Site Visit 2009-07-02

We made it back from our site visit yesterday and are recouping from a
whirlwind travel experience. It is hard to recall everything as it
seemed like we experienced so much during the short time we where
there. It is all very exhausting trying to soak in the details of
your future home for the next two years in addition to learning the
logistics of how the heck to get there. That was an adventure in

If you have ever traversed a third world country using more than one
type of transportation you can probably relate. It all started with a
brisk van ride to Suva. In Suva we boarded the Suliven Ferry bound
for Vanua Levu. Vanua Levu is the other larger island in Fiji. It is
actually a bit smaller but the name means ‘big land’. It must be
because it has more mountains.

Most public transportation in Fiji is very old so I wasn’t expecting
much. I had been on a ferry one other time in Alaska, but other than
that my ferry riding experience is limited so I really didn’t know how
to prepare. We boarded the vehicle cargo hull, checked our large tin
boxes, and headed to ‘first’ class. Overall it wasn’t that bad.
First class was at the front of the boat, more to come on that later,
and consisted of a small canteen, the largest flat screen T.V. I’ve
seen in Fiji outside a department store, DVD player, lounge area, and
several double tier bunk beds. It is an open floor plan and there is
little privacy other than the bed sheet enclosing the beds. Reference
pictures below.

We ordered our lamb curry at the canteen and prepared for the
adventure. After eating the lamb neck bone curry the boat started
off. We where warned the weather may be a little choppy from the
captain and got our first whiff of ‘choppy’ when we immediately
started rocking once freed from the anchorage. Everyone looked at
each other hesitantly as the curry fermented. A couple of people
headed outside for fresh air and the other brave souls tried to ignore
the ominous feelings down below. Pete, a FRE-6 (Fiji Re-entry group
#6) gave us all motion sickness pills from Doctor Fina about 30
minutes before the launch so we had a relatively high confidence in
our resistance to motion sickness.

The first puker started about 30 minutes into the ride. It was pretty
much a free for all vomit fest from that point forward. If you didn’t
get sick from the 15’ surges, the smell soon got you. My strategy was
to walk the deck and soak in the fresh air but this was complicated by
sea sprays from the huge waves, blowing rain, upper balcony projectile
pukers, and roving life jacket boxes the size of small Volkswagens.

I went back to first class and everyone had scattered like flies to
the refuges of the bunks (this turned out to be the smartest move),
the deck railing, or toilets. Kelly had employed the technique of
watching a horrible Bollywood movie. I tried this but the rocking
motion of the boat made the DVD pause or skip every three-seconds.
This made everything much worse and I finally gave in and let ‘er
rip. After a couple of sessions I felt much better and curled up in
my bunk.

This was another adventure in itself as there where babies crying, men
snoring the boat rivets loose, and a few puking in the beds (the ship
ran out of puke bags halfway through the trip). I think I got a total
of two hours sleep. The waves got so bad you could hear the front end
of the boat coming out of the water and crashing down. It was pretty
intense, especially for a landlubber like me.

After the 10 hour voyage we landed in Savusavu searching for ground
transport. The bus had already left the station so we had the option
of waiting two hours for the next bus or hiring a compact truck. The
hire option made the most sense and 10 people stuffed their
possessions in the back of a compact truck. I road in the back with 7
others and Kelly was up front with two others. About 15 km of the 50
km road was paved. The other portion resembled a freshly plowed
cotton field. I’ve seen stock tanks smaller than a few of the
potholes we traversed. After 2.5 hours of this fun we boarded a small
fiber boat for about 30 minutes to our final destination. This wasn’t
too bad except for the sea sprays drenching us and our luggage. We
arrived battered, wet, tired, and somewhat delirious, but much smarter
than when we had left.

It was all worth it when we approached the bay of our island home for
the next two years. It is settled in a small valley with white sandy
beaches, huge Vesi trees on the hillside, and coconut trees scattered
among the coastline. The village was very clean and everyone we met
extremely friendly. The culture is totally different from Fijian and
they speak a Tuvaluan, much different from Fijian. The people are
very proud of their heritage and have a unique history filled with

After arriving we quickly changed and headed to an outdoor eating
area, umu. It was a small bure elevated off the ground. The ceiling
was very low allowing you to only sit. The first meal was amazing
with the fish being the highlight. The English name for the fish is
King Fish and it melted like butter in my mouth. I have never had
fish so good. There was also a sweet bread that we haven’t had before
and a few other new dishes.

We then presented our sevusevu, grog, with our initial community
contact person (ICCP) Samalu. The grog had somehow made the trip
without getting wet, crushed, or traded for transport. After a few
bilos I was spent. I can’t remember ever being more exhausted.
Thankfully the council members are very musical and three of them
entertained use with guitars and up beat song. It was a good end to a
long day.

Our house is pretty basic but nice and clean. The only thing it
didn’t have was the kitchen sink, kinda ironic. It is about 50’ from
the ocean near a village canteen that has basic goods such as soap,
canned goods, etc. There is a garden across the footpath in our front
yard and the neighbors are very friendly. We are looking forward to
making it a home when we settle in but haven’t quite figured out how
to buy and transport a mattress, stove, gas cylinder, pots and pans,
kitchen sink, and all the other stuff you need to live in a fiberglass
boat across the strait of Somosomo. We will definitely send pictures
of that!

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