Our last full day on Taveuni was spent at Paradise, snorkeling, relaxing, indulging in a massage in the open air Serenity Spa where sea breezes cool what a deft masseuse comforts, learning about Fiji culture and experiencing a traditional lovo dinner.
Seeing bright blue coral and equally blue star fish was a revelation. So was seeing how coconuts are cracked, used and prepared.
Coconut trees are to Fijians what pigs are to Southerners who utilize everything but the oink.
Young leaves are woven into baskets, old fronds into thatched roofs. When green, the nuts produce juice good for drinking, hangovers and mild illnesses. As the nut ripens its juice becomes oil for cooking and its flesh is worked into creams and balms. Fully ripened, coconuts fall by themselves one or two at a time. The juice is gone but the flesh is at its best.
A sharpened metal pole and elbow grease are used to husk the nut which is cracked with a machete or rock at its soft spot.
Husks are used for straining the juice from the grated flesh. The nut itself is planted and will sprout another coconut tree.
Fronds are woven to hold the meats and strips from the coconut tree roots are used to make a basket for the meats and vegetables steamed over coals in an underground fire pit.
Sauce made from the flesh and its oil becomes the tangy sweet condiment that enhances the contents of a lovo dinner.
While it was cooking, Mai Keli taught the women how to tie their sulus into skirts and dresses and the men how to fold theirs together.
Tied and folded we enjoyed cocktail hour (s) in Fijian style before sitting at the long table for our lovo feast.
Meanwhile, villagers and their children gathered for a party featuring the traditional kava ceremony, singing and music-making with some unconventional instruments.
We ate, drank and danced until well past bedtime.
Morning arrived all too soon for those of us taking the early flight out and the beautiful morning made it even harder to bid farewell to Paradise.
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