The Dogs of McGregor Road

Fiji is a great country, with many beautiful things to see. Probably one of the least beautiful things in the country is the dog that lives at my work premises.

This dog is as foul a creature as anyone has ever dreamed. It has horrible bald patches on it’s hindquarters from days spent dragging ass on grass round and round the clothesline pole. It has dirty, horrible gray paws, gnarled growths in odd places all over, a short and slightly inbred looking head and a formidable odour. The pictures to not do it justice, I’m telling you this animal is so mangy and ugly it would probably make an onion cry. Now sadly, this is not one of those ‘diamond in the rough’ or ‘hunchback of notre dame’ type situations with a heart of gold behind the rough exterior. No, this foul beast delights in attempting to bite the living crap out of me every day.

There was one week in particular where the “sorrowful louse” waited at the top of the stairs every morning, and growled at me until I made an attempt to quickly jump over it. During my leap of faith the “wretched canine” would then try to snap at my ankles, usually following me up the remainder of the stairs biting and chomping until I made it inside. It was a mission every day just to get to my seat, and by the end of the week I was so on edge I was freaking out like a chainsmoker after a long haul flight. Someone said hello to me on my walk from the street to the office and I jumped so high I think I caught a glimpse of Samoa for a second.

Friday finally arrived and I walked gingerly into work. As I came upon the stairs I stopped and peered up looking for the “savage monster”, but to my shock he was nowhere to be seen. For a moment there was a monumental celebration going on in my head with firecrackers, a marching band and ceremonial monkeys on bicycles. Today I would be able to walk up the stairs with the respect I deserve as a lifetime member of the top level of the food chain. I took a few steps and then it dawned on me. Like admiral ackbar and many others before him:

I turned and saw it, the “grotesque salivating force” was rampaging towards me. Having fooled me into a false sense of security, the plan had worked like a charm and he would be upon me in seconds. I had about twelve stairs to climb to reach safety. He had only three or four meters of gap to close before he’d finally get to chomp the living crap out of my ankles. I turned and ran up the stairs. The “unworldly terror” was closing fast despite its mangy and slightly inbred legs, and in seconds it was growling and gearing up to start biting. I made it to the half way point up the stairs when it took the first lunge, snapping and missing by inches. I jumped and tried to run faster, looking out behind me for attacks. Snap! Snap! I just moved my ankle in time as his gnarled jaws crunched together again. With a massive leap I jumped through the office door to safety, the invisible line of inside and outside the only boundaries to an audacious lust for my blood.

After a week of this, and knowing I wouldn’t get anything done at all while I was so incapacitated by stress every day, I was presented with a key to the front gate, ensuring dog-free passage into my office. This was probably one of the greatest things I have been given in Fiji, and I am absolutely anal retentive about the key’s whereabouts at all times, as I sometimes have been accused of misplacing things as small as keys (Hunt loses his house keys twice in one week, 2011, Various Authors).

When I arrived back to work after my recent trip to Australia I was told the only news around the office was that “The puppies are getting bigger”. My first thought was “We have puppies? I must have missed a previous edition of the TGNI Times” and my second thought was “Uh oh… potential spawns of Satan!!” There are actually two dogs at my work, one is black and lovely, the other is the aforementioned “sentinel of the abyss”. I ran outside and saw two very cute looking puppies (good sign) trying to climb the stairs (bad sign) to get to their mother, the black dog (good sign!). I was happily convinced that spawns of “the demon that shall not be named” had successfully been avoided and thus I was free to play with and enjoy said puppies. Which I did.

After a few days I was walking around the back watching out for the “Destroyer of souls” when I came upon the puppies. There was actually three, and one had a golden streak on it very reminiscent of one “Harbinger of sorrow and malice”. Just then a thought occured to me… maybe the black dog was the mother and the “Murdurous rampaging juggernaut of destruction and filth” was the father? The puppies all started barking at me and advanced menacingly. I was confused and alarmed but not really afraid… since they were cute puppies. When they closed the distance I was waiting to see what would happen. I steeled myself and waited to see what kind of a biting a ferocious puppy could inflict. They made it to within striking distance of my legs and one let out a not-quite-yet menacing growl…and they all started licking my legs.

It seems when you cross good with bad you get bizarre.

Here is a youtube clip of the new editions for those who have been pestering me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHare0YN6wk

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

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.