While Ms. HalfEmpty hinted at the friendliness and generosity of pretty much every Fijian local we met, I was truly inspired by the men of Fiji, all of whom would rightly be considered Renaissance men in western society. I subscribe to a fun blog called The Art of Manliness, which helps remind me of the importance manly behavior plays in society. Here is my top ten list of the knowledge, skills, and abilities (not to mention their good looks, not that there’s anything wrong with that) observed daily during our wonderful visit that seemed to compromise Fijian manliness:
- Smiling (these guys are always in a great mood, and there’s nothing fake about it)
- Dancing (especially while twirling coconut hatchets around their necks and blazing fire batons between their legs)
- Fishing (with poles, just a reel of fishing line, or old school with a net woven from coconut leaf fibers)
- Climbing (you have to see a barefoot Fijian man nimbly work his way to the green coconuts)
- Cooking (from quick coconut drinks to lovo feasts that bake for hours, cuisine is inspired)
- Swimming (don’t be surprised when your tour guide suddenly dives off the boat)
- Singing (you are literally greeted at the airport by men singing, even at 6 AM Fiji time)
- Guitar-Playing (every guy seems able to play, and the younger guys learn just by watching)
- Jewelry-Making (my Fijian friend Nelly taught me how to make a bracelet from an old coconut for my beautiful wife)
- Boat-Driving (same smiling guy sings hello, plays guitar, grabs your bag, then drives boat)
That list doesn’t even include talents in guiding naturalist walking tours, gardening for subsistence and medicine, or conducting kava ceremonies with just enough seriousness. (I may have forgotten to clap three times after emptying the kava bowl in front of a tribal village chief, an offense punishable by decapitation with a Fijian war club back in the day.) However, it seems that the biggest limitation for these Fijian Renaissance men is the unbelievably low wages, which effectively renders them incapable of traveling the world. The thought that these guys meet people from all over the world on a daily basis, yet will likely never set foot off of Fiji really made me appreciate the amazing opportunity we have on our 30/40 World Tour.
I was also impressed by the straight forward approach the men of Fiji took with respect to women. Upon arriving at an island, our group would be seated in a circle on a giant mat woven from coconut leaves, and we would be instructed to go around the circle telling everybody our name, where we were from, our job back home, and whether we were single or married. Ms. HalfEmpty’s wedding ring was like Fijian Renaissance man’s kryptonite (I knew that cultural immersion training would pay off) so when she introduced herself the men would quickly move on to the next lady.
We quickly became friends with a lovely girl from Holland, and it seemed Ms. HalfEmpty may have been slightly jealous when our new friend declared her single status, and all the men shouted at the top of their lungs, “I see you baby!” Swept up in the cultural experience, Ms. HalfEmpty began shouting her own “I see you baby!” at our hosts during their introductions…no more kava for her! Interesting side note: Fijians don’t view the kava bowl as half empty or half full – it is either “high tide” or “low tide.” Mr. HighTide has a nice ring to it.
At the end of the evening, the men would simply ask single girls if they “would like company” for the evening; I witnessed two rebuffs, and zero hard feelings. Interestingly, in both cases the European girls felt guilty for hurting the Fijian man’s feelings, even though there were no hurt feelings. Perhaps these guys have seen one of my favorite movies, The Tao of Steve. Regardless, it was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in my time on the American singles bar scene.
Ms. HalfEmpty chatted with wonderful women from England, Ireland, Denmark, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland, and they all seemed to agree that the Fijian Renaissance man could give their country’s men a run for their money when it comes to manliness. She learned that men in Europe were perceived as not putting in enough effort during the courting process; apparently having a pint with their lads whilst watching football on the telly created a bit of tension. Thankfully we don’t have this problem in America. [Ms. LowTide shakes her head, fingers crossed for NFL strike this fall.]
After ten (or twenty?) bowls of kava, I came up with an idea: create a website similar to Match.com where European women could pay for male Fijian cultural exchange students to fly from Fiji and be hosted in the woman’s home country for a month. During this time, the local men of these countries would not be able to ignore the overt daily acts of manliness as these Fijian men smile, dance, cook, and sing their way into the good graces of each host. Faced with this new knowledge of human male potential for manliness, the local men might hopefully be inspired to elevate their game a bit, lest they find themselves alone in a world consisting only of flat beer and football replays on SKY Network. In my statistically insignificant survey, women were 100% in support of this cultural exchange website idea.
After my short week amongst these Fijian Renaissance men, I myself have reconsidered my theory about nothing good coming from dancing by men over the age of 25, and will definitely sign up for guitar lessons at Jammin’ Java back home one day. To those who might argue that it’s simply a matter of Polynesian/Melanesian/Micronesian DNA and that Fijian men are genetically predisposed with these strengths, I was given a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of these men when my warrior friend painted my face. Let’s just say I was relieved to see that there was a full weight room attached to their dorm, and although their Fijian smiles make manliness look easy, I can confirm that it takes a lot of hard work, as with anything worthwhile in life.