Experience Fiji: Part 1 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Experience Fiji: Part 1

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - Continental launched its direct flight to Fiji several weeks ago, adding to the ever-expanding cache of Guam's international airport.  The kickoff ceremony attracted quite a number of esteemed guests and the flight itself was packed. KUAM News experienced the life and culture of one of the most sought after travel destinations in the world first hand.

"This is history making. Continental is flying for the first time to Fiji and we are grateful we are a part of it," stated Mereseini Senioli a passenger aboard the flight, and of Fijian descent.

I fell in love with Fiji even before takeoff.  Seniloli and her family are from Fiji, but live in Pohnpei. The Senilolis embody the senga na lequa ("no worries") attitude of the Fijian people. Eager to return home to Fiji for the holidays, this direct flight makes Mereseini's family's commute much smoother.  A festive inaugural flight party prior to departure complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony set the tone of the four-day trip to another paradise island.

The president of Continental Micronesia, Charles Duncan, told KUAM News that he hopes island residents and tourists will be frequent flyers.  "We think this makes the Guam hub and the airport a lot stronger," he said.

Dignitaries like Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Tony Babauta showed up at the reception too and toasted to Continental's latest venture.  "It's going to be a good thing for tourism, one of the main pillars of Guam's economy," he said.

Just before takeoff Father Fernandez blessed the two-cabin Boeing 737-800 aircraft and splashed holy water down the aisles. 

Time flew by. No sooner did I open my eyes after the 6.5-hour flight than we were wheels down at Nadi Airport with a very warm bula welcome.  The U.S. Ambassador to Fiji, Steven McGann, and his embassy staffers greeted the media as we were walking off the plane, and a Fijian marching band was playing local music - the heart and soul of Fijian culture.

And, of course, everyone was dancing.

The celebration continued at the picture-perfect five-star Sofitel Resort. I had a chance to catch up with Ambassador McGann at the reception that night. We talked mostly about what's on the horizon for Guam.  "What we are looking for in Guam is an opportunity for all Pacific islands to benefit from Guam becoming the new economic driver in the West Pacific," he said.

The reception offered a taste of Fiji's finest - the food - delicious and fresh, the dancing girls swaying in their grass skirts - fun and engaging, and there was a traditional cava ceremony that everyone participated in.  And all the while, musicians sang and strummed their hearts out.

In less than twenty-four hours, we soaked in only a snap shot of Fiji's mesmerizing culture - we had only scratched the surface.  It was clear that the true spirit of the island and its people sparkles at the village level, which we explored on our next adventure.

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