The one thing I appreciate the most about Fiji is how much everyone seems to enjoy children. I get a lot of attention-- usually I’m walking around with Lu in the Ergo carrier on my back, with Miss M walking or in a stroller, and I know we are a very unusual site. Everyone has been so friendly and loves to talk to and play with the babies. And I mean everyone-- there hasn’t been a day we go out that the grocery store cashier, gate guard, random McDonald employee, people that are walking by on the street wave to the girls, complement the ”princesses” and stop to say hello and chat with the girls. The other day we were riding the bus, and Lu fell asleep in the Ergo on my back without me noticing. I turned around to find a college age guy gently cradling her head so she wouldn't bump it on the seat. If we get on the bus and it's full, multiple people will reach out to hold Ms M on their lap. The girls are a bit shy about all the attention, although Miss M might be persuaded to say “hola” (close enough to Bula) and Lu will wave bye-bye with abandon. People seem especially fascinated with Miss M, and I haven’t quite figured out why, but I think it might be her hair. Most babies I’ve seen her age have very short hair, and Miss M’s little pom poms seem to be quite charming. People come up to touch her hair and give her kisses, which she does not appreciate at this age :)
For me, part what makes this overall friendliness so interesting is that Fiji has a long and fairly recent history of cannibalism-- this was not the country to be shipwrecked on/ come to as a missionary years ago. You would probably get eaten, as recently as the 1830’s. (We learned this history at the Fiji museum, which has a nice collection). I think this is a fascinating fact to add to my impressions of Fiji. Some other observations: people are fairly neutral on the issue of shoes. Most people wear flip flops or sandals, and many people don’t even bother and just walk around barefoot-- even in the shops. Fashion, and the concern about it, is much different than in Belize. Most women wear cotton skirts and loose cotton tops, men are in short sleeve shirts and shorts or sulus. Both men and women often just wrap a long piece of fabric around their waist as a skirt and tie it, simple as that. People just don’t seem to fuss too much about appearance-- hair, makeup, and jewelry are kept pretty simple. Although, charmingly, ladies often have a flower or two in their hair. I love this practicality, which is so reasonable when it can be so hot.
|he is selling the fresh clams and conch here, not the shells|
Even though Fiji as an island is relatively isolated, it is an interesting mix of cultures. Predominately the population is made up of native heritage Fijians and descendants of a large Indian immigrant population. There is also a Chinese presence, and of course a British influence left over from the colonial days (meat pies! My favorite!) This makes for an interesting mix while shopping and eating. The stores are filled with glamorous sarees and jewelry, and the smell of curry floats through the air during meal times. In the market, lots of fresh fish and native produce such as taro, papaya, and types of sea weed fill the stalls. I’ve asked some of the ladies who work around the compound (who are mostly originally from smaller islands in Fiji) what they like to cook for dinner (trying to get ideas). The answer is usually curry. Since we have been here I've had a lot of fun trying new foods, and exposing the girls to new tastes. They are pretty unfazeable, sampling vegetarian curry, chinese dumplings, lamb, taro root, and anything else I happen to think looks interesting. The only thing they both flat out refused to eat was a cheeseburger, the one time I took them for a happymeal "treat" at McDonalds.... which probably indicated they have a much more refined palate than me. I ate the cheeseburger instead :)
|practicing pork dumplings. My teacher is very particular about how the dumplings are folded....|
I've been able to take a few Chinese cooking classes on Saturday mornings (where I learned about the deliciousness that is mushroom soy sauce, among other things), and now I'm on the lookout for an Indian cooking class. I wouldn't say Daniel is particularly enthusiastic about new foods in our meal rotation, but he is a good sport. Also, ice cream is a LOT cheaper here than in Belize, and Cadbury chocolate is plentiful, so he has lots of snacks as back-up :)