Bula Bula Fiji Time

Trip Start Jan 29, 2011
Trip End Apr 10, 2011

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Where I stayed
Danny's Homestay

Flag of Fiji  , Western,
Saturday, February 19, 2011

It was five thirty in the morning when we touched down. My first impression of Fiji was how genuinely helpful and pleasant the people are. I was able to sort out our accommodation woes easily which meant we got through all the arrivals hastle and checked in efore 7AM. Of course the room wasn’t ready until 12:30?!! With hours to wait and no place to sleep we decided to walk downtown to see the famous Siri Siva Sulramanija Swami Temple (whew!). Walking is an activity that should be discouraged when the sun is full, believe me!

Having arrived on the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, shops were closed and the streets relatively empty. Nadi isn’t much to look at… really a collection of small villages trying to mascarade as a city. The temple was a colorful display of Hindi beliefs which added to my confusion…. “Just where in the world are we??”

As we wandered down Queen’s Road a sense of having been there came over me. India, Africa, Indonesia… so man senses were triggered. Not just by the smells and the damp heat, but b the crops, music, skin colours and kick back mentality.

So, just when I’m getting in to this Shane finds (the only) tourist hype kiosk open where he gets talked in to attending a time share/credits presentation. Thought we decided years ago never again but he was offered a free Island Hopping cruise so what can I say? Well, those of you that know me know I had plenty to say! The outcome was a trip from the sublime to the ridiculous. The good news is that the sales guy heard us and realized that what he had to offer wasn’t for us though it did make a lot more sense then the usual Time Share offers we’ve heard.

So, back from our jaunt for a swim and a nice Valentines evening. First day in Fiji>

Day 2: Began with breakfast where we were joined by a delightful couple we’d met on day 1 (If you’re reading this we hope you make it up to Canada to test your bike on the road to our home!).

Taking a local bus to Namatakula Village involves a lot of questions (trying to figure the difference between Fiji time and actual time). It also involves turning down taxi drivers who try to convince you:

a) taxi is the same price as a bus

b) the bus has left already

c) “OK, so let me drive you some of the way, then you catch a bus?!”

d) the taxi is “easier for you”

In the end we took the last two seats on the express bus for about 1/6th the price of a taxi and a lot more fun. Chatted with our seat mates, viewed villages and towns (with interesting names on their stores like ‘Friendly Investment’ and ‘Care Chemist), forestry and fruit. We even got stopped on the side of the road as the funeral procession for their past President went by. Of course, with our egos we were sure all the school children and townspeople were lining the roadside to welcome us. I did say they are friendly didn’t I? Have to confess I had no idea the President had died and was sure he’d come to say hi as well! The flowers were a very nice touch.

Eventually the bus dropped us off at the side of the road where, true to what we’d come to expect, a woman we’d asked for directions got her grandson to walk us to Danny’s Homestay. With no signs it’s a good thing people are friendly!

So, a homestay in Fiji is very basic. The ocean is at our front door, the cooking is delicious, the bed (starts off) comfortable but there is no fan, no air, no porch…. So, when the heavy tropical storms started we sat inside listening to the pounding on our tin roof. Did manage to walk down the beach before the clouds gathered. The first bolt of lightening and thunder was a sure sign we were gonna get wet.

In a way it was good because it forced us to relax. We woke the next day (sort of) rested and ready to kick back. Met the local minister at breakfast, walked down the beach (farther this time) and just enjoyed beach life. The most exciting thing that happened was a meeting of a Japanese NGO, our Homestay owners and Fiji Gov’t officials (who were 4 hours late). It’s still going on but looks like the NGO will build an aquarium/ conservation area and re-build the coral reef out front. A joint effort that will change things around this sleepy village. With 25% unemployment in Fiji and tourism down by 60% (because of world economy and Australian weather woes) this could be very welcome indeed.

Day 3 at the Homestay we, well decided to leave home…. For the day. Went with Tupou by ocal bus to Sigatoka Town to stock up on groceries. She makes the 45 minute bus trip weekly because this town has the closest market. Didn’t realize how much I was appreciating rural life (with all it’s drawbacks) until we entered a souvenir shop….. Think I’ll have to ease myself in to that slowly. We bought fruit, vegetables and some cloth then hopped on a mini bus for home. Did some laundry which guaranteed the downpour (otherwise known as the extra rinse cycle). Oh well, live like the locals live. Not sure about the geckos fornicating in the toilet area but, well, it’s entertaining!

Here’s what we learned:

East Indians, brought here by the Btits as indentured workers to work the sugar cane fields and now many of them are wealthy farmers and business men.

School is compulsory but, if you don’t have the money to pay for it your kids can’t go. The parent’s cost is $15/child/term + uniform for elementary and much more for high school. The government gives $30/child/year and just started supplying textbooks this year. There are scholarships available but only for the very smart.

Kava (local nasty liquid narcotic) is a big problem. Makes very lazy! But one of the men here doesn’t want to be lazy so he doesn’t drink…. I still am waiting to see him awake before 10AM.

Indo Fijians are, for the most part, educated and wealthy. The villagers don’t trust hem. They live in cities, not in the villages. Thee seems to be a grudging respect for them along with a lack of trusts.

On our last day in Navamakula Village we visited the school after wandering around the town visiting friends and relatives with Tupau. The School is clean and orderly with happy precocious little ones willing to sing for us. The head mistress took us around during lunch to see all the classrooms. The small donation we gave will buy paint for the school. She told us this as she handed us a neatly written receipt.

Now, as I write this, I am sitting in the lobby of Mana Island Resort. What a change up from the village. We were upgraded to the honeymoon suite which means we have a Jacuzzi tub, private deck, huge comfy bed…. Hmmmmm….. Can’t believe this is the same country!
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Marge Groves on

I see you have moved into the long dresses in that hot humid climate. Good choice (I think it was Figi where I learned that too)! Keep having fun! Clear blue but minus 8 at Big White. Skiing is good! Can't wait to read the next installment!

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