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March 9th 2012
Published: March 9th 2012
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We arrived at Nadi airport in Fiji about 2pm on February 28th, it was extremely hot when we got off the plane. Del's very good friend Azinta was collecting us, so we began to wait in the queue at passport control. Whilst we were waiting, we saw a young airport worker coming towards us and he asked if we were Anton and Kate! We replied yes and he told us to follow him! He took us to the head of the queue and right through to baggage check and then onto meet Azinta; it was our quickest time through an airport yet! After greeting Azinta, she explained that he was the boyfriend of her daughter and offered to come and get us through all the checks quickly. We went back to Azinta's house, well one of her two houses! They had just built a new house next to their previous house but were still in the process of moving in and were still living mostly at the old house. Azinta put us in a bedroom in her new house; it was lovely! We settled in and then went with Azinta to pick up her husband, Jone, from work (he is a pilot for Pacific Air) and then went back to their house. We met their grandson, Dylan, who was being looked after by a nanny - most working families pay for a nanny or house keeper; they earn between $60-$90 (20-30 pounds) per week! We chatted with Jone and met their son in law, Trevor before heading out to look at the town and get Dylan a McDonlads. That night we met their daughter, Tirah (Dylan's mum), their son, Jone and their youngest son, Herman and enjoyed a dinner of stir-fried beef; I was so glad it wasn't a spicy curry! We had a fan in our bedroom but it was still a very hot and muggy night, so we didn't sleep too well.

The next morning we ran some errands with Azinta in town and had to buy a new lonely planet guide as Anton had looked for it and said he had left it at Liz and Hugh's in New Zealand! I was annoyed with him because it cost us $69 (25 pounds) for a new one! Azinta then she took us to see Port Denarau so we could look at all the tour operators offering trips to the islands. The trips were expensive, so we took some leaflets and information to mull over back at Azinta's. She showed us all the fancy hotels in Denarau and then we went back to get changed before heading out for our first lovo (food cooked in the ground). It was one of her friend's two son's birthdays, one was 21 on the 27th and the other was 20 on the 29th (so really only 5 as he was born on a leap year!) Azinta told us that her friend had been saving all year to put on the party and lovo! When we arrived all the ladies were sat outside on the floor on big mats and the men were sat around the corner of the house on chairs; the youngsters were all inside. Anton and I sat on the mat and said hello to everyone, we felt a bit like rabbits in the headlights. We were offered to have some food from the lovo, they had cooked pork, chicken, dalo (a bit like a stodgy potato), polusami (dalo leaves and cocunut milk), corned beef and feke (a bit like a rice pudding but made with dalo. Anton tried everything apart from chicken (we had been advised to stay away from chicken unless we saw it being cooked) and loved it! I tried most things but found the corned beef really, really salty and didn't really like the polusami but I like the feke (who would have guessed I'd like the sweet thing!). We had a great afternoon watching the women dance to their island songs; my goodness they can move their hips! As everyone became a bit more merry, the youngsters came out and sat in a circle to do a taki (they fill up a glass with beer or a spirit and pass to someone to drink, it then gets refilled and passed to the next person in the circle. One of the birthday boys got his keyboard out and sang some songs and then some of the adults sang; the men then came a joined in with some of the dancing and singing. Anton and I enjoyed watching our first fijian party/lovo! We got home quite late, so Azinta bought the family fried chicken and chips (Fiji won't be the place where we're going to lose any weight!!)

The following day we went to buy our bus ticket to travel to Suva; although Azinta paid before we could and then wouldn't allow us to give her any money! We had a walk around town and then went back for a quick lunch before heading to the airport to catch our bus to Suva. We thanked Azinta and took the 4hr drive on the bus; luckily it was air-conditioned! We arrived in Lami (a town just outside of the city) about 5pm and were picked up by Geoff (Del's cousin) and taken back to his house to meet his wife, Caroline, his son, Joseph, his son's wife, Lisi and their three grandchildren, Liam (15), Meleana (15) and George (13). Anton and I couldn't believe how polite the children were and how much they helped around the house! We spent the evening talking and enjoying a meal of fried fish (marlin), fiji asparagus, tapioca. gravy and salad. That night we slept well because our bedroom had air-conditioning!

Everyone was up and out of the house by 7:30am but we slept until 8am. Auntie Caroline (we have to call older people Auntie and Uncle to show respect in Fiji; even the children call us Auntie Kate and Uncle Anton!) stayed behind to show us where everything was for breakfast and then went to work about 9am. Uncle Geoff then came back to take us to the 'Home of Compassion' where Anton's 95 year old Nana lives. We walked into the home and could see Nana sat at the table doing some painting. Anton walked over to her and said 'hello Nana', she looked up and seemed a bit shocked but was happy to see him. We took her wheelchair outside on the courtyard and sat chatting to her; she held Anton's hand the whole time! Nana was very talkative and has a great long term memory, however her short term memory was not so good and we had to keep repeating ourselves about where we were staying, who we were staying with, where we had been, where we were palnning to go! She remembered a time when Anton was young and his Grandpa told him not to touch the christmas tree and everytime Anton walked passed the tree, he held his finger out and said 'don't touch'! We heard the same story about 6 times but it still made us laugh! Nana showed us around the home and showed us her room; we also met the other residents who all knew who we were as Del had e-mailed the home to tell them we were coming. Not all of the residents were eldery, some were physically disabled but still had all their marbles! We gave Nana some moisturiser and some nighties, vests and underwear from Liz and Loretta in New Zealand. She looked carefully at the clothes and then said she that we could have them. We told her they were for her and were a present from Liz and Loretta, but she said she didn't need them and we should take them! When we said we couldn't, she told us that she wouldn't tell Liz, Loretta or Del if we did! We were laughing so much but quietly let the clothes on her bedside table for the nurses to put away! We left the home at lunchtime and headed into Suva town for our lunch. That afternoon we looked around the shops and I bought a couple of lightweight dresses as I was finding my shorts too hot, plus I was getting stared at a lot as no-one has their legs out!! We found an internet cafe and researched a trip to the islands and managed to find a cheap 4 night cruise around the Yasawa Islands that was half price and $859 each. We decided to check with Auntie Caroline before booking it and headed home for the evening. As it was Lent, the family don't eat meat on a Friday so we had egg sandwhiches made with Fiji Long Loaf (a really yummy bread). Auntie Caroline said the cruise was a really good deal so I used one of the children's laptops to book it. I rang home that night to wish my mum a Happy 60th Birthday!

The next morning was Saturday. We got up and had a cold shower (their hot water wasn't working), Anton loved it but I wasn't too keen! After breakfast, made by George, Uncle Geoff (our new taxi driver!) took us to Suva market. It was a hive of activity with every stall pertty much selling the same produce of fruit and vegetables. We then went onto a craft market and purchased a tiny wooden turtle to add to our collection of items from our travels. After our market experience, we headed to an internet cafe to print off our cruise booking and the map to show Anton where his Pa is buried. Anton was looking at the details of our cruise booking and suddenly his face went very solemn! He told me that he looked at the small print and it said the prices advertised were in Australian dollars and not Fijian dollars! What a bloomin numpty was I for not noticing! It was too late now, as the booking had already gone through and they had taken our money! So the trip ended up costing us about 500pound more that we expected; we better win big in Vegas!! We went and got a picture of Anton and Nana, that we had taken the previous day, printed and framed and headed up to the home. Nana was in bed at first but then woke up and we had a good afternoon talking (much of the same conversation as the previous day!) She liked her photo but kept asking who it was and then when we showed her, she kept holding the frame up the wrong way whilst saying 'yes' she could see her and Anton!! So funny! I told Nana I liked her fashion pearl necklace and she promptly took it off and put it on me! I told her I couldn't take it but she insisted and said that I should think of her everytime I wore them - bless her!

On Sunday we were up early and dressed in our best for church! Auntie Caroline, Uncle Geoff and family were up even earlier than us and went to a 7am mass at their local church. Anton and I were going to the 9am church service at the home and Uncle Geoff took us there when he got home from church. It was a lovely service, the singing was so beautiful and Nana was really pleased we were there. We didn't stay too long after church as Uncle and Auntie came to pick us up and take us on an family outing. We were taken on Uncle's nephew's (another Anton) boat to an island called Nukulau. Anton's wife Nikki and their baby Kaitlyn, Nikki's brother Steven and his son Brendan and Liam and George came too! Anton called his boat Kaitlyn after his daugther. Nukulau was very beautiful and we had a lovely day on the boat and swimming in the sea. We were absolutely shattered when we got back to the house and everyone fell asleep!

We met Del's friend Agnes at the home on Monday and she then took us to her house in Suva Point to meet her son Gordon. Gordon lived in Phuket but had an brain aneurism and had an operation, so was now recuperating back in Fiji. We chatted for a while before Agnes and Gordon took us out for lunch at a place called The Cottage. We met the owner there who was called Mary Nelson, Anton's namesake (Anton Joseph Nelson Rhodes). She was a bit shocked when she first saw Anton but after our lunch she came over and had a chat with us and offered for us to go back for lunch on her one day in the week. After lunch Agnes took us into town to buy some ingredients for an English meal we were going to put on for the family one night in the week and then she took us back to the home so that we could spend the aftenoon with Nana. When we got there Nana was asleep so we sat chatting to the other residents, they were so funny and I think chatting to us really brightened their day. When Nana woke up, we stayed in the main lounge with the other residents, this made the converstation a bit more varied and we had a lovely afternoon. When we got back home the children were preparing dinner, Anton and I tried to help but they wouldn't let us! So we went down to the shop and bought some cakes for dessert and bought the children a can of drink each; they loved it!

The following day we rang Erin to wish her a Happy 6th Birthday. We couldn't believe how grown up she sounded on the phone! Jane put George on the phone and we heard him count and say lots of words, he also was able to say what noise different animals made! We couldn't believe that when we left in September he couldn't talk or walk and now he is running and talking! That day at the home I took my nail varnish and painted one of the residents toes; she was so thrilled! Uncle Geoff picked us up at lunch time and took us to see his cousin Spencer. We had a lovely afternoon and enjoyed fish and chips at Spencer's house. He didn't join us for lunch as he only drinks Kava (a herbal drink which is the Fijians national drink) during the day and doesn't eat! After Spencer's we went to into town to buy some flowers and then went to the cemetary to lay the flowers on Anton's Pa's grave. The cemetary was a bit disorganised but we managed to find the grave through a hand drawn map from Ning (Del's cousin in Australia). Anton wasn't feeling very well when we got home but he managed to muster enough energy to go to Uncle Geoff's brother, Bill, for dinner. The family was so welcoming and we had a lovely dinner with them; I even got a cuddle from their 5month old grandson! When we got home, Anton was still feeling a bit rough so we went straight to bed.

The next morning Anton was feeling worse, so we decided not to go to the home as we didn't want to pass anything on to the residents. It was Uncle's 62nd Birthday and we were having a lovo for dinner, so we needed Anton to be well! He spent most of the day in bed, feeling hot/cold and achy. He didn't think I was a good nurse as I thought he was over-exaggerating and was so used to something being wrong with him (Anton is a bit of a hypercondriact!) However, it did get to the stage where he was sleeping for so long that I went to check that he didn't have menigitis and looked for a rash!! Luckily he didn't have one! About 4pm Anton got out of bed and said he was feeling much better and by the evening you woudn't have even known he had been ill; although it was like he was at death's door in the morning!! Anton helped to take the food out of the lovo and I went to collect Uncle's cake with Lisi. When I got back, we learnt how to do coconut scraping with Liam; he made it look so easy! We had a wonderful evening with all the family and enjoyed a really delicious feast.

On Thursday we went to the home and this time we stayed through lunch; big mistake! Nana wouldn't eat her lunch as she wanted Anton to eat it! In the end Anton had to pretend to eat her lunch with her. She kept telling him it was their last meal together and Anton told her that he would have lunch with her the next day, but she told him she wouldn't give him any food if he came the next day - she has us in stitches! We finally got her to eat a little of her lunch and left afterwards so that she could have her rest. We went home to prepare cottage pie and apple crumble for our English dinner that evening. The whole family really enjoyed our meal and were glad that there were leftovers for the next day!

Friday was our last day in Suva as we were leaving on the bus back to Nadi on Saturday lunchtime. We spent the morning at the home and took them a colour magnadoodle to use, as it saves paper and gives the residents something to do. One of the residents, Joanna,loved it and spent the whole morning playing with it. I'm planning to box up some activities for the residents to use when I get home. Anton couldn't bring himself to say goodbye to Nana today so told her that we would see her tomorrow before we left for Nadi. All the residents said that they would miss us and want us to write to them when we get home. We have had such a lovely time visiting the home everyday and felt so wonderful to bring a smile to the residents faces. We spent the afternoon at home as it was so so hot. That night we had our last meal with the family and prepared our bags for a trip back to Nadi in the morning.

Hope you are all well.

Lots of love to you all - only 5 weeks to go!!!

xxxxxx plus nine kisses for our special people xxxxxxxxx

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9th March 2012

Ne sa bula!!! We throughly enjoyed this blog and photos. Brought tears to our eyes, especially seeing nana holding your hand-really was wonderful for you both to spend so much of your time in the home with the \'oldies\'. They are such a laugh. Mum looks good-she will miss you both. You now know how I usually feel whenever I visit and have to say my goodbyes. Was lovely to meet so many relatives, all that eating. I remember, Nukulau island, used to go there as a child quite often. Everyone wanted to meet you both,glad you saw Mary Nelson at the \'cottage\' I always pop in to see her and have local food. Wow!! your trip to the Yasawas is expensive so make sure you get your moneys worth, but you are going to one of best places in Fiji-quite natural and unspoilt. (went there when I was 5) and was sea sick. The hotels in Nadi are so expenive-Azinta said you are welcome to stay with her any time, so take her up on the offer!!! That was brilliant finding Pa\'s grave-he would be smiling. Agnes was delighted to meet you-she emailed me. Enjoy your cruise and the last few weeks in Fiji. Moce mada,loloma from us both, love you!!!!
17th March 2012

Fiji Adventures
Hi you two, lovely to read all about your latest adventures. Del and I enjoy discussing what you have been doing, it was lovely that you spent time visiting Nana, these will be precious memories. Hope you enjoy your cruise Del was tellinbg us it is beautiful there. We can't believe you will be home in a few weeks the time has flown by. Plymouth will seem very mundaine after such experiences! All well here working hard and at that point where the panic sets in! Looking forward to the Easter holidays and having a rest. Paul's dad is still talking about your visit so thank you for spending time with him. He got the dvd. Enjoy your last few weeks. Love to you both xxxx

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