Food and Floods

It’s been a bit of a quiet week here in Suva, I went to a cool little church yesterday which was nice – we even sang “every day” which was a bit of Australiana thrown in there. The band was playing one of the songs from “united we stand” as an instrumental before the service too, which was nice. The rest of my house went to pac harbour for golf and swims. They all got sunburned though ūüė¶

During the service something came up that has been a reoccurring theme the last week or so. They were praying for the people in Australia affected by the floods. Ever since the floods have hit the news here people have been really concerned about Australia and saying how they really feel bad for the people stuck in it all. It feels a bit like I am in the devloped country hearing about¬†devastating¬†disasters in a developing country. They will say things like “I mean we have floods in Fiji, but I saw that video on youtube and those pictures on the news and man, they got it bad over there right now”. People here are raising money to send to the QLD flood victims and I heard the other day that Papua New Guinea pledged a couple of million dollars to help out. Honestly, the world feels like it has been turned on its head, but it’s beautiful to see the¬†generosity of people who don’t really have a lot, but see a need and give what they can.

Just so this post isn’t totally about very deep and serious stuff, I thought I would include a few images of dishes we have been cooking over here so you can see what we are up to with food. We mostly only take pictures if we make something special, so this is a good indication of the best of our diet:

Freshly caught donu cooking in a pan.


Cheese is expensive here, so when we get haloumi it's kinda a big deal.

We made this sushi with a fish we caught while towing a lure behind a canoe in Suva harbour.

We didn't make this, but in Fiji, you wont be worrying what is on Jenny Baker's plate.


Chilli Dip of Doom

Last night we were making some nachos so I thought I’d make a cheese and chilli (or chili if you are americano?) dip to go with it. Usually I cut up a whole tray of chillis, however, since I didn’t know how hot the chillis here are, I thought I would go with four chillis for my dip. I cut them up and realised I didn’t have anything to dip in the dip, so my housemate Glen and I set off to the store on foot to buy some bread.

The local supermarket is about 6 or 7 blocks away, I think it takes about 20 minutes to walk there. It would take about 15 if the humidity wasn’t so high, but we kind of stroll here in Suva since the place collects humid air with the same insatiable desire as ash collecting pokemon. About half way to the store my fingers on my left hand started to burn a little, I thought that was a bit weird, and maybe I had just got chilli juice in some oyster cuts from my previous adventure. The burning got worse and worse as we made it to the store, bought the bread and came home, so by the time I got back my hands felt a bit like they were sitting in a bowl of water that was on a slow heat. I ran the hand under cold water for a while, which helped, and ate my dip and nachos with one hand. The dip was really good, had a lot of kick, but everyone in the house other than Nikki slammed down about 3/4 of it before we were all full.

My hand was feeling a lot worse by this point, and so we started googling remedies for chilli burn on hands. It was clear at this point that the burn wasn’t limited to any existing cuts, because the ends of all of my fingers on my left hand were going red. We started out scientific and put burn cream on my fingers. This didn’t really make me feel any better, but it was medical so I was kinda confident that as long as I was patient my hand would feel better. It didn’t. I started sweating and felt like I was going to throw up, and after 15 minutes I couldn’t take any more patient sufferance so I dunked my hand in a bowl of ice water. I felt relief in a second from the burn and the nausea. Unfortunately this wasn’t a long term solution because my hand slowly started burning inside the ice water, and when I took it out I got a sharp burning feeling.

My team of medical staff witch doctors housemates started googling solutions to my problem. The first home remedy suggested by yahoo answers was putting my hand in milk. It felt ok, but was similar in effect to the ice water. It was also a little weird. The next solution recommended by e-how I think or wiki answers (or some other shonky online operation) was submerging my hand in vegetable oil. It didn’t help at all and was really gross – but we only had canola oil, so as a scientist I can’t rule it out as a possible solution. The next effort involved squeezing lemon juice on my hand, which I thought sounded more like torture than medical aid, but luckily it didn’t sting, it just had no positive effect. By this point my index finger had started to blister a bit, so I considered going to the hospital but was talked out of it when we called them and they sounded uninterested but polite.

My hands.

Finally we found two bits of information that kind of worked, and I will share this sage advice with you all in case you ever cut hot chillies without the use of protective gloves. The first thing that helped was scrubbing my hands with alcohol. We used a middle of the range vodka as we were out of medical swabs. Chilli oil is apparently alcohol¬†soluble¬†so while this doesn’t ease the pain it stops the burn from getting worse. It worked for me. The second part of my chilli burned hands home remedy is to soak your hand in iced soapy water. This soothes the pain and seems to neutralise the acidic properties of the chilli and other failed home remedies you may have tried. We used Pure Fiji soap flakes that we got in bulk for cheap, but I think any genuine soap would do.

I spent the rest of the night watching avatar the last air bender until I fell asleep with my hand in the soap bowl. I also took a neurofen painkiller which helped a bit. Probably the most impressive part of this whole story is that my housemates ate the dip containing the dangerous chillis, and at present there have been no recorded incidents of mouth burn or ring sting. I mean if it can do 6 hours of pain to my hands? Wow.

As usual, I leave you with two film reviews from the past week or two:

Megamind 3D – This was pretty good for your usual holiday animated feature designed to milk dollars from families heading to the cinema during the break. It had some big stars voicing it, the characters were pretty good and the story was OK. Try not to watch the trailer or you might get some of the funny bits spoiled, but it suited my tastes, and was a good way to spend an afternoon. Rating: Volunteer to take your nephew

True Grit – I had been promising Nikki I would see this with her cos she liked westerns and loves the Coen brothers. I thought it looked like a film I would like from the previews, despite the presence of Maaaatt Daaaamon. The characters were great, the script was awesome but the plot was kinda a bit whacky. I would still recommend it if you are the kind of person that likes strong characters and witty banter. Rating: Good enough to pay Sydney ticket prices


Last night the boys here all decided to go fishing, and we invited the new volunteer’s husband. It was his second day in the country so we wanted to make him feel welcome. We headed out about 1.5km along the Suva breakwall and set up for the afternoon. High tide was supposed to be at 7pm so we were a bit concerned when the rocks at the start of the break-wall were slowly covered with water as the evening wore on, and instead of receeding at 7pm, more and more rocks were submerged under the water. To make matters worse we saw a 2-3ft reef shark cruising along the top of the water about 6:30pm towards the start of the wall.

At about 8pm we made the call to try and get back before it got any darker, and we started slowly back towards land over oyster covered rocks in the last of twilight. Many times we were wading waste deep in water unable to see where we were putting our feet, but despite a couple of spills we slowly we made it about half way back to shore. At this point the breakwall disappeared under the water, with only the odd stone every 10 to 15m or so along the wall being tall enough to break the surface of the water. We couldn’t see anything that was submerged because the last of the light had left so we stopped and had a man-conference about the next step to take. To further complicate the matter we had several things in a backpack that couldn’t get wet, including a camera.

The decision was made for Mic to swim back and grab a canoe so we could transport the unwettable goods to safety, so he jumped in the water and left us sitting on the rock while we waited for him to swim about 300-400m into shore in shark infested frequented associated waters. After about 25 minutes Mic pulled up in his canoe with a block of 2×4 as a paddle and picks up my bag, rowing it into shore. He assured me it would be safe with “some nice fishermen” he had met and that nothing would be kerekere’d out of it when and if I got back to shore. He also assured me they were “very concerned with our safety” and that they “seemed like good blokes” so we continued with the plan. In no time at all Mic was back with the canoe, which I jumped into and rowed back to dry land while Seb and Mic swam. In my defense they are both surfers, and I would have either drowned or drifted to Tonga if I attempted that swim.

In the end we all got back to the wharf safely, with just a few oyster cuts, some dented pride about our fishing donut, and a great tale to tell. As a bonus nothing was kerekere’d from the bag and we all lived happily ever after. The only SMS on my phone from Connie read: “So I guess you’re not cooking dinner then?” – she is clearly used to my crazy fishing escapades after all this time, which is great. I actually had more missed calls from Seb’s wife.

In the spirit of 80s sitcoms (and because I’m probably going to get chastised for being silly from a lot of people) I would like to point out that I learned not to go fishing on the Suva break wall… at night… on a high tide… with no torch… wearing thongs.