Our Nat Geo leaders, Lisa and Brett, gave us a very helpful “Village Etiquette 101” talk before leaving for the village, so we would know what to expect. Villages still operate under a chiefdom system, which means that in order to enter a village you must present yourself and be approved by the chief. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by the entire village, a “meke”, or traditional Fijian dance is performed, introductions are made, and kava is served. When accepting your half shell of kava, you clap once, drink it all in one gulp, then clap three times. Men and women must wear sulus, which are similar to sarongs tied around the waist. The women in the village have to wear them at all times, but the men only have to wear them for ceremonies. The village has been preparing for our arrival for months, as we are the first westerners to stay with them.
We got to Natokalau at night in the pouring rain. The villagers were immediately welcoming, and helped us with our bags. It was easy to tell they were excited to have us there. We all sat under a shed for the ceremony. (This shed would be used for meals and other gatherings, as it was the biggest are to accommodate a large group) Some teenaged village boys performed a highly entertaining dance, and small children performed as well. Everyone in our group was presented with a handmade flower necklace, pretty much a Fijian lei. A sweet girl named Janet shook my hand and put mine on. We all introduced ourselves, drank kava, then ate a huge feast that had been prepared for us. The girls slept in Angie and Leone’s house, the boys in another house, and Holly and I slept in a small building used as a health clinic that had been cleared out for us. Sleeping on the floor was easy, as we were all exhausted by the end of the night.
Due to the ceremonious nature of the night, none of us had our cameras out. But here's a picture of me holding puppies the next morning, just for kicks.