source: Wendy

Amini from Fiji

A story told by Wendy Ghent, Belgium

Wendy has seen a lot of the world but there is still so much to discover. She is a stewardess and in her free time she likes to travel to places that have not yet been discovered by tourists and meet the local people and habits.

Wendy lived on the island of Yanuya for a few months, she stayed with a local family and helped them in their daily life.

“I can still hear the typical sounds of the island, the sound of the sea, the beach with pieces of dead coral crashing against the wave breakers. Just like the pebbles that are being sucked in by the sea and then spit out again. This brings you in a state of peace, where creative ideas can emerge in your body and soul. And last but not least I will never forget the voice of Amini.”

There is not a lot to do on Yanuya island once it’s dark, because there is no electricity and therefore no lights. The children from Yanuya go to bed around 7pm and get up early around 4 in the morning. Wendy: “If you have to wake up early then there is no better alarm clock than playing children.”

She immediately aligned with their way of living and the daily routine of bringing the kids to school. Helping them with their homework, covering school books and making sure they made their homework daily. She also helped as an assistant at the local school, surveilling the children on the play yard and helping out with administrative tasks. The father of the host family was the head of the village and also the principal of the local school.

The sand beach

Children are not allowed to go to the pebble stone beach during the week because there is no surveillance. They can only go there in the weekends. The adults didn’t have much interest in that part of the island and so Wendy often went walking alone. There was a path alongside the beach with really high grass. You could hear the crickets and all kinds of sounds through the grass. She saw piglets that had escaped from the self-made cages that went for a swim.

At the end of het pebble stone beach there were huge rocks and behind those rocks she would find a sand beach. Wendy really wanted to be a tourist for a day and get a tan, but the locals are very Christian and devout. They would have their legs covered and certainly no bare shoulders. 

A surprising encounter leads to friendship, fishing and Kava

Wendy decided to climb over the big rocks in her long skirt, getting herself in trouble. It was way too dangerous… Suddenly she heard someone yelling at her. “Are you crazy? Come down!” Wendy climbed back down and she saw a young man waiting for her, Amini. On a side note, his name means Amen in Fiji. He asked her “what are you doing here?”  Wendy said “ I just want to go to the sand beach.” On which Amini said “come back tomorrow, I’ll take you to the beach.”

Wendy’s host family were very devout, she had to be back home before dark. The next day she had some free time and decided to slip outside to meet Amini. They climbed the rocks together to reach the sand beach. They were alone and it suddenly seemed not such a good idea, now she was on the other side with someone she barely knew and nobody would come to that part of the island. But Amini turned out to be a great guy and a real gentleman. He immediately started to build a hut, as a man he had the urge to take care of her.

They spend the entire time talking. He suddenly said “I’ll teach you how to fish!” Just with some rope, a piece of led and a hook. Amini loved to use the word “nibbeling”, Wendy says. “I will never forget that word. Every time the rope moved a bit, he asked nibbeling? We caught so many fish, a lot of parrotfish, actually too pretty to eat but really tasty. I even saw a sea snake and held it in my hands. The snake was taller than me. We secretly drank Kava, a drink made of a root that has been dried and crushed to powder and then mixed with water. It looked like mud and  you would get really drunk of it. The locals would only drink it on certain occasions like a ceremony.”

How to survive on an island like Yanuya

“Amini taught me all kinds of survival skills and how to safely open a coconut. It was more a training on how to survive on an island like Yanuya.” The beauty of it was that he really wanted to teach Wendy things without wanting something in return.

She also met his mother Tiki. She was building a hut to rent out to couchsurfers. It was made from plastic roofing sheets that had been washed to shore from another island that was hit by the heavy cyclone Winston. If she would receive travelers then she wouldn’t ask for money but for groceries. She loved to cook, enjoyed the company and cherish the stories the travelers would share with her. She dreamt of a garden full of plants and would ask travelers to help her with planting and maintaining it.

Tiki had heard of couchsurfing but didn’t really know how it worked and had asked Wendy for help. Since that moment they would always meet when Wendy had free time. 

The mother of Amini wanted to have some pictures of Wendy and Amini. Wendy had to wear a hibiscus flower in her hair. The way you wear the hibiscus flower determines if you are married or unmarried, depending on which side of the ear you place it.

What about love?

The host mother was very curious of Wendy’s private life. “Do you have a boyfriend? Do you really fall in love?”

One evening, when Wendy and her host family were sitting at the dinner table, they heard a noise at the door. The host mother could see that a young man was quickly running away. He had left freshly caught fish at the door. Wendy knew what was up and told her host mother about Amini. The host mother found it very funny and said “you know if a boy does this he wants something from you.”

Couchsurfing

A few months later, when Wendy returned home, she received an email from Tiki. The mother of Amini emailed Wendy whom she called “little angel” to invite her to stay in a new hut they had built. It was a real success, nine couch surfers had contacted her to stay in the hut and she had 5 volunteers for her garden because they had loved her hospitality.

Authored by Sarah Ishiekwene Ghent