When people think of Fiji, they often think of white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas and endless coconut trees, but as nice as these may be, what makes Fiji so special… is its people. And there is no better place to experience this than in a Fijian village.
I became part of Yavu village, Batiki Island, almost five years ago. This was a complete culture shock to me coming from the UK, and the experience completely changed me as a person. Seeing how remote villagers could take me in as their own and treat me like family was something that I had never experienced before. At the end of the 5 weeks that I spent in the village as part of my time with Think Pacific, I knew that I had to go back to the island to see my ‘Fiji Family’, and I have now returned twice a year to spend time with the village.
Each time I return to Batiki, I am greeted with so many hugs and people saying ‘Bula Kelevi!’ (that’s my Fijian name) that I feel as though I’ve never been away. Walking through the village I constantly hear ‘mai, kana!’ (come and eat!), as it is Fijian custom to invite any passer-by into their house for food.
A Fijian village is the most special place that I have ever been to. It’s based on sharing, not selling, which is an incredible way to live. The villagers farm together and fish together, dividing everything up to help feed the elderly and the disabled. It really is the perfect life.
Entering a Fijian village requires a lot of learning and consideration, one cannot simply walk in. To enter a village, prior permission from the Chief must be granted and a bundle of Kava roots must be presented upon arrival. To be truly accepted into a Fijian culture requires a lot of respect – both to and from the Fijians. The villagers have so much respect when you try to be ‘Kaiviti’ (Fijian), so when you speak their language, wear their traditional clothing or walk around barefoot, your whole connection to both the people and the land is enhanced. And it is this respect that I believe is the root of all of their kindness.
Fiji is a nation of the most kind hearted-people, constantly laughing and joking, willing to help anyone that they can. They taught me how to care and how to share, and Fiji will always hold in a special place in my heart.
And that is why, to me, Fiji is the most special place in the world.