Last night 3 men in torn t-shirts and broad white smiles came to the boat in their panga... they are headed out at sunset to fish for the night. Do we have any metal leader line? Barracudas apparently are not their friends and they have been losing their precious hooks.
We find some and they head out off the pass happily. 3 hours ago, 7am, they return with 9 coconuts for drinking, all prepared for us to simply tap into. I have saved 2 straws.. and I have my breakfast.. I call, 'mother natures juice box'. They also hand us a giant stalk of bananas. More than we can possibly eat, but they say they have too many, so we must take them. We see a few groupers, a larger snapper and several other speckled gasping fish at the bottom of their boat. They are just now returning and have not done very well... They only have about 9 fish. They hand us one. They want cigarettes.. we have none. I tell them it is bad for them with humor.. they laugh. So I hand them a large box of tea, a canned ham (they are excited about this) and a package of cookies for their kids. Cyrus trades a few old lures for a few hooks they tell us we MUST have.. We are at Makogai.
Makogai snuggles within the reef that cuts between the two main islands of Fiji, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The reef passes are dramatic with boiling blue water and the islands embrace calm lagoons fringed by golden sand, sweeping coconut trees and giant woven fig trees that scream tree fort! The reef is blooming with life. Clown fish snuggle in plump purple anemones, parrot fish graze the yellow corals and gem colored damsel fish dance together, sweeping up and down in a visual feast that makes your heart leap. Psychedelic lips of giant clams shock our eyes and I laugh as I watch a very protective fish dart after Cyrus to keep him away... I can hear him hitting Cy's mask... "MY CLAM! MY CLAM!"
Cyrus pops to the surface smiling... Did you see that pissed off fish go after me? He asks. I am laughing.. yes, i did. "You'd better leave his clam alone".
These glassy waters and the simple lifestyle soaks into the skin like coco-butter, opening the pores and smelling sweet. We can't help but think of the millions on their iphones, computers.. in traffic and the bombardment of life that is the Western world... and then watch this world. This world feels simply balanced and less complicated. Yes, they have no video games, malls and this seasons fashion. They have no need. They may have no refrigeration or power.. they have no need. These men grow clams and fish and forage.. and they are curious.
This morning, our 3 fishermen friends asked about "America":
"What do you do in America?"
"I hear there is a lot of money in America"
"Yes, there can be a lot of money, but there is a lot to spend it on. Many have to pay for a place to live, a car to drive, insurance, food"
"Oh.. we don't make much money, but we have the island and reef for food and have places to live with our families"
"Yes, many in the US don't even have a garden.. they must pay for all of their food"
"Oh really? We are lucky, we have the reef for fish, and the island for fruits and vegetables."
"Yes, the people here seem very happy! The quality of life is different here"
"Yes, we are happy. People leave us be. We have food and we have family. Maybe you should just live here?"
"Yes, maybe we should".