Okay, all right, here’s my first blog post. I can’t help that Marc, with all his writer’s pretensions, is an unabashed computer hog.

And despite what you all may think, I am still alive.

And I’ve been keeping notes. So I have to go back a bit and talk about Fiji. Fiji: the land where shoulders are sexy, the beer is warm and the showers are cold. But other than that, it’s paradise. Marc has already filled you in on most of our adventures so far, but here are a few tidbits I thought I’d add.

In my first few moments in Fiji I learned my first world travel lesson (especially for the visually challenged). I forgot my glasses in my checked luggage, which, to my dismay, stayed an extra day in L.A., and having taken out my contacts during the 11-hour flight to Nadi I spent my first day in Fiji blind as a bat.

After regaining our bags and my eyesight (God bless Air New Zealand), we headed off to the Yasawa Islands, a backpackers haven, and some much-needed unplugging from our hypercharged D.C. lives. At Mantaray Island Resort, many fruity drinks were imbibed and, despite my pathological fear of sharks, I had my first experience swimming in a coral reef.

After some trepidation (and figuring out how to use a snorkel and mask without inhaling massive quantities of saltwater and tiny reef fish), I set out. The water was crystal clear down to 30 feet, the coral is still healthy for the most part, and the variety of fish of every color, shape and size was truly astounding. There were stripy neon yellow and blue fish; schools of little, iridescent blue fish that suddenly turned yellow with the change of light; giant clams; a long-snouted, yard-long fish the shape of a walking stick; even a fish that flapped its fins up and down so that it looked like it was flying. And the coral! The colors ranged from red to yellow, blue and gray. Some were shaped like giant brains (remember the movie Cocoon? they were just like those … only I don’t think there were any glowing, fountain-of-youth-spewing aliens inside), and others like shelves or elk horns. We glided over it with our sea kayaks watching the fish of every sort watch us. And then there was the manta ray.

The special thing about this particular island we were staying on is that it was next to a virtual highway for that gentle giant of the deep—the manta ray. We happened to be visiting during the right season, when streams of nutrients brought in the krill, which the manta rays funnel into their mouths with flaps of skin that act like the paddles of a pinball machine. When they are sighted moving through the bay, the locals bang a large hollow tree—a kind of Fijian drum they once used to call warriors, now mostly used to call tourists to mealtime—to summon everyone to the boats.

With Pavlovian zeal, I answered the call and ran to the boat with snorkel and mask.

Several boatloads of us piled in and after taking our names (to later call roll to avoid abandoning us to our fate in the middle of the Pacific—see the movie Open Water), we were off at top speed. We jetted farther and farther and the water went from a shallow turquoise to a deep navy blue. Suddenly the pilots spotted our quarry and we were instructed to don our gear and plunge into the deep. Suddenly I was immersed in water too deep to see the bottom, surrounded by a dozen other thrashing humans turned clumsy aquatic creatures.

The adrenaline kicked in and I forgot this was my second day ever swimming in the ocean. Also I figured if there were sharks, chances are they would nab one of the other tourists first. The fatter ones were good candidates. Anyway, our guide called out “Manta ray!” and we swam in a school in that direction.

There it was, about 20 feet below us: a huge, black ray the width of a minivan, serenely coasting through the blue waters. Floating and swimming above it, I felt serene as well, despite a leaky mask and the fact that I had been deposited in the middle of the ocean with no instruction or experience. It was, truly, one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

After what seemed like hours following our aquatic friend, one by one we flopped back into the waiting boat, glowing with glee. We were the few, the proud, the manta ray swimmers.


Fiji gave us our fair share of culture shock. As I mentioned earlier, for women, baring of the shoulders, as well as the knees, is considered quite provocative. Hence I spent my time there – except of course the time I spent on the beach in turisto land – swaddled in my sulu (sarong) and tucked away in heavier tops. Marc also had a change of wardrobe during our visit to a local village—donning a sulu (skirt) as a sign of respect to the local chief. Tee-hee!

(No photographic evidence exists of this alleged event. – Marc)

(Drat! – Lisa)

Aside from the change in attire, Fiji was a wonderful country. The people are friendly, the environment relatively pristine, and the society in general pretty darned sustainable. Most food is locally produced and organic and delicious. More than eighty percent of the land is still owned by native clans, and most people still live traditionally. If the apocalypse hit tomorrow, this little corner of the Pacific would still be doing all right.

So maybe I’ll move here—depending on the outcome of the next election. Put that way, I’m not sure whom I want to win in November. J

So there it is – I finally posted to my own blog. At this rate, you’ll get my thoughts on New Zealand once we’ve been in Australia for three weeks.

Until then. . .Bula, vinaka vaka levu, adios and aloha!