Jul 022013
 

Last November I had one of the most amazing and enlightening cultural experiences of my life.  While on a dive trip to Fiji, I was able to visit a remote Fijian village on the island of Qamea.

map_fiji

Qamea is a small island (8 miles/12 km long) with lush green hills, beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise waters teeming with sea life.  It has just six villages, and we visited the village of Togo.

Togo Village from the Water

Togo Village from the Water

welcome to togo

As our boat neared the village, we were greeted by a group of excited children – all with large grins and eager faces.

togo kids at shore

Upon encountering a Fijian village, one must first meet with the chief to obtain his permission to enter.  It is customary to present the chief with a gift of… you guessed it – Kava.

Meeting the Chief of Togo Village

Meeting the Chief of Togo Village

After meeting the chief and presenting the kava, we were free to walk around (with our Fijian guide), meet the villagers and observe their day to day life.

Togo Laundry

togo village sign and girl

A Home in Togo Village

A Home in Togo Village

The kids were particularly enthusiastic about our visit.  It was no longer than five minutes into our visit, when they ran to grab our hands to usher us around.  I was struck by their innate happiness, their pride in their surroundings, their beauty and their grace and good manners.  They asked for nothing, except companionship and new friends.

Togo M with Girl

Togo S with Boy

togo beautiful girl

togo boy

The village has a primary school, which we visited as part of our tour.

Verdant vegetation lines the path to the school

Verdant vegetation lines the path to the school

Togo School Sign with Girl

After we made the rounds, we were invited into our guide’s house for Fijian snacks, lemongrass tea, dancing, and of course, kava.

togo food offering

Snacks of breadfruit, taro, cassava and coconut balls – YUM

Togo Dancing

That’s me, dancing with our guide

Mixing the Kava

Mixing the Kava

Togo Kava

Mere Kava Togo

togo 3 kids at kava

We watched and clapped along as the women performed part of the village Meke or history, as told through song and dance.

Togo Women performing

Togo baby at Meke

The chief led the string section

The chief led the string section

The kids were eager to take part in the festivities, although some had to get over their initial shyness.

togo peekaboo kids

I’m a diver, snorkeler, water lover and ocean girl at heart.  And while this was primarily a dive trip, I’m grateful that I gave up a day in the clear Fijian waters to meet these amazing people, share a meal and learn about their culture.  It’s a day that I will never forget.

In my next post, I’ll show you around the village school.  You will get the full tour like we did!

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