Nadi, Fiji My Cannibal Fixation

It’s pronounced Nan-di. There’s a mysterious, invisible second N. So why didn’t they just spell it out how it sounds? I don’t know.

Got here a few days ago. It was supposed to be a stopover, but my long delay in Tonga meant missing my flight out, and airlines around here aren’t as forgiving when it comes to changing tickets.

I decided to spend the weekend here to sort out the rest of my flights now that the most unpredictable element, Tonga, is dealt with. I rented a car and drove across to the other side of the island and back.

The big island of Fiji is framed by a loop road with the tourist hub of Nadi on the western side and Suva, the largest city in the South Pacific, to the east. The loop road is actually split in two; King’s road connects Nadi to Suva in the north, Queen’s road does the same to the south.

Queen’s road is paved. King’s road isn’t. So instead of doing a loop, I drew two overlapping smiley faces. The drive takes a few hours each way.

Getting a clip in Fiji was easy. I saw some kids playing in the ocean outside a small village. I pulled over, reluctant at first to bust in on them and goad them into dancing. But I knew I’d kick myself all day if I didn’t do it, so I changed into my bathing suit, picked up my camera, tripod, a notebook and pen (for email addresses and the name of the village).

Ever time I do this I’m nervous, but it never fails. The kids were dancing before I even asked them to. It’s just a natural thing to do.

Fiji is expensive. Islands often are, since stuff has to be shipped in, but Fiji is pretty big and there’s loads of tourism, so I assumed the prices would be better.

Hair is fantastic here. Fijians are masters of the unironic afro. I didn’t take many pictures, so here’s the best I can do by way of example.

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Apparently the styles used to be a lot more outrageous. An early European visitor measured an afro with a circumference of 16 feet. But it has since been drilled in that Jesus likes a close cropped cut.

There are two distinct ethnic groups here; native Fijians, who are of a Melanesian extraction, and Indo-Fijians, who were brought over by the British to work on plantations.

A century later, relations seem to be fairly smooth. There’s a lot of gene pool blending. The social norms among the Indians are a bit softened from the mother country. And the native Fijians benefit from a more developed, organized infrastructure. Of course, the Indians still run everything.

The locals I’ve encountered have been extremely nice – which is surprising when you consider Fiji’s history of cannibalism. Cannibalism is like the exact opposite of nice.

It’s a touchy subject in the South Pacific. A lot of the island cultures dabbled in cannibalism back in the day, but they’ve since been converted to Christianity and taught to be ashamed of that sort of thing. Fiji is relatively cheeky about it; you can pick up traditional people eating utensils in some tourist shops.

I’ve gotta say, I know cannibalism is horrible and all. Morally, it equates with the worst of human atrocities. But I can’t help finding it kind of…awesome.

I have no interest in eating other people, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be eaten. If there was some cannibalism actually going down in my vicinity, I probably wouldn’t be okay with that. But still…eating people, ya know? Wow.

There are accounts of warriors taking captured enemies back to the village and devouring them while they’re still alive. As a torment, they’d even feed victims parts of their own bodies.

What flair! What panache!

I’ve started buying produce from the markets. In the past, I’ve usually stuck with restaurants and the occasional grocery story – cooking is not an interest of mine – but I started picking up carrots and tomatoes and things like that and just eating them raw. They taste really good. Different from produce in grocery stores. They don’t seem to be treated or engineered at all. They’re hardly even washed. With the root vegetables, you can still taste the dirt.

By the end of my stay here, I was feeling pretty guilty for not doing anything on the tourist checklist. I stumbled onto this big Hindu temple. Everyone else was taking pictures, so…

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Yeah. There ya go.

There are lots of little islands scattered around the one I’m on. Evidently, everything there is to do in Fiji is out there – all the great diving and resorts, the remote villages and historical outposts. No one seems very excited about the big one in the middle. But that’s all I saw in my short, impromptu visit.

26 Responses to Nadi, Fiji My Cannibal Fixation

  1. Rich

    “What flair! What panache!” Yeah, maybe you went a bit too far?.. lol

    My brother spent year in Fiji in the Peace Corp. He didn’t make it sound as if the native/Indian Fijians were on the best of terms. Maybe the tourism council says all is cool? Maybe things have changed? (he was there 15 years ago). Hopefully everything really is peaceful.

  2. In Jared Diamonds book “Guns, germs and steel” he hypotheses that some pacific peoples turned to cannibalism because of a lack of available protein. ‘Goddammit I need some meat! C’mere you, you insulted me or one of my Gods…’

  3. Never seen what all the fuss is about cannibalism, to be honest…what makes it so much worse than any other form of violence, except for the argument “Ew, it’s all icky”?
    Just seems practical to me – you’ve killed some guy and hey! There’s a big stockpile of good meat all of a sudden!

  4. Seda

    Hi, I grew up in Fiji and my parents still live in Suva.
    There is some tension between Indians and Fijians, but for the most part, they get along.
    As for cannibalism, it wasn’t for sustenance. They consumed their enemies to assert power and humiliate them…not that that makes it ok. haha

  5. I lived in Fiji for 5 years (in Na(n)di)… and it’s sad you didn’t discover more of the beauties of Fiji (ex: its outer small islands, mountains, interior, etc), but never forgetting the most important: its culture. Fijians are not only one of the most peaceful, but certainly the friendliest on earth. Their language is different than english and called the FIJIAN, if you take any Fijian language booklet it will explain to you that not only the “d” is pronounced “nd” but the “b”: “mb” and the q (en-ga) and the g “gna” and the c is even worst: it’s “dth” (like mo”th”er). The simply use that alphabet since an European missionaire proposed it to write the language down for the first time and couldn’t find more appropriate letter for the sounds ofter used. it’s very interesting and quite simple language. actually, I recommand to anyone to discover Fiji. I don’t know how you manage to travel to so many countries without being able to soak in more, learn and discover about its whole culture. I personnaly think that understanding a country should be going along in pair with traveling… but we ofter only do what our budget allows us to do right!?! 😉

  6. DrFood

    I went to Fiji in June of 2000 with my husband, after we married. It was right after the coup. (Did you hear about that? Apparently Fijians make totally awesome special forces type mercenaries, and some of them literally took over the government after an ethnic Indian was elected prime minister. “Fiji for Fijians!!”)

    When we were there the prime minister and a few other dignitaries were being held hostage in the halls of government. Air New Zealand offered to refund our ticket, but DH said “I’ve been to Fiji–we won’t have any problem.” He was right. It was an amazing trip out there, because so many people had cancelled their tickets. I think there were more staff than passengers on the 747 from Los Angeles, and then at least half the people got off in Auckland. A mostly empty 747 is a very nice way to travel.

    Anyway, it was fantastic, the diving was tremendous, and when I was there I was planning to come back soon, even with a baby because the Fijians were such warm people, and so good with kids I knew I would actually feel comfortable handing over my baby and saying “O.K., you watch her while I explore this reef.” I still think that’s true, but here it is 8 years later and I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and I just spent a vacation gardening and cleaning the hangar, and I liked it.

    Life changes. And now fuel is so expensive I wonder if I’ll ever go back to Fiji. When we went in 2000, the tickets were way cheap–less than $800. I shudder to think what they cost now!!

  7. Kristy

    You decribed Fiji to a tee! I love that the women and men have the exact same haircut. And come to think of it, skirts! Oh, and flowers in the hair!!

    I did an impromtu dance in that Hindu temple and was severely chastised by my traveling companions. But I’m pretty sure Shiva dug it : )

  8. Lieve

    Flair? Panache?
    About as much as the Spanish Inquisition had I suppose… (Dang! Didn’t expect thèm coming into your blog, did you?)
    Never read or heard about their very refined torture-methods of pulling off (with special cutters) the interrogatee’s scrotum, cutting it up and making him eat it?
    Personally I have the feeling History shows us that it takes more panache to find a way of living together peacefully than to come up with all sorts of gruesome atrocities.
    You almost certainly have never heard of Christine Van Hees. A Belche, murdered in a bloodcurdling way, only in ’84. Crime never solved, of course. This is after all Belgium we’re speaking of. Her case was mentioned in the Dutroux-case, in a rather controversial way. In case you wonder why or how such crimes get covered up: there were several anonymous witnesses of sex-abuse-parties following the Dutroux-case, telling stories that got top-priority within the investigation. Until one of them suddenly reported a story that included a member of the royal family. Et hop: finita la comedia! You can go home now people, there’s nothing here to see!) See for instance link to guardian.co.uk .
    The details of her murder where left out of the article: not only strangled by her own movements, but also raped, raped with a knife and set on fire at the feet and the hands. I probably forgot some other details.
    Yes, those Belches have panache!

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    vicky

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  19. Steven

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