Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
263Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
The Fijian hotel staff at Sunset outnumbers the guests five to one. They greet new arrivals with happy songs and bid farewell to those leaving with sad ones. Then they play volleyball...for at least four hours a day. Between matches they rest in the guest hammocks. Aside from that they do little else.
"Why don't they go out and catch some fish? We come to an island in the middle of the South-Pacific and they feed us chicken, goat and beef." Ellen complained.
"Chickens, goats and cows are easier to catch." I yelled back to Ellen as both myself and one of the maids made a mad dash for a newly freed hammock
At most island resorts new guests are treated to the Kava ceremony before their first dinner. Everyone sits, legs folded on the floor in the centre of the dining area. The head man takes the six year old root of the Yaqona plant which has been wrapped in a cloth. He then squeezes it in a wooden cauldron of water extracting the supposed narcotic properties of the Yaqona plant. As he sits chanting and working away at the cloth bag he looks much like a man washing his socks. When he's finished, the Kava solution looks like it's had many socks and maybe some underwear washed in it too. The vile potion is then scooped out in halved coconut shells and handed to the new-comers. Before accepting the drink the guest must clap his/her hands once and say "bula"; a word that means "hello" plus I'm sure a great number of other things. Kava tastes like Metamucil and works much the same way. Ellen says it makes her tongue tingle. The whole thing sounds pretty hokey, but for a couple of nights when Ellen and I were the only guests we got the opportunity to watch "real" Fijian life. Men sat around the Kava cauldron drinking to their hearts content, while the women and children formed their own circle off to the side. No communication occurred between the two groups. One afternoon a new group of ten or so arrived. At the beginning of the Kava ceremony, Jay the head man, introduced Ellen and me who were sitting off to the side by saying "I would like to introduce you to Jack from Canada and his wife."
The next morning we were speaking with one of the new-comers, an Austrian woman who said to me, "I am sorry, I do not remember your name." After telling her she looked to Ellen and said "Your name is easy to remember
One night we ate dinner with an Argentinean couple from New Zealand and another couple from outside Vancouver. 'Argentineans living in New Zealand, how interesting.' I thought to myself. I decided to test the waters carefully with Manuel and Gabriela. "So whatever brought you to New Zealand? I asked.
They explained government corruption and the bottom falling out of the economy in Argentina as being the motivators.
After about ten minutes or so of back and forth I heard a Freudian call and decided to let one slip. "The people sure are cold in New Zea...whoops, I'm sorry. I meant to say the weather sure is cold in New Zealand."
Gabriela caught Ellen's smile and said "You're damn right. They are the coldest people on the planet. I have been working at the same place for four years and have not one friend. Everyone ignores me. Won't even say hello."
"I have two friends." Manuel said. "Nick and..."
"Nick and Nick and Nick. Gabriela jumped in animatedly, "Who's your other friend Manuel? You have only ever mentioned one to me. Don't lie to these people you have never met
"Okay, okay only Nick." Manuel replied meekly.
"Sounds Greek." I said.
"Greek hmm I never thought about...let me go on." Manuel continued. "New Zealanders, almost all of them, act polite and friendly, but they don't mean it. If you look into their eyes as they complete a friendly greeting type smile the smile will suddenly vanish as though it was never there. And they don't travel anywhere, not even between their own islands."
I shuddered. "They are the Stepford Wives, a demon seed banished perhaps to those small hellish islands by the Australians or the British?
Manuel had no response to this suggestion, but the guffawing started. Like small children we sat around the table talking about white bread, not-so-known 60's music and fish that needs to have its thick batter peeled before it can be eaten.
Our other dinner mates, the British Columbian couple were both very nice until we told them we were from Toronto. The woman who went by the name Wife was unaffected by this revelation
And Ellen, loving these types of homeland confrontations stepped in ever so meekly, "Why do you hate us so much?"
The inevitable trained parrot response was "Because Ontario thinks it's the centre of the universe."
This was of course the moronic answer that Ellen had been waiting for. She was just about to level the cannons when I jumped in and said "Gee, most of the places we've been to on this journey don't even know that Canada, let alone Ontario even belongs to this universe."
Then firmly holding Ellen and whispering "let's have a pleasant evening" I continued. "Manuel did you know that British Columbia has two famous sporting distinctions in Canada? The most valuable players in two American sports, baseball and basketball have been Canadians from British Columbia; Larry Walker a baseball player and Steve Nash more recently in basketball."
This brought a smile to the face of the Vancouverite. "All Canadians are very proud of these B.C. natives." Was I defusing flare-up or being a wimp? I'm never quite sure when I get into the middle of these things. Even though we love them, Larry Walker and Steve Nash probably hate us just as much as the moron across the table.
It's the damnedest thing, how these British Columbians can develop an instant dislike for people they've never met. Someone, perhaps an evil dictator from Alberta planted this "centre of the universe" notion in their heads.