Saturday, December 31, 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
When we checked in, we were met with the dreaded words, “indefinite delay.” It was about 7:40am and our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:35 but nothing would happen until the plane we were due to fly out on arrived and there was no indication at all of when that would happen. As time dragged on, I started to get a bit concerned about our chances of getting to Suva and then to Nadi in time for our flight to Auckland, which was scheduled to leave at 2:10pm. I really, really wanted to get to Auckland that night, since we are only going to be in New Zealand’s largest city for one week. After a few announcements of delays, we were treated to the sight of the twin turbo-prop ATR-42 500 approaching Labasa around 10:20. We boarded and took off about 25 minutes later for the quick 30-minute flight to Suva.
It’s a small 2-bedroom with a veranda, but conveniently located within walking distance to the main attractions in this bustling, modern city, quite the contrast from the Fijian village where we had spent the last two weeks.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
In the early morning hours, we awoke to the blackberry alarm to pack our things and move onto our next location. As we rounded up our final belongings and said our good byes to our foster cat, Rafael, while we gave him the last of our cheese slices, Sirah’s taxi rattled into the drive way. Our silent companion and ambassador of Savusavu, it only seemed fitting for Sirah to give us one last ride to our departing leg of travel.
We had gone down this bumpy, largely muddy, unpaved road almost daily over the last two weeks. It was just at the crack of dawn with the sun barely starting its ascent into the day. It was hard not to be reflective on the first stop of our grand family adventure.
It was Fiji’s summer season so it was definitely at the peak summer temperatures. This meant lots of heat and humidity along with a steady application of Deet to keep the bug bites to an annoying but manageable level. As we discussed the town of Savusavu in general, we remarked on how, as a visitor, it was difficult to see some of the offerings in town.
Having been from a culture where the marketing efforts are painstakingly honed to drive specific consumer behavior, we found the hand lettering and shear mass of words an interesting part of the city landscape. More than once we remarked,…”Hey, I never saw that sign that says you can rent bikes and scooters.”…..or “Hey, I never noticed that Inn over there.”
One of our favorites was a fish store that specialized in “Anything to do with Paper”. While you are buying your Wahoo, you can get some letterhead made. How convenient!
There was also one of our favorite offerings of the DVD store. You walked into a store with video cases arranged by category. You would pick your video case and bring it to the counter to get your “bootleg” copy for $2 Fijian which is just about $1US. That certainly fit in our budget!
The entire family agreed that the most beautiful aspect of the Fijian islands was the Fijian people. Here is a country that is clearly living with minimal material comforts and generally low paying jobs. Their homes are largely plywood and corrugated steel, usually with no windows. Bill noted one house we passed with its door open on our way to depart. There was a TV and a smattering of possessions along the floor and a man reading a paper in the lone chair. Chickens and roosters intermingled in the yards amongst the clothes lines which were hung virtually everywhere. Stray dogs ran happily around town weaving amongst the taxis and the local market.
Despite what appeared to our worldview as a window into poverty, we did not encounter one person begging for food or money. Crime seemed generally non-existent. And there was always a warm smile and “Bula!” from every person we met. In addition, the island was made up of a mix of Fijian, Indian and other Asian cultures with a dash of Aussie or Kiwi thrown into the mix. Racial tension seemed non-existent.
As we move through this journey together, starting off with an example of true human kindness, tolerance, gratitude and cooperation was a great view on a life to aspire to.
We are forever grateful to the Fijian people and in tribute to our kind and gentle taxi driver…Que Sirah, Sirah!
Monday, December 26, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
It is Thursday morning in Fiji. We arrived in Savusavu last Friday afternoon. The airport was likely the smallest one that we have ever been to. An interesting note….when we got our boarding passes for this flight, each of us had to actually stand on the scale with our daypacks to get weighed. Although we were assigned seats, once boarding began, we were reshuffled according to our weight and given new seats accordingly. Now that is some serious weight and balance exercise.
We were directed to a local Indian/Fijian cab driver who went by the name of Sirah even though his cabbie license has him listed as Devindra. Sirah has adopted us and is our “go to” guy in Fiji. His hair is as white as my Snowflake locks so it makes it easy for each of us to spot the other.
Sirah’s cab is an interesting white Toyota Corolla station wagon with the inside retrofitted with a red, brown and gold velour fabric seat covering ensconced in what reminds me of a grandmothers’ plastic seat cover to protect it from the debris of its passengers. It rattles along the dirt road to and from town and I keep waiting for parts to start shaking themselves loose.
Fiji is definitely more like a 2nd or 3rd world nation. We took a drive with Sirah around the island yesterday. People live in fairly primitive “huts” as Sirah called them. It’s hard to tell if they have electric or not. Usually when you can spot a wire it is obvious that there isn’t much power going to these homes. Because of this lower income economy, Fiji is quite affordable especially compared with somewhere like Hawaii. A beer at our favorite wifi spot is a $1.50 US during happy hour. You can get a decent burger for $4US.
The Fijians couldn’t be nicer. Everyone greets you with the local hello…Bula. Usually said Bu-LAA!! Enthusiastic waves are the norm as we drive around the island from the people waiting at bus stops to those hanging out in their yards. You spy the occasional goat, chicken and cow roaming the landscape. We even spied a bunch of piglets on our road into town.
The culture is a mix of local Fijians and Indians with the occasional Australian and New Zelander. Kangaroos and Kiwi’s respectively.
Hermit crabs are adorable and are everywhere on the beach. They come in a variety of sizes including an uber-mini size. They are also like toy cars are to boys and keep Ben occupied for hours. We have had a lot of fun catching them, racing them and just comparing their “houses”.
Snorkeling in the ocean is quite spectacular and even more so when you haven’t been delivered to a coral reef in a boat filled with other travelers. We went just off our beach and it was relaxing and brilliant and we will do it often. I was fortunate enough to see a manta-ray take off about 10 inches in front of me. We also met the owners of a local Dive operation and they have offered for us to come out snorkeling for free. WE are hoping to do that tomorrow.
Off to the Wifi café and a download. Love and hugs!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
As I sat there trying to get some sleep in between their yowls, my head became filled with strange thoughts. One of which was what were we going to miss on December 15th? We left Los Angeles on December 14th and we landed in Nadi, Fiji on December 16th. What sort of massive news event were we running the risk of not enjoying 24/7 news coverage? Charlie Sheen going on a Tiger Blood and Warlock filled internet rampage? Occupy Deer Park protestors spilling into Kennedy Heights and Silverton? Tim Tebows visage being carved into Mt. Rushmore?
Looking over the Wikipedia list of events that happened over the years on 12/15, the only one that really stands out happened in 1933 when The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution officially became effective, repealing the 18th Amendment that prohibited the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol. I may just have to celebrate that with some coconut beverage at some point today, on December 16th.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
We took that as a good omen and shortly after we saw that, we got the call from the visa agency that our passports and visas were, indeed, leaving New York and scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, giving us a solid 36 hours in our possession before leaving Wednesday night for Fiji. Lesson in faith and patience learned.