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.

Return to Oz Part 1: Not Oz at All

I’m heading back to see my family and friends in Australia. There are a few family gatherings on for birthdays and although Fiji is awesome I do miss some things about Sydney, and the beautiful people living there.

I had teppanyaki with Connie, Grace and Nikki for lunch. It’s a little pricey ($10 aud/$18fjd) so we usually look for an excuse to go because otherwise we feel like we are blowing our whole allowance on one meal, even though that is far from true. Today’s excuse was my “farewell lunch”. Glen would have come, but the habitats didn’t pick him up in the taxi so he probably was left with a bunch of dalo and some bele at the markets… cruel girls, very cruel.

I headed off in the afternoon for my house to pick up some things and go. I was in a hurry and of course hit the worst traffic so far that I’ve seen on my way home. I think I was stuck at the flagstaff intersection for about two whole minutes! inexcusable! Once home, I grabbed my stuff and headed to the bus bay. There was a bus waiting but I opted to let it go and wait one and a half hours to try out the new Chinese made buses I have heard so much about in Suva. It was very swish inside, but there was one problem that should have been picked up before they put in that bulk order. The seats are made for chinese people and not Fijians. I barely fit into the seat and I’m half the size of some Fijians. I seriously cannot imagine how this is going to work, because the seat width and legroom is not going to work in this country. Ruh roh.

So I got to Nadi and manged to save $1.50 Fijian by not getting in the dodgey bus stand “taxi” cars, instead I walked 3 blocks to the main street and got in a legit taxi. It probably wasn’t worth it.

I know you guys probably don’t want to hear much about Australia since you basically all live there, so I’ll post up a picture of my hostel room to increase the Fijian-ness of this blog entry. It was $18fjd which is $10aud and only has two beds in it. If I get back home with no diseases it will be a net gain.

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 😦

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.

Unthematic but vaguely informative.

The last week or so has been exceptionally sunny for Suva, so of course we are out in it as much as possible. Another genius plan is to escape from the heat by seeing a lot of movies. Here is my quick review for those poor few back in Australia that are regularly extorted $20 instead of $3 to see a movie:

Harry Potter – great although not a kids movie. Lots of bloodshed and an awkward erotic moment, even though it was a CGI projection. The next one should be really good because this was the boring half of the book (unless you like teenagers bickering). Rating – Commendable

Fair Game – worth $3, not worth $20. I had really low expectations but it surpassed those and was enteratining and well shot/acted. You wouldn’t really miss anything if you skipped it, but it was entertaining. Rating – Only if they give you free popcorn

Due Date – All you need to know about this movie is that on my way to see Fair Game, a drunk Fijian guy tried to sell me the merits of Due Date instead by yelling out “Hey bro, in this one the man is masturbating and the dog is masturbating at the same time!”. Rating – You’re paying for torture in an airconditioned room

I actually watched a few DVDs this week too, so my film education and appreciation is coming along nicely, more-so than the things I had planned to get good at while here such as Fijian language and guitar playing. In a point-counterpoint though, I have been practicing my pentatonic scale and learning a few new songs – it’s just sporadic.

This week was the first time I have felt like I moved to a developing country. The water went out on Wednesday after frisbee, so I couldn’t have a shower even though I had been running around and jumping in mud. It always rains for frisbee on Wednesdays, so we come back really muddy. I was supposed to go out for Connie’s 30th that night so I cleaned up using a bottle of water I found in the kitchen and we did some teppanyaki. Going to teppanyaki reminded me I’m being a development wuss about the water going out once, and that I should suck it up because all the other guys around the world in hectic places are shocked when the water comes on. I can even drink the water straight from the tap and not get sick!! Although sometimes it comes out brown or kind of cloudy, so I have juice instead those days. OJ is expensive here though.

The red party.

Connie and I are settling into our house well, we even had a housewarming with a “red” theme. Almost everyone dressed up and much fun was had, but someone stole my havianas and left me some crappy Fijian thongs 😦 the big jerk. There are a few cool things coming up in the next month or so so I should be posting about them – but basically I joined a basketball team, and we are apparently going to a remote island over Christmas and new year for some crazy village times and ancient fishing rituals. Apparently they involve nudity. Looks like I’m going… nishing!?

A New Home

After a lot of preparation, training and filling in of forms Connie and I have landed in Fiji. We’ve been on the ground now for almost two weeks and I finally got internet so I can put some thoughts out there about this town, and our experiences thus far.

We are on an Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) program placement in Suva, Fiji. There was five of us that headed over in this intake, but there are already a lot of people who have been here for a good while. We will be placed in capacity building roles here for one year, attempting to help various Fijian organisations with tasks, and also to train native people with our skills so that after we go home they are able to take over the reigns. At least that is how it works in theory. We shall see how that pans out in the weeks and months ahead.

Connie and I

I am here with my wife Connie. Her assignment is monitoring and evaluation with habitat for humanity, mine is marketing and IT with The Good Neighbour International (TGNI). When I tried to google TGNI all I got was a couple of press releases, so if you are looking for information on TGNI and you ended up here, drop me a comment please.

Connie has started today but I am starting on monday for some reason. I intend to do a bit of work tomorrow though as I already have a couple of deadlines for end of year stuff. The time off before starting is really useful because it actually takes a long time here to get phones, internet, banking and other stuff sorted out.

Intake 29

These are the people we came to Fiji with. The small Fijian boy is working for the UN doing… aha no, he  just snuck into the photo for cuteness factor. From back to front we have Glen, myself, Grace, Sneakyman, Nikki and Connie. Glen and Grace have sports related postings and Nikki is working at Habitat with Connie. We all get on well thus far and are sharing a house together. Connie cooked us all italian food last night, the meal was served sans basil as the island seems to be devoid of it.

Our experience so far has been really great. We had a few days in Nadi followed by an induction in Suva. The induction was a week-long and involved a mix of language classes, indian cooking demonstrations and an amazing race – which the men won convincingly, even though the girls cheated. We are currently considering buying a $250FJ trophy to commemorate the occasion. It’s real nice.

Connie drinking her kava

One of the highlights of induction was a visit to a village outside of Suva. We met a chief, had a lovo (ground oven) and drank kava. All of the locals seemed to enjoy our presence, and I might have the opportunity to return as a helper with the next intake.

If you have never been to Fiji, let me briefly explain that kava is like an institution over here. It’s shared between friends, it’s part of welcome rituals and it’s given as gifts when you savusavu (ask for entry into a village). We had about 7 half-bowls this day and I didn’t feel any different, but apparently it is a muscle relaxant. It tastes bad, but not as bad as what everyone says.

I was worried about whether it would be the right thing to do to drink it while I was here, but honestly the vibe about it was ok, and it seemed culturally like a good thing to do. Some of the devout Christians here don’t drink it. I haven’t had a proper conversation with them about why yet, just that they consider it to be like alcohol which they also abstain from.

There is a lot of social interaction that happens around the kava bowl, and it is not uncommon for people to stay up really late talking and drinking kava and singing songs especially on a weekend.

Basically things are going really well so far, we’re right in the middle of the honeymoon period, and loving the food, the people, the weekly frisbee games and the $3 cinema tickets. I’m sure as we settle in and start to miss things from Australia I will probably have some emo blog posting times, but for now, things are pretty good.