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Fiji’s infectious smile

It is that first Fijian glance – an openness of greeting.   Wide eyes are big, brown and somewhat  cheekily mischievous.  An almost sideways  smile flashes blinding pearly whites.  A  face radiates a laid back nature.  Mixed,  this is a most welcoming Bula from the island nation – a ‘welcome to Fiji’.

Some  travellers will say despite a country’s spectacular scenery, exceptional  experiences and amazing architecture, it is the people that make the journey  complete.  Of all my travels, this was never  more evident than in Fiji.

This island nation in the South  Pacific Ocean is inhabited by almost 850,000 smiling Fijians.  With such infectious smiles, it is hard to  escape without catching one yourself.

Do not expect anything to happen  quickly in Fiji, or on time for that matter.   There is no hurry.  They work off  their own time.  Some call it island  time, others call it Fiji time, but for now, it was my time.  Time to explore what makes these people smile  the way they do.

It  does not take long to get into the groove of island life on Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji.  Surrounded by blue waters, beaches and palm  trees and warmed by the Pacific sun, it is easy to label Fiji as paradise.  Add the local Fijians into the mix, and you  discover a paradise beyond what you see.   A paradise in how you feel.

To do this, venture beyond the beaches and you find scatterings of  villages, thick with local culture and characters.  As if stepping back in time, stepping into a  local village shows the strength of a community lead by a chief and engaging  with traditional Fijian customs.

Being invited to drink Kava in a ceremony performed by the villagers is  a fantastic introduction to the Fijian culture.   The ritual is a welcoming gesture into the homes of these friendly  people.

They are unchanged  and unaffected by modern technology.  The  importance of family and friends are evident throughout the village.  It is a warm and ancient culture of community  with a nurturing and teaching nature.

The Fijian people are proud and eager to share their stories and  knowledge of their islands.  I learn of  fearsome warrior’s wielding wooden weapons, productive women’s weaving wonders  and laughing children’s magical tales that have been passed down by their  ancestors.

They share what they know of the sea life and coral, demonstrate how to  fish in the traditional ways and teach the medicinal uses from the surrounding  plants.

I feel spoilt with hospitality.

The same smiling faces that welcomed me send  me off at my visits end.  Content in Fiji  time, there is no hurry to come home.  There  is no need to purchase souvenirs from the gift shop, leaving Fiji I take the  best gift home, the infectious Fijian smile.