Art + Design for The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter

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Art + Design for The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter

Vegan Praxis of BLM

About a year after consciously transitioning into a vegan lifestyle I read the book  "Sistah Vegan: Food, Identity, Health, and Society: Black Female Vegans Speak"- a thoughtful collection of essays that bring to light the connection between human rights and animal rights. It was exactly what I needed to read. It offers stories of different women's journeys into veganism in a way that helped me to understand and articulate my own journey. The fact that there are so many different voices in this book freed it from any tone of judgement or "one size fits all" thought; so found it to be  a great social justice piece in general. I keep it on my shelf to reference and reread as needed. It also helped me commit to reading Majorie Spiegel's "The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery", a powerful book (with a fantastic foreword by Alice Walker) that I will also always have a copy of nearby. After reading the book, I started following the Sistah Vegan Blog. I would read it from Fiji, and make connections between what was happening in the states in comparison to what we were experiencing there. I was excited to read that Dr. A. Breeze Harper, the editor of "Sistah Vegan", was organizing an online conference- The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter that is happening this month. After connecting with Breeze I was thrilled to be able to do the artwork for the event.

Vegan Praxis of BLM sketch and watercolor

I did the sketch and watercolor images for conference, and Jack did the design magic. It was a fun challenge to find an image that represents the connection between the issues while honoring each one; and the challenge made me even more excited for the perspectives that will be offered during the conference.

veganpraxisblm flyer

Online registration is up for this Interactive Web Conference. Join to ask and learn how veganism and #blacklivesmatter intersect, as well as why race and whiteness matter within veganism and beyond. Like the book, this conference is taking a holistic approach to anti-oppression work, acknowledging that these politics cannot be single issue.

Visit the Sistah Vegan Conference website for the conference schedule and online registration!

 

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 Best Vegan Eats in Suva

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Best Vegan Eats in Suva

Dal, bitter melon, bhindi, jackfruit, vegetable Manchurian

We’re back in the Bay! First impressions are that it’s cold, crowded, and there are just not enough sunlight hours to keep us going. However, everyday is getting a little easier and our focus is becoming clearer. We’re staying with our parents in Livermore and we’ve both started working in Oakland leaving us with a bit of a commute. This brings us to the challenge of balancing our work days to find time to cook healthy meals. For the past 2 weeks, we’ve been spoiling ourselves eating out at Ethiopian and Vietnamese restaurants. We even found some amazing vegan South Indian dosas in Berkeley that made us think of Fiji.

We feel empowered by making delicious food at home that both saves money and is generally healthier. However, there are a few select restaurants that we like to treat ourselves to from time to time. When we're staying in or around Suva, our go-to restaurant is Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant in Sports City.

Govinda

Govinda has a cafeteria-style setup that allows you to pick a large variety of dishes. Each dish is about $2FJD or less, allowing you to choose a large variety. Many of the curries are vegan, though some to have dairy, so be sure to ask.

Dal, bitter melon, bhindi, jackfruit, Eggplant, vegetable Manchurian

We love that the selection varies from day to day, and we've never left feeling hungry or disappointed. Our favorites include:

Dal soup- They offer two types of dal lentil soups; a south Indian dal that is thick and savory, and a Gujarati dal that has complex sweet/sour taste we can’t get enough of.

Dosa with coconut chutney- On Thursdays and Fridays, Govinda offers made-to-order dosas. A dosa is a South Indian rice and lentil crepe that is filled with curry (potato/aloo) and served with an amazing spiced coconut chutney. Honestly we can’t get enough of these! A dosa can easily be split between two people and is served with dal.

Dosa

Jackfruit curry – We had jackfruit curry at our wedding because we absolutely love it. We laughed at how many people asked us if it was pulled pork or chicken; it's just a surprising texture for a fruit. The jackfruit curry at Govinda does not disappoint.

Okra/Bhindi curry – I could enjoy okra prepared just about any (vegan) way. I love the simple, bhindi curry offered at Govinda.

Eggplant/Baingnan curry – They offer a few different baignan curries at Govinda, and all are delicious.

Bitter melon/Karela curry – Bitter melon (bitter gourd) was new for both of us, and we found it to be, well….bitter. But in the sense that bitter is a necessary taste and balances and complements the sweetness of the dal or the tamarind chutney. It’s also highly nutritious.

Curry

Pumpkin curry – We feel that pumpkin is the most undervalued vegetable in the States, and we love the variety of dishes that feature pumpkin in Fiji. Govinda makes a simple pumpkin curry that hits the spot.

Chana Masala- A classic chickpea curry with potato. It can serve as a main to balance the lighter, greener curries.

Spinach Bhaji – We can’t resist ordering this one when we see that a fresh batch has just come out. The fresher or hotter this is, the better it tastes.

Green Bean Curry- A really simply, yet tasty bean curry.

Vegetable Manchurian - This Indian Chinese dish is hard to describe. It features grated cabbage and carrot in a textured ball- imagine sweet/sour flavor and a crumbly texture- yum!

Jack preparing his plate

And don’t forget to order:

Roti- Their roti is superb- round, soft, and breaks apart perfectly to scoop up the curry.

Samosas- I tried really hard to not eat too many samosas in Fiji, just in an effort to limit fried floury foods. But on the rare occasion I did eat a Govinda’s samosa, I enjoyed every bite.

Tamarind Chutney- A nice sweet chutney that brings out the flavor in everything.

Roti, salad and tamarind chutney

We tend to eat a lot and $20FJD gets the both of us a filling lunch. The lunch rush brings in a diverse group including USP students and local professionals. The earlier you can make it for lunch, the better, as the variety narrows throughout the afternoon. The ownership and staff are amazing and make visits here even more enjoyable. They even fill large to-go orders if you ever have an event to cater in Suva.

So next time you’re in Suva, go to Govinda- if we’re in town, we’ll probably see you there!

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Fiji Kumquat Juice

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Fiji Kumquat Juice

Kumquats

On our parents’ property in Naitasiri, there are many kumquat trees. They make use of the beautiful fruit by processing them into a juice. kumquat tree

Kumquats are a citrus fruit, high in Vitamin C. The fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals, including those that weed out carcinogens and prevent cancer. Unlike other citrus fruits, kumquats are usually eaten whole, peel and all. The peel is packed with essential oils, anti-oxidants and fiber.

Bags of kumquats

Kumquats have been filling the trees since we’ve been here; so we’ve been collecting them on our walks (usually 4-5 bags at a time) and making the juice ourselves.

Kumquats

Processing Kumquats

After picking the kumquats, we wash them all. Then we cut them in half to make them easier to process. We put them in the food processor, skin and all, and they make a thick pulpy liquid. We then strain that using mesh, putting the pulp aside to save for later. We transfer the strained juice concentrate into bottles. Our 4-5 bags of kumquats make about 6 liters of juice, and a comparable amount of pulp. We store the pulp in the refrigerator, and the juice bottles in the freezer until we’re ready to drink them.

Jack processing kumquats

To make our daily kumquat juice, we use about 1/4 cup of the concentrate and ¾ cup of water. We then sweeten it with the liquid sweetener of choice- either1 tsp of honey, maple syrup, or coconut nectar.

kumquat juice

 

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Charlot's Black Christ Mural in Ra

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Charlot's Black Christ Mural in Ra

Jean Charlot mural

When you picture beautiful frescoes in historic cathedrals your mind probably wanders to a European city, and not Fiji. However, we've been aiming to see Jean Charlot's mural of the Black Christ in the Ra District of Fiji for some time now. On our way back from Nadi last week, we made it happen! Along King's Road in Naiserelagi village in Ra, there is a sign for St. Francis Xavier's Catholic Mission. Following the sign towards an uphill 5-minute drive leads directly to the Church that is home to the beautiful artwork. We knew right away that this was the right church, based on the descriptions we'd heard. No other cars or people were around; just yaqona (kava) lying to dry in the sun out front.

St. Francis Xavier's Catholic Mission Catherdral

The cathedral was open, so we removed our shoes and let ourselves in to see the frescoes we'd been eagerly anticipating. The cathedral itself is built in the same manner as the Catholic church on Taveuni- a stairway entrance leading to high vaulted ceilings with stained glass windows and ibe (ih-mbay; Fijian woven mats) covering the floors.

Stained glass windowsWoven mats covering the floor

The set of Jean Charlot's three frescoes was everything we'd hoped for and more. The Black Christ and Worshippers mural is the center piece over, measuring ten feet by thirty feet; and to either side there are ten by twelve panels; one of St. Joseph's Workshop and the other of The Annunciation.

Black Christ and Worshippers

St. Joseph's Worshop

The Annunciation

These pieces were painted in the early 1960s, and his style reminds us of the work of muralists Diego Rivera, Hale Woodruff and Thomas Hart Benton. We are so inspired by the multicultural aspects and empowering nature of the centerpiece; looking closely you will notice Fijian, and Fijian-Indian cultural traditions seamlessly integrated into the mural. Traditional offerings are being made on either side of the Christ figure.

Black Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detail

Jean Charlot has painted murals throughout Mexico and in Hawaii. As we head back to the States- we'll make a serious effort to view more of his work in the region.

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Best Place to Eat on the Coral Coast

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Best Place to Eat on the Coral Coast

EcoCafe menu
Our first (and second!) meal for the new year was at EcoCafe on the Coral Coast, just past Votua village.  We stayed at the Beachouse for New Years, so it was easy access for us to visit for lunch.
EcoCafe sign
Eco Cafe is a family operation run by Degei and Fabianna. The couple has brilliantly blended his Fijian and her Italian traditions of food and beverage. The setup is an open-air building made from bamboo thatching and natural materials.
cafe owners, Degei and Fabianna
EcoCafe
EcoCafe
The cafe sits on a beautiful beach, so while waiting for our food, we walked down to the water and watched the kids take their surfboards out.
Surfing
EcoCafe

We love the fact that they do not offer or allow soft drinks in their restaurant; this is a rarity in Fiji. Instead, they make to order a variety of fresh fruit juices, coffee and teas. Our favorite was the ginger and lemongrass tea. We also really enjoyed the lemon juice and mixed fruit juice.

Tea and fresh fruit

Their Italian menu includes wood fired pizzas and pastas, and their Fijian menu has a variety which includes  a vegetarian section. They require advance notice on all Fijian dishes, as all of their ingredients are fresh, including the coconut milk which takes a bit of time and work. We hope they continue to offer the Fijian menu as it's a big part of what makes this place so special.
IMG_5170
EcoCafe menu
We ordered the Steak Baignani (eggplant) in miti (coconut milk with onions, tomatoes and chili) and Ota (Fijian wild fern) in miti along with a variety of root crops including dalo, tivoli, and kumala. All of the food was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.
Steak Baingani and Ota Steak Baingani
The family lives on the property, and the restaurant is open from 11am-9pm everyday except Wednesdays.  EcoCafe
We have been driving between Nadi and Suva a bit lately, and we have found this to be a great place to stop in for tea or coffee and a beautiful beach view to break up our trip. This is such an inspiring place and we would love to see more like it in Fiji!

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Vegan Holiday Dishes

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Vegan Holiday Dishes

vegan holiday dish collage

Holidays are always an interesting time for us, as traditional meals and desserts usually center around meat and animal products. Time This year we rose to the opportunity to opted to make several plant based dishes to share with the family. Timing couldn't have been better as just a couple of weeks ago, our cousin gifted our Mom the Revive Cafe Cookbook from New Zealand. This was perfect as most ingredients from New Zealand can also be found in Fiji, whereas some of our favorite American dishes can be challenging to substitute.

Since Christmas in Fiji brings high temperatures and humidity, we wanted a refreshing menu so we chose with more raw dishes than cooked.

Vegan Christmas Meal

Our menu included: -Lemon + Garlic Hummus -Roasted Beetroot Hummus -4 C Salad (Carrots, Coconut, Cashews, Cilantro + Lemon Garlic Dressing) -Revive Raw Salad (Beetroot, Carrot, Raisins, Sunflower Seeds, Mint + Orange Balsamic dressing) -Curry Black Eyed Pea Salad -Moroccan Chickpea and Date Dahl Soup (+ pumpkin!) -Lettuce + Red Cabbage + Tomato Salad -Caramel Coffee Pudding made with Cashews and Dates

We were also gifted the Fijian dishes of Rourou (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk) and Dalo (taro root) which were the perfect additions.

We sourced most of the recipes from the Revive Cafe Cookbook 2, and the cake recipe is from This Rawsome Vegan Life.

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Garden of the Sleeping Giant

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Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Orchid

We haven’t been online much recently as we’ve been travelling for birthday celebrations and holiday preparations. Also, we’ve had varying internet access, so we’ve been making most of our time unplugged. Garden of the Sleeping Giant

For my birthday weekend, we took a road-trip around Viti Levu. We met up with family in the West and explored places that were new to both of us. One of the highlights of our time in the West was the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. It’s located just 4 miles north of Nadi International Airport on Wailoko Road.

Jack

The Garden is in a valley surrounded by the mountain feature called “the Sleeping Giant.” Upon entering, we were free to wander through the colorful orchids, a lilly pond, and native flowers and rainforest.

Light

Orchid

We took our time walking through the garden, as there was so much to see. We found it all to be very family friendly; our 1-year old niece and 2-year old nephew had a great time.

Nephew the photographer

Orchid

Orchid

We went in the morning, and it was quite hot, so we wouldn’t recommend going in the afternoon this time of year. We reckon this would be a great place to take a book and read after an early morning stroll through the gardens; and it would also be a spectacular wedding venue!

Orchid

Orchid

Pineapple

In the visitor area, there are beautiful lithographs by French artist, Jean Chalot. This was exciting for us, as we have been planning a trip to a church where he’s painted a series of frescoes including a monumental Black Christ.

Jean Chalot print

The entry fee is $16 FJD per adult; we found it to be worth it as the grounds are very well maintained. Read more about the garden and its history on Fiji’s tourism website.

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Fiji Pop Up Shop in Suva

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Fiji Pop Up Shop in Suva

POPUP

Last night, we participated in the first Fiji Pop Up Shop in Suva at Distill. It was our first live paint in Fiji. The "pop up shop" concept is a shopping experience that pops up in different locations where new or pre-loved items of clothing, accessories and art are sold. It came together nicely. Our sister in law worked out the concept and details, and Jack designed the flyers for the event. POPUP

Last night's event featured designer label clothing by  two time award winning local designer, Andrew Powell, and new as well as pre-loved pieces handpicked by Andrew.  Our prints and handmade earrings were available for purchase. 

Designer clothing by Andrew Powell

Art Prints and shoesHandmade earrings

Preloved Jewelry

Distill Pop Up Shop Pop Up Shopping

During the event , we collaborated on a live art piece. We had a great time bringing this new happening to Fiji.

Live Painting

Live Paint Distill

Special thanks to Loren Eastgate, Andrew Powell, Jodi Chang and all of our friends and family that came out and supported the event! If you are based in Suva, stay tuned as there will be more Pop Up Shops in the future. Our earrings and prints along with some preloved jewelry are available for purchase at Distill near Flagstaff for the next few weeks.

Fiji Tapa Earrings

Woman Earrings Handmade Earring

 

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Kula Eco Park

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Kula Eco Park

Musk Parrot

We visited Kula Eco Park with our parents last week. Kula Eco Park is named for Fiji’s brightly colored rainforest bird also known as the Collared Lory, and it focuses on the preservation and protection of Fiji’s wildlife. The 28-acre park is located in the Sigatoka area on Viti Levu, between Nadi and Suva. Kula Eco Park Kula birdsThey offer self-guided tours daily, and guided tours are available with advanced booking. We enjoyed taking our time with the self-guided option through the picturesque coastal forest. The admission cost of $30 FJD per person is the sole source of funding for the park, and it also allows free environmental education for visiting school children.

Kula Eco Park is the only captive breeding facility in Fiji for endangered indigenous species. They have focused on breeding Fiji's Peregrine Falcon, Fiji's Yadua Taba Crested Iguana, Fiji's Ground Frog, and Fiji's newly discovered Monoriki Crested Iguana. Their program aims to breed and release healthy populations back into their natural environment.

Jack with the Fijian Crested Iguana

Kula Eco Park also has a Wild Rescue Rehabilitation Program, through which they house injured, sick, orphaned, or smuggled animals, including those who cannot be released back to the wild.

Fiji Hawk

When we visited, there were staff members who showed and provided information on the Fijian Crested iguanas and Pacific boas. They explained the Fijian Crested Iguana lays her eggs and then leaves them unguarded in the forest soil for 7 to 9 months, opening them up to introduced predators. At Kula Bird Park, they have been successfully breeding the iguanas to release them on sanctuary islands.

Alise with the Pacific Boa

Fiji’s natural balance has been upset by a number of introduced species. The mongoose was introduced to Fiji to control the non-native rats. However, with no natural predators, the mongooses have taken over Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, causing the extinction or severe decline of native ground-nesting birds and reptile populations. The Cane Toad was introduced to manage insects, and it can now be found in large populations throughout the Fiji islands.

Jack and Pacific Boa

The park features cockatoos, hawks, falcons, and fruit bats. The fruit bat, also called the flying fox, is only indigenous terrestial mammal in Fiji, and it is one of our personal favorites. While at the park, we learned that unlike insect bats, they rely on their sense of smell and excellent vision. Our perspective on bats completely changed after we looked after an orphaned baby bat on Taveuni. He was like a flying puppy- incredibly social and affectionate. The bats Kula Eco park are older, but very social and interested in meeting everyone who passes by.

Joey, our flying fox friend from Taveuni

The musk parrots, kula birds and a few others are in large enclosures that visitors can walk through. They also have a marine area of soft coral and reef fish. They have a couple of Hawksbill Sea Turtles who will be released into the wild in the near future.

Fijian Musk Parrot

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Throughout the park, there is signage with information on the plants and animals. Many signs tell how the individual animals came to Kula and their plans for release into their natural environment. Kula Eco Park has also created a traditional medicine display based on the information in Dr. M A Weiner, Ph.D’s book “Secrets of Fijian Medicine.” They have 12 native plants on display, with plaques identifying their medicinal uses.

Soft CoralReef fish

Cicada

We highly recommend visiting Kula Eco Park and supporting their efforts. The park is open from 10am to 4:30pm 7 days a week, and is only closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Read more about the park on their website or on Fiji's tourism website.

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Brochure Designs for Paradise in Fiji

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Brochure Designs for Paradise in Fiji

3 fold flyer

We have just completed our contracts with Paradise Taveuni, and we are spending the next couple of months with family on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. Jack has completed a plethora of projects for the resort, and we're excited to see the printed materials and products. Here are some samples of brochures Jack has designed for the resort. They will be used for promotions within Fiji, Australia, the U.S., New Zealand, and other locations.

3 fold flyer 3 fold flyer2 Dive Brochure Resort Brochure

Wedding Brochure 50 percent specials

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Renewable Energy and Organic Gardening on Taveuni

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Renewable Energy and Organic Gardening on Taveuni

Nakia organic garden

Over the weekend, we headed north to visit Nakia Resort, owned by Jim and Robin Kelly. We've been eager to check out Nakia, as it is an eco-resort that employs sustainable practices that we’d love to see more of in Fiji. Jim was kind enough to give us a tour focusing on their renewable energy system and their organic garden. Nakia's terraced organic garden

Like most of Fiji, Taveuni is off the grid, leaving most resorts to rely on diesel generators for energy. Nakia Resort runs on renewable energy- a combination of hydro, solar and wind energy. They maintain back up generators in case the system goes down; however, they are usually able to supply 100% of the resort's power using their hybrid renewable system.

Jim Kelly is self-taught on this subject; he learned the ins and outs so that he could be a thoughtful consumer and employ the best practices. He showed us his hybrid system and shared some of the lessons he learned and challenges he faced. Since diesel generators have been a standard, he pioneered these systems on Taveuni.

The property includes four bures, the owners' home, and the main complex and restaurant. Nakia uses fans rather than air conditioning, further reducing the energy demand.

The hydro electric system is Nakia’s biggest energy producer, providing roughly 75% of all of the resort’s energy.

Hydro

Their rooftop solar PV system is the second biggest energy provider. Nakia has one wind generator with a capacity of 1,000 watts, and this provides the least amount of energy.

Nakia's wind turbine

They store the energy in a 48-volt battery system, and convert the stored energy to 240 volts using a 5,000 watt invertor that receives and tracks the incoming power.

Jim also gave us a tour of their beautiful organic farm. They are growing a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs organically: including lettuce, tomatoes, a variety of beans, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, tapioca, squash, papaya, watermelon, basil, parsley, and much more.

Jim and Jack touring the garden

They keep a small herb garden outside of the kitchen and a large garden out back. The large garden is terraced and includes a sprinkler system.  At the bottom, they have a compost heap with a chipper. When they started the garden, they sprayed Neem oil to prevent insects and fungus. However, Jim has found they haven't needed it since and have not used it in about 8 years. Now they rely on traditional practices of crop rotation, composting, and plant pairing.

Compost Heap

Tavenui is known as the garden island of Fiji because of its rich volcanic soil. Yet, many farmers today rely heavily on the use of  chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. Jim gives tours of their organic garden to students from the local schools; he tells the students that he did not invent these methods, and that their grandparents farmed this way.

Young yaqona plants

We also got to peak in the stunning kitchen which is the perfect complement to the garden.

We’re so glad we were able to check out Nakia before we left. The visit left us feeling inspired and hopeful for the future of Fiji’s land and tourism.

 

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Weekend in Qamea

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Weekend in Qamea

This is our last month on Taveuni and we're trying to do and see as much as possible. The first few months flew by so now we're trying to make every second count! We spent this past weekend on the nearby island of Qamea.

We stayed at Maqai Beach Eco Resort. The resort offers a dormitory as well as private tent-like bures on the beach. The room cost ranges from $30 FJD/night to $180 FJD/night. A meal plan is mandatory as there are no shops or restaurants on the island and that runs an additional $85 FJD/night. The trip was a bit of a splurge for us, but ended up being totally worth it!
Breakfast was continental and featured a range of fresh fruits and muesli. The lunches were amazing and our favorites. On Saturday, we had pumpkin soup, cassava, and charred eggplant in coconut milk with peppers and onions. On Sunday we had dahl soup, poori and vegetable curry.

In between meals, Jack prepped coconut for us. We had both fresh coconut and coconut cooked in the sand.
The surroundings were beautiful- a pristine beach that catches beautiful sunsets on, and a tropical rainforest behind it. There are parrots, doves, wild pigeons and other winged beauties flying around.
We spent the days surfing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, snorkeling, and doing handstands on the beach. They offer surf lesson and I would have definitely taken one had we had more time. Jack gave me a quick lesson instead; I didn't manage to stand up but I had alot of fun trying! Jack caught some nice waves. Jack also taught me to skim board on a paddle-board which was awesome.

Snorkeling gear and kayaks can be borrowed free of charge, so we went out for both a few times. We don't have a beach at Paradise Taveuni, so it was exciting to spend the weekend running around in the sand. It was a trade-off though, as the snorkeling is much better at Paradise, where you jump right into a tropical aquarium.
On Saturday night, we sat around the kava basin, and enjoyed some Qamea yaqona (kava). We really enjoyed sitting with the staff and the other guests. Una, Bale and Vili were fantastic hosts and they made our stay extra special. Jack and Vili drank from a giant bilo that could hold 5 regular bilos. While having the mix, we also enjoyed music- they shared some original songs which were beautiful to hear.
Overall, we can't say enough good things about Qamea and Maqai Beach, so we'll add this to our list of places to come back to!

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Learning to Dive

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Learning to Dive

Jack and Mark

Last week I completed my Open Water Dive Certificate at Paradise Taveuni through Pro Dive Taveuni! It was a truly unforgettable experience, and a fairly easy thing to do. Pro Dive offers an extensive selection of courses, dive gear and sites; and is operated by a professional and knowledgeable Dive Team led by PADI Dive instructor and resort owner, Allan Gortan. Pro Dive Taveuni also has a fleet of custom made boats that provide access to the pristine reefs surrounding the Garden Island of Taveuni. The Course: Step One: Snorkel off the pristine waterfront at Paradise, where you can witness the labyrinth of lava flow covered by various hard and soft corral. There are innumerable fish from the majestic Parrot Fish to the elusive Leather Jacket. Here, your thirst will grow to explore more.

Step two: Take your Dive course which you can purchase and complete online. This gives you the flexibility to work at your own pace, anytime, anywhere within a 12 month period. I was very fortunate as I was presented the NASE online dive course as a wedding gift from Alise's family friends (owners/operators of Cocoa Beach Scuba Odyssey) who were also her instructors.  I was also lucky to catch NASE instructor, Mark Santa-Maria on his last few days at Paradise.

The course will introduce you to the fundamentals of diving- the various techniques, dive theory, and worst case scenarios. There are risks with diving, but if steps are followed diligently, you will have an amazing time. Once you have finished all your reading and/or watching videos, you will take an exam, answering various questions about diving and having a safe enjoyable dive.

Jack in the pool with Mark

Step Three: The Practical. Here you will put to test the skills and knowledge you learned from the online course. The first two sessions will take place in the safety of the pool. Your instructor will show you everything from setting up your gear to how to enter the water, fixing problems underwater such as clearing your mask, runaway regulators, and the special hand signal signals used to communicate specific situations and directions. Step four: Time to get in the Ocean. To complete your open water course you must log 2 shore dives and 2 boat dives. Here is where you really get to apply your new set of knowledge and skills like 'diving like a fish'. As the reef is a delicate system of hard and soft corrals, aquatic life and things that could hurt you if not careful, it is important to maintain neutral buoyancy using your lungs to ascend or descend. Nowadays, divers are equipped with a handy dive computer that tells you your depth, ascension rate, and dive time and features a convenient safety stop timer (safety stop: 15ft or 6-4.5 meters below the surface where you wait for 3 minutes so the nitrogen in you body safely leaves your blood stream). When you follow all the steps and procedures you can have the time of your life. Once you have completed your dives and logged the necessary time, that's it! You are now certified to dive anywhere in the world. As a final test and introduction to the deep, my instructor took me down to 100 feet, and acted out a panicked diver scenario that just ran out of air! Thanks, Mark. Succeeding in this left me feeling confident and eager to explore more of the underwater world!

Click here to find out more how to get Certified to Dive at Paradise Taveuni.

Paradise Taveuni

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Rabi and Kioa

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Rabi and Kioa

Kioa

Yesterday, we went to the islands of Rabi (RAH-mbe) and Kioa (key-OH-uh). We went with our coworkers to offer sevusevu to the villages that may be hosting Paradise guests in the future. Sepo and the waka

Jack mixing kava on boat

Even though the islands were only an hour or two away, it felt like we were travelling internationally. Both islands are home to people who were relocated from other Pacific islands. Their languages, building styles, and cultural traditions differ from what we’ve experienced in Fijian communities.

Rabi

Our coworker, Atu's wife is from Rabi

We visited Rabi first. Rabi has four villages, a town area, and a guesthouse for the occasional tourists. We visited the town area, which is pretty far from the villages.

Rabi jetty

The people of Rabi are originally from Banaba Island (aka Ocean Island), a solitary raised coral island near the Equator that today is politically a part of the Republic of Kiribati. The British Phosphate Commission (a joint British, Australian, and New Zealand enterprise) carried out phosphate mining on Banaba Island from around 1900 to 1979, and subsequently stripped away 90% of the island’s surface. After World War II, the Banabans were told they could not return to their homeland as it was uninhabitable, and they were relocated to Rabi Island in Fiji. A series of injustices and coercion predicated the relocation.

The four villages on Rabi Island are the same as the four that were on Banaba Island. We found that there were no chiefs, as in Fijian villages, and they do not do the Fijian tradition of sevusevu. We experienced Banaban music dancing during the catholic church celebrations in Wairiki.

Banaban dancers

The Banaban people have worked to preserve their identity. They also share their culture and story of displacement through their own website.

After Rabi, we visited Kioa. Kioa has only one village that is adjacent to a beautiful white beach.

Kioa

Polynesian canoes in Kioa

Kioa

The people of Kioa came from the Vaitupu atoll in Tuvalu. The first group arrived to Kioa around the same time as the Banabans did to Rabi, however they came under very different circumstances. Some of the men in Vaitupu assisted the Americans during World War II and used the money they made to purchase the uninhabited island of Kioa. They bought the island as a solution to the potential overcrowding of Vaitupu, and a small group of people made the journey to become the first Kioans.

Bridge on Kioa

Kioa

Sepo carrying sevusevu from the boat

The sevusevu we offered there was understood and welcomed. Kioa also has a website.

Some of our Paradise team in Kioa

It was really exciting for us to experience the diversity within Fiji.

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Easy Vegan Vakalolo

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Easy Vegan Vakalolo

vakalolo

This is a favorite Fiji-inspired dessert that our auntie taught us in the states. Vakalolo is a Fijian sweet that is usually steamed in banana leaf and served with fresh warm coconut milk. Since we like to make this in the states, we worked without the banana leaf and coconut milk and made a baked version. Grated cassava (aka tapioca) and grated coconut can both be found in the frozen section of many Asian grocers. The recipe calls for equal parts cassava and grated coconut, plus sweetener and ginger. This is usually made with brown sugar, but we tried it with dates and enjoyed the results.

What you'll need: 2 cups coconut, grated 2 cups cassava (aka tapioca), peeled and grated 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped 2 inches fresh ginger, grated  (add more or less depending on how much you like ginger)
How it's done:
Process the cassava, 1 cup of the coconut and dates. Transfer mixture to a bowl and mix in the remaining coconut and ginger.
Press into pan or muffin tray. I used a mini-muffin tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, give or take. Use a toothpick to test for readiness- the result should be moist!
Drizzle with warm coconut milk or serve as-is!
vakalolo

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Diwali Kids' Mural

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Diwali Kids' Mural

October 23rd marked Diwali (or Deepavali)- the Hindu Festival of lights. Diwali is a lunar holiday, celebrated on the darkest new moon night on the calendar. Celebrations here included firecrackers and lots of sweets.
Diwali is a public holiday so the local schools had the day off. Jack and I did not have the day off, but were able to celebrate through work. We had 16 kids join in painting one of the containers at the resort.
Jack painting container
We had previously started painting another container at the resort and got a feel for how it would work.
Kids sketching
We showed the kids a few basic organic designs in the classroom, and we showed them how to use leaves as stencils, We also gave a quick lesson in color theory. We didn't have the best paints for the job, but we did have gloves and a very cooperative team of children so it was a relatively mess-free project.
Jack demonstrating
Girls hard at work

We mixed colors and cleaned brushes while they went to work. We gave the kids free range of the composition and color choices. The painting was limited to the areas the kids could reach, but they did a great job of filling those areas with bright designs!

Kids with mural

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Views from Matei

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Views from Matei

Taveuni view

Taveuni, the third largest island in Fiji, has a total land area of just 169 square miles (434 square kilometers). Yet, the challenges of transportation (untimely buses, rocky roads, work schedules, etc) keep us on the south side of the island, usually at the resort.One weekend we did manage to get out for a lovely getaway to the north side. We went to see our friends, Keni and TC in Matei. It was only about an hour’s drive from the resort, and well worth it.

Keni, Jack and TC

We met Keni and TC in the states- he is Fijian and she is American. Jack first met them about 10 years ago, when Jack was working at Peet’s Coffee in Oakland. Jack was wearing his sulu vataga to work, and Keni was waiting in line. Keni spotted the sulu vataga and yelled “BULA!!!” The rest is history!

Keni is from Taveuni and this is where he and TC met. They currently live in Oakland but still have their home on the northern side of Taveuni. When they came to Taveuni, they invited us up to see their beautiful home and the surrounding area.

Keni and Jack

Even though it's relatively close, the north side of the island has a very different coast. It was actually our first time stepping on a sandy beach since we’d been in Fiji! Down where we are, there are volcanic rocks, but no sand.

Matei Beach

Keni and TC took us out kayaking to a nearby island. The views were absolutely breathtaking!

Kayaking Taveuni

They also hooked us up with a supply of some of our favorites: uto (breadfruit), jina (bananas), papaya and bu (coconut)!

Fruit

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Lovo, Music and Yaqona

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Lovo, Music and Yaqona

Once a week, Paradise puts on a Fiji Night. On Fiji night a lovo, or feast cooked in the earth, is prepared for the resort guests. Guests are also entertained with Fijian music and dancing. The night ends with music, storytelling and yaqona (yah-ngo-nah) also known as kava. Nico and the love

The lovo tradition is common in the Pacific islands; it is known as a hangi in New Zealand, imu in Hawaii, and umu in Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands. The lovo is a pit that is about a foot and a half deep. Kindling and wood are stacked into a platform where rocks are piled on top. A fire is lit and left to burn for a couple of hours. Then the leftover wood and embers are removed from the pit, leaving only the hot rocks. Slivers of coconut frond stems are then placed on top of the hot rocks, leaving a surface for the food. The food is added and covered with large, heart shaped Via (Samaon taro) leaves.  Our lovo favorites are dalo (taro) and cassava (tapioca). We also love uvi and tivoli, which are both wild yams. All of these root vegetables are placed at the top of the lovo. Everything is covered and left to cook for about an hour. Preparing the love

After dinner, yaqona is served. This is the drink made from the root of the kava plant, native to the Western Pacific. It is commonly known by the Tongan and Marquesan name kava and also as ‘awa in Hawaii and ava in Samoa. It has sedative and anesthetic properties, so it fits in perfectly with the laid back culture of the islands. Its key properties are relaxing without disrupting mental clarity- quite different from the effects of alcohol.

Yaqona is a huge part of culture and is used in medicine, ceremony, politics, religion and general socializing so it’s a must try for visitors to Fiji. Yaqona is shared in a communal carved bowl, called a tanoa and passed around in a half-shell of a coconut, called a bilo.

We love sitting around the kava bowl and hearing funny stories and beautiful music. We also love the good night's sleep we get after an evening of mixing yaqona!

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Fiji Day

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Fiji Day

fiji flag

October 10th marks Fiji Day in the Fiji Islands. This is the anniversary of two events. The first was October 10, 1874 when Fiji became a colony of England. Within a few years, the English sent indentured laborers from India to plant sugarcane in the islands. The second is October 10, 1970 when Fiji became politically independent of England.

That was the first day that Fiji’s flag as we know it today flew. The flag is blue, in reference to it’s location in the ocean with a Union flag in the top left corner, referencing the colonial history. The flag also features the coat of arms with two Fijian warriors on either side of the shield. Within the shield there is a lion holding a cocoa pod, sugarcane, a coconut palm, bananas, and a dove. Below the shield are the words, “Rerevaka na Kalou ka Doka na Tul" which means "Fear God and honor the Queen.”

Girl Fiji flags

Wouldn’t it be great to have a flag that portrayed Fiji’s diverse history and landscape beyond the relatively short history of British colonialism? We could say the same of most countries I’m sure. For Fiji day, my students designed new Fiji flags including their own symbols for love, respect, natural beauty, Fijian music, and community.

IMG_2484

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Visiting Vuna

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Visiting Vuna

Vuna children

This week. Paradise is full of dive groups, so we'll be leaving the grounds temporarily and staying at a BnB in Vuna village. Most of our coworkers live in Vuna village, about a 50-minute walk south of the resort. Vuna overlooks the ocean and Vuna reef, which is a top diving spot. The local children also enjoy the surfing by Vuna. Vuna reef sign Vuna view

Jack, Sepo and fam

We've previously visited after work for kava and music the other night. We took a sevusevu, dried and un-pounded root of the yaqona or kava plant.

Vuna visit

Music is a huge part of Fijian culture and it’s always amazing to be around. Jack has been joining in with the guitar and is learning many of the songs. We'll be sharing videos of some of the beautiful music soon!

Children serenading

Vuna children

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