Late Night Meanderings Mostly Mentioning Guitar

It’s a mild rainy night in Suva, but not the kind of rain that makes you think a dinosaur is urinating on your roof, or that you are in “Noah’s Ark: The Action Adventure Ride”. It’s more the kind of rain that is nice to listen to, but awful to walk in; stronger than a pitter-patter yet not pouring.

I put on a pot of red tea and drank it with a blitz (gaytime impersonator) ice cream that Glen purchased for me. We sat around talking about Norway while I practiced my Arpeggios and tried to convince him to play ukelele. I think I made a good case.

I broke the Y key on my keyboard. It’s not a key that is used in a lot of words… unless you are attempting to explain to people that you “broke the Y keY on mY keYboard”. It was only working if you pressed it in the correct way. This Ameant if I was looking at my hands and not the screen then there was sometimes Y’s missing from my text. a couple of awkward typographical errors ensued, the pick of which was me calling a girl from high school’s wedding “our wedding”. Oops. I fixed the key tonight, which is my first successful laptop repairing experience. Might be able to get my nerd badge back after all.

Arpeggios are the first thing I have learned on guitar that sound really great straight away. Can you like arpeggios on facebook? You probably can. The internet rarely disappoints in its breadth of knowledge. Back in the 90s though we had geocities instead of wikipedia. Those were dark days.

I played some guitar on a little island on the weekend and I was trying to pick the key that these Fijian people were playing in and then solo along. I didn’t always get it right, but a lot of Fijian songs seem to be in G, A and B. Must suit the way they sing somehow. While we were playing guitar, the anchor rope of one of the boats moored just off the beach frayed and snapped and the boat drifted away. They tried looking for it but it’s probably in Tonga by now. I felt bad because it was a freak accident and some poor Fijian guy is going to get grilled by the owners.

Give me that guitar you tonedeaf kaivalagi!!

We sent our friend Shelly home today. We have one more confirmed visit from Connie’s cousins and then I think that might be it until we leave to come home. Flights are really expensive in August/September compared to normal. This might mean I go fishing on an island with my leave instead of coming home for a visit. There are lots of people I miss though.

I taught Connie what a hipster is tonight too.


The Journey

As the air cooled, and the leaves turned to brown the frozen southern breezes lashed the snowcapped mountains to the south and the west. As the seas grew cold and the icy cold rain started to appear across the broad Sydney basin, darkness edged ever closer, enveloping the township with an air of sodden neglect. As the floral blooms closed and withered, and the birds retreated north in noisy flocks that clouded the crimson skies, and as the people donned scarves and woolen garments, many turned their minds north and east to faraway places. For amidst the darkness and hopeless trudgery of oppression a small band of brave men plotted and planned. It was decided a fellowship be formed to quest to the faraway lands of the east and there to learn the secrets of sunshine from the ancient samabula clan.

The fellowship numbered seven, for seven seemed like an appropriate number to undertake such a task. Each of the three tribes was represented. From the shire there was Naythaniel the swagger and the maiden Cathreeny McSweeny, their offspring malarchee, as well as Deedan the hobbit lord. From the tribe of the near west came the two wise Donato-kin known for their generous spirits and culinary skills. Lastly the tribe of the hills and the seas in the near east sent the fair one they call ‘Shell’. Such was the fellowship that was formed, and each was picked for their skill and character.

This unlikely fellowship, forged in such dire circumstances set out with purpose to reach the lands of the Far East. It was decided they would ride the giant skybird eastward to make haste with their journey, even though doing so would mean the fellowship was journeying into the path of certain danger. As they arrived at the skybird port, surrounded by terrifying packs of western pirates from the clan Bogania of the lands of Penrifficus and mystic worshipers of the moon Godess hunni, the fellowship quickly found a rough and surly gentlemen of lore who promised to take them to the Eastern lands. They followed him through a dark alleyway to a dimly lit room, a single oil lamp shining defiantly against a wall where an old weathered face of a woman who had never known beauty waited. She looked the party up and down with a mocking grin. “So it’s the East ye be seeking eh? Well I can get you there alright, but the two of ye aren’t fit to ride the great star bird.” She pointed at Naythaniel first, then Malarchee and McSweeny. “You’ll ave to stay behind, and I aint sure about the likes of you fellers neither” she growled, pointing at the Donato-kin, and folded her arms in defiance. After several hours of negotiating it was agreed that the Donato-kin could ride the skybird but the two shire folk would have to stay behind. Although the demands were unreasonable, there was no other way to get to the lands of the Far East, and the two shire-folk would ask around for another skybird, and rendezvous with the fellowship later.

The rest of the party retreated to the town inn for the night and negotiated for a room. They rested uneasily as the night drew on, eager to depart the next morning, but sad to be leaving behind their beloved comrades who had journeyed so bravely thus far.

The morning birds sung a subdued song of sorrow as the dull morning light roused the weary travelers. They gathered their belongings and set out on the skybird for the long journey over the oceans to the lands of the East, glad to be rid of the hideous star-wench and her skybird port. The journey wore on in a long and uneventful silence, with no food or ale to raise morale. As the skybird approached the lands of the east the travelers stared open mouthed at the beauty of the azure blue oceans below and the burnt yellow sun hovering above a crimson horizon. They touched down at the port of the Far East and walked towards town, bathed in the magical warm yellow light of the afternoon sun. They found an inn and consumed some of the local cuisine. It tasted unfamiliar but satisfied the hunger of the journey. Deedan indulged in some brown murky Eastern ale that made his tongue numb as he heartily guzzled a flaggon of the exotic mead and ordered another. They all slept well in the inn that night. They had made it to the lands of the Far East.

The next morning the travellers rose early, except for Deedan who took some coaxing after a night spent with exotic mead, and busied themselves with preparations for their exciting journey to the home of the ancient Samabula clan to learn the secrets of sunshine. They travelled by horse and cart down a long road for several hours as minstrels played tunes unfamiliar to their ears about the virtue of drinks of oddly hued oxen and pirate liquor. Finally they arrived at the home of the ancient Samabula clan, a modest two storey dwelling amidst fields and roads in the hills of the township of Suva. The fellowship was sad their journey had come to an end, but happy to make acquaintance with the Samabula clan. Many stories were told, times were shared, and the secrets of warmth and sunshine exchanged. The shire-folk even arrived after a week or two to share in the festivities. The journey was complete, but the fellowship would not be forgotten.

The party returned home with the secrets of warmth, and were received with adulation by their countrymen, for it had been bitterly cold in their absence. Many stories were exchanged and posted on the walls of the town.

When the sons of men speak of the heroes of lore, none shall be more revered than the brave group of travelers who left their homeland to venture forth into realms unknown. For they will not be forgotten.

Fiji: Where kids matter, and rainbows grow on trees!

Somewhere along the way we got lost. Somewhere as a race of superpowered predators with machine guns and gucci bags we forgot the basics. Somewhere between curing baldness and inventing art where people wee on naked pictures of themselves(1) we dropped the ball. We let down the team, we stumbled, we dropped an egg or two.

You see, people for the most part are smart. Even stupid people are pretty smart. Man, can we think. We have thought and talked and talked and thought and discussed and invented. We invented so many things that people started reserving inventions they haven’t even invented(2) yet! As we thought and invented, and discussed and planned we got pretty cocky about our inventiveness here in the western world. However, Our insatiable desire for stuff made the world start to die! So being the responsible global citizens that we are, we set about putting things right. It’s a work in progress because we want to keep our stuff without having the world die. The debate continues but there is cause for optimism. Anyway, I digress. All these things we accomplished made us really busy.

In the middle of our busy business, in our planning and plotting and saving the world and killing it, we forgot something. We forgot about our children and our families! I sensationalise. We didn’t forget about our kids at all, it’s just that the relationship changed. Instead of “think of the next generation” we started crying out “it is our responsibility as an advanced thinking species”. Did you ever notice that? It can’t be about video games either, because I played more video games than captain N, and I’m writing the blog. So what is it about us? Could it be our ethos of homosapian as an evolutionary achievement rather than something more… human? Why does the rise of reason have to be the downfall of love? Do we in the western world hold such an allegiance to logic that there is no room for anything sentimental? Am I sensationalising again? Is sentimentality so opposite to the creed of free thinking that we put it on the shelf or mock it? “Kids are people? Yeah and rainbows grow on trees!” you might say… if you are particularly surly.

There is a stark contrast to this when you visit a place like Fiji. You see, somewhere along the line we, that is society, forgot kids aren’t actually a burden, a way to pass on genes or just a “phase of life”. Having children is a privilege. In Fiji, everyone older than a child in question is a parent of sorts to that child. If someone you know has a kid, and you are there, you tend them, discipline them, love them like an aunty or uncle. This communal parenting strengthens the fabric of family even when there are no blood ties and has interesting results. Sure there are social problems in Fiji, but children are really really well adjusted. They rarely throw a tantrum, and are all reasonably well behaved. People make parenting mistakes but the weight of experience for a child is that they are loved and important.

There are of course other contributing factors to the behaviour of kids here like discipline, culture etc. Older children are also treated with more respect, and addressed as an adult who can make decisions earlier. The children still pay respect to older leaders in the community and will defer to them and call themselves “youths” up until the age of 30 even, but at a younger age children are given responsibility and taught to grow into an adult. They parent younger siblings to some degree, or cousins. There isn’t the same extension of adolescence that is perpetuated in western society.

I have the privilege of working in an office where there a lot of children of different ages that pass through and sometimes even start playing with the paperclips and stuff on my desk. It has been really nice getting to know them and their personalities and reassuring as someone around the parenting age that if I decide to have children that they will be wonderful little people with big personalities. I hope I can surround them with as many people who love them as these kids have. It’s not about making new laws or finding new ways to control children and parents through legislation, people just need to love their kids and other people’s kids (it’s a shame I can’t write that without you thinking about pedophiles too).

People talk in a condesending tone sometimes about the lifestyle and priorities of developing countries. Speaking about how “one day” when they graduate to the western world they will come to their senses and give up on their silly little habits like religion, home cooked food, communal living and close families. Well, I think I have been learning from Fiji that they do many of these things well, and they are great for society. Maybe rainbows do grow on trees sometimes. Maybe closeness of family and raising children is just as important as biodegradable snot rags or which washing machine cycle saves the most water.

“You never stop being a parent. Ever. I can’t understand these people who can’t wait to kick their kids out of home as soon as they turn 18.” – Papa Donato.

(1) This happened at my school.
(2) Patenting! Much more prosperous than parenting! Try it today!

Shows us volunteers like…

I never usually watch much TV at home, but here in Fiji, the volunteer community is right into watching TV so I conform to be cool and to have things to talk about. The following is TV that volunteers are watching right now or enjoy a lot. For those playing at home you can tick off the ones you’ve seen and give yourself a grade.

Misfits – Everyone that watches this show smashes through it so quickly. It’s just really good and funny with only 6 episodes per season. 4.5/5

The Wire – I hadn’t seen this even though it’s a bit old. Took me a little while to get into it and I didn’t love season two, but otherwise it’s an epic. 5/5

Community – The current reigning show of the week for people to watch/talk about. I started on it a few days ago, it seems pretty cool. Apparently the second season is by all accounts amazing. 4/5

30 rock – The fallback option for light comedy. 3.5/5

Breaking Bad – Not everyone loves this, but it’s getting out there. Glen is a big fan but I couldn’t really get into it. 2/5

American office/parks and recreation – peas and carrots baby, peas and carrots. The dual champs of awkward humour shows. 3.5/5

True Blood – Twilight for twenty and thirty year old people. All the trueblood fans just read that and gasped planning to respond in the comments that it’s awesome and totally nothing like twilight. Do not believe them. One episode had a bar fight, but it was a lame vampire bar fight. 1/5

Gossip Girl – ex oh ex oh! 0/5

There are a few other ones that are getting around, some indie ones that I haven’t heard of, and some old favourites like Seinfeld. This basically covers everything though, so if you have any friends that are volunteers in another country, you might need to learn some stuff from these shows or it’ll be two hours of conversation about the weather.

Fiji time is a sham.

I have recently become convinced that “Fiji time”, the tendency for time to be fluid and not strictly adhered to, was invented to play havoc with the comings and goings of my everyday life. This is a new pinnacle of egocentricity for me that I am equally excited and ashamed of. The conspiracy is a carefully constructed ruse dating back many years and carefully constructed to seem like it is a part of Fijian culture in an elaborate attempt to fool me into thinking I just have bad luck. You see, the reason I hold these seemingly outlandish views about an endearing aspect of Fijian culture, is that Fiji time never EVER works in my favour.

I’m on time for the boat! Boat is 3 hours late.

I make a booking to go fishing early in the morning when the bite is hot. Fisherman sleeps in a couple of hours, we catch nothing.

I take a bus half an hour earlier than I need to. The front wheel of the bus falls off and we arrive two hours late.

(I have to convince the wheel thing hasn’t happened to me yet, but it it not uncommon here)

Now none of this is really rare, it’s even what you would expect to happen if Fiji time really was a nice part of Fijian culture and not an invention to torment and frustrate me. I’m not culturally insensitive after all, just overly inward focused at times. The problem is that whenever running late would benefit me, everything runs like clockwork. It’s seriously like they hired a crack team of German engineers to whip them into shape and whenever I am a few minutes behind schedule.

I’m 5 minutes late for the boat! Boat left on time, next one is in two hours.

I decide to sleep in an extra hour instead of getting to the island early. Everyone went fishing early that morning and they wont be back until lunch.

I take a bus an hour early in case wheels fall off the bus. The bus driver heroically challenges the world land speed record and I arrive three hours early. I sit around and hum songs to myself for as long as I was on the bus.

This dark conspiracy actually works as a double whammy in some situations where I get both unfavourable manifestations of Fiji time in the one foul setting. Last week I booked a massage for 2pm and had lunch arranged beforehand. Lunch ran late (Fiji time!) and I was getting nervous about missing the massage, so My brother and I hurried out to the road to flag something down for transport. We waited about 25 minutes for a bus, truck, taxi, minvan, anything to drive past and pick us up (No hurries no worries!). This is on Fiji’s busiest highway, where usually you hit something about every 5 or 10 minutes that will get you. Eventually a guy picked us up in a resort taxi and promised to take us right there. We stopped on the way for 10 minutes to drop off some vegetables to a friend of his (Sega na leqa!). Despite all of this we got back to the massage place at 2:03pm and ran to the massage bure. Of course, only one masseuse was there so I let my brother start and said I would wait. At about 2:17 after six or seven Fijian ladies ran around yelling out “SUUUUUEEEEEE? SUUUUUUUEEEEEEEE!” my massage lady wondered in (Ni sa bula Sue!). She had gone for a walk to see who was getting off a big bus that drove into the driveway up the road (You were here at 2? Isaaaaaaa!). As she started to massage I let out a desperate plea “Fiji time start… Fiji time finish?”.

I have to segway at this point and say the massage was great. Even if the massage ladies gossiped the whole time in Fijian. They do a great job and it’s cheap. I would go back. 4 out of 5 for the massage.

At 3:00:00pm the ladies both clapped their hands and finished. I sighed, took a quick look around for German engineers grinning in the bushes and walked off. There isn’t really much you can say in a situation like that… just laugh at yourself and just remember you only paid $12aud for the massage in the first place. Fiji is a pretty kickass place to live, even if there is a country wide conspiracy just to mess with you.

How to not be a bogan on your Fijian holiday.

Fijian people are the amongst the friendliest people in the world. So if you come to Fiji, it’s not like going to eastern Europe* or something where the gruffness and exterior demeanor can often be somewhere between “It is FREEZING here in the winter and I only listen to metal and any electronic music over 180bpm!” and “My year 6 exam had calculus questions in the easy section”. Having said that, if you act like a ridiculous bogan while you are in Fiji, the people here will still smile on the outside, but inside they will be recording stories of your behaviour to share with their friends. After all, there is nothing Fijian people like more than a good laugh. So here is a beginners guide I have put together, and if you follow most of this stuff you will most definitely not be a bogan in Fiji:

Learn how to pronounce bula – It’s not ‘bulla’ like the ice creams, ‘Boolah’ like some kind of cow cockatoo or whatever ‘bullarrrr’ is. Soft m at the start and emphasis on the second vowel (mBulA!).

Learn 3 or 4 words other than bula – I think if you know how to say goodbye and thanks that is a good few strides on the road out of boganville. Goodbye is moce (pronounced moh-they) and thanks is vinaka (pronounced as it looks). If you really want to impress, try au sa mamau (I am full of food).

Resist the urge to have your hair braded – My mum will argue about this cos she used to love it. Aside from being painful and annoying to take out after a couple of days, It can really look strange if you have a glowy white head and tanned face… just sayin. Give the braiding lady $20 and a hug and everyone will be happier. Or if you love hair braids, take them out before the trip home.

Leave the resort of your own volition – Go for a walk and see what you find. Often there are villages, markets and corner shops sitting 100m from the front gate of your nice hotel. Tours and day trips are good, but if you do it by yourself then that’s even more the bomb. Kapow!

If you do leave the resort, don’t later brag to your friends about how you saw the “real Fiji” – It doesn’t make you a bogan, it’s just annoying.

Try somewhere other than the Mamanucas, Yasawas or Coral Coast – These places are nice, but they are also safe. If you have more than a week, go somewhere a bit out there. The really touristy places can be a little bit Australia tourist ghetto.

The buffet is a privilege not a right – Seriously… this cannot be overstated. Act like a lion not a hyena. Did you know that jackals scavange less than lions? Nathan told me this and he works at the museum so I believe him. It ruined my joke until I thought of hyenas as a replacement.

Don’t complain about stupid things – If you book a holiday to a tropical country you are not allowed to complain about how hot it is outside. You are also not allowed to complain about the presence of mosquitoes if you are supplied with flyscreens and/or a mosquito net. If you book an island holiday you are not allowed to complain that there isn’t anything to do other than water activities. If you try to squeeze four people into a two person bure, you are most definitely not allowed to complain about how cramped and small your room is. If you have a legitimate complaint, like you are a celiac and they served you a pasta sandwich with a donut for dessert, then please be nice.

Speak with Fijian people, not at them – Ask them questions, and listen to the answers. Chatting is a national past time here, and people read the news religiously so they will have opinions on almost everything. Also… english is the official language so don’t be one of those guys.

Cover up where possible – In fijian villages women don’t show their shoulders or anything above the knee. So if you are brazillian or medeterranean we might have to have a quiet word afterwards about fashion. For everyone else, they are used to westerners wearing underwear to the beach, but just be discrete and sensible ok?

So that’s it! These are, of course, not hard and fast rules. You might want to go against this advice in certain situations, after all you are in Fiji on a holiday! You’re not a diplomat (probably? Hi diplomats!). As a whole though, I think most Australians could do a little better on the ‘not being a bogan’ side of things, so lets all do our best to limit the amount of southern cross stickers we slap on our utes to say… no more than five, and try to put one or two of these helpful guidelines into practice the next time we come to Fiji eh? Bonza mates! get a dog up ya!

* Despite this gross generalisation, I have many close friends from eastern Europe that are the warmest and loveliest people I know. I hope they all still talk to me after playing up their unwarranted and unfair stereotypes for cheap laughs.

Connie read this and thought I sounded like I am a little bit up myself and quite rude. She sent back a revised copy that I didn’t think was very funny, but definitely a lot nicer. I stuck with some minor edits of the original copy, but in fear that I may have offended some very lovely people such as my mum, I refer you to the following customer service flowchart. Please direct any complaints to me, the jerk who wrote this.

Joose – The Thirst Quencher

Fiji is a hot country. People here get hot and thirsty. A hard earned thirst needs a big cold drink… and the best cold drink is Joose.

Joose, not to be confused with juice, is sold all over the streets in Suva either by the cup or by the bottle. The going rate at time of writing is 50c for a cup and $2 for a bottle, but if you are a whitey with an accent expect to pay up to twice that. Joose is somewhat of an all encompassing term, and there are really only two attributes that are common to all Jooses:

* Joose must be liquid… and
* Joose must be fruity.

This means that all kinds of things can be passed off as Joose, even things that are not in any way related to actual fruit juice. Here is a non-exhaustive guide to the do and don’ts, the can and can’ts and the what and whatnots of Joose.

1) Joose can actually be cordial
If your juice is particularly cheap, you are probably about to be handed a bottle or cup of cordial. Easier to tell when it is red or green cordial, but if it is lemon or orange you might not realise until you take a swig. Either way buddy, suck it up! Joose is not a drink for complaining whingers, you get what you are given.

2) Most of the time Joose is predominately Tang™
All the market sellers claim their Joose is juice, but their Joose ain’t just juice if the Joose house bin is littered with empty tang packets now is it? Indeed.

3) Joose may contain actual juice
If you find a Joose seller that sells Joose that tastes slightly different to all the other Joose sellers, chances are the guy adds actual juice to his Joose. This is a good thing! Latch onto it! Other clues your Joose may contain actual juice is if it is any way sour or bitter in taste, if the consistency is at all thicker than watery and if the hue looks different to other sellers.

4) Joose may actually be juice
I think this has happened once.

5) Joose can be substituted for kava if you aren’t the kava drinking type
Kava is more about the social aspect of sharing drink than it is about getting paralytic, so a bucket of Joose can easily be substituted for a tanoa of kava. Possibly a major contributing factor to the Fijian diabetes epidemic.

Joose really is a versatile drink. Next time you are in sunny downtown Suva man up and order a Joose. It’s the lucky dip of the beverage world. Besides, it’s gotta be better than the “water” we get from the taps sometimes.