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Bula from Fiji

The first leg our sabbatical is a trip to the Fiji islands, where our intention is to become certified scuba divers, and unwind from the pressures of work.  We departed Portland for the trip to Fiji, and after a long 10 hour flight from LA to Nadi, we discovered Paradise!  Fiji is an archipelago, consisting of over 300 islands, of which only about 1/3 are inhabited.  If you were to count all of the smaller islands, which are too small for human inhabitation, the number would be in the thousands.

June 12 Today was a travel day (and Jim's last half-day at work), departing Portland at 3:00 for LA, then departing LA at 11:30PM for an all night flight to Fiji.  
June 13 This day did not exist for us, since we had to cross the International Date Line, we arrived in Fiji on June 14th...  That is OK.. we will get to live June 21st twice when we  cross in the opposite direction.  
June 14

We arrived in Fiji at 5:00 AM and immediately felt at ease.  Having slept on the plane, we were feeling much better than we anticipated, but we still did take a short nap.  Our condo is fantastic, with a direct walk off of our patio to the pool and ocean.  We are staying at the TrendWest Fiji resort on Denarau Island.  We have 2 bedrooms with the master BR for us, and 2nd bedroom for all of our scuba equipment!  We also have a full kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry, and two bathrooms.  This is definitely nicer than a standard hotel room!

We took a trip into town on the local "open air" bus.  Fee is FJ$0.60, which is about 30 cents US.  We traveled along dirt roads into the main city of Nadi (pronounced Nandi).  Every one is so friendly in Fiji, and as you pass strangers, they all say Bula (Hello).  The children wave as the bus passes, but the poverty is in stark contrast to the luxury of the resorts.  

Back in the comfort of our condo, we enjoyed listening to the  musicians and watching the dancers around the pool.  At sunset, they perform a ceremony as they light the torch lamps around the pool complex, the largest in the southern hemisphere. The view from the resort is beautiful all of the time, but sunset is breathtaking.

This is paradise!

Debbie, outside our poolside condo at the TrendWest Fiji resort

Bus ride into Nadi

June 15 This was day one of our open water scuba diving.  We need to do four successful dives to become certified.  Jim did two dives, but Debbie opted for just one... she wanted a bit more pool time before going back down.

The visibility was poor (by Fiji standards) today because of the weather over the previous days.  Still we had a great time.  Our instructor's name is Lino and has a lot of experience diving in Fiji and Hawaii. When President Clinton was first in office, Lino was selected to be part of his diving party during the President's vacation in Hawaii. 

Jim completed a number of the skills required for certification such as mask removal and clearing, and buddy air sharing and ascent. We saw billions and billions of fish; it was absolutely beautiful,  Hundreds of  Zebra Fish swarmed around us at one point, bringing their mouths right up to our masks! As we descended, the colors seem to vanish, but when we would shine our lights onto the coral, the colors would appear.  

Our two dives today were at Stonehenge, and at Rainbow Reef.


Lino helping Jim and Debbie get ready for their first open water dive

Jim (L), Debbie (R) and Lino(C) descending at Stonehenge

June 16 Today, Debbie did a little more practicing in the pool, working on buoyancy control, and mask clearing.   Jim used the downtime to start working on this website.  Obviously, not quite into "sabbatical mode" yet, organizing this website by date... let's see how long this lasts.

The bottom picture is of Jim and Debbie with some new diving friends.  It was a lot of fun to get together with other divers, and discuss the trials and tribulations of scuba diving.  We spent a lot of time with David and Margaret today, learning how much fun Australian's can be!  Angela and Greg are newlyweds who included some scuba diving into their honeymoon.  Angela is a brand new diver, and is offering a lot of encouragement, having just completed certification herself.

Lino and Debbie taking a break in the pool

Socializing with our new diving friends in the "Decompression Chamber"
David and Margaret from Australia (left), Angela and Greg from Atlanta (right)

June 17 We made it!  Jim and Debbie are now certified open water scuba divers. Now we can get our tanks filled, and explore the underwater world on our own.  We don't really have any plans to be quite that independent, and expect to hire an instructor or dive master to accompany us for a while. Not only is it safer, but it a lot more fun to have a guide who can show you new things. 

Today, one of the exercises that we completed was an out-of-air emergency swimming ascent, which entails swimming to the surface while constantly exhaling.  As you ascend into lower pressure, the air in your lungs is constantly expanding, providing you with additional air to breathe out. This is potentially the most dangerous exercise of the training, because if you fail to exhale, you risk lung over-expansion.  Our instructor, took us up, one at a time, ready to abort our ascent if we failed to breath out properly.  This is the last ditch emergency ascent if all other options fail.  Other exercises of the day included surface and underwater compass navigation, as well as in-water gear removal and replacement.  Most of the time however, we were swimming around Mystery Reef exploring the coral and sea life.  By the final dive, Debbie looked like a pro scuba diver!

We are putting away our scuba equipment for the rest of this trip now and want to spend our remaining time relaxing, and seeing other things in Fiji.  We share a tremendous feeling of accomplishment!


Lino and our dive boat - Tropic Cat

Debbie climbing aboard from her final dive as a newly certified open water scuba diver!

June 18 Today is a lazy day for us... this is starting to feel like our original reason to come to the Fiji Islands.  We spent most of the day relaxing with David and Margaret, and did some sailing on a catamaran with David as skipper.   They introduced us to Bundy's and Coke... trying to convert us into being true Australians... claiming that three will do it!

Debbie, Jim, and David on a sailing catamaran

How many Bundy's has Debbie had?

June 19 We are totally relaxing now...  What day is it anyway?

We hired a private taxi this afternoon and took a tour of the countryside.  We spent some time at the "Garden of the Sleeping Giant"  which is a lush tropical environment which contains thousands of flowers, including 1500 varieties of orchids alone.  Walking through the "bush walks" which wind through the rain forest, you feel like you are in an oxygen tent!  Plants that appear to be the same variety as some of our house plants, are growing in bushes nearly the size of a house!

Cannibalism is a very prominent part of Fiji's history, and was commonly practiced into the late 19th century.  During those times, Fiji was commonly known as the as the "Cannibal Islands" and its waters were avoided by sea merchants.

While on our taxi ride, we traveled up the coast, and also visited the village of Viseisei, which according to legend is the first settlement in Fiji. Village residents were selling their wares, including the (around Fiji) ubiquitous cannibal weapons and cutlery.  Jim  purchased a cannibal fork, while Debbie opted for some jewelry.  There has to be some type of gender bias at work here driving our purchase behavior.

Jim relaxing poolside

"Bird of Paradise" in "Garden of the Sleeping Giant"

June 20 We relaxed all day today, mostly around the pool.  We also took a walk around the golf course, and another walk a mile or so up the secluded beach.  We decided to insert a few pictures from our dive days earlier in the week.

When we return in February, we plan to play a few games of golf.  We hear that the "average" golfer loses 4-5 golf balls per game at Denarau Island.  There are a lot of water hazards.  There is also a tiny pitch and putt course next to Sheraton that we might try as well.

Scuba diving through a school of fish

Butterfly fish

June 21

Winter/Summer Solstice: This is the day that we get to live twice, because we crossed back over the International Date Line... arriving back in Portland earlier than we left Fiji.  In addition, because today is June 21st, we got to experience the Summer Solstice in Portland, and the Winter Solstice in Fiji on the same day!

We are on the plane home to Portland as we close this chapter of our sabbatical web site.  We had a great time in Fiji, and we are really looking forward to our next trip there, which is currently scheduled for two weeks in February/March.  It would have been fun to spend more time, but we are off on the next leg of our summer sabbatical tomorrow morning... our trip to Victoria B.C.

View from our patio during the sunset lighting of the torches


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Photos by: Jim Pappas, Debbie Pappas, Margaret Rogers, and dive instructor Norio Nakamura
Diving provided by Dive Tropex, www.divetropex.com
Copyright 2003 by Jim Pappas