Katharina, my “frister” from Switzerland, came to visit me in Fiji! We’ve had such unique meeting places ever since 2008 when she lived with my family in Beulah, Michigan as a foreign exchange student. Since then, we’ve spent time traveling Europe together, met again in Beulah, then spent a weekend in Amsterdam together, and now kicked it Fijian style!
I feel so lucky that she came all the way to Fiji! The only other people who have come out to Waya to visit me are my family and other Peace Corps Volunteers, so it was a fun opportunity to share my experience! In contrary to when my family came in May 2015, I now know much better the places to go, how to communicate in the local dialect, and how to navigate Fiji. Showing Katharina around made me realize how well I know Fiji and my deep understanding of its’ culture, and it also gave me a new appreciation for the beauty and uniqueness as if I were seeing it again for the first time.
While she was here, we ate a tremendous amount of fresh fish. We had two picnics where we headed down the beach carrying only water, a pot, matches, and fishing gear. Of course, we brought village friends along because even with my camping experience, we couldn’t prepare a meal from the bush on our own. With Katharina’s underwater camera, we were able to capture spear fishing, which to this today is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The length of time they can hold their breath underwater while chasing fish is incredible. To catch the bigger fish you have to hold your breath for about one minute and dive down to about 10 + meters. I have attempted to shoot the spear and that job alone is hard given the amount of strength required to shoot it with any force. And on top of that, the fish are moving! After catching the fish, we built a fire to cook the fish and cassava, a common root crop. We mixed the fire-cooked fish in a lemon, chili and seawater concoction made from ingredients we found. There is nothing like a Fijian picnic! I am surely going to miss eating so much fresh fish!
On my birthday, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of fried fish in coconut milk, boiled fish, and octopus cooked in coconut milk. In the afternoon, we went to Octopus Resort for a few (debatably too many) sunset cocktails! It was so nice to have her here for my birthday to help me celebrate joining the “quarter century club,” not necessarily a desired club to be a part of. Our boat ride back proved to be a spectacular view of the stars!
Before making our way to the island, Katharina and I went to the Lautoka Hospital to visit Salote and baby Janet. It was really nice that she was able to meet my Fijian family. They were sad that they were unable to entertain and feed my guest during her stay in the island. Salote kept apologizing for still being in the hospital making it impossible for her to host Katharina in Yalobi and Maravu regretted that he’d be unable to bring her fish. What a kind, caring family!
Overall, we had an amazing time together especially in the island. It was so nice to share my experience with someone who wanted to learn with an open mind. It was fun because Katharina was curious and open to the village life. She sat for hours cross-legged on the floor while drinking kava and still managed to have a smile on her face. She had a great attitude about the loss of simple amenities and even laughed when she was deterred from taking a cold bucket bath due a large hairy spider in the washroom. I am so grateful to have shared such a meaningful, important experience and the people I love with Katharina!