Visitor, Beach house, village tour, and a birthday too

This has been the longest since I've written.   It feels like so much to catch up on that I have sort of been procrastinating all day by making slow cooker pasta bolognese.   Yum. 

Mere stayed with us for the past two weeks.   In the wee hours of yesterday morning (3:30 a.m.) I drove her back to the boat for her long ferry ride home.   We were all sad to see her go.  I am hoping she can come back for her next school holiday and many more after that.  She truly felt like part of the family while she was here.  I am not sure how we will be involved with Mere after this, but I do know we will continue a significant  relationship with her no matter what.  

Many people wonder where we met Mere and how she came to stay with us.   When we went to the village (Trip to Village) we met Mere and her family.  Mere (who just turned 14 two weeks ago)  lived next door to Brooke, the previous Peace Corps Volunteer that we went to visit.   Mere says Brooke was/is her best friend and has taken care of her for the past 3+ years.  I know she misses her terribly now that she has moved to Alaska.  My girls fell in love with Mere instantly.  They were her constant shadow the whole time we were in the village.  They've been asking for Mere to come visit, so we decided to do it.  

This was Mere's first trip to Suva and her first big trip in general.   She rode the ferry over on a Friday afternoon and stayed with us for 10 days.  For the first 5 days she was here, I think she was in severe culture shock.  Our lives are SO different than Mere's life in the village.   We have electricity and working phones and beds and separate bedrooms and a car and paved roads and a refrigerator and a microwave and on and on.  We also speak in English only while English is her second language only learned in a class in school.   As she rode through Suva for the first time with huge, wide eyes, she said over and over, "Plenty cars."  She was in shock at our house.  I wondered if she'd be lonely sleeping in her own bedroom since that is so opposite of her life at home, but she had a HUGE wide smile when I told her she could sleep alone in her own bed.  

It was fun to experience so many firsts with Mere.  We got to see her eat french fries and pizza for the first time, swing on a swing, slide on a slide, ride on a ferris wheel, swim in a pool all for the first time.  She told me that only white people had she glanced whenever she could.  She hadn't ever ridden in an elevator or on an escalator.  I underestimated how scared she'd be...but she overcame her fear and then LOVED riding the escalators.  We rode them just for the joy of riding them.   She also got to witness how our little American family works...with Warren cooking half of the time and everyone expressing affection for one another constantly.  

She shadowed an ISS (International School Suva) year 8 student for two days and says she has now met her best friend.   She loved ISS and kept talking about how different it was than her village school.  She couldn't get over the computers and the library...but mostly that the kids asked questions.  She said in the village school (and most schools in Fiji) the teachers teach and the students listen.   I asked her what she would do if she didn't understand something the teacher taught and she said that there is nothing you can do.  You definitely would get in trouble if you asked a question.  It would be seen as an insult to the teacher.  

We filled the week with Mere by going to the hibiscus festival, touring around Suva, shopping, going to boot camp which Mere loved, hiking in the rain forest,  visiting ISS, and ended the trip with an outing to the Beachouse, our favorite backpacker hotel and visiting the village of Sigatoka.   Some of the pictures are below. 

Hibiscus festival.   The rides were scary.  I kept feeling like they could fall apart in any moment. 

This is how muddy the whole festival was.   Yikes.  Thankfully my girls had rain boots. 

Warren said the ferris wheel was one of the scariest rides he's ever been on.   He said he was scared that it would fall apart but it also went SUPER fast and the carts tiled back.  

Mere learned how to swing! (It took my kids at least 6 years to do that...)

We walked all around the market.  Mere was able to explain to me what some of the fruits and veggies were. 

Boot camp.  Mere's words about the experience, "BIG FUN!" 

hiking at Colo-i-Suva.   Mere was to scared to go off of rope, but then she told me she cannot really swim, so thank goodness she didn't try!

On the way to Beachhouse.  The girls were being so silly and having a ball.  
The dancing lasted for about 45 minutes...followed by this.  

I joined in on the silliness too.   Cannot help but singing and dancing when the good songs come on..

Our weekend get away was amazing.  I love the accessibility to all of these beautiful places.  This weekend was particularly fun because we went to the hotel with five other families.   The kids went crazy while we all hung around playing games, drinking wine, relaxing and laughing.   The wonderful thing about the little Fijian resorts is that the kids have so much freedom.   They run around and you can always find them close by.  It reminds me of camping.  They never ask for tv or kindles.  They just love being outdoors.   Me too.

We were the first ones to get there Friday evening and our family had some peaceful time on the beach with the swing and the sunset.  

After a late night of running around and eating the pasta we brought along with us, Zoe was first to rise.  She and I had the beach to ourselves for the sunrise and the swing. 

Soon afterwards, the rest of the crew arose and we all ate breakfast and played some cards.  Nice, relaxing morning.  

Mere showed off her excellent tree climbing skills.  

If you look closely, you can see this tree too is covered with children from our crew. 





Part of our morning involved taking the kayaks out for a paddle around.   About 5 minutes in, we saw a black tip reef shark!!!!   It was awesome!   The water was so shallow that I honestly don't know how the shark could be swimming, but it was way cool and a little scary even though they it was small and they are harmless.   We took the boats out when the tide was too low and then had to walk across the reef to get our boats back in...but it was so worth it!  

After our very relaxing morning, we headed into Sigatoka for a village tour of our friend, Dave's, old Peace Corps village.  Dave coordinated a tour of the pottery based village so that the kids and adults could see an aspect of village life, which differs so greatly from life in Suva.  It was a great experience!  Before we left, the women all covered their shoulders and legs and the men put on sulus.

Here the kids are learning how to pound the kava root to make the powder for the grog.   

church in the village

This is the bure where Dave lived and now our tour guide, Sunny lives.   I'm sure he didn't love the kids standing on his bed. 

Grog making ...they pour the water over the powder for the drink...that numbs you lips and tongue.  


Andie's first grog. 

Like I mentioned, this village is a pottery village so we got to see the pottery being made from start to finish.  

Here they are using sap from the tree when the pottery is hot from the fire to put a glaze on the piece.  I cannot imagine how many burnt fingers happen while learning this trade.  

one of the final products

The ladies performed the traditional fan dance for us and then pulled us up for some dancing too.  

Mere got a hold of my camera and took some fun shots of us all dancing. 

After the sevsevu, we had a traditional lovo.   It's always fun to eat with your hands! The food was delicious! 

some of us played rugby after lunch 

The rest of us discovered our children having their own grog ceremony!!!

That night we all went back to the beach house for a yummy dinner, games, and more good company.  Right before the sunset we saw a HUMPBACK WHALE!!!!   It was off the coast way past the reef.  It was HUGE!!  It was jumping out of the water and everyone on the beach was screaming in joy!  I can definitely say it is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  Amazing!  A first for me.... and wow, to see a shark and a whale in the same day?!!!!

 The next morning, it was windy but sunny so we were able to enjoy the beach for a bit before checking out.   For lunch we went to my favorite restaurant in all of Fiji, the Eco Cafe.  This is a little shack on the beach with stunning views, amazing pizza, and a whole beach with a swing to ride on for the kids.   The owners are a Fijian husband and Italian wife who know how to make great food.    It's so laid back....just so Fiji.    Their kids are always around and are perfect hosts to our kids.  They climbed coconut trees and chopped coconuts for the girls and towards the end of our visit, the owner got out his horse for all of the kids to ride (free of charge).   He just wanted everyone to have fun.   It was the perfect ending to the perfect weekend. 

cuddles in the hammock

Mere found a baby she loved!

Notice the little boy climbing the tree for coconuts behind Diane and Christian. 

Again, Mere had my camera.   It's kind of nice having a photographer around!

One of the boys chopping coconuts for Andie.  He was maybe 8 years old, but man...he knew how to use that cutlass. 


Dave found a dog he wants to adopt! 

The girls were flying on this horse!  It was running down the beach.  I was a little nervous but they were laughing non-stop.

Amidst all of the fun with Mere and the beach house, and the village tour...  a good friend, Tricia celebrated her birthday.  To celebrate we all ate a delicious dinner, played some games, laughed a lot, and danced until way too late into the night.  It was SO much fun!  I am so thankful I've found friends here that I can connect with deeply...but also have fun with.   I feel fortunate.

Check out Tricia's beautiful table she sanded herself!

Ok, so in my head we didn't look this ridiculous dancing. 

Thank you Tricia for such a lovely evening!


  1. what a perfect weekend. nobody in your family will ever have trouble making great friends. Lucky Mere, lucky cuddly baby, lucky birthday girl to spend it with you!


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