Billibilli & Cava

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20120707_122406Saturday was our day for being tourists and learning a little more about the culture of Fiji. One of the important things we learned was the concept of “Fiji time”. Our itinerary said that we would be picked up at 8.30am so we were all waiting at the end of the drive at 8.30am! We were still waiting in the hot sun an hour later despite phone calls to the tour operator and were feeling frustrated and overheated, all ready to complain and ask for some recompense. However, when our drivers arrived they were friendly and smiley, telling us stories of life in Fiji and pointing out places of interest along the way. They charmed us all and as the day went on we realised that we probably just had to accept that Fijians live their lives to a different rhythm.  Our driver pointed out the high security prison which has no fences, flood lights etc that are the usual signs of a place that houses a country’s most dangerous criminals, and explained about the  experiment i n providing the prisoners with training and educuation to reduce recidivism which has been a huge problem in Fiji.  Lack of educations and opportunitis is als othe biggest root cause of criminality (apart from addiction to cava, which you can argue is the result of not having a job or any prospects of one.)  That is linked to the chauvinistic heritage that the man earns a living and the woman stays at home and looks after the house and family)  In more recent times the economy and trade has meant that there are plenty of jobs for women in the low paid service industry and factory line manufacturing and little for men.  So men have essentially become disenfranchised and have lost their sense of self-respect and pride.
We soon reached our destination and were kitted out in lifejackets before climbing into the long, narrow dugout boats.  These were powered ny an outboard motor – very similar to the ones in Vietnam we crossed the river in.  The local boatman revelled in racing up the river, the spray from the water as the boat cut through it going upstream soaked us but it was all part of the fun.  It is a wide river with lush vegetation on either side but unfortunately many of the native trees seem to be being strangled by bindweed which is rampant.  Our guides told us that the local community are fighting a losing battle against it and are worried that indiginent wildlife will disappear as the flora does.
We soon came to the “Village” – a tourist village which tries, like places like Whakarewarewa in Rototua to preserve the ways of the past for posterity.  A so-called living and working village where we were treated to the traditional Cava ceremony – welcomed onto the whare, offered cava and became part of the community.  Cava is a strange brew – maybe I don’t have a discerning palate, but to me it tasted like muddy water with a kick.  After that we were taken on a tour and shown the “traditional” school, shop and local crafts where we were encouraged to part with as much money as possible!  I am being rather cynical; the tour was informative and interesting and the people were very welcoming, but, at the end of the day they just wanted to tyake our money off us!  And why not?  As long as it was going to the people that needed it and not into the coffers of the already well-off!  I bought some trinkets and Christmas presents which were very pretty to send back to the UK. 20120707_120108

Then we carried on upstream to the waterfall; an opportunity for a bit of a walk – it reminded me of the Waterfall Walk in Ingleton; it was a relatively roughly made track that led along a tributory to the river up the valley for about 10 minutes to a waterfall.  The water dropped from about 40ft into a brown pool.  We were assured that the water was clean despite the murky colour which was due to the recent rain.  Since it was hot and humid we decided to dive in.  The girls were keen to sample the water and Jo, Jill and I follwoed them in.  I swam out to the waterfall to recce it for the girls and ascertained that it was okay, kept a close eye on them as they swam out and shepherede them all back to the rocks at the edge of the pool where they splashed around until our guide beckoned us out of the water to go back to the boats. 20120707_140936

On the way back downstream we had the opportunity to go on the traditional “Billibillis” – basically a few thick bamboo poles lashed together to make a raft that is punted down the river.  We all piled onto a large, very stable Billibilli but we saw young boys and girls on the river in crafts made of just 3 or 4 bamboo poles which looked very lightweight and not a little dubious!  I was disappointed that we were transfered back onto the boats for the rapids – I had secretly hoped that we would have had the excitement of shooting the rapids on the Billibillis!  But then, I guess safety comes first!


Sock it to the angels, Liz!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA good friend of mine died on Saturday.   I heard the news through a mutual friend of mine and Liz’s; our children grew up together and we spent a lot of time together. I am deeply saddened by the news that she has died and it has struck me in a way that I hadn’t expected.  She has been battling breast cancer for a good few years now.  I don’t remember when she was first diagnosed but it must be at least 7 years and for a while it seemed like she had beaten it.
She was a fighter – isn’t that what people say about friends, sisters, mothers, aunts who suffer? But Liz was, not one to give up without a fight; she was a feisty one. I remember when her hair grew back after chemo all short and spiky she dyed it bright red!
Liz was a wonderfully vibrant person, who I remember always with a smile on her face.  No, more than that, a huge grin and a wonderful laugh. I remember well the “Frustrated Mothers” quiz team that won the local school PTA quiz night every year – we morphed into the “Desperate Housewives” (or was it the other way round!?) but still won and it was really down to Liz’s depth of knowledge of Literature, film and TV that we won so consistently, the rest of us just made up the numbers!  I also remember nights down at the pub, dancing and singing, she was the life and soul of the party. I wonder how much of that PC (post cancer) was the desperate desire to live every moment as if it was her last!
I think it was after she was diagnosed  that Liz persuaded me to swim 3km in Lake Windermere to raise funds for Breast Cancer, we trained together in the pool at Ingleton and then set out on a freezing cold day on the 1st September to plunge into the chilly choppy waters.  We did it and strangeley enough, enjoyed it.  Thanks, Liz.  That started me on a spate of runs and cycle rides to raise funds for Breast Cancer – it is scary how many of my friends have suffered, recovered or died from this dreadful disease.
Since coming to New Zealand I have maintained contact with Liz through Facebook and have seen the strength she had.  I was worried over the last few months with her comments about continuous bouts of illness but she maintained her feistiness and determination not to give in. I don’t know the details of how the cancer had progressed, I just know that when we left Ingleton to come across the world, things were looking positive. Or maybe Liz knew all along and just didn’t let on to any but those closest to her.  I was told that she was told only last week that the cancer had spread to her liver and that she only had weeks to live.  Luckily her lovely girls made it home from university to be with her when she died.
Her girls are beautiful young ladies, Kate babysat for me when my boys were younger and Immy and Lachlan were very similar in age so played together when they were younger. I also taught them both at QES.  I am sure that Liz was very proud of the way they have grown up, and so she should be because her strength and vivacity is what made them the way they are.
I too lost my Mum at the age of 20 so I know something of what they might be going through right now; time is a great healer, but  even though the pain lessens over the years the memories remain.  And so they should because Mums are special people; there will be times when really all you want is your Mum and even now, 30 years later, I think of my Mum almost everyday.
But I risk getting maudlin and lives, however short should be celebrated.  And Liz’s might have been short but it was definitely worth celebrating.  So, I raise a glass to you Liz!  Go sock it to the angels!