Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fiji: March 19, Kadavu Koro

little girl, Kadavu Koro, Kadavu, Fiji
Our last day on Kadavu we visited the local school and the village of Kadavu Koro (I think Koro means village, so that must be kind of like saying we visited the city of New York City.)
Our first stop was the Ratu Varani school. 'Ratu' means 'chief' or something like it. The ratus seem to be both cultural and political VIPs. Ratu Varani was a famous Fijian leader. Same idea as  'President Washington Elementary School.'
 The landing area at the school. Many of the children are boarders, which is typical for schools on Kadavu. They spend the week at school and go home on Friday afternoon. There appeared to be about a hundred children at the school, but that's just me eyeballing the size of the school assembly. The youngest looked like first-graders, and the oldest might have been high-school age, but I found the older  Fijians were the harder it was to guess their ages. Partly because I stink at guessing ages, and partly because they seem to age very quickly by my standards. People who looked to me like they were in their 60s and 70s turned out to be in their 40s and 50s. Always assuming that I understood everyone's answers correctly! Traveling to a country where you don't speak the language is always a bit like falling into Wonderland.
School, Kadavu, Fiji
 A classroom building.
UNICEF tent, Kadavu, Fiji
 Another classroom in a UNICEF tent. I think the double-layer roof must help keep the heat down.
students at Ratu Varani school, Kadavu, Fiji
The girls' uniform was a blue dress with white belt, and the short haircuts are required by the school (check out the rules in the photo above.) The boys wear a white shirt and the traditional sulu, which is sort of like a tailored wrap-around skirt with pockets.
Peeking into a classroom.
Peeking into a dormitory. Those are bunkbeds.

The bridge on the way to the village.
We stopped at an enormous waterfall to cool off. Some of the boys from the village jumped off the cliffs to astound us. This is only the lower portion of the waterfall.

After we splashed around for a while, most of us climbed up the cliff, where there was a cleft in the stone through which the river ran, then swam about two hundred feet back to another waterfall, much taller and more powerful. I couldn't manage the climb with a camera, so I have no photos of that part! The upper waterfall wasn't climbable - we just looked, then floated back down stream to the 'little' falls.

 After our swim, our guides (some of the crew from Matava) made sure we were properly dressed for village society (shoulders covered, skirts for the women, no bags carried on the shoulders, no hats), and we walked back through the village.
 Again, I found it very hard to assess what I saw. I assume that the village is poor, at least in the way that I understand wealth, and the only industry I saw was drying kava. It was much cleaner than villages I've seen in other parts of the world, though. There was a little trash blowing around, but no visible piles of rotting garbage. The houses were built of bits and pieces, but they seemed to be neatly kept, and the owners came to the door to wave and smile as we went by.
I think this was a kitchen, but there wasn't an architectural 'type' that I could decipher, at least not on such a short visit. I couldn't tell, for example, if every house had a separate kitchen, or even in fact which were houses, which were workshops, and which were outbuildings. Again that feeling of topsy-turvy disorientation, like trying to navigate in a language you don't speak. Not an unfriendly feeling, just a strong sense of not understanding what I saw.
 Laundry was done in the river.
 There were flowers everywhere. Orchids grew in the main lawns, and they seemed to be grown on purpose. Another sign that I didn't understand life here. Most of the poverty-stricken places I've visited were dirty, crowded, and very interested in getting money from visitors. They don't typically have flowers in public areas. They have more pressing issues. So I just didn't know what to make of Kadavu Koro. Subsistence farmers who get plenty to eat and are content with that? Poor but happy? What American stereotype would apply here? It's so hard to read a culture through my own biases, many of which I only notice when I travel. I came away humbled by my ignorance, reminding myself that I shouldn't be quick to judge even in my own country.
The only things I'm pretty sure I read correctly were welcoming smiles on every side, and plenty of pride.
 Like this.

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