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

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Work work.

As mentioned, I am here in Fiji to work for a year in the service of a Suva NGO called The Good Neighbour International. I work in a small office with a few people, and it really feels like a family.

This is where I work

This is where I work. All the people I live with are jealous of this setup, especially of my super plush and very business-like chair. A man could conquer nations from such a chair. Other items of note are my sweet laptop you might be able to see there in the foreground and the annoying but nice looking lamp. The lamp’s power cord falls out whenever I rejigger anything in the back of my computer so sometimes it can look like a rave party in our offices f I have to plug in a USB stick or change a network cable.

One of the first things I did when I started work was get internet working for myself and the other people in the office… I found out they have a 5 gig monthly limit and that if they go over that they have to pay, but I only found that out after a few days of pretty heavy use, so hopefully I haven’t gone over the transfer limit by much, or else I’ll be paying by the megabyte… which means eating tinned dog food for the rest of the month so I can pay off the bill.

The observant blog reader will notice the Fiji water bottle. Yes, they do sell a lot of Fiji water here, but it is up to 100% more expensive than other brands and we only buy it when it’s the only brand for sale.

Heavy casualties

The door in my office is always open, so every day I have a few unwanted guests visiting. The mosquitoes are sometimes pretty thick. This photo is how many I managed to kill the other day in the first hour of trade, however I was having a bit of a bad day at whacking them, I think I missed another 6-8. The first two days were the thickest, so I think I’m either getting on top of them or word has gotten out amongst the mosquito community to stay away. Either way I win.

My boss is an Indo-Fijian AOG pastor, and he is really nice, we call him either Pastor Paul or The Rev. There are two more people who work in the office doing various tasks, and also a lot of people who work in more practical stuff. I’m still meeting a lot of the staff, and it’s really hard to remember Fijian names at times, especially when you don’t speak Fijian.

Missi

This is Missi, he works just next to me. He likes to keep a pen in his hair which is surprisingly common apparently. He is a really nice guy. One thing Missi loves to do is make me tea. I drink about 2-3 cups of tea a day in the office, and it would be a lot more if I didn’t protest. Sometimes Missi tries to give me tea when I already have a full cup. He also laughs at all my jokes so we get on well.

I will be doing heaps of different tasks while I am here, from website content to database design, and video production. The role is really diverse so I’m pretty excited about it all. Especially since I get to sit in an office that is heaps nicer than many Australian offices I have worked in. Even if I do have to eat nothing but tinned tuna and toast every now and then… i mean I can’t NOT stream the ashes live can I?

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.