Most of my Fijian friends and family come from three small villages: Momi, Nambila, and Yako. Until recently the villages have been without running water or electricity. Although they have made many home improvements over the past decade, most of their homes are very modest. All family members sleep next to each other under the same roof, the bathroom (if they have one) is just a toilet next to the house, and there is very little furniture. Most sleep on the floor.
The homes in the village all stand side by side with a common ground area nearby, and nothing is really owned by any one person in particular; everything is communal. One person’s T-shirt is everyone’s T-shirt. It’s a simple and beautiful lifestyle.
Tavarua Island has been employing the local villagers since the founding of the island back in 1982. Many work as talented boat drivers, cooks, or maintenance workers and hold a variety of other important positions. In exchange for their hard work, Tavarua pays them good wages, gives them free health care (unheard of in Fiji), helps build schools and churches in the villages, and hooked up running water and electricity to many of their homes.
Since the Fijians from the villages and the rest of the Tavarua employees (managers, owners, and boatmen) are like family, the resort also helps the staff fulfill their personal needs and goals. An example is aiding with someone with the special training to attain a small craft captain’s license, getting visas for the seriously injured to come to America for medical treatment, and setting up programs for kids interested in furthering their education after primary school.
As a complement to the work and service that Tavarua Island provides, the Fijians share their culture and love with each and every guest who shows interest in learning more about Fijian ways and tradition. They are some of the coolest and most down-to-earth humans on the planet. If you let them into your life, positivity will result.
Since the villages of Momi, Nambila, and Yako are on the main Fijian island of Viti Levu, the staff takes a 30-minute boat ride to Tavarua Island for their shifts, where they sometimes stay the night.
It’s really special for me to ride across the channel from Tavarua and visit friends and family in the villages.
Since I’ve been working on Tavarua Island for over 16 years, I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with many Fijians. It’s radical to see how all of our lives have changed as we’ve grown older. Most Fijian friends my age are already married with a handful of kids. Many of my friends’ parents, who used to take me fishing, surfing, and into their homes for weddings and town trips, are no longer very mobile. I only get to visit with them when I take trips into the village since they rarely come out to Tavarua anymore.
The Fijians have given me so much throughout the years. They have taught me about the land, the sea, respect, priorities, and the difference between want and need. They have taught me how to be comfortable with who I am, how to move forward from heavy events, and how to stay positive, and they have always shared their unconditional love.
I took these photos when I went to visit my Fijian family the other day.
Vinaka vakalevu, moce.