Hot. Sunny. Humid. Finally, real summer! Kind and happy people. Bula here, Bula there. Compared to Australia, when asking, “How are you?” I always get an honest answer, one that expresses Fijian love for life: “Wonderful! Another fine day ahead!”
The average weekly salary is 200 Fiji dollars, which is about 80 euros. Nowhere near enough for a normal life. He works two jobs. Along with working afternoons in a factory, he joins a group of dancers four times a week, who give tourists a taste of the traditional Pacific Ocean dances. I met Vili and Toni in a town called Nada, where I start my journey on Fiji. They’re renting one of the rooms in the house where I’m staying, as a guest of Paul and Diane’s. Using Couchsurfing platform.
Diane moved from Scotland to Fiji 18 years ago. She met Paul in England, where he was serving in the army. They’re offering their super-clean house on Couchsurfing platform, as they like to travel as well and are aware that travelling is an expensive sport, one that should bring you a lot more than just lounging in a resort.
If the people on those islands are half as kind, approachable and open as the people on Fiji, I will gladly visit all of them.
Vili is 25 years old, Toni three years older. They moved here from Rotuma Island, where the ferry goes only once a week. The journey takes four days, but you could get there in an hour and a half. By plane. There’s only one flight per week. Yes, this island is also a part of Fiji, even if it’s separated from the main island by 600 kilometers.
“They moved here from Rotuma Island.”
“On my first night they took me to see a traditional Fijian dancing performance on the beach.”
On my first night they took me to see a traditional Fijian dancing performance on the beach. Toni had just recently moved to Nada, so he’s still learning the choreography and can’t perform yet. I buy him a beer as we enjoy watching the other dancers. During the show, Toni explains to me that they’re not dancing only the traditional Fijian dances. Each song actually represents one of the islands in the Pacific Ocean. This is also a way for them to learn about the culture of their surrounding islands, whose ancestors they share.
``Dream beaches are a rarity.``
“He misses his old life. But he doesn’t want to go back.”
Polynesians are supposed to be one of the biggest ethnical groups. They live on the islands in the Pacific Ocean and represent the Catholic population on Hawaii, Tahiti, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and many other smaller islands in the Micronesian area. If the people on those islands are half as kind, approachable and open as the people on Fiji, I will gladly visit all of them.
“On the way home, Toni confides his dreams to me.”
On the way home, Toni confides his dreams to me. He wants to work in Australia and travel to Hawaii someday. It’s what I’ve managed to achieve in the last year. I’ve been living his dreams. They’re not unattainable. I promise him that I will help him as much as I can. His home island of Rotuma was made from volcanic rock, where a special ethnical group of Rotumans lives. There’s 1.500 of them. It’s a self-sufficient island, where the inhabitants live off of fishing and farming. Toni’s mother makes carpets, which are then shipped of to larger cities and sold on the market.
After three months of living in a city, Toni wants to go home. He misses his old life. But he doesn’t want to go back. He moved away from the island so he could get over a relationship where his ex-girlfriend had cheated on him, and, along with the relationship, also took with her his two-year-old daughter. It was hard for him at home, it’s harder for him here, but at least he has a job, and something new, unknown. He doesn’t understand the Fijian language, Rotuman and English are the official languages of his native island. Since Fiji’s independence, the Rotumans have been labeled as a minority. Rotuma has now become an island which is now a priority on my bucket list.