I heard Suva described as a ‘Melanesian New York’ in a song recently. That might sound like a bit of a stretch, but relative to the rest of the South Pacific, it is a megatropolis. And like all ‘big’ cities, it can be frustrating. It can be delightful. But the fascinating thing is how quickly what at first appears strange and exotic becomes ordinary and routine. I can go for days now without even remembering that I’m in a country that’s not my own. Of course, this could be because I haven’t lived in my own country for well over two decades. Or it might be a sign that I’m getting into a rut. But the most likely explanation is that I’m just a little dense.
However, there are a couple of thing that I cannot get used to – things I don’t want to get used to. Things that are like a slap in the face with a wet walu when I encounter them. Like the way animals are treated here. And I’m not just talking about the locals. We’ve rescued ten cats while we lived here and that doesn’t include the one that sneaks into the house occasionally to steal kibble. Nine of these cats descend from just one unspayed female owned by an expat who, when he left the neighbourhood, took his two male cats with him, leaving poor pregnant Goldie behind. Some of her offspring were already roaming the neighbourhood by the time we inherited her, including a lovely female who had been adopted by another expat family in the neighbourhood – and left behind unspayed and pregnant when they moved as well.
Seriously – what is wrong with you people? Granted the SPCA doesn’t always have a vet in house, but they usually do – and spaying and neutering are not expensive. And don’t get me started on dog owners. When we lived in the Caribbean, there were canines charmingly known as ‘dumpster dogs’. These were generally a docile group what all sort of looked like…well, like “dog”. Black and brown and medium-sized these animals had obviously been self-perpetuating until they reverted to a canine variety that I imagine the original pooch looked like around a Neanderthal’s campfire. The packs of feral dogs roaming around Suva, on the other hand, look like a motley group of mutts of all different types, some of which are obviously abandoned pets. And occasionally you come across a dog that you think is dead or at least should be dead – eyes infected, covered in mange and festering wounds. For these dogs I usually carry around a tin of meat with a pull-top lid. However, reflecting the futility of this, I now think that I should carry around a lethal injection instead.
|Life is a lot less stressful if you're not having constant litters of kittens.|
Recently we’ve come out of the other side of a dengue fever epidemic. Dengue is one of those neglected tropical diseases that are neglected because they only affect one billion or so people or so. Did I mention that they are the one billion poorest people on the planet? Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus that leads to a flu-like illness that can become haemorrhagic and lethal. It’s a scary illness with no real effective treatment or vaccination. The advice from healthcare professionals was alarming – take Panadol and drink plenty of fluids and go to the hospital if you start bleeding out of any of your orifices (including your pores).
|Save your paranoia for mosquitoes, not sharks.|
When I’m not getting worked up about women and animal rights or the priorities of big pharmaceutical companies, I do occasionally get out and enjoy myself. Recently a friend and I went to the Crest Chicken Sulu Jamba Competition. We were the only kaivalagi there except one of the judges, which was a shame as it was a great afternoon out. It was serious but the mood was light-hearted with amazing designs of the traditional shirt/skirt combination modelled by women of all shapes and sizes. There was also entertainment, quizzes with prizes (mostly frozen chickens) and free ice cream. It was one of those quirky things that keeps living in this city interesting.
|Rusila showing off her amazing sulu jamba skills|
And with all of these visitors, we’ll be able to tick a few more things to do off of our Fiji list. We’ll let you know how it goes.