How to not be a bogan on your Fijian holiday.

Fijian people are the amongst the friendliest people in the world. So if you come to Fiji, it’s not like going to eastern Europe* or something where the gruffness and exterior demeanor can often be somewhere between “It is FREEZING here in the winter and I only listen to metal and any electronic music over 180bpm!” and “My year 6 exam had calculus questions in the easy section”. Having said that, if you act like a ridiculous bogan while you are in Fiji, the people here will still smile on the outside, but inside they will be recording stories of your behaviour to share with their friends. After all, there is nothing Fijian people like more than a good laugh. So here is a beginners guide I have put together, and if you follow most of this stuff you will most definitely not be a bogan in Fiji:

Learn how to pronounce bula – It’s not ‘bulla’ like the ice creams, ‘Boolah’ like some kind of cow cockatoo or whatever ‘bullarrrr’ is. Soft m at the start and emphasis on the second vowel (mBulA!).

Learn 3 or 4 words other than bula – I think if you know how to say goodbye and thanks that is a good few strides on the road out of boganville. Goodbye is moce (pronounced moh-they) and thanks is vinaka (pronounced as it looks). If you really want to impress, try au sa mamau (I am full of food).

Resist the urge to have your hair braded – My mum will argue about this cos she used to love it. Aside from being painful and annoying to take out after a couple of days, It can really look strange if you have a glowy white head and tanned face… just sayin. Give the braiding lady $20 and a hug and everyone will be happier. Or if you love hair braids, take them out before the trip home.

Leave the resort of your own volition – Go for a walk and see what you find. Often there are villages, markets and corner shops sitting 100m from the front gate of your nice hotel. Tours and day trips are good, but if you do it by yourself then that’s even more the bomb. Kapow!

If you do leave the resort, don’t later brag to your friends about how you saw the “real Fiji” – It doesn’t make you a bogan, it’s just annoying.

Try somewhere other than the Mamanucas, Yasawas or Coral Coast – These places are nice, but they are also safe. If you have more than a week, go somewhere a bit out there. The really touristy places can be a little bit Australia tourist ghetto.

The buffet is a privilege not a right – Seriously… this cannot be overstated. Act like a lion not a hyena. Did you know that jackals scavange less than lions? Nathan told me this and he works at the museum so I believe him. It ruined my joke until I thought of hyenas as a replacement.

Don’t complain about stupid things – If you book a holiday to a tropical country you are not allowed to complain about how hot it is outside. You are also not allowed to complain about the presence of mosquitoes if you are supplied with flyscreens and/or a mosquito net. If you book an island holiday you are not allowed to complain that there isn’t anything to do other than water activities. If you try to squeeze four people into a two person bure, you are most definitely not allowed to complain about how cramped and small your room is. If you have a legitimate complaint, like you are a celiac and they served you a pasta sandwich with a donut for dessert, then please be nice.

Speak with Fijian people, not at them – Ask them questions, and listen to the answers. Chatting is a national past time here, and people read the news religiously so they will have opinions on almost everything. Also… english is the official language so don’t be one of those guys.

Cover up where possible – In fijian villages women don’t show their shoulders or anything above the knee. So if you are brazillian or medeterranean we might have to have a quiet word afterwards about fashion. For everyone else, they are used to westerners wearing underwear to the beach, but just be discrete and sensible ok?

So that’s it! These are, of course, not hard and fast rules. You might want to go against this advice in certain situations, after all you are in Fiji on a holiday! You’re not a diplomat (probably? Hi diplomats!). As a whole though, I think most Australians could do a little better on the ‘not being a bogan’ side of things, so lets all do our best to limit the amount of southern cross stickers we slap on our utes to say… no more than five, and try to put one or two of these helpful guidelines into practice the next time we come to Fiji eh? Bonza mates! get a dog up ya!

Footnote:
* Despite this gross generalisation, I have many close friends from eastern Europe that are the warmest and loveliest people I know. I hope they all still talk to me after playing up their unwarranted and unfair stereotypes for cheap laughs.

Addendum:
Connie read this and thought I sounded like I am a little bit up myself and quite rude. She sent back a revised copy that I didn’t think was very funny, but definitely a lot nicer. I stuck with some minor edits of the original copy, but in fear that I may have offended some very lovely people such as my mum, I refer you to the following customer service flowchart. Please direct any complaints to me, the jerk who wrote this.

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Joose – The Thirst Quencher

Fiji is a hot country. People here get hot and thirsty. A hard earned thirst needs a big cold drink… and the best cold drink is Joose.

Joose, not to be confused with juice, is sold all over the streets in Suva either by the cup or by the bottle. The going rate at time of writing is 50c for a cup and $2 for a bottle, but if you are a whitey with an accent expect to pay up to twice that. Joose is somewhat of an all encompassing term, and there are really only two attributes that are common to all Jooses:

* Joose must be liquid… and
* Joose must be fruity.

This means that all kinds of things can be passed off as Joose, even things that are not in any way related to actual fruit juice. Here is a non-exhaustive guide to the do and don’ts, the can and can’ts and the what and whatnots of Joose.

1) Joose can actually be cordial
If your juice is particularly cheap, you are probably about to be handed a bottle or cup of cordial. Easier to tell when it is red or green cordial, but if it is lemon or orange you might not realise until you take a swig. Either way buddy, suck it up! Joose is not a drink for complaining whingers, you get what you are given.

2) Most of the time Joose is predominately Tang™
All the market sellers claim their Joose is juice, but their Joose ain’t just juice if the Joose house bin is littered with empty tang packets now is it? Indeed.

3) Joose may contain actual juice
If you find a Joose seller that sells Joose that tastes slightly different to all the other Joose sellers, chances are the guy adds actual juice to his Joose. This is a good thing! Latch onto it! Other clues your Joose may contain actual juice is if it is any way sour or bitter in taste, if the consistency is at all thicker than watery and if the hue looks different to other sellers.

4) Joose may actually be juice
I think this has happened once.

5) Joose can be substituted for kava if you aren’t the kava drinking type
Kava is more about the social aspect of sharing drink than it is about getting paralytic, so a bucket of Joose can easily be substituted for a tanoa of kava. Possibly a major contributing factor to the Fijian diabetes epidemic.

Joose really is a versatile drink. Next time you are in sunny downtown Suva man up and order a Joose. It’s the lucky dip of the beverage world. Besides, it’s gotta be better than the “water” we get from the taps sometimes.

Things Fijian People Like

Singing harmonies
Contrary to tales and folklore, not every Fijian person has a voice that would make angels weep tears of joy. In fact I’d say proportionally the number of amazing virtuoso vocalists in Fiji is similar to that of my home country, Australia. The general standard of vocal prowess though is top notch. You still get the odd guy or girl who sings a bit out of tune, but it is rare, and the average Joe in the street understands harmonies, can sing a fifth and has memorised his natural vocal part for about 200 different hymns.

Naps

Short back and sides
It’s manly, it ventilates, it’s $2.

Volleyball
It really is fun watching an unassuming and well rounded Fijian mama take apart a bunch of loud, shirtless backpacker jocks in a game of volleyball. They should really know better though, Fijians love playing volleyball, and they will mess you up at it if you give them half a chance.

Two minute noodles
Some prefer ‘Maggi’, others like the homegrown brand ‘Chow’. Here is an authentic local recipe for a dish called ‘noodle fiesta’ that some kids showed me at Kadavu:

8 packets of Chow noodles
2 tins corned beef
2 tins tuna

Boil 10L of water and put in a bucket. Break noodles into bucket and add spice packets. Stir. Wait for a couple of minutes, then serve noodles onto plate. Scoop corned beef and tuna onto noodles and stir through. Consume with cordial (aka ‘joose’).

It’s a good meal, but I’m not sure about the nutritional value.

Church
Church for a few hours and then lovo. The perfect Sunday. Church in Australia definitely feels a bit short now when I go to a service.

Political discussions
Fijians read the newspaper every day, and they absorb everything. They seriously put my feeble memory to shame. So if something happens in the political world, I no longer need to read the paper, because chances are my taxi driver or the people at work will tell me something about it. I know a lot about the uprisings in the middle east now. I mean, enough that I could probably be a political correspondent.

Schoolboy athletics meets
In Fiji, schoolboy athletics is more popular than adult athletics. The Coca Cola games is the biggest competition and it was just on. There was busloads of kids screaming, people everywhere, the coverage on the TV was national and the results made front page of the papers. For three days the whole of Fiji had massive ‘Coca Cola games fever’ and everyone was talking about it everywhere we went. I think it might even be bigger than rugby.

Slapstick comedy
If you do get hurt here, people are going to laugh at you.

Roti
These are so cheap and so good. The Indian diet has definitely been adopted by the whole country and roti are at the centre of it. It’s a good thing too, because there is only so much cassava a man can eat.

Greeting each other in the street
If you walk past someone you know, you have to say hello. Suva is about as populous as the shire, and the downtown area is only about as big as Miranda fair. I’ve been living here six months and I always run into people I know, so it must take Suva natives about an hour to walk across town with the amount of people they would be bumping into.

Children
People here actually don’t think of other people’s kids as annoying here. They actually dote on them, even picking them up and giving them hugs! What is that all about? In my world people just say that kids are important and valuable then treat them like inconveniences until they are old enough to vote, work and pay for things! Crazy backward Fijian culture!

Formalities
If there is an occasion, there is a speech.

“Mates rates” and the non-commerce-based implementation thereof
Gotta say that as annoying as this is, I probably would get involved in this in a big way if I was kaiviti.

Surprise dress regulations
Sorry… no thongs…. on Saturdays… and maybe Fridays…. and uh… long pants…. yeah wear those too… we like our club sweaty so you buy more beverages.

Putting money and clothes on performers mid-performance
I’m still getting my head around this one.

Top 40 hits
Since living here, I have grown a new appreciation for Rhianna, Akon, TI, Beyonce, Jason Mraz, Train, Lady Gaga and many others. I’m still not quite there on the ‘Beib train’ though, no matter how many times I hear it on the bus, in the taxi, on people’s ring-tones when you dial them or in the cluuub.

Corned beef
See: 2 minute noodles.

Bula shirts
Hawaiin print shirts that you can dress up for a formal dinner, or dress down for a day at the beach.

Pets
M: Bula honey, this cat followed me home. Can we keep him?
F: We already got 3 pregnant dogs, 4 cats, several mongooses and a chicken
M: You’re right, we need a bigger house.

Fruit
Totally understandable because it’s delicious here, and grows on countless fruit trees in every backyard and vacant block in the country. Despite this, our neighbours suckered Connie and Nikki into giving them our bananas off our only banana tree! They’re too nice for their own good sometimes.

On a personal note…

I’ve been commentating a lot so I thought I would strip it back a little and just give you an update as to what has been going on. Connie and I have been continuing in our assignments working on various tasks. Probably the coolest news from my assignment is that I might be helping start a prawn farm 😀 and Connie’s top news was that she was on the news, walking in the background of a village.

Our house is going amazing, we live with 3 other very nice people. Glen has got me addicted to football manager and I’m happy to report watford won the champions league and premier league double this season. Nikki has got me addicted to pacific splits which are like splits and splices back home, except they only cost 55c so we are in big trouble for our diets. Grace is our other housemate and we enjoy having verbal banter which usually involves me chasing her around the house whipping at her legs with a tea towel. So far I haven’t drawn blood (I’m sorry Coggo and Nath, I have failed you both).

Suva city is in the middle of hot season. If you check a 2 week forecast it is the same every day – 30 during the day, 24 at night, storm in the afternoon, mosquito plague invasions at night. It’s like clockwork. We had a 29 degree day last week and even the expats had themselves convinced it was a cold snap; people were wearing jackets and beanies in the streets.

We managed to get away again a couple of weekends ago to the yasawa island group, which is touristy Fiji. It was nice but now that I’ve been to some of the quiet out of the way places, I can’t hack the people or the prices of the tourist brochure Fiji anymore. There are so many nice people and places in Fiji.

I booked flights to come back to Australia, so stay tuned and hopefully I’ll have a night in the city where we can all hang out. I’m more of a small groups kind of guy, but I think with the time I have it is the only way to see all the people I love, and be around for things I really want to go to like church and birthdays.

I’ve muscled my way into a couple of sports teams over here. Tuesdays Is the day of DOOOOOM because I play a 45 minute half of full field soccer, and then play a basketball game in vodafone arena afterwards (which I might add is like an oven). I also play soccer Fridays, usually only a half game again. Both our teams are undefeated, but I’m not contributing much in basketball. I’ve scored one point in three games :\

Unfortunately the films coming out over the last couple of weeks have been a bit trash so I don’t have any reviews for you, but I did see a NZ film called boy that was very good, and I’m quite excited about suckerpunch. I’ve also been watching season 3 of the wire and playing guitar scales a lot.

Anyways, that’s all the news for now – take care people! Hit me up with your news if I forget to ask ok?!

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