Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday: FIJI Day!

It was not until the morning after a great night’s sleep on truly heavenly beds, we woke up in the morning to verify that we had arrived in paradise. Beyond all the hotel rooms, bures, and pools, we could see the glistening Pacific Ocean. The water was a beautiful bluish-green color and the waves broke off in the distance. The beach closest to the resort was filled with coral that was completely uncovered in low tide and undetectable during high tide. We walked the beach and collected shells and discovered blue starfish everywhere. We were startled by what looked just like water snakes but at closer glance we were glad to learn that they were just plantlike snakes. Whew!!!

Gisella and Rafie (Tingo) wondered off the resort and quickly made friends with the locals. Gisella had her hair braided and beaded (108 braids in all). She looked like a carefree teenager (photos to follow for sure). Tingo had a massage and was rejuvenated as well. Before long, we all hopped aboard a Toyota and headed into town with a nice taxi driver named Amron. We soon learned everyone was in town. Why? It was Fiji Day, Fiji’s national holiday. It is a day like our 4th of July. All the businesses were closed and everyone was down at the riverfront for the big event of the day, the Bilibili Races. Imagine a Fiji version of our Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival. This was the community event of the year! Every resort on the island sponsors a team in the races. They have matching t-shirts in bright colors with matching bilibili boats. Only men raced in the billbili event although the women took part in kayak races leading up to this big competition. The boats are handmade out of bamboo. They resemble a dragon boat in many ways but maybe not quite as long. Where our boats are high tech, theire’s are long tech. This is no way diminished the skill, determination, and spirit. Like our races, they are all heart. Each team had 7 paddlers. The last paddler was the steersperson. He sat in the back and steered with a paddle. It seemed that most of them were waist deep in water as they tried to keep the boat on the straight and narrow. Some teams positioned themselves in one long line. Others sat their paddlers 2 by 2. We positioned ourselves out on the bridge where we could see the boats coming down the river and the locals rallying on the shore. Seated in front of us were mostly kids who were actually sitting on the railroad tracks with their legs dangling out over the river. Each team had their supporters dressed in their colorful shirts. Canopies were set up all along the river where they were barbequing and cheering on their teams. From our vantage point, It look ld go on. As soon as the train passed, the kids hopped back on the tracks and the race began. The race course was probably a bit shorter than our festival racecourse , say 200 meters. Of the 11 contenders, 2 kept the boat on the straight and narrow. The others either capsized or zigzagged down the racecourse. Everyone cheered loudly for the favorite teams. In a matter minutes, the green and yellow team from the Fijian Resort was declared the winner of the 2007 Bilibili Races. There were smiles and cheers everywhere. We wove our way down to the riverfront and had our photo taken with one of the Bilibili Race teams. Go Dragonheart! We even scored some Bilibili Race shirts which has a its own story, which will surely share at another time. In any case, we really felt lucky to be part of this special celebration. ed like a dragon boat festival and we had to pinch ourselves that we were in Fiji watching Bilibili Races. Just as they were going to sound the start of the race, the kids of the tracks suddenly hopped up and jumped over to the bridge where we were. Believe it or not, a train was coming by!!! Luckily, it only consisted of an engine and 1 car so that the show cou

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