Originally settled by the Austronesians and later by the Melanesians, Fiji was a British colony from 1874 to 1970.
Apparently, the Empire left it alone for such a long time because of “rampant cannibalism.” Note to other colonies, turns out if you didn’t want to be colonized, you might have been able to point, say, “the Other White Meat” and smile.
The first governor of Fiji was a man named Arthur Gordon. He must have really liked it here because not only did he not allow Fijians to be exported for “labor,” he left local issues to the chiefs, and he had a policy of “Fiji for the Fijians”, which still holds today – over 80% of the land is Fijian owned.
Gordon was not totally against “labor” though; he had Indians brought over to work the cane fields, and now this country of just under a million people (and 330 islands) is basically half Fijian and half Indian.
This is a country of beaches, rainforests, delicious food (they do to taro what the Turkish do to eggplant; if you treat it right, anything can happen) and extremely friendly people.
It is a place where if dragging your bag down the road, people will stop and offer you a lift – and knock on wood, so far, it’s been working out.
It’s a place where in the evening people come together over a mat, drink kava and sing, instead of watching TV (they probably watch TV later).
With the exception of when you’re tourist shops and people are trying to get you to buy things, this is a place where I had to let my American cynicsm float away: if people ask where you’re from it’s not cause they want to steal your identity, it’s because they are being friendly.
Oh, and it’s a place of all songs that sound vaguely like “Red, red, wine”, and a place where every song gets remixed, just to add a bit of Fiji flavor.
Lastly, it’s a place of “Fiji Time” – which basically means, “relax, it will happen sometime.”
Goodbye Fiji, you’re a fantastic place for the soul.
Must Know Words
Vinaka: thank you
Moce (No- he): goodbye
Sega na leqa (saygah-nah-lenga): no worries
Must Try Foods
Kokoda: ceviche with coconut milk
Rau Rau: taro leaves in coconut milk
Lovo: a feast, everything gets buried underground, surrounded with hot stones and pulled up 4hrs later
Curries: they make really good fish curry
Must Try Relaxant
Kava: a drink made from the powder of the dried kava plant, mixed with water