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.

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Return to Oz Part 2: The Recap

For the most part, Fiji is not a difficult place to live, in fact many facebook chat exchanges with volunteers in legitimate situations where they are actually roughing it go like this:

14:53 I got a sweet coffee grinder
unnamed-volunteer-in-a-crazyass-place* is offline.

(* online name changed to protect the innocent)

So when I went back to Sydney and a lot of people asked “Is it good to be back?” and “Do you think you will stay longer?” and “Have you tried kava? What’s it like?” I didn’t know how to answer? I mean I wrote about my kava experiences already! Aren’t they reading my blog religiously? Also… my horrible secret is that Suva city is a lot like Australia, except the coffee sux, everyone is tall and black and my friends and family are only on computer. So in both a sociological and geographical sense, being back is both strange and familiar. Mind you, rural Fiji is very much a developing country – I just don’t live in that part on a day-to-day basis.

It was great to come back and see everyone I love, and there were some amazing experiences in such a short week, but I kind of missed Fiji a bit, because at the moment it is home, and maybe even becoming comfortable. I’ve always thought of expat Suva to be a bit of a false community, because there are so few of us, and everyone is coming and going a lot, so the depth of relationship is hard to attain, but going back made me realise even more that I have genuine friendships in Suva, so I predict for the foreseeable future I will love wherever I am but miss wherever I am not in my trips between the Feej and Australia.

As far as back home goes, for the sake of brevity I will catagorise my comings and goings.

Good times:

  • Dee and I both caught marlin and Dan and Kyle were stuck on a ship with nothing to do but talk to me. Kyle also hooked a dolphin which is pretty unheard of.
  • My mum’s birthday was beautiful.
  • I finally played the new COD and got killed a lot because I have no idea about the maps.
  • I got to go to my church twice and had lunch with some great friends.
  • White horse and Single Origin! Proper coffee! Frozen Ristretto!
  • Seeing how much people’s babies had grown even in 4 months.
  • Taking my boat out on the harbour with Eddy.
  • Rockband session with the crew that involved more gear than a real band uses.
  • Mexican food in Newcastle with Carla.

Regrets:

  • I packed to go back to Fiji too quickly and accidentally left a lot of things in Sydney… like my camera charger.
  • I didn’t buy any Powerade™ powder, which was pretty high up on the list.
  • I should have brought back more heavy wooden souvenirs because next trip I can see myself being over the luggage allowance.
  • Shoulda bought more coffee 😦
  • I didn’t get to see some people that are very important.

I had a beautiful breakfast of poached eggs and amazing coffee on Monday morning with my brother then came back to Suva. It was sad to say goodbye again to a lot of people that we loved.

Nikki’s parents are in town at the moment and her mum mentioned she reads my blog and enjoys it. So here’s a shout-out to you Mrs Harte. It was nice having teppanyaki with you! I also caught one movie already since I was back, and dismayed over suckerpunch getting delayed until the 7th of april. Here’s my review anyway:

Battle: LA – This is another “deceptive preview” movie where all the shorts make it seem like it’s the greatest movie ever and it turns out to be ok, and not at all the type of movie that they paint it to be. If they just made movies to accurately represent what they show you in previews I would be a lot happier. I’m secretly terrified suckerpunch is going to be like this. Battle: LA was less of a starship troopers type assault on crazy mechanical aliens and more of a black hawk down style survival movie that made me feel like I was playing one of those splinter cell games. I might have to go see the King’s Speech to purge myself. Rating: Excellence in explosion frequency.

Marooned!

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.

No Nishing?

The nishing! It is cancelled! It was a sad day yesterday, but a mixup in communication and general Fijian vagueness meant that we were not booked on a boat to go to the island so we are still in Suva. The boat made it to the island, but on the way back the engine failed and it is now drifting while people attempt to fix the problem. To borrow a phrase from Ghana Dee, “This is Fiji”.

So instead we are off to a village on vanua levu (get your google maps out industrious people) with one of Connie’s colleagues just for a few days and then maybe up to voli voli with the volunteering crew for new years. We were toying with the idea of coming home for Christmas at one point yesterday, but it was just too much money, too little time to prepare, and we weren’t sure everyone would even be around to catch up with considering it is holiday season.

Christmas is in full swing here, mariah is heard all over the place belting out all I want for Christmas is you, and lots of people are starting to depart to see family. I still managed to see a few films this week which I will dutifully review:

 

Tron – “You haven’t seen the original tron? What kind of nerd are you?”. This is the kind of ribbing I have been getting from these tree hugging hippy development workers when I told them I haven’t seen the first tron. I made sure to see this one to restore a bit of cred, but honestly it wasn’t that nerdy so I’m going to have to do better. The film was in 3d, it had pretty lights, the acting was ok to so-so, the plot was thin and the effects were cool. Rating: I’d rather munch on muncheros

Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader – I loved these books as a kid, but always remembered the kids in the books being quite annoying. In this sense they have cast the actors very well. There were some pretty good bits in this film but it really felt like they had no time to fit everything in the story into the time they had for the film. It must have been a long book. Rating: Only if your little cousin begs you to go (but make your aunty pay)


Well that’s all for this blog post. I may or may not update before Christmas, either way have a blessed holiday time and I hope you all get to have some precious moments with family and loved ones.

Merry Christmas!

Perks of the Job

There are a lot of good things about development work, however, in Fiji there is an added benefit of sneaky island escapes on the weekends. I have been in the country for a month now, and twice we have managed to get away for a weekend off in the sun.

Caqalai

The first place we went was called caqalai (pronounced thangalai). It’s a very small island, the kind you can walk around in only 15 minutes. It had palm trees, sand, coral and all the essentials.

The guys there have some old rickety boats that I paid $10 to go out fishing in, and you can walk around the coral flats at low tide. There is some pretty good snorkelling too.

Mealtime is everytime at the surfing resort.

The accommodation is pretty basic but you only pay like $15AUD a night for a dorm bed and you get a mosquito net. It also includes free meals, but the food is not very good. The locals are pretty fond of their kava, so they gave us some when they were drinking n singin, singin n drinkin. It’s pretty good and cheap for a small island in Fiji that is ok for a weekend trip from Suva.

sea bass

Donu and kawakawa

The other island we went to was a little one near Beqa. It was a small surfing resort and Connie and I were the only people there. We kinda got spoiled a bit and definitely were overfed by the lady running the resort. It was a step up in price and luxury from caqalai, but still not too bad at about $75AUD per night (that’s a lot for us – but we are poor volunteers).

The upside of this place was that the fishing trips were better, the snorkelling was better, and the food was in a whole different stratosphere. They cooked for about 6-7 people and it was just us eating, and everything tasted amazing. They had fresh juices every meal, and asked us what we wanted to eat and made it for us. It was really good eatin. I also managed to catch a few fish which is nice! Caught two coral trout and a big sea bass. The coral trout were delicious – I cooked it up really plain but it was still so very good.

This week I’m planning to add a link for posting things to us (since everyone has been asking) and also info if you want to visit Fiji while we are here. Check for it in the next few days before we go to the “island of nishing” in about 7 days time.