Originally settled by the Austronesians and later by the Melanesians, Fiji was a British colony from 1874 to 1970. Apparently, the Empire left it alone for such a long time … Continue reading Goodbye Fiji, It’s Been a Wananavu of a Time
One thing I promised my parents before I left was that I wouldn’t do anything life threatening unless I had friends around who I would trust to get me to the hospital.
So, now that I have friends it was time to go diving.
Yesterday we got the instructions: press this button to go down, this button inflates your buoyancy device, if you need to clear your mask send a big puff of air through your nose, and above all, on the way down, constantly equalize your ears (we work in TV, this was a lot to remember for our pop culture brains).
We practiced in the pool, turning a sparkling blue pool into one filled with three eel like substances wearing gear and slithering around on the bottom.
This morning we had our dive, we sat in the boat, and added on our weights (about 10lbs), our jackets and our tank (so heavy), and then we had to sit on the edge and flip ourselves overboard. We did not practice this in the pool – trying to get your brain to do something that logically results in, “head hits boat, blood everywhere, sharks come to clean up the mess on aisle 3” is difficult.
Eventually we were in the water, climbing our way down a rope, equalizing our ears by shaking our heads and squeezing our noses…and then we were diving! And then we saw a turtle! It was pretty magical.
We glided along, at one point 11m down (where we saw the turtle), came up and immediately asked “can we go again?”
The boat stopped and our guide gave us instructions, “this is the manta ray channel, we’re going to drift down, being quiet, when we get to the part with the current, the boat will pick us up and we’ll do it again, 3 or 4 times.”
We spent the next ten minutes with our eyes peeled at the water, hoping to see some sign of life.
Just when whispers of “do we get a refund if we don’t see any rays?” were starting to bubble up, the guide yelled “There! Get ready, go!” And we all just lept out like we knew where we were going. We didn’t.
The guide had said “That way!”, so we went That Way. Then it changed to This Way and back to That Way. From the boat (who was not making an effort to pick us up) it must have looked like a beginner’s senior water ballet class: a bunch of uncoordinated people who couldn’t follow directions that kept popping up to say “What did he say?, I can’t hear anything” and “I can’t see anything, can you?”
My friends (I have friends! They arrived from LA to rescue me from dorm life! Everything is better with friends) caught on early and said “alright, slow down, we are know what you’re doing and we came here to relax.” Having just gotten off a long flight, they eventually made their way back to the boat, filled with the belief that this was a scam, there were no manta rays, it was only an excuse to laugh at the tourists attempting aqua aerobics and make them work a bit for dinner.
Twenty minutes later, and at least one dinners worth of calories burned, I did manage to see a manta ray – it was huge, and it buggered off pretty quickly when it heard an approaching pod of people coming to get it.
As we all piled back into the boat, the driver asked everyone if they had seen it, about half of us put up our hands. “To those who didn’t see it, at least your friends did”
(I promise I was not paid five dollars to say that I saw a ray)
“It’s like pot” people said, “it will mellow you out.”
And thus, I was very excited for night of kava, or grog, a totally legal drink that might open my brain up to what light drugs were like (I’m not looking for light drugs, but scientifically, it would be good to relate to the cool kids sometimes)
Plus, according to Wikipedia:
“Despite its psychoactive effects, kava is not considered to be physically addictive and its use does not lead to dependency.”
Everyone in Fiji drinks kava, most daily, because it “helps after a long day.” It’s a social drink: everyone sits on a mat, around a big wooden serving bowl. As portions get despensed, you clap – once before you drink and then everyone claps three times after you finish. In between rounds people tell stories, play music, sing songs, it’s a really nice way to spend an evening.
The drink is made by drying out the kava plant (you let it grow for 5-10yrs), pounding it into a powder and then mixing it with water. It’s looks and tastes like muddy water, with the added seasoning of pepper.
After the first drink, your tongue goes numb, kind of like you’ve gone to the dentist and they given you just a little bit of Novocaine, not so much that you’re slobbering and are not sure which side your tongue is hanging out of, but enough so that you ask “where’s my tongue? Oh, there it is.”
As you keep drinking the numbness progresses to the back of your throat and you wonder if you have tonsillitis (having no idea what that feels like), and then your lips feel puffy. None of this is unpleasant, but I imagine if it were stronger you would start to like you got free collagen injections in all the wrong places.
As for the after effects, personally I didn’t feel mellow, I’ve never brushed my teeth with such vigor, and I’ve never wanted to send so many texts relating my night of not-at-all-badassery, but didn’t because my brain ultimately decided that would be lame.
So, still don’t know what the cool kids are on about, but I can say that I’ve tried a drink that most the cool kids have never heard of.
“Don’t let the bed bugs bite” Sara said as I left dinner to take a shower.
It was inevitable. Having escaped the great bed bug invasion in New York a couple of years ago (when even Bloomingdale’s wasnt spared) my luck was bound to catch up to me.
7am this morning, my hostel roommate, Sara wakes me up and asks me if her eye looks puffy. To be honest, I couldn’t tell. However, at breakfast, an hour later she proceeded to tell us how she felt itchy and then rolled up her sleeves and trousers to reveal giant red welts everywhere.
We jumped back, raced to the room and inspected the sheets – sure enough tiny little bugs had migrated to the other beds. Photos were taken, clothes were gathered. The hostel sprayed the room and tried to convince my roommates (at this time, I was off hiking in the jungle, barefoot, less worried about bed begs and more worried about tropical dieseases) that it was safe to go back in.
Luckily my roommates were no dummies and demanded different, upgraded rooms.
So now we sit in our upgraded rooms, showered, laundered, and slightly itchy – hoping that we haven’t brought any with us, hoping that the red marks we are scratching are from mosquitos and not from horrible, horrible bed bugs.
Note: as of now, I’m not infected
Everyday travelling is like a first date, which means by the time I get back I should be medicore at first dates. Where are you from? Siblings? What do you do? Who would win in a fight, zombies or aliens?
That last question is actually important, do you actually think dead, brainless humans would win against space travelling aliens?
Most the time all of this is just asked because it is what you do when you don’t know anyone, but occasionally you feel a connection with someone and conversation becomes more than cursory and veers into the fliratious.
If you have an over anxious brain, this means you spend time wandering whether it’s real or whether they are just talking to you because you’re on a tiny island and there aren’t many other options.
Anyways, I met such a person and at some point soon, we may be in the same city, so I asked for his contact details. He gave me an email address, which in travelling circles, is suspicious – unless you have something to hide (wife, girlfriend, kids, obsession with cats) you give out your Facebook info (easier to remember a face). An email address could be fake (luckily this one did not come with numbers and was not email@example.com) and never replied to – the person could just vanish away.
To sound like Carrie Bradshaw, “is it ghosting if it’s just passing through?”
There is something so fun about transportation without seatbelts, you feel like you’re breaking all the rules. Transportation without even optional seatbelts, now that is living on the edge, literally, … Continue reading Today’s Method of Transportation
1. Wear clothes, they help you slide and keep you from developing “rock burn”
2. Wear strudy clothes, this will prevent inappropriately positioned holes from cropping up
3. Occasionally you will get stuck, they are natural slides, not engineered to be one size fits all, try not to think this means you need to diet
Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have a husband? Do you have children?
One the one hand, these questions could be percieved as progressive, “Do you have a boyfriend and is he so awesome that he is okay with you travelling around by yourself for the year while he takes care of your three children?”
On the other hand, the one I use most, I think “Why are you asking? Are you interested? I rate your opening line as a little forward, but I guess the world is coming to an end soon and no one has time for “what’s your name?””
One of the first question out of Fijian mouths is “Do you have a boyfriend?” If I answer no, the follow up question is “Husband? Kids”? I don’t think it’s meant to be creepy but to a New York brain it does have a little bit of a “I need a wife” or “I am recruiting for this cult and I need to find unattached women who could bear children” air about it.
I’ve been told that these questions are in fact because here people are constantly looking to arrange someone with someone they know.
According to my current host to fend off this potential hoard (my host has an exaggerated idea of how many times this happens to me) I am to say that I have a husband. For extra emphasis, I’m going to add that I have three kids, and am such a bad mother that I’ve abandoned them for a year. Where’s my ring? Oh, my fingers got puffy in childbirth and I havent been able to wear it since.
I hope two things:
1. Someday soon people stop asking this question to lone travelling women (or anyone)
2. The world changes enough that women can answer this question honestly without feeling like they have just surrendered themselves.
Bula (hello) from Fiji!
Yesterday was one of those days that probably should have a been a travel disaster, but inexplicably wasn’t: nothing ran according to any schedule I had found on the internet, but somehow it all miraculously worked – possibly all thanks to Jesus.
I had to get from the tourist hub of Nadi to the tiny island of Nananu-i-Ra, on the north side of the main Fijian Island. I’m staying at a place called MacDonald’s Cottages, and they would send a boat for me to Ellington Wharf, last boat at 5pm.
The question was – how to get to Ellington Wharf? Lonely Planet said the wharf was a 20 min walk from Kings Road (the main road) and I could get the bus to drop me off at the intersection. Great, so now I just had to catch a bus. The bus along Kings Rd starts in a town called Lautoka, which is 45mins from Nadi. There were a couple of ways to get to Lautoka: taxi (too expensive), bus (times didn’t match up), or minivan – they leave once they are full. Okay, so now I only had to get to the minivan station – and a taxi could do that.
Luckily, I am a bit of a worry wart when it comes to being somewhere on time, so even though the hotel in Nadi recommended I leave at 10:30a, I trucked off around 9:30a and got to the minivan station where, if I paid for two seats (one for me and one for my bag) they could leave right away – seemed worth the $4Fijian Dollars. Arriving in Lautoka, I walked to the bus station and in an onslaught of people someone directed me to stand at Platform 12, a bus pulled up and apparently it was the one I wanted. A painted sign on Platform 12, as well as the internet said the leaving time was 12:15pm, actual leaving time was 11:40am (no idea what would have happened if I had turned up at 12pm)
Clearly looking like I had just arrived from outer space, I was directed to sit right up front, so that I could remind the driver to stop at the intersection.
Around 2p, I was dropped off at a road and told to walk “that way.”. About five mins later while I was contemplating how big my dinner needed to be, a truck containing four men pulled up. They asked where I was going, “The Wharf”. They said they’d give me a lift – now, I know this is not advised, and now I that I think about it, they could have turned the car around and kidnapped me, but yesterday I only thought “well the road ends at the wharf, so I guess it will be okay”.
As soon as I got in the car, the driver began preaching the healing powers of Jesus Christ, and according to him, our meeting was destined because turns out they were also on their way to Ellington Wharf to baptize their friend and hopefully cure his gout.
So, Jesus helped get me to my boat on time, but I also blame Jesus for not giving me the exercise I needed to eat a big dinner: it’s possible Jesus is suggesting I go on a diet.