Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bula Vinaka

So sad that it is our last day in Fiji. At least we have a full day and do not leave the hotel until 4PM. After another delicious breakfast we go back to the hotel. I do one last snorkel in the ocean and then get packed. Kerry & I take the shuttle into town and visit the Arts Village for a little local shopping and to see the Cultural Center. We spent more time in the post office buying postcard stamps than anywhere. (And we noticed that we were the only people inside that were wearing shoes!).

As we depart the hotel, the entire housekeeping staff and some other employees as well send us off with a song! It was incredible. And Sue, our house attendant, was actually crying. She is really going to miss Cole & Tommy!


We transfer with Ian, the same driver who brought us to Taunovo Bay early this week. This time the drive is during daylight though which is so much more enjoyable. We passed the turnoff for our rafting trip, drove by the warehouse for Pacific Green (where all the furniture is made out of coconut palm trees), pass through several villages, follow behind a open ended truck full of people that almost fell out going over a bump... and then laughed and waved goodbye to us when they turned off, followed a truck carrying sugar cane as well as one full of huge mahogany.

At a little after 6PM we arrive at the airport. We check in and go for dinner. There really is nothing at the Nadi airport. No good restaurants and we all felt a little sick after our meal. We wait for our flight with Heidi & Greg who are back with us after a full week at Lomani. We exchange stories realizing how much time seems to have passed since we separated last Sunday.

A few Fijian words I have learned:
Bula - Hello (but really it is used for everything)
Bula Vinaka - more formal Hello
Vinaka Vakelevu - Thank you very much
Au katakata - I am hot
Savu - Waterfall
Uca - Rain
Seganaleqa - No worries
Moce (pronounced "mothe")- Goodbye
# 1 - one - dua
# 2 - two - rua
# 3 - three - tolu
# 4 - four - va
# 5 - five - lima
# 6 - six - ono
# 7 - seven - vitu
# 8 - eight - walu
# 9 - nine - ciwa
# 10 - ten - tina

And a few other words I will refrain from typing :)

BULA VINAKA FIJI!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Gods Must Be Crazy


Today was the day we went White Water Rafting. Kevin stayed at the hotel to watch the boys. Kerry and I left at 6:30AM for our full day excursion. It turned out to be both the best and most crazy day of all! We were picked up at our hotel and met the rafting company at a nearby hotel. It was about a 2 hour transfer to the river, mostly traveling through winding roads high into the mountain. Our guide was Moses Batirua - he is from the village near the Upper Navua River and has been with them since they started 10 years ago. The company (Rivers Fiji) was started by an American. He came to Fiji in search of a place to start the company. When he found it he asked the government for permission to raft. The government said he needed to ask the village. So he went to the chief and presented kava. When he explained what he wanted to do and the entire village called a meeting. Everyone attended (all 450 people). They agreed and he picked some of the locals to be rafting guides. At first Moses tells us they asked his older brother but he said no. Moses turned it down at first too, but eventually agreed. He is an excellent rafting guide, but an even better storyteller. I learned more about Fiji in the one day from him than in the 10 days I had been in the country. There are 40 different villages on the Island of Fiji and each varies drastically in terms of what they eat, their customs and even their dialects. His village eats wild boar, mongoose and fruit bats. I will never forget his story about how they catch the fruit bats. Or catch wild boar... he said you bring 9 dogs with you and you may come back with only 3.

(Thanks Moo for the picture of a fruit bat!)

Anyway, while listening to his stories, we are actually rafting through the caverns of the Upper Navua River, known as the "Grand Canyon of Fiji" . This river splits the mountains of Viti Levu and the tops of the caverns are over 100 feet above us. The river is surrounded by rainforest and we passed more waterfalls than I could count. (One guide said there were 70 but I think that may even be a low estimate!). Some of the waterfalls had names - with stories of course! - like "Two Women Push Each Other Waterfall" and "Free Massage Waterfall".



After rafting for an hour (maybe 2? in Fiji there is just no concept of time) we come to a calm narrow spot between the caverns. We all jump out of the rafts and "swim". The current is so strong that all you do is put your feet up and you are carried downstream. The water is warm but feels refreshing in the hot sun. The caverns are so high you can't see the top. Eventually we have lunch and then get back into our boats to continue. In total our rafting trip is 24 kilometers. Just as we are heading out the skies turn dark. Before long it is raining, light at first but getting heavier. There is thunder and lightning almost simultaneous. As we are paddling we realize that there is nowhere to go but forward. The bamboo trees are sideways and some of the branches are cracking (loudly!) and falling into the river. The wind picked up and it was howling. The rain was so heavy you couldn't really see anything in front of you so we just listened to the guide and paddled. I kept thinking it was a passing storm and that it would end as quickly as it started. And then it started to HAIL! Lots of hail and they were big -- some were ping pong ball sized! We couldn't believe it and said to Moses, "It's hailing!" and he says, "NO- ITS ICE!" He honestly didn't even know the word HAIL since he had never seen it before. The hail is hitting us as we are paddling and it hurts (I have bruises on my legs to prove it) but there was nowhere to go so we just paddled as fast as we could to get through it. As we passed the other rafts in our group, we all just said the same thing - "This is crazy!". Eventually the hail stopped and the rain let up a little. We finished rafting and got to the end of the trip. As we were changing and packing up the sun came back out and it was like the storm never happened!


Kerry & I with our guide - MOSES

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Seganaleqa

"NO WORRIES" this is kind of the motto of Fiji. And today we are experiencing it. We are making full use of the villa. We get up early, go to breakfast overlooking the ocean. The food is fantastic. So far I've had banana pancakes and waffles with Fijian fruit. After breakfast the boys take a 2 hour nap and we just hang by the pool. Sunbathing, reading, and some snorkeling in the ocean. This afternoon Kerry & I went for Fijian massages. We are eating fish at least two meals a day and completely relaxed.
Seganaleqa!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Taunovo Bay





Photos of pool & beach at our villa.

Taunovo Bay Resort & Spa is a boutique 5 star property. We were upgraded from what was already an incredible beachfront suite to an entire beachfront villa. We had a luxurious home with our own private pool and private beach. There was a chef's kitchen, huge dining room table for 8, living room, upstairs balcony and bedroom, and a separate master bedroom unit. Each day we had a full time house attendant to assist us. She also loved the boys and played with them any chance she had.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pacific Harbour, Fiji Islands

This morning we woke to rain! The weather has been so amazing we were all a little surprised. We went to breakfast with our raingear but it cleared up by the time we were finished. It was our last morning on Plantation Island so we spent it relaxing by the beach and snorkeling right in our beach. We took the 3:30 ferry (well maybe 3:45... it's Fiji and they say everything is on "Fijian Time"). We arrive back to the Denarau Port for our transfer, which is delayed so we wait at the Hard Rock. They boys had chicken fingers and we had a beer. Eventually we depart for our 2 1/2 hour transfer to the other side of the island. The Pacific Harbour is the "adventure capital of Fiji". It is 2+ hours from Nadi, and about 30 minutes from Suva. There is lush rainforest here, excellent diving opportunities, incredible snorkeling, rafting & kayaking, shark feeding (yikes!), so much more. It's also home to the most amazing sunsets & beaches. We arrived at close to 9PM - got settled in and straight to bed.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween in Fiji

It's Friday. Today I went snorkeling right outside our room. There were a ton of small silver fish near the beach but when we go out not too much. I did see a couple of medium sized fish, plus crabs and a lot of coral. Plus the most amazing thing - bright blue starfish!!





Later it was time for Trick 'n Treating. They don't celebrate in Fiji but for the wedding all the bures (beach huts on the water where we were staying) gave out candy and all the kids went door to door. Kerry & Kevin had a cocktail Halloween party with the wedding party. I'm sitting outside our room just listening. The boys are sound asleep inside and the waves are crashing right in front of me. I can faintly hear the band from the pre wedding cocktail party just down the beach. There is a frog (toad???) looking at me and it is the biggest one I have ever seen. (about the size of my foot!). And our house gecko is making his presence known as well. This is such a tropical paradise. I can't believe there is still another week left!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plantation Island...Watch For Falling Coconuts

Malolo Lailai Island
Plantation Island Resort

So this morning I had a breakfaat of fruits, fish , black currant juice and champagne. It was wonderful! Then we packed up and checked out. We took the Bula Bus to the marina to catch our ferry. It was just under an hour to get here and along the way we passed Castaway Island (where they filmed the Tom Hanks movie). Sofitel was very nice but it felt like it could have been anywhere. Plantation Island is soooo Fiji!!! When our boat docked the entire staff was singing traditional music and greeted us with shell necklaces.

Watch for falling coconuts. Literally. They fall out of the trees onto the beach. One landed not too far away when we were sitting outside. It made a huge THUD when it landed. You really have to look up and see if you are in hitting distance.


FYI Just in case you didn't know... Fiji bottled water really IS from Fiji!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fiji is an Air Dry Country... With Vegimite

Today for breakfast I decided to try vegimite. I've been curious ever since I learned about it from the Men At Work song in the 80s. Even though I heard it was terrible I had to taste for myself. Yep. It's nasty stuff.

We swam in the pool for a couple of hours. It was early - 9-10 AM - but so hot. No need for towels here, you dry off in minutes of getting out! In fact it gets unbearable so and you have to jump back in.

Later we went to a christening at local church. The church had a school and a group of schoolchildren sat through the service singing at both the beginning and the end. It was really nice. After we went back to the babys grandmother's house which was walking distance. (Though it was a bit of a rough walk, especially with strollers - like 4 wheeling). They were preparing a traditional Fijian feast. There were musicians playing music, they served kava, and the food was cooking in the ground. They dug a hole and cooked a pig, fish, and veggies. Everything was wrapped in coconut. The day was VERY hot. We stayed as long as the boys could handle (and me too!) and then went back to the hotel.

Some things about the local people... The men wear skirts (called SULUS) but it is so hot it makes sense. I believe it is the safest and nicest country I have ever been to. The people here are just so nice, and they ALL love kids, especially babies. The resort is more family friendly than most anywhere I've stayed. The woman love children and Cole and Tommy are like rock stars. So far they don't mind all the local woman saying bula and pinching their cheeks.
I first went into the ocean this afternoon and Greg was right. It is almost TOO hot. It is almost the same as the air which trust me, is hot (and I am from Florida!) But the ocean is so clear, you can see your feet while you wade out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welcome To Fiji Islands

The boys were absolutely perfect on the flight. I think we were all afraid to say anything because we didn't want to jinx it but they made it through better than we even hoped. And they slept most of the way so they were ready to start their day in Fiji when we landed at 5AM. When the plane landed the turned all the lights off and local island music was playing. Walking outside was like going into a sauna! Baggage claim and customs seemed to take forever but then it was the biggest plane i have ever been on. We were actually on the second floor. They call it the bubble. When we exited customs, we were greeted and given shell necklaces (like leis in Hawaii). We took a shuttle to Denarau Marina to the hotel. Our room not ready since it was 7AM. We got another room meanwhile to change and went to the pool. Kids adjusted perfectly to Fiji time with no jet lag. Meanwhile Kerry & I was exhausted!! We went to see the show at the hotel of traditional Fijian dancers. It was so good. We stayed for as long as the boys could handle-- they are such troopers! We went to dinner at the hotel restaurant called Salt. Kerry ordered the most amazing tandoori fish dinner. Caroline had it and recommended it. The fish was walu and it was so good I ate half and the next night we went back and each had one. We went to bed at about 9:30PM (which was 5:30AM that morning in Boston!) wondering how it was still the first day in Fiji.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

City of Angels

We made it to LA!!

We left the house dark and early yesterday morning and got to the airport. We checked our luggage (you need a lot of stuff with twins!)
The first flight was the longest -5+ hours. The boys were mostly (well, kind of) good. One was sleeping or quiet all the time (meaning one was sad a lot of the time). At the end Tommy was ready to get off the plane but so were we!

The next flight was great. About an hour and a half. Oh and we were all seated in one row which helped. Our plan was for Kevin to change with someone but that person couldn't move because he had a dog. What are the chances?
So we got to the hotel and went to the pool, had lunch, then we all took a nap.

This morning we are meeting some twins from Kerrys message board for a playdate.
We are getting out late and heading to the airport tonight for our next flight.
When we get off the next plane we'll be in Fiji!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Three Days To Go!

I'm testing a remote posting to make it a little easier to update the blog during my trip.
Just 3 more days to go.
I'm mostly packed and starting to get excited!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

CATM Managua



Friday we left in the morning and drove to the Pacific coast. We saw a couple of properties, had lunch, and then drove back to Managua.
Checked into the conference and got to the hotel at 6:00 PM.
Then left at 6:30 PM for the opening presentation. There was a panel of speakers (yes, in Spanish) for the first hour. But then each of the 7 countries represented each had a traditional dance performance. It was excellent.

Saturday was a full day at the show and back to Granada for dinner.
I have met so many people and even found people here that we work with but I had never met so that was fun.

Today was sooooo hot. I'm looking forward to enjoying a little fall went I get home!! (And I'm also looking forward to an American meal. Sadly the food here is not my favorite)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Matagalpa to Granada


This has been the longest day! Of course the howler monkeys woke me during the night but it was the geese that really kept me up. (HONK HONK HONK)

We left after breakfast, today joined by a guide, Fredder. He was great loves his country and full of facts. We drove to the National Park Masaya Volcano (this time the only interruption on the road was waiting for a cow to decide he would move out of the way). We drove to the edge where you have to back into the parking spaces. It is an active volcano and just in case they want an easy exit. We climbed the steps to a cross put there centuries ago by a priest who believed the volcano was the devils home.


Then we drove to the marketplace where local artisians sell their crafts. We walked through quickly and had lunch. Then we drove to Mombacho Volcano Reserve. Oh but we stopped en route to watch a man making clay pots in his home.
We drove up the steepest road I think in the country. Our driver Lino is fantastic. We did a 2 hour hike in 1 hour and then drove back down.

Next we went to Granada where we toured some of the 365 islands via a boat. We saw monkeys! And lots of birds including the national bird of Nicaragua. It is a mot mot of some kind but I forget the name now.

After we went to the city of Granada and I checked into my hotel. It's directly across from the Cathedral and it is really nice. Dropped my bag and left though for a quick mini city tour. We ended with a climb to the bell tower of the old cathedral which meant climbing the tiny steps on the spiral staircase (Kerry, it was like the duomo).

Apparently there was a battle between Granada and Leon - the other Colonial city - for a long time. They fought but now they are at peace except for baseball. They are huge rivals and last year both teams made it to the final. They had to play in a nuetral place of Managua to keep it fair. Granada won so they are very proud.

So now I'm showered in my room and meeting Andrea in a few minutes for a site inspection of another hotel and then dinner. Phew!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Managua to Matagalpa


I'm getting ready to depart with Andrea who of course is cute & tiny just like Sole! Last night we had a traditional Nicaraguan dinner. Which meant no menus. We walked up to a table with large clay pots and they served different meats and beans on a corn tortilla. Then it was presented on a banana leaf.

This morning we drove to Matagalpa it was about 2 1/2 hours including the extra time to turn around since the school was having a celebration in the middle of the pan-American highway. The roads are pretty good here though. No carsickness. Only the last 20 minutes or so were windy. And there are some roads that need repair (which the country is working on). There are significant potholes so you have to go very slowly and around the holes.

We went to a property in the mountains with incredible views. It is surrounded by coffee plants and also they are growing poinsettas for the holidays.

I learned how to make corn tortillas, but unfortunately mine did not pass inspection. It feel apart on the oven. We tried some fresh tortilla with cream.

Next we left to go to the hotel we are staying at. It is a eco-resort on 1500 acres. It is a fully sustainable and functioning farm. They recycle and use everything here (REALLY). I went on a tour that included the coffee bean production, gardens, workers camp, slaughterhouse....
Thinking the whole time how happy I was that I had cream of mushroom soup and salad for lunch.
*still hadn't recovered from the pig that was on my plate last night
The tour as given by the owner who was quite a character.

We are in a cloud forest and Moo I understand what you said about never having seen so much rain. I thought I saw a lot in Costa Rica but this is incredible!!! The rooms are similar to Tortuguero... or maybe more like Selva Verde in Saraipiqui. They are rustic and basic. It is so loud in the rooms when it rains you can't hear. And there are congo monkeys outside. I can only imagine I'll think of Kevin's story when they start at 4 AM. jajajaja

No service here, but there is this one computer in the lobby. We're off to inspect another hotel in the city and have dinner there. This one is more boutique/y than where we are staying. We also will see the cathedral / not sure how late they stay open though.

Tomorrow we are heading to Granada.... time to go.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Leaving Costa Rica


today I woke up to the sound of a rooster cock-a-doodle-doo-ing. That was 4 am. It is a beautiful morning. Sunny and warm.

Had breakfast with Luigi Chelo & Adri. Gallo pinto (yummers)
Then went to the guide training. At first I had to sit through an hour long presentation in Spanish where once again I was embarrassed I don't speak it. Then I did the powerpoint for the guides. It was so great to meet them all. Especially after I've heard so much about them. After it turned into a general discussion and they had some good feedback. In total there were over 30 I think. Then there was a presentation in Spanish of course, on panama. Lunch. And now I'm at the airport.

Just so you know you do have to pay the departure tax even if you've been in country less than 24 hours.

I have a layover in el Salvador then nicaragua!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Day One

left Boston early and it was the easiest checkin ever. The flight was less than half full and yet I still managed to be between two rows of very sad little people. But they quieted down once we got in the air as I'm sure the boys will on our big trip!

A few hours in Newark and on the flight to costa rica.

I was hungry so went to the lounge quickly before they closed and had the most interesting vegetarian sandwich. Avocado, pickle, tomato, cabbage, & tomato. And there was one other person there- a nice old man who spoke about as much english as I do Spanish. It was painful and embarrassing trying to talk but I think we managed the basics. I'm going to try and post this and a picture.

Meeting Chelo and Adri at 7 for breakfast then all the guides. Already got an earful from danny on the way here so it should be interesting...

Friday, October 3, 2008

almost time.....

Just a few more days until I return to Central America!!!
Looking forward to it. Hopefully I'll be able to update regularly.