neck cracker to cross international line waterfall in Fiji discussion of childrenFiji men cooking Fiji- Tuesday November 18-Friday, November 21 Pictures:The first picture shows the neck cracker that transformed into a cross when the Christians came to Fiji. I am standing at the divide of the International Date line. We swam in this waterfall, I talked with a village lady as we shared stories about grandchildren and the village men prepared our feast. Bula, Bula Our introduction to the 130+ Fijian islands talked of cannibals who ate brains with brain forks, and had elaborate tools for cracking necks and skulls. But with the missionaries’ arrival to the islands in the early 1900’s much changed, even though a few early missionaries were purported to have been killed and eaten. But the presence of churches on the islands has had a significant impact on village life, schools, and religions that mix with their pagan rituals. Methodists and Catholics were the dominant religious groups, but also we noted a strong presence of LDS, Seventh Day Adventists and a few Baptists. Now, in the villages the church building is the largest building and is also used as a community center or gathering place. Right away as we arrived at Beqa Island, we were greeted with warmth and love, instead of a warring party, spears in hand as we’d been used to on PNG and the Solomons. They sang, offered us food, and of course had jewelry and baskets to purchase. They were proud of their village and entertained us on Beqa with dancing and fire walking. Here we swam and snorkeled, got massages from the wonderful ladies with strong hands, and for some tried CAVA, a root narcotic drink that numbs your mouth. Finally, they gathered to sing a farewell to us. Soothing would be the word for this visit. The next day in Lautoka we docked and took a town tour visiting another church village where the symbol for head cracking had turned into a Christian cross. In all these native villages we were asked to remove hats, and to cover our shoulders and knees. Stability in government is difficult because people vote for their tribal member (leader) and not issues. Another stop took us to a large orchid garden with hundreds of varieties of wild orchids, and finally to the marina for lunch. It felt very strange being in civilization, but Alan was happy to be able to buy a sula (Fijian skirt) and Bula shirt. The new passengers boarded and we bade farewell to most of the guests from the first two weeks. We then headed out to several more islands to explore, swim, snorkel, and get back to the native cultures where again, people were very welcoming. One village on Taveuni Island had prepared for months for us. They erected a shelter wrapped with braided palms and ginger flowers. The ladies prepared traditional foods complete with the banana wrapped chicken and taro roots. We were shown through their village that has just received solar panels for electricity to power a light bulb and their cell phones. Yes, they all have cell phones. Alan and I swam here and had a wonderful visit with several leading ladies of the village. We talked about our grandchildren and where their children go to school. They fully embraced us as we left with many hugs. I can see how Fiji draws so many Australian families: friendly, close for the Aussies, and affordable. Great emphasis is placed on preserving sections of ocean for renewal of fish populations. We met a lady whose sole mission is to help the villagers collect data on the health of their fishing places. So far, they are very successful. We also saw that the Chinese had moved in, living in their gated community while building a hydroelectric dam. Like the Clear Lake area in Houston, natives are concerned about their eroding shoreline and are now asked to build house higher in elevation and away from the shore. They are encouraged to plant mangroves and not sea walls.