Tuesday, 4 December 2012

These are a few of my favourite Fijian things

A friend emailed me the other day and asked me what appeared to be a simple question – “Do you want to be in Fiji?” This is different to the other obvious questions people ask (like “does it feel like you’re on one long holiday?”) because it doesn’t have an easy answer.

To put my quandary into perspective I received this email while in California seeing my mother, whose health is rapidly failing. Of course, my immediate reaction was I don’t want to be in Fiji, I want to be here with my mother. As the days passed, I started to wonder, do I really want to be in Fiji or would I hop on the plane back to the UK, given half a chance? Back to our son, our good friends and family, the cold and wet, the hell that is working in the UK public sector. Back to supermarkets, excellent healthcare, rampant consumerism and gross excess. When it was time to leave California, I did want to come back – to Anna and John and the cats and the quirkiness that is our life in Fiji. (Thank goodness for the kittens or else it would have been a close run thing).

I love living on the university campus. John can manage the odd lunch or coffee at home and evening work dos are varied and close by. Last night it was a cocktail reception for an English language conference that included wine and poetry reading. The landscaping is fantastic and the neighbours friendly. There is a wonderful Chinese restaurant on campus, the Southern Cross, which serves huge plates of delicious food for next to nothing. And because it is a university campus, there is always something interesting going on, like the carving of a totem by a team of Pacific Islanders and First Nation Canadians which you can drop in on when you walk past for a chat and to see how they’re progressing.

Ernest and Jeke working on the totem. I bought an ink drawing by Jeke which I'll post a photo of once the exhibition it's in is over.

I love that things we took for granted in the UK, like transport, can be adventures in themselves. Now, many expats here drive around in big black SUV type vehicles that come with their jobs. Not so families of humble academics. We travel by bus or taxi. The buses range from brand new air conditioned ones to vintage ones with no glass in the windows. Taxis are all of a certain age, but range from clean with functioning seatbelts to bone-rattlers that stink of petrol. The worst taxi ride I had was when I was driven home from the grocery store by a man that was probably legally blind. I was so terrified that I forgot to get his taxi number to report him to the authorities. There is a dearth of bespectacled middle-aged people here; including taxi drivers which leads me to believe that travelling by taxi is rather more dangerous than it appears.

The public bus. A trip to town costs FJ$0.70. Notice the well behaved, well groomed school child in front of me.

I’m not going to lie, I love not working (for now) and having a housekeeper who comes and executes her housekeeping magic twice a week. The contents of the dirty clothes baskets are found hanging freshly pressed in our closets, our beds made to hotel standard. Not only that, she also finds lost kittens in the dense bush, much to the relief of Anna and John, who lost one of the kittens twice while I was away.

I love the fact that while temporarily deprived of the internet and other human contact besides her parents, Anna taught herself how to play the ukulele. Yesterday, she had her first gig at the Home of Compassion care facility on her last day of work experience, when she took her ukulele and her electronic keyboard and performed a recital for the residents. They gave her a lovely card and one of the residents cried when she said goodbye – so sweet and poignant.

I love going to the fruit and vegetable market and getting unbelievably fresh fish from the small shop in Toorak then coming home to barbeque on our small patio with our newly planted lime and frangipane trees, surrounded by cheap tiki lanterns drinking Fiji Gold and watching the fruit bats.

So much good stuff, it's hard to stick to the shopping list when at the market 

I love the fact that when you’re flying here the plane is full of excited people heading for adventurous holidays. It’s like travelling to Europe 25 years ago, before people got jaded and long haul air travel became like cramped, overlong bus journeys.

I could dedicate a post to the things that I don’t love here, but instead I’ll give you a short list, in no particular order:
  1. Being sweaty. I have an aversion to perspiring that has kept me from going to the gym my entire life. Now I glow profusely just sitting at my computer. Yuck.
  2. Mosquitoes. Anna’s legs are covered in scars. I’ve got bites on the bottom of my foot right now. Torture. 
  3. Distance. This place really is in the middle of nowhere. There’s almost no point in sitting in a window seat when flying anywhere as for 99.9% of the time, you’re just looking at endless sea.
  4. Tile floors. This is related to the first point. Tile floors probably seem like a good idea. However, in high heat and humidity, water condenses from the air onto the tiles, so your feet feel damp all of the time. I’m sure that fungal infection is inevitable.
These lists are not exhaustive and will be added to in further posts. Things I love now I might grow to hate or the other way around. Such is life.

1 comment:

  1. Mary if it makes the sore foot feel any better last night if you'd still been working in Newcastle it would have taken you 6 hours to get home, why? 2cm of snow.