Monday, January 2, 2012

Around the World: Suva to Rakiraki

January 2, 1992

Learning a little bit about the population of Fiji.  The people are divided between native Fijian and Fiji Born Indians (FBI).  My experience with both peoples in the past few days suggest that although the native Fijian people are more welcoming and genuine, there are bad apples equally distributed between both groups.  For example, it's typically a native Fijian in the market who will carve your name into almost anything and then try to force you to buy it.  The FBI's will take any opportunity to rip you off.

I discovered truth in this stereotype while shopping in Suva.  I saw a white tank top with the Fiji Bitter logo and, since it's been my poison of choice during my stay, I thought it would make a nice souvenir.  I bartered with the shop owner (FBI) and haggled the price down from $10 to $3.  He begrudgingly agreed on the price and disappeared into a back room to get the shirt.  He returned, and handed me a securely wrapped plastic bag.  When I opened it later, I realized the bag contained a black tank top with the New Zealand All Blacks logo.  I'm not really unhappy with the substitution, just annoyed that I didn't get what I was expecting.

I also bought a pair of flip-flops that I have a feeling will come in handy in the future, if for no other reason but to wear in the shower.  I'm sure the shower floor sees something swiped over it from time to time, but it has a disconcerting look of nasty that suggests my skin really shouldn't be coming into contact with it.

Suva is still celebrating New Year's and the festivities continued until almost 6am this morning.  I heard the Banana Boat song about a dozen times echoing through the pawpaw trees.

The fruit of the pawpaw tree is believed to be
an effective alternative treatment for cancer

The bus ride to Rakiraki follows mostly dirt roads and includes a trip through (yes, through) a waterfall. When the bus passes by any populated area, the road is lined with children, armed with pails and buckets full of water that they toss at the bus as it passes by.  Everyone gets soaked, but even at night, being wet is only a brief reprieve from the oppressive heat and humidity.  It's a great laugh for everyone whether you are dishing out the soaking or receiving it.

A man on the bus invited Jeanette and I to his village.  I had heard that this is a fairly typical invitation and often a wonderful experience, but even still, we declined.  Whether or not this was a missed chance to experience Fiji at its finest, or a choice that kept me safe, I'll never know.

Anyone who wants to entertain the passengers with music is welcome to do so.  Tonight's entertainment is not the usual reggae I've come to expect.  This music has more of an Indian flavour with lyrics that repeat until the song finally ends.  "I live for you, I die for you", a song I was pleased to hear fade into silence, only to be followed by, "I love you, I love you, I die without you".  There's a distinctive and unsettling theme as the cassette continues.

It's late and dark when the bus arrives at the Rakiraki bus depot.  Jeanette and I are soon approached by three men.  One persistently asks where we want to go, another has a flashlight pointed at nothing useful, and the third just stands there as a sort of witness.  They guide us to a taxi and we ask the driver to take us to the Kontiki Lodge (where a bed in the dorm is $10).  Instead, we are delivered to the Rakiraki Hotel where rooms are $38.50.  I'm already tired from the late hour and the bus trip as it is, and now so very irritated with the relentless efforts to rip me off.  The driver obviously isn't expecting the wrath of woman.  As the two of us vehemently word-whip the driver, I notice a curious crowd is gathering to watch the show.  A few Fijian men interject some verbal support for us which is clearly making the FBI driver a little nervous.

Finally, the hotel manager comes out to see what the ruckus is all about and adds a few choice words of his own to the taxi driver.  He explains that this is a common scam among the drivers who get a commission for every person they bring to a hotel.  He apologizes and offers Jeanette and I a room with one twin bed, a washroom with a toilet and shower, a fan, a chair and our own personal gecko, all for the discounted price of $12.50.  It's late.  I'm tired.  It will do, for now.

• ¤ •

"If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power,
but for the passionate sense of potential -- for the eye which,
ever young and ardent, sees the possible. "

~Soren Kierkegaard