Maravu, Qeleni Village, Kava
Final Thoughts

Let me put some perspective on our stay at Maravu. We were not actually diving twenty four hours a day. This took up maybe four to five hours of the day. The rest was taken up with great food, great music, great sights to see and towards the end of the week, Kava. The food, as I have said before in previous pages, was memorable and ever changing with only occasional mainstays like lovo feasts and other traditional Fijian fare that we always were delighted with. And, most every night we were treated to the music of the Maravu Band Boys. In addition to their music they always prepared the traditional and sacred sharing of Kava. Prepared by placing water in a large bowl and then placing the powdered root of the Kava plant in a special handkerchief and soaking it in the water until what you had was the consistency of dirty dish water, chalky colored and a little frothy. The tradition is that you come up and kneel or sit with them, taking your shoes off before getting on the mat, clap one time in a cup style clap indicating that you would like to share in the Kava. The manner in which Kava was dispensed to the people follows prescribed lines of authority starting with the person who is designated as the chief and working its way down. When you clap and it is your turn, the person dispensing will ask low tide or high tide. Your answer will decide if the small shell is full or partially filled with the Kava mixture. Then you take the shell and drink it down in one gulp. Several different descriptions come to mind when describing what Kava is like as you are drinking it down for the first time. A little spicy, maybe bit chalky and the texture of bottom of the pot coffee. The effect depends on the age of the plant and, in the case of the Maravu Boys, this meant nicely aged Kava. Kava is one part anasthesia (your lips can get numb), muscle relaxant, intoxicant and anti-anxiety agent. It is actually available in America in pill form for some of those self same indications. Somehow, I do not think the pills measure up to the experience of drinking three to four shells of Kava with the Maravu Boys. It definitely puts a glow on. On one occasion, Fran was very sore from some rather strenuous dives, especially legs. One shell of Kava and all of that went away. I would also like to emphasize the wide range and professional excellence of their music. I was delighted to find that they had CD available and purchased it and have fond memories of them serenading us at our table with a rendition of the Leavin' Fiji Blues.

       Other events of interest were the cocktail hours that we had on the beach. When we got to Maravu they were just in the process of creating a setting for this on the beach, including a seat swing and other features. What it lacked for amenities it made up for in the enthusiasm of the bartender, the owner, the masseuse, the German intern and the other guests that partook of these events.

       We also took advantage of the cultural story tellers and events. I am regretful that the amount of diving did not give us time to take full advantage of this, in particular classes on Fijian language, but we were able to hear many of the myths and legends and accounts of how the Fijian people looked upon themselves. It was something of a surprise for me that they are descendants of those that sailed from eastern Africa long ago. There is also other influences as well, but that is the primary origin of this wonderful people. Wherever they came from, they never ceased to impress both Fran and I with their friendliness, their willingness to help and their boundless joy. This was impressed on us even more when we took advantage of an opportunity to visit a traditional Fijian village, Qeleni Village.

       Qeleni Village was an after thought for us. One of the primary reasons we chose Maravu originally was the opportunity to do a horse ride around that part of Taveuni. I am not really that fond of horses, for all the fact that I was born and raised in Montana, but Fran was very interested in this. However, the day we were planning the ride proved so rainy that it would have been trecherous and slippery for the horses. So, alternatively, we decided to go to the Queleni Village instead. We are happy that we did so. This small village gave us a whole new appreciation of Fijian culture.

       Starting with an introduction to the chief of the village and a traditional presentation of Kava to the chief, we were stepped through the different facets of a Fijian village, its many and rich traditions and the different places that various members of the community had within their society. In the following pictures you can get a sense of what we saw and experienced. I am not sure in words I can express the sense of absolute belonginess and community that we sensed in these people, that every person knew who they were and how they fitted into their world and the world of the village. Still, it is my suspicion, that like anyone anywhere, they have hopes for themselves and hopes that the lives of their children will be better than their own. Below you will find various different aspects of community life, including preparing Kava, working with coconuts and fashioning other elements of everyday life from parts of the forest. And you will also see many pictures of the children at play, looking at us and enjoying the rich life of their village. And their animals.



       Later that evening, we had a final lovo feast and buffet and a special show of traditional dances and singing that was quite impressive. From the following pictures you can get a sense of what we experienced back at Maravu. Just as a reminder, a lovo feast is a variety of meats that are packed together and cooked in an open pit with certain leaves laid over them and then the various meats are lifted out of the pit and carried to where they can be shared. As usual, we also were treated to Kokoda, but first we had an hour long involved presentation of traditional songs and dance. In a recent spate of unpacking we discovered a missing tape that, as I have time, I will convert digitize and give you the opportunity to check out the wonderful music and dance of these people in quicktime or real format.