First Visit to Site

We made it back from our site visit yesterday and are recouping from a

whirlwind travel experience. It is hard to recall everything as it

seemed like we experienced so much during the short time we where

there. It is all very exhausting trying to soak in the details of

your future home for the next two years in addition to learning the

logistics of how the heck to get there. That was an adventure in



If you have ever traversed a third world country using more than one

type of transportation you can probably relate. It all started with a

brisk van ride to Suva. In Suva we boarded the Suliven Ferry bound

for Vanua Levu. Vanua Levu is the other larger island in Fiji. It is

actually a bit smaller but the name means ‘big land’. It must be

because it has more mountains.


Most public transportation in Fiji is very old so I wasn’t expecting

much. I had been on a ferry one other time in Alaska, but other than

that my ferry riding experience is limited so I really didn’t know how

to prepare. We boarded the vehicle cargo hull, checked our large tin

boxes, and headed to ‘first’ class. Overall it wasn’t that bad.

First class was at the front of the boat, more to come on that later,

and consisted of a small canteen, the largest flat screen T.V. I’ve

seen in Fiji outside a department store, DVD player, lounge area, and

several double tier bunk beds. It is an open floor plan and there is

little privacy other than the bed sheet enclosing the beds. Reference

pictures below.


We ordered our lamb curry at the canteen and prepared for the

adventure. After eating the lamb neck bone curry the boat started

off. We where warned the weather may be a little choppy from the

captain and got our first whiff of ‘choppy’ when we immediately

started rocking once freed from the anchorage. Everyone looked at

each other hesitantly as the curry fermented. A couple of people

headed outside for fresh air and the other brave souls tried to ignore

the ominous feelings down below. Pete, a FRE-6 (Fiji Re-entry group

#6) gave us all motion sickness pills from Doctor Fina about 30

minutes before the launch so we had a relatively high confidence in

our resistance to motion sickness.


The first puker started about 30 minutes into the ride. It was pretty

much a free for all vomit fest from that point forward. If you didn’t

get sick from the 15’ surges, the smell soon got you. My strategy was

to walk the deck and soak in the fresh air but this was complicated by

sea sprays from the huge waves, blowing rain, upper balcony projectile

pukers, and roving life jacket boxes the size of small Volkswagens.

I went back to first class and everyone had scattered like flies to

the refuges of the bunks (this turned out to be the smartest move),

the deck railing, or toilets. Kelly had employed the technique of

watching a horrible Bollywood movie. I tried this but the rocking

motion of the boat made the DVD pause or skip every three-seconds.

This made everything much worse and I finally gave in and let ‘er

rip. After a couple of sessions I felt much better and curled up in

my bunk.


This was another adventure in itself as there where babies crying, men

snoring the boat rivets loose, and a few puking in the beds (the ship

ran out of puke bags halfway through the trip). I think I got a total

of two hours sleep. The waves got so bad you could hear the front end

of the boat coming out of the water and crashing down. It was pretty

intense, especially for a landlubber like me.


After the 10 hour voyage we landed in Savusavu searching for ground

transport. The bus had already left the station so we had the option

of waiting two hours for the next bus or hiring a compact truck. The

hire option made the most sense and 10 people stuffed their

possessions in the back of a compact truck. I road in the back with 7

others and Kelly was up front with two others. About 15 km of the 50

km road was paved. The other portion resembled a freshly plowed

cotton field. I’ve seen stock tanks smaller than a few of the

potholes we traversed. After 2.5 hours of this fun we boarded a small

fiber boat for about 30 minutes to our final destination. This wasn’t

too bad except for the sea sprays drenching us and our luggage. We

arrived battered, wet, tired, and somewhat delirious, but much smarter

than when we had left.


It was all worth it when we approached the bay of our island home for

the next two years. It is settled in a small valley with white sandy

beaches, huge Vesi trees on the hillside, and coconut trees scattered

among the coastline. The village was very clean and everyone we met

extremely friendly. The culture is totally different from Fijian and

they speak a Tuvaluan, much different from Fijian. The people are

very proud of their heritage and have a unique history filled with



After arriving we quickly changed and headed to an outdoor eating

area, umu. It was a small bure elevated off the ground. The ceiling

was very low allowing you to only sit. The first meal was amazing

with the fish being the highlight. The English name for the fish is

King Fish and it melted like butter in my mouth. I have never had

fish so good. There was also a sweet bread that we haven’t had before

and a few other new dishes.


We then presented our sevusevu, grog, with our initial community

contact person (ICCP) Samalu. The grog had somehow made the trip

without getting wet, crushed, or traded for transport. After a few

bilos I was spent. I can’t remember ever being more exhausted.

Thankfully the council members are very musical and three of them

entertained use with guitars and up beat song. It was a good end to a

long day.


Our house is pretty basic but nice and clean. The only thing it

didn’t have was the kitchen sink, kinda ironic. It is about 50’ from

the ocean near a village canteen that has basic goods such as soap,

canned goods, etc. There is a garden across the footpath in our front

yard and the neighbors are very friendly. We are looking forward to

making it a home when we settle in but haven’t quite figured out how

to buy and transport a mattress, stove, gas cylinder, pots and pans,

kitchen sink, and all the other stuff you need to live in a fiberglass

boat across the strait of Somosomo. We will definitely send pictures

of that!

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.