People here always said to me, “Why would you leave civilization to go to a place like Fiji?” Fiji is a far more civilized place than California or New York City.
A special thanks to our very talented guest host, Priscilla of Scillagrace for hosting this week’s “Getting To Know You” challenge. For my post, I’m focusing on a culture which intrigued and enchanted us and taught us a bit about a tribal societies.
Several years ago we spent several weeks in Fiji for a very long layover when traveling from Australia to the United States. We knew very little about the country before our visit–aside from its reputation for its natural beauty and tropical climate, but very quickly the people and the culture captivated us.
We spent several days on the island of Viti Levu, one of the largest islands in this nation archipelago, and then continued our stay on Savusavu, one of the smaller islands, accessible by a small transport plane.
As you can see, the natural beauty of the islands is stunning with its lush tropical forests, thousands of acres of unspoiled land and pristine beaches. Orchids and coconuts grow wild on the side of the road that winds up and down the hills that slope down to the shore.
Traditionally, Fijians live in tribal villages, carved out of the rainforests. In this village, the people share a community school, a church, and a public bath house with showers and toilets. The homes have traditional thatched roofs and an oven behind each house. The houses have wide windows and doors, open to the cooling breezes. Their community is ruled by a tribal chief, who is appointed for life. One morning, we met with one of the tribal chiefs as a sign of respect and asked for his permission to visit a waterfall on tribal land. Here you can see my husband and our guide enjoying a swim in the water.
Fiji’s population is predominately indigenous Fijians and Indians. They gave us a warm welcome. The indigenous Fijians are tall and graceful people who claim that they are the happiest people in the world. In fact a recent WIN-Gallup poll, 89% of Fijians report they are happy, which makes Fiji one of world’s happiest countries.
The ancestors of some Indians came to Fiji as indentured laborers on sugar cane plantations during the British occupation in the 1800’s and 1900’s. Later, others came as free immigrants.
No doubt, Fiji is a tropical paradise. There are very good reasons why people fall in love with this country, like the American actor Raymond Burr, who lived for many years on these islands. But, as we got to know the country and its people, we learned about their struggles and areas of concern as Fiji opens up to tourism and modernization. With tourism, there are risks of increased development and commercialization. By wholeheartedly adopting elements of Western culture, there are dangers of losing their own customs and traditions. Public health messages on the television also warn Fijians about the dramatic increase in hypertension and diabetes, relatively new diseases on the islands that started when the Fijians started importing food from the West and opening franchises like Kentucky Fried Chicken.
We’ll be watching to see how this fascinating country navigates these changes and decides how much of their own local culture they want to maintain and what will be transformed. Hopefully, they’ll take the best of the West and maintain their own values and culture. It’s a delicate balance. How delicate? I’ll illustrate this with a story from our visit to a tribal village.
When our guide was showing us the highlights of her village, we asked about a small stretch of sidewalk–the only paved part of the community. When we asked why this small path was paved, our guide shrugged. “The missionaries came and wanted to do it,” she said. My husband asked, “What do you think about it?” She shrugged, smiled and said, “It really doesn’t matter to us. But the missionaries really wanted to do it and it made them happy, so we let them do it.”
We hope you join us this week for Priscilla’s inspiring “Getting to Know You Challenge.” Visit her site for the details of the challenge and see her expressive and beautiful photos.
Next week, it’s my turn to lead the challenge. So, please come back next Saturday at noon for our “Focusing on the Details” challenge. Until then, have a wonderful creative week and please stay safe.