The following update was sent by a student in our TERRA group who is teaching children in Fiji, and who, in a previous update, had mentioned unknowingly eating an endangered animal.
I’ve had a pretty interesting couple of days. A storm came through with high winds and rough surf, so the school boat was unable to take me home from the school in the afternoons. Generally, this would mean a long hike through the jungle to my village on the other side of the island. However, since I had a badly swollen and painful sore on my foot, I wasn’t really able to walk that far. I was able to sleep at the head-teacher’s house in the schoolyard for a night. Interestingly enough, the island’s rugby team was heading to a nearby island to perform a very traditional meke for a group of tourists. They invited me along, and I decided it would be a fun experience, so I jumped on the boat and we headed out towards the nearest island. When we got there, it turned out I was required to participate in the cultural presentation. Which was slightly awkward, since I don’t know anything about these dances, but the tourists seemed amused. What followed was really magical, though. Ocean-dwelling algae bioluminesce when agitated. When the sun had set, and we were heading back towards the island, in the pitch-black of the night, I was surrounded by lights. The galaxy shone in the sky, the algae shone a ghostly pale gold in the wake of the boat, and the young men’s cigarettes glowed red in darkness. It was amazing to witness.
Afterwards, we went and played cards and chatted at Teacher M’s house. They still hold fond memories of some of the gap-year programs that have passed through here in recent years. It’s unfortunate that they are themselves burying the interesting aspects of their traditional culture in the name of preserving their ways of life. The Christian priests and chiefs have recently placed a ban on fire-walking. They say it is a form of witchcraft and have forbidden anyone from practicing it. In the whole of Fiji, it was unique to this island. It is sad to me how superstitious the people are here. Too often, they work against their own best interests. I’m planning a hike to the top of the island, there is a huge rock formation that’s just calling my name… I’m thinking maybe this upcoming week or the next. I’ve been scouting it out and there is a trail, albeit a poorly marked one, since it sees little use. I can’t wait to see what the island looks like from up there. Oh, and for those who expressed interest, I ate an endangered species of sea turtle.