Bula! Bula! Bula!
I am lying on my hotel room in Fiji half looking through the yellow pages of my telephone book, and half dozing under the sarong I was guilt tripped into buying in downtown Nadi. I have decided that Fijian people are a). The friendliest people whom I`ve ever come across and b). Possibly the best schemers! (Basically because they gain your trust through their friendly demeanor (it`s rather clever actually---- they are so sweet that you find it hard to say no to them in the end). Anyways, I`ll get into my day amongst the Fijian people in a bit. First, it`s time for a little summary of events:
Flights: My flights went pretty well in that I actually made it to each of them. I came just mere seconds from missing my Toronto to Los Angeles departure. Two pieces of luggage were stuck on the conveyor belt, and who do you suppose owned one of them? That`s right- Me!!! It was like a bad dream, hearing the final boarding call for my flight, an Air Canada employee yelling at me to "RUNNNNNNNNNNNNN", as I huff and puff up a set of stairs and past a dozen or more gates (with a backpack on my back, my shoes in one hand, and my laptop in the other).
Hotel room: My hotel room is GREAT! It is very modern, has its own porch with chairs overlooking some lush vegetation, a fridge, flat screen television, and air conditioning! I would not go so far as to say that it beats the "Piano" Love Hotel in Seoul, but it`s a pretty sweet deal. Its proximity to downtown Nadi isn`t ideal, but it`s only for one night.
Nadi- Day One:
My flight arrived in Nadi at around 5:30am. One of my favorite parts about arriving somewhere warm during the Canadian winter is watching the palm trees and clear ocean come into view from the plane. However, I had the aisle seat and it was still rather dark out at the time, so I did not get to see a whole lot of the landscape.
Upon entering the airport (which is half outdoors), there were several men playing their ukeleles and singing for everyone arriving from the international flight. It took an hour or more for my luggage to come through and to get through customs. Now, I`m a newbie at this traveling solo ordeal, so I can`t really speak from experience, but Fiji has got to be the best place on earth for the first time traveler. From my experience so far, Fijians are so eager to help anyone they come upon (maybe their motives work in their own favor to some extent, but still...). Anyways, I`m walking toward the entrance when a woman in uniform approaches me to ask me which hotel I am going to. I tell her the name of the hotel, and after yelling a few names, a man appears who went above and beyond to get me organized. Both the currency exchange booth, and the information booth were lit up but had employees missing in action. This man assigned to me made it his mission to locate those employees in the airport. Next thing I know- he`s booked my travel for the next day, and loaded my luggage into the hotel van. I was really confused when he jumped into the driver`s seat on the right hand side (haha). After a few short minutes, we arrived at the hotel, but my room wasn`t ready (as to be expected at 7:30am). Straight away, the girl at the desk was asking me all about my travels and was suggesting I take a cab to a small supermarket, and then a local bus down to Nadi town, so that is what I did...
Cabs in Fiji are relatively cheap. It cost me about $1.50 Canadian to be driven about 5 minutes to the local market. From there, I jumped on a purple bus marked Nadi for 0.50. I was the only white person on the bus, but it`s easy to tell that Fijians are used to seeing tourists. I felt completely comfortable among them.
It was still early morning by the time I got to Nadi town, and so soon came to hear a lot of "first customer of the day— good price for you!" I`m embarrassed to say that I fell for this line at one of the first stores I went into. This really pitiful looking young guy was working, and after he fed me a few lines about turtles representing good luck in Fijian culture, I walked away with both a shell bamboo bracelet and a sea turtle necklace (my good luck) for about $6 Canadian. Next, I proceeded to walk down the main street of the town, when a young Fijian male introduced himself and invited me into his shop to show me some local newspaper articles written on the Fijian culture. He fed me some lines about how his shop was the only shop in town that was locally owned by the members of a Fiji tribe belonging to a Fijian village located 2 hours out of town. Apparently the members (650) of his village produce the items (cannibal masks, forks, kava dishes, etc) and then they take turns volunteering in the shop. The profits made on the items is accepted by the chief of the village, and then distributed amongst all of the village people. Whether or not all of this is true is as good a guess as mine. My foot was barely in the door to the shop when I`m being wrapped up in a white sarong, plopped down on some mats on the floor, taking part in a Kava ceremony. Two men proceeded to ground some root into powder, which some liquid was then added to. There was some clapping (in threes) and some chanting in what must have been Fijian as we took turns taking a drink of the Kava. Again, I don`t know if this is true---- but they enjoy sharing their ceremonial attributes with everyone who enters as a means of promoting understanding of their way of life. I started to get the hint that they were looking for me to buy some items from their shop— so I hightailed it out of there... only to wind up in a clothing store a few shops down being fitted for a sarong. The poor Indian girl spent a good fifteen minutes outfitting me that I felt obliged to buy the sarong in the end. Oh well---- for $5 it`ll at the very least make a decent beach towel. By 2:30pm it was getting to be insanely busy downtown. Both tired and thirsty, I decided against waiting in the scorching heat for the local bus to take me back to the hotel and instead splurged on a $5 cab ride.
In conclusion: Fijian people are extremely hospitable. They are so easy- going, genuinely friendly, and eager to go out of their way to help others. I`m pretty sure that this is in part because they are hoping to improve their own quality of life, but they don`t really expect it. I remember trying on 3 different pairs of jeans in a store in Anyang last year. When I walked out of the store without buying anything, the woman started cursing after me. Walking out of the store empty handed where the owners had gone out of their way to educate me on their traditions in the hopes that I would buy from them— they wished me a good stay in Fiji and thanked me for coming in and looking at their merchandise.
I have yet to come across the beaches that have put Fiji on the map as one of the most sought after holiday destinations, but tomorrow I take a bus two hours on the Coral Coast to a flashpacker resort, so I`m hoping tomorrow will be big the day!