Reflections from the Field – Tavarua: National Disaster

So I finally asked Dylan about my ankle, the manager who has been here for about 15 years (the person I should have asked first) and he said I was definitely fighting an infection and to keep it covered unlike what everyone else had been telling me which was to let it breathe (like you would back in the states). In the tropics however, it is better to keep your wounds covered, especially at night, because the bed sheets, like everything else, has staph so if you cover it up while you sleep, then your body can fight back. After a few nights of doing just that, my ankle is finally back to normal, but I’m going to keep this routine until I leave.

Thursday night’s Fiji Night had a little more energy than the previous week’s because there were more guests and therefore, more staff for the meke (traditional dance), so it was a completely different experience that was more culturally authentic with a lot more singing and dancing from the Fijians. This week the resort is pretty full and Dylan said the Fijians go all out for a full crowd so that should be interesting to see what else they can add to the meke.

Friday was another full day at the office, very productive. In addition to making calls to food suppliers to find locally sourced and healthy alternatives, Daven showed me the behind-the-scenes operations of the resort. He walked me through the rainwater collection process (all of Tavarua’s water is rainwater catchment, which is currently overflowing) and how wastewater gets treated from all the bures and turned into compost, which is then transported off the island for gardens on the mainland. Daven showed me the resort’s generators on Saturday and the woodshop/construction area where all future projects for the island are developed. I found two biodiesel suppliers in Fiji that use coconut oil in their diesel mix, which is great because this rising industry supports local Fijian farmers, creates jobs in the community who hosts the processing plant, and reduces Fiji’s demand for foreign oil. I contacted the managers of both companies and there is a possibility they could meet Tavarua’s fuel demands, but fuel is a touchy subject here in Fiji as it is hard to find a legitimate supplier (Tavarua has had some interesting experiences with suppliers in the past). Plus, people are generally skeptical of biodiesel’s potential effects on expensive equipment (like 4 massive generators) so it will be a delicate process going forward, but at least it’s a start.

All of the staff has been so friendly and helpful when I need them for completing certain tasks. They all are so busy and yet they have been so accommodating. Can’t thank them enough.

The new group for the week came Saturday. All of the new guests work for Qualcomm, or have in the past, and the guy who organizes it comes this same week every year (more and more San Diegans every week haha). There’s one couple from Switzerland who are travelling the world and the husband is a photographer for a press company in Switzerland-they came here from New Zealand first.


While I was waiting for the boat to Nabila….and a sneak peak of what was to come over the next couple days.

Sunday I went to Church in Nabila with a few resort guests to see the village and get immersed in the culture. Nabila is where a lot of the resort staff lives when they’re not on the island, there and Momi, the other village. Tavarua has built 44 homes, three churches, and two schools between the two villages, along with providing electricity and running water/septic tanks for both villages. Tavarua also funds scholarships for primary, secondary and tertiary students—incredible.


The church we went to was Methodist, and the choir was amazing, something I’ve never experienced before.


Before we went in. The inside once the service was over (didn’t want to take any photos during the service).


Me in a bula shirt (thanks Clyde) and sulu (thanks Dylan).

After church, a couple kids said to follow them to their house….

and when we got there it ended up being the Mayor of Nabila’s house. They provided snacks and drinks for us as we talked with various families from the village before going to lunch in the Community Hall.


The Mayor of Nabila (“Nanbila”) is the one with a tie & sulu.  Rebecca fanning us-all the children were so friendly. A family from Portland was with us and they gave school supplies and books to all the children.

The village was celebrating the birth of a child so everyone was in the community hall for one big party. I had Kava with the men from the village and then had lunch (bare hands and all) with the guests, women, and children, which was delicious (root crops, fish, pork, chicken, taro leaves, and chop suey).


After lunch, we walked across the reef to the boat landing and headed home. I spent the rest of the day writing the Tsunami evacuation policy with Dylan.


Low tide. Tavarua Island on the way back.

Sunday night’s crazy, post-sunset colors. This was on the opposite side of the island from where the sun actually sets. Weird.

Monday had strong winds and rain, which kept everyone inside the restaurant for the big day of football. Watching the 49ers lose was a huge bummer and now I could care less about the Superbowl-Patriots vs. Giants…really? Then Dylan, Jan and I started writing policies for new surf guides. That night was a little staff get-together at one of the treehouses on the back of the island, which was really fun.

Tuesday was more of the same gnarly weather, which ended up flooding Nadi and now the situation has become a national disaster (one for the record books) that will be affecting the country for months after the weather has passed. Unless a big swell comes through, all the sediment that is being flushed off the main island and on to the reefs could have damaging effects for years. Scary stuff.


Pictures from the web.

Dylan, Jan and I finished the surf guide policies and then we worked on the medical emergency and evacuation policies with Pete (the current paramedic on the island who does helicopter medical evacuations in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas—awesome).

That night we talked to the guests to see how people were handling the weather, luckily Dylan saw a window of opportunity yesterday where the guests got to surf/snorkel at Swimming Pools for a couple hours so everyone had some fun, but as you can imagine it can be discouraging to come all this way and not have perfect weather, but what can you do except make the best of it. I’m just glad we’re not in the same boat as Nadi right now. My ankle is back to normal and I’m finishing the last bit of work here (adding interpretational material about the local culture and environment, and writing the last of the policies) so I wish I could surf, but I might be able to get some last waves on Thursday (swell picks up) before I leave Saturday (weather permitting). Resorts on the mainland have been putting tourists on boats and driving to the airport, then 4-wheeling up to the runway, which I might have to do as well. Dylan says he might take a jet ski through town today for fun.

Today (Wednesday) has been sunny all morning. I waited for the halfpipe to dry so I could session it for a little bit before lunch.

Tonight is one of the surf guide’s last night so we’ll have another get-together in the treehouse. Stoked.

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