Fiji Christmas

Dec. 24 – 31 
You wouldn't think that a little island in the middle of nowhere would have much going on, but there really don't seem to be enough hours in the day. It's been a really busy holiday season, full of excitement, new people, learning a lot about Koro and the people here, making music and working on our block. 

We're staying at the Bali House until we get our camp in better shape to live for the next few months. We still didn't make it to do the sevu sevu, we decided to make a sevu sevu tour of all the villages on the island after we get initial plans together for a small structure. It's a problem balancing how much effort to put into a temporary camp to improve comfort right now versus something permanent. My music is finally on iTunes. I'm not sure how I feel about many of the streaming services, but I enjoy using Apple Music enough to pay $10 a month it appears to be more fair to the artist than a lot of the other services, so having my music there makes sense.

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We collected a bunch of ivi nuts and cooked them up. It's a good thing we like the way they taste because our land will produce hundreds of kilos every year -far more than we'll be able to eat ourselves. 

We were looking forward to taking more breadfruit 'chips' to the Christmas potluck, but discovered that they only keep for a couple days before becoming a gushy, squishy mess of rich, yummy custard mush. 

Mmm...

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It was a great time at the resort on Christmas Eve, with a silly gift exchange. 

I got nails, which was actually perfect because we've been needing them a lot at camp. We met most of the foreigners living here in the village, and I performed for a couple of hours.

We had the best meal we've had in Fiji the next day at Catherine Lily's place, she and some of the locals from Nabasovi made all kinds of traditional and non-traditional foods. She's a fascinating woman from the UK with tales to tell. She's traveled the world and lived in LA in the 70s in Charlie Chaplin's home no less (converted into apartments) while married to a sax player named Napoleon who was playing in Zappa's band. Quite an experience listening to her talk about her experiences.  

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After Christmas it was back to our education and work on the land. We learned what taro is NOT. Elephant ears are basically the same plant, but unlike taro, you can't boil out the calcium oxylate.  We brought some root home and tried to cook it up. A little more research and we realized our mistake. The stem of taro plants attach to the inside of the leaves, while elephant ears attach to the top, middle edge. An easy to spot difference when you know what you're looking for. 

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The other day Lewai taught us about another local starch, tivoli -the wild yam. In many places it's considered a famine food, but it tastes as good as taro and can be foraged.

To make the transition back to our camp, we've been building a platform to get up out of the rain, and a bed on top of it using split bamboo slats for an approximation of a box-spring, and more grass for a mattress. It'll probably be pretty comfy when it's finished. 

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Lewai's machete skills are formidable. We've chopped dozens of 3-4 inch diameter saplings down to make the platform. What takes me about 15-20 chops he can do in 5-7. Almost all of what we've been cutting are the bele (wild spinach) which is killing two birds with one stone because it grows into a tree and the foliage is too high to pick for eating. But they'll sprout new branches after being chopped nearly to the ground, so we're basically pruning them while we cut for the platform. 

We built our very first rocket stove. The spot where we had our campfire had two boulders just perfectly spaced for making the fuel and air intake. We just stacked a bunch of rocks and made a fuel feed tray out of a tin can. 

Samantha learned how to extract clay from any soil.

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We used some to fill in the gaps between stones that were letting too much heat and smoke escape from the sides of the stove. 

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Samantha Chappell