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The Day After

If you keep up on my blog, you know that yesterday was one of the worst travel days in my life.  It could have been worse.  No planes crashed.  But, it was a day I would never want to live over again.

And, then comes the day after.

Even though the day was awful, it didn’t end so badly.  I found a travel agency to help me resolve my crisis.  They also located a hotel for me in Nadi and got me a free taxi ride with one of their vouchers.  And, that’s how I met Sahim. Sam.

My usual conversation starter with taxi drivers is to get them to talk about food.  It’s a great way to find out what should be sought out.  Sam said that his absolute favorite dish was beef curry.  I didn’t know that Indians even ate beef.  Well, it depended on what kind of Indian you were.  Certain Hindu people eat meat while others don’t.  None of that mattered to Sam.  He was Moslem.  I also didn’t know that any Indians were Moslems. 

Anyway, Sam said the best food would never be found in a restaurant.  If you really want a good meal, you have to eat at someone’s home.  Did I want to come to his home the following day?

You already know the answer.

Of course, you know me better than Sam.  He gave me his number and said that I should call him in the morning.  It was his little test.  If I really wanted to spend time with him, I’d call.  If I was just being polite, I’d pass.  He didn’t know what to expect.  He didn’t even mention anything to his wife. 

But, of course, I called.

Within minutes, he was at my door.  I caught him, with his wife, on the way to the market.  So, I tagged along to see a variety of vegetables that I’d never seen before.  And then, I followed them home.  Once again, I followed a friendly stranger to parts unknown.  Sam and Reshma lived about a half hour out of Nadi in the countryside, surrounded by sugarcane fields surrounded and green mountains.  When he didn’t drive a taxi, Sam also work on his own sugarcane farm.  He lived in a small family community with his parents, brothers as well as their spouses, children and chickens.  It’s just the way things are done in Fiji.

This part of the island was hit hard by cyclone Winston in February, 2016.  Fortunately, recovery was well under way.  You’d never know by looking at it that part of their home was blown away and the rest flooded as they huddled inside during the storm. 

Reshma absolutely loved to cook.  Beef curry simply wasn’t enough for a guest.  And, yes, of course, I collected the recipe.  It’s a comin’.  She also prepare rice, fried fish, cucumber salad and a really unique vegetable called “drumstick” that I happened to ask about at the market.  It sort of looked like okra.  You didn’t eat the outside, but rather sucked out the soft middle.  Reshma believed in spicy hot curry.  So, one requirement for guests was a napkin.  If you are like me, your nose will run.

Just like in most Fijian homes, there was no dining room table.  We sat together on the floor upon hand-woven mats.   By now, that was just natural and I didn’t stop to think about it.  I really can’t say I felt quite the same about eating all my food with my hands.  But, there was no way I would use a utensil, no matter how many times it was offered.  I was in Fiji and this is how it’s done.

It appears these days that some horrible disaster strikes somewhere in the world every time I travel.  During this particular journey, it was in Munich.  I’ve had limited access to the news.  I don’t know details from Germany.  But while a small sect of Islam continues to grab the world news, I come face to face with its true followers.  It’s my understanding that the Koran teaches believers to be gracious to guests.  It certainly has been my experience.

Copyright 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.