Tropical Isles

Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
Trip End May 10, 2005

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Flag of Fiji  ,
Friday, May 6, 2005

Bula! (That's hello in Fijian.) We departed Auckland early Tuesday morning and are now on a glorious beach just outside Nadi (prounouced "Nandi"), Fiji enjoying the sun and the birdsong. In fact, we almost missed our plane - didn't confirm our booking and the plane boarded about 45 minutes earlier than we anticipated! Good thing Martin looked at the departures monitor!)

I met an interesting fellow on the plane who was seated next to me. He was a New Zealander who had lived in Fiji for six years and was employed training teachers there. He said that Fijian teachers have very little formal training. There are currently about 15 Australians/New Zealanders working with teachers here. He said that the main difficulty with the education system is the high-stakes exams that students are expected to write (and that teachers are expected to instruct for).

Fiji (population 800,000) is actually comprised of 320 islands, the largest of which includes the major cities, Nadi and Suva. Half the inhabitants are Fijian; the other half are Fijian Indians. The official language is English, though Fijian and Hindustani are also commonly spoken. The Indians tend to own most of the businesses and have most of the power in the country (their current president is of Indian origina). This has led to widespread tension between the Fijians and the Fijian Indians. A few years ago, there were riots and an attempted coup.

The country, of course, relies heavily on tourism, but also produces sugar cane and fruit for export (pineapple, bananas, papaya). We noticed a lot of imports from Australia and New Zealand in the stories.

The hotel we're staying at is just outside Nadi (pronounced "Nan-dee"), not far from the airport. It is owned by a New Zealander Canadian from Vancouver who happened to be there during our stay. He also has property in the Cook Islands and his family runs a number of the Sphagetti Factory restaurants in Canada. He emphasizes to us the importance of including the local people in the manangement of businesses, so that they will have take greater ownership and responsibility, particularly since he is unable to be there very often. The manager of the Aquarius owns a 25% share of the business.

Seems like there are dogs everywhere here - most of them appear to be well fed and taken care of, though the hotel owner says that they're a problem because no one spays or neuters their pets. We've been woken up by dogs barking or roosters crowing every morning.

Everyone is so friendly here. People smile and say "Bula" (hello) so readily. They don't even try to sell you swords inscribed with your name like they used to . . . .
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