Part 1...A look at "real life" in the Fijian Islands, often centered around farming...

As we approached this pair atop this table turned away from us while others curiously meandered toward us.
The longer we've traveled, the less interest we've had in traditional tourist points of interest, other than the often revered scenic beauty at particulars sites and the viewing and photographing wildlife indigenous to the country.

As we shape our "travel personalities" we've found a gradual change over time, one in which we're often unaware until...a scenario is presented to us and we are overwhelmed with a sense of intrigue, compassion and enthusiasm to gain insight into the lives of the true locals, generations of families working hard to survive in an often difficult environment.

So it was yesterday when we stumbled upon such an opportunity when all we wanted was to purchase fresh, free range eggs.  Since our arrival, buying eggs at the market, we've found at least two of each dozen to be rotten like we've never seen before. Rotten eggs (black on the inside) are most likely caused by bacteria. 

This is the beginning of the dirt road we traveled to Kusma's house.  Bouncing in the car made it impossible to hold the camera steady.  Thus, a few blurry photos today.
We realize this is a risk when buying free range eggs from a market when we have no idea how or where they've come from or how long they've been sitting on the shelves.  In asking around, we discovered from our sweet housekeeper Usi, that there's an egg farm nearby, not necessarily easy to get to. 

Usi suggested we ask Ratnesh to drive us up the mountain to a little village of approximately 60 homes and see Kusma, who's entire family income is derived from the sale of eggs.  The thought of being able to add even a tiny bit to that income, purchasing her free range, chemical free eggs during our remaining time in Savusavu, only added to our enthusiasm. 

Buying local has been an ongoing objective as we've traveled the world, supporting the hard working local farmers and food producers in our desired for chemical free, fresh foods befitting our way of eating.

I'd wished we could stop for photos but Ratnesh had to maintain momentum the higher we climbed.
Yesterday, when the sun peeked out for a short period with a downpour predicted in the afternoon, we called Ratnesh to take us to the egg farm and another trip into town for the Farmer's Market, grocery and meat market. 

It makes us smile at how little we typically purchase at the grocery store, using yesterday's purchases as an example; bar soap, paper towels, plastic bags, sponges and sink soap, locally made cultured sour cream (used in making salad dressing), canned coconut cream (without added sugar), real cream from New Zealand for coffee, ground coffee (only one brand available), sea salt (we're almost finished with our Costco container of Himalayan salt) and Italian spices.  

Many items are simply not available here:  Parmesan cheese or any similar cheese, grated cheese (we grate chunks of "pizza cheese" by hand); cream cheese; onion or garlic powder (used in many of our recipes); fresh mushrooms, romaine lettuce, parchment paper or a metal spatula, to name a few.

There are approximately 60 homes in this area, Ratnesh explained, many of them his relatives.
 
Over 40% of people living in Fiji today are descendants from India:  See below for details:
 

"Most Indo-Fijians are the descendants of indentured laborers brought to Fiji during the nineteenth century by the British. In the system of indentured labor, workers (who had been moved to a new country against their will) were forced to perform a job for little or no pay until they earned enough money to buy their freedom. The system was created to provide cheap workers for British colonies after the abolition of slavery in Britain and its colonies in 1833.

The first indentured laborers from India arrived in Fiji in 1879 and the indenture system lasted until 1916. Other immigrants from India arrived in Fiji in the early twentieth century, and they opened small shops in the coastal towns. The Indo-Fijians are part of the south Asian diaspora (a community of ethnically related displaced peoples) that includes the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, Trinidad in the Caribbean, Guyana in South America, South Africa, and North America."


The only produce we've purchased at the grocery store has been celery which is unavailable at the Farmer's Market.  We purchase no meat or frozen products only buying fresh at the other locations.

One might think, reading here, that we're obsessed with food.  Perhaps, we are. But, a huge part of the lives of locals centers around the production and sale of food products.  Why not embrace these foods into our lives as well, when we can't eat out much due to my diet and, we love our homemade meals using the products that are available?

The beautiful vegetation we see in our yard extends to all areas.
For us, purchasing and preparing food has become of even a greater interest than years ago when anyone that knew me knew I was a "foodie."  Just because the types of foods I can eat has changed, my interest and desire remain firmly in place to create great meals providing us with nourishment and pleasure. For most of us, we derive tremendous pleasure from food.  Why not enjoy good food as opposed to unhealthy?

Over these past months, watching Tom continually lose weight, a little each month, eating exactly what I eat with the exception of some vegetables, has only added to our combined interest.  Seeing his belly shrink month after month, only makes me happy in one regard...perhaps he'll be healthy and around longer. 

Selfishly, I want him around and free of the health problems often associated with belly fat which also indicates fat wrapped around  one's internal organs.  Also, he seem to like it when his pants fit.  We don't have the privilege of hauling clothing in various sizes to accommodate a change in waist size (for either of us).

With clothes dryers an unnecessary luxury in third world countries, clotheslines are seen in most yards.
I don't give a hoot about the "look" of the big belly, its only what it represents that worries me and hearing him huff and puff carrying our bags when he's also carrying extra poundage on his body is also worrisome as we age.  With the belly gone, his strength and ability to haul the bulk of our heavy bags has only improved.

When Ratnesh arrived and we explained our desire to go to Kusma's farm for eggs, he hesitated.  We sensed this immediately, quickly explaining if he didn't want to make that drive, no problem. Usi had offered to bring us Kusma's eggs next time she walks up the mountain to visit her family who lives nearby.  We knew it was going to be a steep drive on a muddy, pot hole, dirt road, a challenge, based on what Usi had told us.

Ratnesh thought it over and in his desire to please, he insisted it would be OK as long as we didn't mind bouncing around up the steep and uneven road.  We didn't mind.  We gave his several opportunities to decline.  He turned them all down and off we went. 

This was the first of many goats we encountered in the area.  The only meat the locals eat is goat, lamb, fish (they catch) and chicken. 
I realize we wrote that the drive up the mountain with Sewak as the steepest road we've traveled in a vehicle.  Now, we can add, that the road to Kusma's home was the most uneven, steep, rutted road we've traveled on during these past years. Wow!  The ride in itself was an adventure. 

Sitting in the backseat by myself with Tom in the front with Ratnesh, I practically hung out the window taking photos.  It was impossible for Ratnesh to stop for my photo taking or he'd lose his momentum.  We continued on for some time until finally he parked on a patch of wild grass when we could go no further.

We had no choice to walk up the remainder of the muddy hill to Kusma's house.  There was no way either of us were going to say we wouldn't walk up the dangerous balance of the hill when Ratnesh worked so hard getting up the hill. Tom hung onto me most of the way with much younger Ratnesh offering another hand over a  few particularly rough spots. 

Finally, we arrived at Kusma's house after we navigated down this slippery hill, still wet from all the rain.
I could easily have made it up the hill on my own but we're extra cautious to avoid me falling, which could topple my delicate spine putting a fast end to our travels.  We easily recall when the steps collapsed under our feet in Belize in 2013.  Click here for that story with photos, if you missed it.

Recalling the hike to the Queen's Bath in Kauai (click here for the story, if you missed it as well), I knew we could make it.  By far, that was much more treacherous.  This was a "walk in the park" comparatively.  For these young fit Fijians who walk up and down these hills all of their lives, this hike is a normal course of life.

Finally, we arrived, shoes muddy, bodies sweaty and filled with excitement.  The level of excitement we felt wasn't about eggs.  It was about being in this tucked away village with Fijians who'd spent their lives in this remote area, often living off the land.  Tomorrow, we'll share the continuation of this story with many more photos including the trip into the village after the visit to the farm.

Its these types of experiences that make all of our travels meaningful and purposeful; the people, their lives, their love of nature and their surroundings and their willingness to share even a tiny piece of it with us.  How did we get so lucky? 
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Photo from this date one year ago, September 26, 2014:
It was one year ago aboard the Celebrity Soltice, on our way from Vancouver to Honolulu, that we experienced some rough seas. Check out this video.  For more details, please click here.

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