Making Jewelry Out of Coconuts

After waiting for hours in a hammock, staring intently in the direction of Napoleon’s village, I  successfully willed him back to The Beachouse.

Vertical Hammock

Okay, so he really just woke up from his nap and decided to wander back. But I’d LIKE to pretend that it was my sheer concentration and my focus alone that swayed him to teach me how to make jewelry out of coconuts. Continue reading

Fiji Time Explained

Fun. blared over the restaurant stereo. Motivated surfers paddled out to the reef break to catch morning waves. Other backpackers yawned over their morning coffee, hiding their hangovers behind their sunglasses.

The Beachouse 1

As for me, I was on a mission.

I’d finally said goodbye to my Fijian family and made my way down the Coral Coast. I set up camp at a beachfront hostel appropriately (but none too creatively) called The Beachouse.

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The Firewalkers, a Ceremony, and an Unexpected Guest

We walked into the elders’ house. I was sweating. Like everywhere.

The men were already gathered around the the tanoa, discussing news from the main island. The bundle of waka roots felt heavy in my hands. I knew it had more to do with its symbolic weight than its actual consistency (after all, it was just a plant).

Then seated villagers craned their necks to look at me and I froze.

Chietan ceremony

Holy hell, why couldn’t I stop sweating? Continue reading

Journey to Beqa- Land of the Firewalkers

Ro Mereani paid the cab driver. I stepped out of the vehicle and stretched. It took longer than expected to get to the village of Vanua— the port for all the boats leaving to Beqa— but we had finally arrived. We were one step closer to our destination, to the home of Talei’s people, and her final resting place.

Talei grave

I looked out past the shoreline to the ocean. There, only a few miles offshore lay Beqa- the island shaped like a sleeping dragon. Even on a sunny day like today it stood shrouded in mist. I had to laugh at nature’s ability to make its own metaphors. Continue reading

Hilary Goes To Fiji- The Movie

I am a much better writer than director or editor. But in an effort to become multifaceted, I’m working on adding video content to Nomad Grad. Let’s call this progress. =)

Fiji Water

I’ve got adventures, spiritual experiences, and a very important visit to the village of the Firewalkers still yet to share with you. But first, I bring you a video that captures the spirit of this adventure. Let’s call it a teaser trailer. Or the musical number right before intermission. Or that thing I did just for funsies. Maybe you’ll love it and possibly call it Oscar worthy. Or maybe you’ll give it a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes… Continue reading

A Fijian Funeral

It was six in the morning. A storm brewed outside and my eyes were heavy with desire to sleep. I readjusted my seat and concentrated on picking out recognizable words flowing from the tongues of the Fijians surrounding me.

I was making egg salad sandwiches. Yep. Continue reading

A Birthday Blog and Why it Made Me Cry

This weekend I turned 24. Or rather, I had my 24th New Year. I like to look at it this way because I view every birthday as the opportunity to revel in the past 365 days of life and opportunities as well as anxiously look forward to the future.

And with this birthday looming, I spent the past few weeks drafting an apropro birthday post. In a perfect world, it would summarize my year of travels, experiences, encounters, and and all my hopes and dreams for the future (insert sappy music here).

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The Time I Flashed Fijian Chiefs

“If you need to get up and pass by the tanoa, you must pass on the left side. Make sure you crawl, kneel, or bow down as you pass the bowl. It’s a sign of respect to the service going on around you. Also, make sure you touch the bowl and say, Tulo, Tulo (pronounced chi-loh), as you go by. That means excuse me in Fijian. And it’s very important you respect the tanoa and its contents. They are thought to be mystical and powerful. You don’t want to abuse it.” Caroline smiled at me with her eyes and then tapped my notebook with her finger. “Write that down.”

I scribbled away in my tiny spiral notebook and gave a nod of thanks to the relative of Ro Mereani. She and the other women surrounding me laughed as I did this. This had become our bit. We’d sit at the back of the kava party (the customary place for women) and I’d ask elementary questions about the traditions I was witnessing and they would happily indulge me. They found my naiveté amusing and I guess I couldn’t blame them. My presence was very unusual for such a deeply ingrained tradition. Continue reading

Aftermath of Death and Unexpected Gifts

I scanned the room, taking in the scene around me. Ro Mereani’s brothers and were gathered on the floor sitting on dakua mats. The elders had already broken out the tanoa (literal translation meaning ‘big wooden bowl’) to serve kava. Ro Mereani was fast at work with the nurse and housekeeper preparing the body for transport.

Sala, the nanny, had given me one her sulus to wear while I was out in the living room. “We must wear them around the elders. It’s a sign of respect,” she said with a sweet smile. She helped me wrap it and took her place next to D’Tui. I stood against the bedroom door frame, rubbing the material between my fingers. Continue reading

When Everything Changed

I let the luke warm water wash over my body, sighing out my stress. Even though hot water was practically non-existent in Fiji, I felt grateful. I was excited just to have running water in Suva (that had been an uncertainty). Plus the cool liquid helped to quell the squelching humidity of the morning. I soaped myself with satisfaction.

It was a few days into my Fijian journey and I finally felt like I was hitting my stride. I was learning the language (albeit slowly). I had adopted the traditional garb of wearing a sulu (or sarong) when in the company of the elders and had tasted my first bowl of grog (kava). It had tasted like pepper water, which as it turns out is a pretty accurate description (kava is made from the root of the pepper plant). Yes, it had the desired effect of making my tongue numb. No, I wasn’t really interested in experiencing more. But it wasn’t bad.

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