I’ll explain: “BULA” more or less means “hello” and is the greeting that the Fijians address enthusiastically to everybody they meet.
Strange mixture of new and ancient, even if all villages have cars and satellite-TV, they are still strongly attached to the tradition of the “sevu-sevu”: every visitor is expected to report to the village chief, under the sponsorship of one of the elderlies, and present him with a package of yanqona roots (pronounced “janggona”) wrapped in a newspaper (strictly recent: maybe they read it later!).
If the chief accepts the present, he commands some villager to use the roots to prepare a beverage called “kava” (they actually chew the roots and then spit them into the bowl….): it looks like dishwash water, but tastes worse (!…).
The stuff is poured into a large bowl which is placed in the middle of the assembly, then a villager starts serving a small bowl to each visitor, one at the time: the visitor claps his hands once, takes the bowl (with both hands!), drinks in one gulp and then claps 3 times in appreciation, while all the villagers do the same. When everybody has had his turn, they start all over again until the bowl is empty, unless the chief has the bowl refilled one or two times…
Once the ceremony is over, the visitor is treated as a member of the village, quite literally.
Strangely, no one has ever died after drinking this ugly stuff (that is, except those that were cooked by the villagers themselves, but that was a long time ago!).
Speaking of which: last sunday, the local church was celebrating the “day of forgiveness”, to ask God to forgive them on behalf of their ancestors for having eaten the first missionary who came in this area a couple of centuries ago!
Friendly people, despite these strange habits, and very different from the Polinesians, although some customs are similar: they look much more african rather than asian, although they came here more than 3000 years ago.
There’s a lot of indians around as well: half of the population, actually, and once again the more enterprising, which has created quite a few tensions between the two ethnic groups.
Prices are generally very low, a lot of Ralliers had shirts and dresses MADE TO MEASURE for few Euros, and a good meal at a restaurant may cost less than 10 Euros: a much needed relief, after Polinesia’s high prices!
And what about the islands themselves? Quite different once again: 2 large ones, Viti Levu and Vauna Levu, and many small islands and atolls that form a sort of belt around the two large ones. Coral reefs abound, and the nautical charts date back to the time of Capt.Bligh (yes, him again! While he was escaping from che chasing locals on the small boat where he was abandoned by the mutineers, the good captain was taking his time to record depths along the way!).
Pity that….drums rolling….try to guess….well yes, it’s RAINING!!! VERY MUCH SO!!!