101218; 2100 UTC SavuSavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji; 16°46.64'S / 179°20.06'E
It's that time of year again when we take a moment to celebrate and reaffirm life, express our love for family and the warmth of our friendships, and begin planning for an enlightening new year on the shores of countries of people with unique cultures. As we tackle unending lists of boat chores, we have our elf hats hung close by in the event Santa needs help, as we hum along with an eclectic shuffle of holiday tunes from the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Jethro Tull, The Ventures, and a whole covey of monks whose chants reverberate off the snug cabin walls.
Downtown Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji - about 100 yards south of our seasonal cyclone mooring at Nakama Creek - is bustling, especially on market day when bus loads of islanders from villages tucked far away up in the distant verdant hills arrive aboard open air buses or in the tarp covered beds of pick-up trucks with wares to offer and lists of supplies to acquire.
Sweet fragrant mandarins have now disappeared but have been replaced by piles of gorgeous pineapples that vendors at the public market offer hospitably to buyers along with an abundance of fresh farm produce and seafood. The grocery store ("Morris Hedstrom, Trusted since 1868") is offering extended hours, contests for prizes of cars, TVs and Ipods, and specials on pyramids of tiny fruitcakes while its lovely chocolate-skinned check out clerks (many with tiny studs in their noses) wait on customers while wearing elf hats. Christmas hams grown and cured in Fiji are plentiful but (imported) turkey is rare and dear at $10 USD per lb. Fiji's answer to the Dollar Store, called The Bargain Box, is chock full of buyers thumbing through piles of Chinese-made fake crocs, garish t-shirts and rows of knock-off perfumes. The local higher-quality clothing store, Solanki and Sons, that has a new window display every week, is featuring for the season gorgeous bold floral patterns in red and green. A small box tucked in its doorway booms out "sleigh bells ring, are ya listening? In the lane, snow is glistening..." that competes with the rumbling coming from the towering cumulus storm clouds rising over the bay and the slatting of palm fronds in the summer trade winds.
So this is our Christmas this year, most likely very different from the Christmas being enjoyed by people back home and certainly different from Christmases we remember.
We hope your Christmas is "merry and bright" and you are surrounded by family and friends.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake