice at the Ganesha. It was hard not to jump up and join the dancing women, but my daughter's "don't do it" glare kept  me rooted to the hard, uncomfortable floor.

Pallay escorted us outdoors a couple hours later where we were served food. The men served sweets like rice pudding and groundnut laddoos (a crumbly cookie). There was also a pasty, sweet dish with raisins and coconut. Everyone ate with their hands. Later we had lunch, a vegetarian delight.

Strong men loaded the Ganesha on a palanquin and the crowd followed him through town. Colored powders in pink, blue, green and orange were tossed into the mass of colorful people or rubbed on faces, hair and clothing.  People danced in the streets, sang and chanted. MORYA! It was quite the spectacle as Ganesha was taken to the ocean and released into the water, taking the misfortunes of mankind with him.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

50 in Fiji

The teenager driving me to dinner in the dinghy

It's not often that "The Biggin" comes around, although all of the annuals from now on will be great big "Biggins". And, I rarely celebrate my birthday but with my kids and husband and an occasional sister every 10 years.
But 50?
In Fiji?
How absolutely fantastic!

Dave and Wendy from sv Elysium

Carol and Craig from sv Windcutter

We gather for dinner at the Captain's Table, a fancy-ish restaurant at the Copra Shed Marina in Savusavu. It's the kind of restaurant where gently scented, steaming towelettes are rolled like scrolls on small white plates and individually set at the edge of each place mat. A delicate sandalwood fragrance curls up from the cotton rolls.

(If I hadn't already taken a shower and put on minimal makeup I would have sponge-bathed right there at the table. I'm relieved to discover my initiation into the "Golden Years of Happiness" hasn't changed the fact you still can't take me anywhere.)

Second piece of cake that I really, really didn't need.

We all powwow at Windcutter after dinner for cake and ice cream and wine.
(Like I needed any more cake... Still, what a wonderful way to roll into the 50's.)

A sweet husband and his cougar

My new friend, Sailosi, surprised me with a beautiful card.

I met Sailosi when trying to book the sugar cane mill tour. I've run into him repeatedly for weeks since. And I was deeply touched by his sweet words.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fiji Sugar Corporation

I felt really pressed to take a tour of the Fiji Sugar Corporation mill before they closed for the season. We made three trips to Labasa before we scored a tour. We took a trip with our cruising friends, Dave and Wendy on sv Elysium.

Wendy walking by the rows of loaded trolley cars

Dave waiting for our tour guide

Friendly farmers - well, one is anyway

Lines of sugar cane trucks and tractors waited to be admitted to the dumping station. Some had been waiting for hours and were eager for the opportunity to chat with us.

It surprised us all that this third world country has a cogeneration mill. We learned the sugar cane is crushed, the juice extracted and routed to the steam boiler. The fiber from the stalk is dried and turned into "baguesse", or fuel material. The baguesse is burned to power the steam boilers. It's not only completely self sustaining, but the mill sells its leftover energy to the power company.

Carolyne in her hard hat, safety glasses and ear plugs

Our tour guides, Alfred (left) and Lindsey (right)

Dave and Jim weaving through cane trucks

The mud squeezed from the cane stalks is sold as fertilizer. Molasses is not only bottled and sold as syrup, but farmers use it to fatten livestock.

A group of employees wait for their shift

Delivering a load of sugar cane

Waiting under the shade of a tree for the line to move forward

 Employees are an investment, chosen at young ages for apprenticeships. They work up the ranks and their education is funded by the company if they are dedicated.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Taste of Hidden Paradise

Carolyne very excited about her meal...
or doing her best to ruin the photo
My stomach rumbles thinking of The Taste of Hidden Paradise Restaurant. We discovered Savusavu's little gem of a diner while eating lunch in Labasa at the Banana Leaf. We mentioned to the owner that we were on a sailboat in Savusavu and he said,”If you are from Savusavu, then you must visit my sister's restaurant there. It is very good.” Maybe he is a little biased, but we agreed to give it a try.

It's located a short walk from either The Copra Shed or Waitui marinas.
We've eaten there 5 times - and we would have visited more had we known it existed. The Thai Chicken is a beautiful curry dish - creamy and mild spicy with plenty of broth to spoon over your bowl of rice. Chicken Black Bean tastes savory with its coating of rich black bean sauce and faint trace of fresh ginger. The lamb curry is one of my favorite dishes- served with rice, dahl, roti, a veggie side dish of the day and tasty homemade chutney. Fish in coconut milk, spicy prawns, lamb chops...the menu is broad. Jim and Carolyne agree. This is our favorite restaurant.

Just a few items on the menu.
There's no liquor license – but don't fear! It's okay to brownbag. Bring your bottle of wine or cold beer with you.
Owners Arunesh and Reshma Saigal
Because every plate is made to order, it can take a while to prepare. Impatience will spoil your experience – and trust me... it is worth waiting for! If you want something to tide you over, then order some of their pre-cooked foods from the case in the front.

Arunesh and Reshma are the owners. Lovely people - eager to please and proud of their family business.

The price is very agreeable. A plate costs on the average $8-$12 Fijian. That is roughly $4-$6 US.

Excellent food. We don't leave feeling hungry. It feels good knowing we're supporting a nice, nice family. We can eat there more frequently because the prices are so reasonable = less time in the galley cooking. Need I say more?

More photos from Savusavu

Organic farms are popping up all over the island as more
farmers are learning about the hazards of pesticides.

I see a lot of men carrying their babies here. So much so, it stands out.

Tai works at the Planter's Club. He's carrying
home a bag full of fresh cut curry leaf.

The crafts made with pandanus (similar to raffia) are my favorites. I bought that
cute tapa doll she's holding. Shh... don't tell the captain.

Basket weaving in the market

I love the hibiscus.
It's a cloudy, sprinkly day and walking the bridge over the
 hot springs looks and feels like a sauna.

Savusavu: low tide at a lookout point with
spectacular views - despite the gloomy weather.

Off to gather firewood

Savusavu Junior Sailing Club - it is so much fun to hear the shrieks and
giggles from these little guys as they zoom around the anchorage.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Reason Why We're Not Moving

We can't seem to get enough of Savusavu, even if our alternator DID work beautifully. After spending $160 in American Samoa for repairs, we're perturbed at its response - melty hot and spewing smoke. Jim found a dear repairman here to work on it for us. We're in no hurry to leave.

A giant yam in Labasa's market

Men waiting for 20 hours to enter the sugar mill
with a truck loaded with sugar cane

A view of Savusavu

Choosing a sunny day, we caught a bus to Labasa, the largest city on the island of Vanua Levu. The marketplace is 5 times larger than Savusavu, but the people are just as warm and friendly. It was a gorgeous drive, about 2 ½ hours, and it was an excellent way to breathe in the geographical diversity. The climate change was obvious as the bus ascended into the mountains. Pine trees mixed with palms was a little confusing. People waved warmly as we passed by the villages.

Busted by my sneaky photo - Labasa

My favorite Fijian, Laila
The internet is so wonderful in Savusavu that we don't mind the occasional rain. After a yearof downpours and huge expense/curse words at the incredibly slow to non-existent pings in Pago Pago (which has apparently improved in American Samoa through ASTCA), we are delighted to be able to catch up on family, banking, news, friends, etc... with a flip of the switch... and all three of us at the same time for a mere $12US for 8 gigs! More importantly, we've used the time to catch up on home-school. Based on her gift and aptitude for “words”, we enrolled Carolyne in an online writing course . On other sites she's also learning programming skills. She loves creating Visual Novels. Jim is busy working on revenue producing sites and maintaining existing ones.

I liked his shiny pants

A boat of young people from all over the world performed circus acts and music - they called themselves The Alternative World Sailing Community - and we enjoyed a fun evening of music and fire. We walked in the Flora Tropical Garden, taking in the view overlooking the ocean. Local women cook their meals in the natural hot springs in town and Carolyne and I strolled by to check it out. We didn't see any cooks in the “kitchen”, but the boiling water bubbling up from the ground was pretty cool – I mean, hot.

Gorgeous spider in the botanical gardens

Hot springs in Savusavu