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Published: March 8th 2020
Welcome to Paradise,
In the queue to customs we are serenaded with a Fijian string band welcoming the flight weary passengers onto the island Viti Levu. But my stay in the resort town of Nadi won't be long as I make haste to the weather-side of the island and the capital, Suva. I will take rooms in there and use them as my basecamp to further explore, map and work over the next years - I hope you will not be too inundated with palm tree photos, I will attempt to give a little diversity, but with 2600 species that shouldn't pose a problem.
The tentacles of humidity grasps you, penetrating your clothes (and one's moustache) without mercy. But with the Fijian humidity comes the Fijian hospitality. Instantly welcomed by practically every passer-by and sometimes even at distance. Approaching my guesthouse on foot, a local gentleman walking down a perpendicular street turns and yells "Bula!", the Fijian for hello, at a 50m range, slightly shocked (and awfully British) I decide it can't be for me and continue my journey. The man is insistant and repeats his appeal. At this point I take off my bowler hat, loosen the buttons
There's a storm brewing
(there's always a storm brewing)
on my double breasted worsted wool pinstripe, turn to the gentleman and with a slight bow say "How do you do?", which sufficiently satisfies him and he shoots off, obviously in a hurry due to the unexpected delay in my response.
It doesn't take long to scout the local watering holes, with the help of an incredible taxi system. Metered cabs ply the towns highways and backstreets, at incredible rates (prices rather than speeds, which are moderate). Unfortunately, the price of beer here is what one might expect from London's waterwashed steets, so whatever you saved on the taxi you lose to the brewery, I will conduct an economic experiment involving the rum and report if savings are to be made here. The keen observer will note that in Suva there isn't a motorbike or bicycle to be seen, the reason of which is still a quandry that baffles me. One notion put forward by a gent in the Royal Suva is that locals and expats alike see no pleasure in being soaked in the regular storms that blow in from the Great South Pacific Ocean and with such a cheap cabs and buses the idea becomes abhorrent.
The Fiji and South Pacific in general is part of a constant balancing act. Climate and man pitted against each other, these rugged islanders can weather the cyclones and volcanoes, but what about the other challenges. Traditions hang in the balance of being overrun in an attempt to be able to maintain the economy. Imports bring materials to develop and envelop the island's culture. The threat of the year, corona virus looms in 'nearby' Australia and the locals and expats speak in ominous tones as everyone knows that if it makes it to the islands then turmoil will ensue. The culture of community means that cups, beds and food is shared everyday with practically anyone. The hospitals don't have capacity for creating isolated quarantine zones. If it comes it will spread like wildfire; the only barrier is the vast ocean surrounding them with a 2000km radius before reaching a major landmass. They have the ability to completely quarantine themselves, but to do so is to cut off the tourism that they so readily rely.
So here we are, poised, waiting for the next months. But we have friends, music and dance so nothing is ever too bad!
The custom of sharing drinks from the same cup
I invite you to share this with anyone who you think might enjoy an Englishman's tales of the high, getting higher, Pacific and abroad.
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