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.

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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.

Suva Taxis: Avoiding Death, Decor and Swindling

Personally, I’m not a taxi man. I’m more of a train or bus guy. So when I moved to Suva there was some conditioning required to be able to ride in several cabs every day to get around while not pulling my hair out, making fisticuffs with the drivers or getting fed up and resorting to the bus (or as I like to call it, “The pleasure ride to air pollution!”). Generally taxis in this city are cheap, a little rickety, personalised with strange decorations, and only a little bit dodgy. Here I shall break down for you the general aspects of Suva taxis, should you ever come to our fine city for trade or leisure.

Possibly the most photographed thing in Fiji.

The System:

It is not hard to holla a taxi here. Taxis make up approximately half of all the traffic on the roads so unless it’s a friday or saturday night, chances are you will have taxis beeping at you constantly whenever you strut the streets, offering passage. This is usually performed by the driver slowing down to cruise speed and leering at you outside the window with eyebrows raised.

In the event that you do in fact need to holla a taxi there are three ways to do it.

1. The tourist method requires a frantic waving or the arm in the direction of the taxi. Continue to wave the arm far longer than is necessary. If you are unsure, just wave until the taxi has come to a complete stop.

2. The second method is for trendy expats pretending to be Fijian, and tourists who have done their research and shows that in fact you are “pretty much Fijian already” despite the fact that they are very much a whitey, detest dalo and only pretend to like the taste of kava. This method involves the use of a ‘kissy lips’ sound to holla at a taxi. While wannabe Fijians continue to kissy holla until the taxi is stopped, locals also perform this manouvre once or twice as a prelude to the last and most advanced taxi-holla method.

3. Eyebrow raise. Once you have eye contact with a taxi driver raise your eyebrows and nod your head upwards slightly. This is the best and most advanced method but should be used with care, as erroneous use of eyebrow raising can holla unwanted bi-products such as other unwanted taxi drivers, street food sellers and committed stalkers.

After you have a taxi, jump in and tell them where you want to go. The conversation about your destination should last at least 30 seconds as they enquire about the specifics. If the conversation ends more abruptly there is a good chance your driver does not understand you, and is taking you on a metered tour of wherever the hell he feels like.

The Cars:

Suva taxis vary from the sublime to the ridiculous. You are probably not in a suva taxi if there are not ornaments and trinkets in every spare piece of dashboard real estate. There is also a good chance you are not in a Suva taxi if the windscreen is completely in tact and chip/crack free. Bail out immediately.

Taxi drivers decorate their rides with neons, leds, video players and other weird and wonderful things. This guy obviously killed a bear somewhere along the way.

The Scams:

Usually you jump in a taxi, and it’s $1.50 flagfall (or $2 after 10pm) and just 10c per 100m. This is standard. Scams usually involve some variation of the following:

  • The “My meter is broken” heist – charge you double or triple what you would normally pay because “the meter is broken”. Just threaten to get another cab if they wont take you by meter. This changes outside of town of course, because although it’s technically illegal for a taxi driver to not use the meter, if you want to go outside the city, the drivers all have an agreement to not take you unless you pay their pre-arranged fares. Call around.
  • The automatic tip – If you pull up somewhere and it’s a $3.50 fare, and you give $4, usually the taxi driver will take a bit of your change and give you either 30c or 40c back. Just enough so that you feel petty if you ask for it. It’s unavoidable other than giving correct money.
  • The “scenic route” job – Always make out like you know where you are going. If they think you are a tourist they will ask you questions like “which way do you want to go?” and if you answer vaguely, you might end up taking a taxi from MHCC to USP via Lami Town. No direct route from A to B in Suva should be more than about 5 bucks, and it’s usually less than 4.
  • The “sob story” shenanigan -If a taxi driver starts telling you that he just came from hospital visiting his wife because his house just burned down yesterday, then you have been lucky enough to get the famous scamming taxi driver of Suva!!! *high five*. This guy fleeces everyone, but his memory isn’t too good, so he often tries to fleece the same people twice. There are other sob stories on the rotation, but this one is the most popular at the moment.
  • The “I forgot to put my meter on” trick – see the “My meter is broken” heist.

This is a pretty comprehensive list of Suva taxi scams, but I’m sure there are more out there, so if anyone can add to the list then drop a comment below. It’s been a long time between postings for me due to work travel, but I still managed to see a couple of movies that I will now review for you people in horrible “developed” countries where they extort a princely sum for a movie ticket…

Green Hornet – It had Seth Rogan in it, who a few people say I look like (insult?). He was trying a little too hard to be Will Ferrell in this movie, which didn’t work at all. Also, when I heard a guy called Jay Chou was in it, I was expecting this, so I was a bit put off, but the other Jay Chou I think is ok too, he was doing his best Jackie-Chan-inspired “funny Asian guy” bit, but it was kind of just an irritating movie mostly. Rating: Not entirely awful, but competing hard to get there.

The Fighter – I think this is my second marky mark movie while in Fiji? Not sure. Anyway the preview makes it look really really good, but it’s only just pretty good. It’s a little slow to get going, but there are some cool bits, and two girls punch on. Rating: Don’t see the preview and you will be stoked.

I have also been watching a few DVDs while here, the pick of the bunch would be Animal Kingdom, although I saw it on the night I got chilli hands, it was still really good. In terms of TV shows, Avatar the last air bender and The Wire both have my attention.

 

*** UPDATE ***

Found a version of the jay chou youtube that actually has him singing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHy0jr145LE

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!

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!?