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Fun Facts about Fiji

Contrary to what you might have thought, Fiji is not just one little volcanic island.  There are two larger islands where 87% of the population lives, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.  But, Fiji is made up of over 330 islands and 500 islets.  Of all these islands and islets, a little over 100 are populated.  The population of the country in 2013 was about 900,000.

All totaled, the area of the islands is a little less than the state of New Jersey.

Fiji has a very diverse population.  About 54% of the population are Native Fijian of Melanesian or Polynesian ancestry.  Another 40% of the population are Indians, descendants of indentured laborers brought to the islands by the British in the late 1800s to work in sugarcane fields.  The rest of the population is a mix of Chinese, Australians, Europeans and other people from neighboring countries in the region.  This diversity brings the islands a lot of variety in food.  The official language of business, government and education is English, but Fijian and Hindustani are widely spoken.  It was my observation that Fijians speak English only in situation where they must use it. 

The Fijian population is warm and welcoming.  However, it wasn’t always that way.  When Captain Bligh was kicked off the Bounty, he and his supporters sailed past the islands without landing.  The inhabitants were warlike and they were cannibals.

Reverend Thomas Baker has the unique claim to fame as the last man cannibalized in Fiji.  Although he was initially welcomed, he learned a lesson a little too late.  In 1867, if you touched the chief’s head – even accidentally – that was considered an act of war.  They ate him and, it appears, they even ate part of his shoes.  You can see what is left of them in the National Museum. 

Aw, shucks!  That is such a great story, but there is no mention of any of it at the museum.  Their story, which I must believe, says the poor reverend fell victim to a chief who was jealous and had him killed.   You can see the remains of one shoe, but there was no mention of eating any of it.

Again, it just goes to show, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

As Christianity spread through the islands, cannibalism was abandoned.  King Ratu Cakobau officially ended the practice in 1871.  Good Christians know how to say they are sorry, too.  In 2003, the tribe that killed Baker apologized to his family for that meal.

Hinduism and Islam are also religions practiced in Fiji.

The International Date Line crosses through Fiji.  On the island of Taveuni, you can stand in a spot with one foot in the present day and the other foot in the previous day.

Fiji gained independence in 1970, after 96 years as a colony in the British Empire.

The Queen of England is still seen on Fijian currency.  Her official title is Paramount Chief of the Great Council of Chiefs of Fiji.

Tourism is a huge industry for Fiji.  People from all over the world visit the islands for the sunshine, palm trees and beaches.  Other industries in Fiji export sugar, timber, garments, fish and gold.

Traditional meals, which are cooked in underground ovens called lovo pits, include relishes, starches and a beverage.  The earthen pits are first lined with very hot stones.  Wrapped in banana leaves or palm fronds, the relishes which could be seafood, pork, or chicken are placed in the bottom of the pit.  The starches, which could include sweet potatoes, yams, manioc, taro or breadfruit, are placed over the meat.  It’s all buried with dirt and allowed to cook for three hours.  The beverage is your beverage of choice.  It could be hot tea with lemon, but when in Fiji, isn’t it a good time to buy Fiji water?  It’s actually bottled in Fiji.

Okay, in my research, I saw that sometimes a meal could include boiled bat.  Not where I eat.

If you’re going to eat traditional food, you might as well drink the traditional brew.  Kava is made from the powdered roots of the yaqona plant, a member of the pepper family.  Grind up your roots, strain them, and mix it up with water.  The result will be brown and muddy looking.  That may not be to your liking, but if you have stress, anxiety, insomnia, headache or a cold, it might be worth taking a few swigs.  Okay, maybe not.

Women frequently place flowers in their hair, but you need to take note where the bloom is placed.  As it was explained to me, if the flower is on the left side, the girl is single and looking.  If the flower is on the right side, she’s married and cooking.  A little bit of knowledge can eliminate a whole lot of problems.

Copyright 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.