Thursday, December 11, 2003

More From Fiji (2 of lots)

We get to the village and our public relations officer leads us into the center of the village to the church.  We all sit in pews and he stands in front and tells us all about this village -- their religion, their health care, their education, their jobs, their family life, etc.  Let me sum up:  They're poor.  There are a couple hundred people in this village and they are dirt poor.  With pride, the public relations officer points out that each little hut has a little box on the side -- that's because the cruise company gave them enough money for each house to have its own little generator, so they actually got electricity.  They send their kids to school at a village on the other side of the island; they get rudimentary health care (immunizations) over there; and near as I can tell, the main source of money for the village is the money the cruise company gives them in exchange for them putting on their kava ceremony for us and letting us look around their village.  (And we did get to look around.  Dirty washing hanging on lines.  Village seemed to own one little boat between them.  One family had caught a sea turtle they were boiling up for dinner.  Poor.)  I find out later that the cruise ship hits this village once a week (the 4-day cruise hits another village) and that the company basically auditioned villages to see what they could offer to determine which ones would be visited.  I felt weird -- it was this really odd combination of hating the crassness of making an entire village put itself on display and at the same time accepting that this was something the village was willing (even eager) to do in order to get the cash.

We leave the church and are brought out to sit on a big plastic sheet sitting on the ground in the center of town.  The chief is there in full regalia (grass skirt, lei) and we sit politely (with our knees covered) and partake of kava.  Nice dignified ceremony.  Kava was almost tasty.  (One of the draws of this village is that it has its own water source -- nice fresh spring water.)

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