F is for Fiji.
F is also for Fire, and Fun, and Fabulous, Friendly, Fearsome, Ferocious. Ok I just added that last one in there.
Sigh – what can I tell you about Fiji?
Let’s work backwards.
Let’s start at the end – the opposite of ‘a very good place to start’.
Or it is?
I’m sitting on the plane. Beside me is a family of 4. Not your typical family of 4 – though it seemed that way to begin with. The dad, he tells me all about how he spent his life travelling, ‘settled down’ late in life and wanted his children to really know the joy and pleasure of travel.
It is not running away. I can’t impress that enough. And sitting beside me was this man who just got it. His daughter, 4 years old, sitting sometimes on top of me, ”dread locks” pleated into her blonde hair, was to get it too. One day. Maybe. Hopefully.
Fast backwards to the start.
Something about Fiji had caught my attention. It certainly wasn’t the cost (why is everything SO EXPENSIVE?!) but a feeling in my heart, pulling me. Maybe it was other travellers who I’d met in wayward places, telling me it was amazing. It was. It is.
I can’t tell you much about the journey there. It had been a tumultuous few weeks, to say the least, in every avenue of one’s life that could be tumultuous. And as usual, I couldn’t wait to get on to a plane again. This. Is. What. Life. Is.
But I tell you this, I do remember getting off at Nadi. Stepping off that plane and on to the tarmac and feeling on my skin – the heat. Hitting me like a tsunami, overwhelming my senses. And it was visceral – This is going to be f**king amazing! And it was.
Of course like everything in Fiji, life ran in Fiji-time. I particularly enjoyed the serenading ensemble as we approached immigration – haha – so different to America. And then enjoyed my driver from the island having been told the wrong pick up time.
So I settled in, found a chair, opened a book and waited – Fiji style.
And sure enough – along came Paramesh – what a guy. He was obviously a bit flustered but given that he wasn’t given the correct time one could hardly blame him. And of course Fijian Indian. I think I was as fascinating to him as he was to me.
He talked the whole time we drove, telling me of his daughter (a GP in Suva) and even got the poor girl on the phone to speak to me! Cute. He was clearly very proud of her.
‘You are alone?’
We’ve been here before. I’m enjoying all the world’s ways of saying ‘What the f**k is wrong with you? Can’t you get anyone to love you?’
‘Why you not married?’
Well that didn’t take long.
I do find it interesting, that after 150 years of landing on to Fijian soil, those deep rooted Indian traditions just don’t seem to evolve in any way. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?!
The rest of the journey I barely remember, probably wondering if I’d appropriately deflected the topic.
Sure enough, he was happy to offer his son to me except I was Muslim and they were Hindu so, you know, god forbid.
Mind you, I think we may have had a few other issues besides baseline religious affiliations. Like language, culture, the fact he was about 15 years younger than me and let’s not forget I’d never actually met the poor fella. Minor issues really. Other than that I’m sure it would have been perfect.
Paramesh got very excited as we approached his hometown – ‘This is my school!’, ‘This is my house!’, ‘This is my shop!’. It was genuinely endearing. He even invited me to come and stay with him next time which leads me to my first Fijian observation – are they really all that genuinely friendly? Am I just so goddamn jaded that my initial reaction to that is ‘please don’t kill me’? (For the record, he didn’t).
As we arrived to the jetty where my ‘special boat’ was waiting to get me, we realised that my ‘special boat’ had not yet actually been despatched and that only the ‘jetty man’ was waiting there to receive the 9pm night cruisers from Robinson Crusoe Island. It was 7pm.
So Paramesh and I went on our merry way, grabbed ourselves a cuppa at the local teashop/pharmacy/grocery store where he proceeded to tell the entire neighbourhood that ‘She’s a doctor!’ Paramesh, you really need to stop telling people this. I’m actually very human.
One girl asked me, quietly, why she couldn’t get pregnant. They’d been trying for 4 years. Another lady jested, ‘how can I be less fat?!’ I was still stuck on the 4 year girl – honey, please go speak to an Obstetrician. I really can’t help you.
I can still see her face. Her eyes a quiet plead.
We have to leave! The boat is here! Oh goodness, that was quicker than I thought. Didn’t he know I was having a Deep and Meaningful here?
So off we skipped again, weaving towards the jetty.
As I get on the boat, I know I’ll see my good friend Paramesh again (I did) and proceeded to make my way to the island by moonlight. ‘Hope you don’t mind me switching the torch off, the big light is there’ the boat man said pointing to the sky as we chuntered off.
Wow that night was magical. ‘The big light’ did not disappoint. A quiet peace as we wove our way in and out of the rivulets. The sky was dark dark navy. The big light reflected just enough for me to make out the embankments. Clearly boat man knew where he was going for I did not. He told me he was the Captain. I wish I could remember his name, as I got to know so, so many of them on the wonderful Robinson Crusoe Island.
And as I approach, Saturday night, The Show is in full swing. Fire, music, lights, people. I feel an intrusion in every way.
This day had not worked out the way I had thought it would, it was all so carefully planned!
And that, my friends, is my second Fijian observation – nothing ever goes according to plan. Which probably isn’t a bad thing.
Time to check in, grab some dinner and hit the hay…almost…