Thursday, 28 May 2015

Fiji drags me to the curb

In my last post I seem to have entertained an illusion that maybe I had settled in to Fiji. I say that it was an illusion because since then Fiji has been trying to kill me.

The tropics are full of nasty surprises. Typically bacteria is the biggest fiend when it comes to health issues.

I reflect on my time in Indonesia. Jakarta is closer to the equator than Fiji so both are tropical. I wonder what the differences are between these two capitals because the primary health complaints are different?

Jakarta is a concrete jungle with plenty of germs. It is not the cleanest place I've been too, in fact, the amount of trash in the waterways and on the roadside was appalling not to mention the rats and flies. And food goes off very quickly in that climate, so I get that the number one health complaint is gastrointestinal issues.

Suva on the other hand has skin issues such as boils. Not once in my time in Indonesia did I see or hear of a person with a boil. But I have come across many here, expats and locals who have suffered the perils.

The biggest difference I can see is that there is a lot of greenery in Suva which may account for the large amount of bacterial infections. Nature's own little hothouse.

The long story for me included a health issue each month for the previous four months (I've decided it is over now, there are no extensions). With most of these came a course of antibiotics which doesn't do the immune system any good.

By the time I've arrived in early May I get a temperature that fogs up my glasses even after paracetamol. Not a good indicator.

A few days later at a doctors visit there was talk of dengue and chikungunya but a wait and see approach was taken. Two days later all the aches and pains had gravitated to my right thigh only. Then there was a diagnosis of onset shingles. On more antibiotics for five days (22 tablets a day). By now my immune system is so confused it is leaving town. The five days comes to an end but the pain is worse, a lot worse. As in it hurts to walk to the bathroom. The following day I couldn't walk.

After much agony, screaming and tears I was admitted to hospital on the Monday. Scans, ultrasounds and blood tests were done. An infection showed up in the blood test.

I'll preface the next bit by highlighting the good things first. I was very lucky to have the doctor I was assigned (despite him being a sadistic brute who smiled when he pressed my excruciatingly painful leg and I screamed and cried in response). He knew what it was before any symptoms were obvious (symptoms other than pain). He has been my only carer, even post op, where he dresses the open wound each day until he is ready to take me back to surgery to stitch my gaping leg up. I left him surgery instructions; next I'm going to ask him if he can embroider Fiji 2015 with the stitches.

surgical instructions - can't be too careful - PS had to edit it later to clarify that it was the bad stuff (not the leg) they had to remove carefully
For two days he drugged me up on mega doses of IV antibiotics and morphine until finally the infection presented itself in an ultrasound and showed as swelling and hardness in the leg muscle. It was a deep muscle infection formed as an abscess, pyomyositis, very close to the bone. He operated that afternoon cleaving my leg open to the bone and even drilling the bone to make sure the infection hadn't gotten in. He told me later sepsis was also a player on the field as well. I was not a well person.

At this stage I am out of hospital three days and still with an open wound. Maybe in two days I will go back in for my surgeon to close it.

I try to temper the horrific experience by flippantly referring to it as my near death experience. But it got me wondering just how much Fiji dislikes me. My eldest son has offered sound advice on future volunteer assignments 'to places that aren't prone to killing you'. Wasn't a box I ticked coming here.

So for the later part of April, the majority of May and into June my time has been and will be spent in some sort of evil health hell house which I am keen never to revisit again.
scrambled eggs

Instead of trolling up bad memories and scarring my readers by sharing photos of my hospital incarceration, I'll share with you my food porn experience while there. I did not spot one piece of cassava or dalo and much better than aeroplane food.

chicken sandwich

aussie breakfast

brought my own avocado 

lamb shank

Health hasn't been the only challenge. I alluded to accommodation issues in my last blog post. That has only escalated in the interim month. I won't go there because it will become a whinge fest. 

So, to relieve some of the pressure I had been under, when I got out of hospital I hunted down players in my life who haven't been playing nicely and gave them all a stern serve. In a nice way of course :)

From insurance companies to landlords, property managers to medical clinics and phone companies, I've shared the love around. Nothing like reasserting yourself as being back in the land of the living with a well written smackdown to ease the tensions inside.

I suppose one of the lessons I'm learning here (again) is that there is a time for patience and then a time to draw the line. And the balance between the two is not the same here as in Australia. Here more patience is required because things move slower. But that doesn't mean there will never be a time to draw the line.

I contemplate what other lessons are to be learned. How far will Fiji push me before I bail out? How resilient am I? What is the depth of my resolution? Or in other words, how much bullshit do I put up with before I finally crack the shits?

black sand beach
mountain views
So on to lighter things.....

A Saturday village visit on the east coast of Viti Levu.

and a bonus sleeper

Carved fern tree stump

A week away for a volunteer conference in a resort on the Coral Coast was pleasant (up until I got sick).

accommodation bure

beach and lagoon views

I'm hoping June will be kinder to me and Fiji can just back the f*#k off with its killer bacteria.

Silver linings are always good to find. I could have been admitted to CWM (Colonial War Memorial) hospital. They hold the title for most leg amputations in Fiji. The government data (not including private sector health) shows that over the last four years an average of 754.25 leg amputations were done per year across Fiji. Diabetes is a high contributor but so is my ailment.

I could have been one of those stats. (In reality I'm not out of the woods yet.)  So send your prayers and loving light this way for the rest of my journey. Until next time.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Why am I not on Fiji time? or am I?

Time has zoomed past so fast I can't recall what has happened.

Christmas was great to spend with the family back in Oz. Caught up with a few people and the (second) wedding saw me catch up with most of the family. It was never going to be an easy day because families fracture over time but we all got through it without blood being spilt. It was amusing to see that the non-formal approach to speeches saw predominantly females stand up and say their piece. It shows I have around me a lot of strong minded women who don't stand on ceremony.

The bride was stunning, the day went smoothly other than a little scud of rain on her arrival via combi van to the headland at Mooloolaba.

Bring on 2015
I departed a day or so later back to Fiji for New Years Eve. This was spent on Beachcomber Island with some Fijian friends.

Two days later the bride and groom arrived with my other daughter. While one couple honeymooned, Stacey joined me in Suva to explore in the lead up to her 21st birthday. Drinks at the Grand Pacific Hotel (GPH) were in order for her and a birthday night at South Sea Island in the Mamanuca group off Nadi.

Goodbyes were said and a week later it was more drinks at GPH to mark my substainial birthday.
Half a century down

In the mix has been a couple of barbecues, a combined birthday party, multiple reasons for drinks at either GPH of Holiday Inn. There has been games nights and book club. A birthday weekend away at Wananavu Resort which was awesome. (There was hardly anyone there and we had the run of the pool.)

And of course, Fijian language classes which I fairly well suck at. Knowledge retention is not what it used to be.

An Australian friend I met in Indonesia came to visit for a few days so that included a jaunt to Caqali (pronounced thangaleye) island and most recently a five day stay on the island of Nanau-ira for Easter. Both lovely and with beautiful Fijian sunsets.

Caqali escape
I've decided the feng shui in my unit is crap. I leave the house for a day or two and the ants move in, and their extended families. When the hot water system in the shower runs out it turns off all the electricity in the apartment and then when it comes back on a minute or so later, the radio and the aircon switch themselves on (when they were previously off). The fridge won't keep cheese or milk cold enough to last more than two days. And the washing machine drains itself whereever it pleases. Maybe it isn't the feng shui, just the unit.

Stacey having a beer with Narayan
Some afternoons I sit and have a beer with my elderly Indo-Fijian neighbour listening to the stories of his life and looking through his albums from the past. He tells me of how his business was ransacked in the last coup, how he nearly found Hollywood fame in India but chose a bride instead to bring back to Fiji. He is housebound so he enjoys the company and I'm being a good neighbour.

Fiji always gives me something amusing. Like the guy walking down the street in Sigatoka with a furry baseball cap on in 32 degree heat, ugly and hot (the cap, not him). The latches on the outside of a window so you have to go outside to close the window when it rains, the ever present bad spelling of signs, whether they are for a business, a street or a government department. And now brochures make an appearance in the bad spelling arena. How, occasionally, I have to tell the taxi driver how to get there even if it is three blocks away. I could have a baby in the time it is taking for work to set up a Paypal account. While Indonesia gave me lots of incidents of feeling like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Fiji gives me lots of incidents of that-doesn't-even-make-sense head shaking. Both have the underlying WTF theme but there was more intense than here.

Er.... same place
or.... same place

I have more autonomy here having access to work vehicles and friends vehicles while they are overseas. So navigating the island always presents new knowledge. Finding my way through the badly planned streets of Suva is getting easier and I've given up driving like an Australian, around the round abouts, now I do the Fijian thing and drive over them.

I've spent time in villages, unfortunately, having to drink kava, as is the custom. Not my drink of choice but I manage to get across that I want a low tide bowl not a high tide bowl with each serving. The village experiences have been good. There is lots of sitting around to do. Curious kids that stand and stare. Grandmas that want to marry you off to one of the many single men the village has in stock. It's all in good humour.

I did stay a night in a village. One with no running water and no toilets save a rank pit toilet up a slippery slope. We bathed in the river. You do what you have to do and hope you don't get typhoid. I've popped into other villages when I've had a Fijian in tow, for a cup of tea or just a visit.
Beautiful birthday flowers

A croc in the creek
Work has kept me very busy. Trekking up muddy mountain sides to look at water sources and 4wding through paddocks and cane farm lanes to get to places we are building. Definitely seeing the non tourist side of Fiji.

There have been some real gems in the rough mix.

I filmed some Fijian youth for a part in a music video that is on YouTube written by an Indonesian songwriter. Go figure.

I've meet a group of Australian and a group of Japanese volunteers who have come to build houses here with us. It is warming to see the cultural exchange that happens over a 5 or 10 day period. Jokes and tears all come with the package. And I now have a name sake. A baby girl named after me. That is very precious.

My work scope is turning out to be bigger than Ben Hur with 6 major projects I have to research, develop and implement as well as preparing for an end of year campaign. The year won't be enough as there is only six months left for me to do it all in.

And there are so many places I want to get to see off Viti Levu. Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Bega, Kadavu are the big ones.
 Tapa printing
We had a cyclone in the area so schools were closed and people weren't allowed to travel, water or land, because of rough seas and local flooding concerns. Fiji responds well, as I suppose they should being in a cyclone area. My work is still constructing shelters after the last cyclone that hit here in 2012. But Pam headed towards Vanuatu instead and they coped the brunt of her fury. Summer had brought us power outages but Pam didn't.

The days and weeks blur past swept up in my life cyclone of busyness so my posts are becoming fewer and far between. On reflection, I suppose they now arrive on Fiji time so that means I am quite at home here.

Sota tale.

Friday, 26 December 2014

In the deep end

I was looking forward to starting work. Really only knowing only one person in town, my flatmate who I had just met, meant I was left at a bit of loose end. Suva isn't that big to explore. Mind you, now that I'm at work I don't have time to explore it. Work has been keeping me busy.

A bit of beaujolais including beef bourguignon.
As far as volunteer assignments go this one is on the ground running productivity and outputs within the first week.

By week two, I've released a story to the international and local media. The usual IT issues are around. A new IT set up is never smooth sailing. Add to that a snail's pace laptop from last century and frustration creeps in. Thankfully all the work peeps are great to work with. My humour doesn't have to have subtitles for non English speakers.

A Suva sunset
There have been a number of functions I've attended.

A Beaujolais night with French food and wines put on by the local French/Fijian language school.

A meet and greet drinks nights to welcome moi.

Just your regular Monday afternoon walk to get groceries for dinner but stop off for a F$2.50 (A$1.50) beer along the way.

A fundraising night for a Fijian village to raise money for footpaths. A night full of Fijian food and entertainment. (The white people's table was piled high with dishes and dishes of food.) Everyone else got a plate served to them. I hope that isn't a left over custom from colonial days.

Hundreds of burrowing starfish in the
shallows of Leleuvia.
An overnight trip to Leleuvia island to laze in hammocks for a couple of days. That was tough.

The quiet side of Leleuvia

A village settlement in Suva
A wine tasting night that included 15 wines for F$20. Again, tough.

A Hunger Games feast-in to rewatch the previous instalments before heading to the cinema for part 1 of instalment 3.

A Cards against Humanity games night with a side serve of gumbo.

Birthday drinks, more birthday drinks, going away parties, two Christmas barbecues, a quiz night, two days in Nadi and Lautoka for work, brunches, a long haul trip to an outer island for work, a three day event in the park and the list goes on.

It has been full on.

After Australia's G20 summit we had a visit from the Indian PM Modi. The story goes he got a pig on the spit welcome although he is a well known vegetarian. Well done Fiji!

His 15 hours blow-in visit was heralded by street closures, massive billboards welcoming him. He departed with less moolah than he arrived with by donating India's money to climate change for Fiji.

Two days later the Chinese PM (President) blew in. He stayed longer. Other billboards were recovered with welcomes for him and he departed with less of China's dosh in the bank also.

I enrolled for Fijian classes and got my work permit. Yay! So then I got my Tax ID (which you can't do any of these following things without one) opened a local bank account and got my Fijian drivers licence, able to connect electricity and internet.

Meeting some village cuties.
Then it was time for a move.

I found an apartment across the street. I had it and then I didn't have it and then I did again. Most inconvenient. Of course, the final green light came when I was on the opposite side of the island looking at ads in the newspaper.

This was in the midst of a weekend of driving around Viti Levu, a visit to a village, a birthday party back in Suva and another drive to Nadi before a late Sunday night return to Suva.

The weeks have flown by. I seem to bounce from one thing to another. In the four weeks since I've moved into my apartment I've been home for dinner three nights. It has been crazy.

There has also been a work inspired river rafting day 24km down the Navua River. This in itself was spectacular. The narrow and high sided gorges at the top widen out dramatically to lush green fields further down the river where villages are.

Ancient coral is embedded in the rock face. At one stage these mountain peaks were significantly underwater. You have no choice but to admire and fear the power of mother nature.

There had been heavy rain the previous week and again the night before. The rapids were rapid and the river brown with stirred sediment. Jessica Simpson and her ex came in for their honeymoon complete with an entourage of helicopters and cameras. The depth of reverence and respect shown for the ancient landscape may be reflected in the longevity of their marriage. Just saying.

After a day of bracing in a raft I could hardly walk. Suva is full of inclines starting with the driveway I have to mount to make it to the roadway. It was a painful week with me feeling very much the grandmother that I am.
Simple but elegant @ the Pearl.
A work Christmas party at the Pearl Resort came after three intense days with youth building two houses in a park in town. And before a trip to an outer island to officially hand over a completed water project.

I've started Fijian classes. Au voli vosa vakaviti. I study Fijian language. The world is a small place. I walk into my first Fijian class and I am recognised by a guy I was introduced to in the north of Bali this time last year. Turns out we also know people in common.
An overnight stay at Anchorage near Lautoka.
I'm in town one Saturday before I move. I need eggs and frozen pastry to make quiches. I go into a supermarket and while I've found the eggs I can't find the pastry, so I ask. The shop attendant tells me they don't stock it in that store but they do at Damodar City (the other side of town).

Picture it: I'm standing there with my eggs, asking about frozen pastry. He tells me of a store that stocks it and I ask if it is open tomorrow. Q and A on grocery items is over.

He then asks me if I am from the cruise ship in port. Really? Buying a dozen eggs? I'm tempted to tell him yes, I'm the ships chef.

How many tourists get off cruise ships and go searching for eggs and pastry?

Sunset at the Warwick resort.

Confusion reigns supreme when it comes to street signs in Suva. Is it MacGregor or McGregor Road? Knollys or Knolly Street? Riley or Rilley?

Whatever, it all seems 'goodenough'.

close enough is Goodenough.
A work trip to an outer island paints a picture of simple living. Living off the land, or the ocean, as the case may be. 

It also shows how easily communities on these islands can be cut off. Our 20 foot fibreglass dinghy trip was not good for posture or bone alignment. An hour and a half of relentlessly smashing down over white caps on a fine day with a bit of a breeze clearly highlights how this journey would not be possible during an active cyclone season. 

This particular island, Viwa, is flat, basically a coral atoll. They have less rain in the west (where this island is) and they have been in drought during this year. Not a good scenario  for an island that has no natural water source other than rainwater. 

Fiji for a tropical country with reasonably high rainfall has little concept of guttering on houses. And fresh water, being a basic need for all human life, is sometimes scarce in places like this without the basic infrastructure. Around these outer islands desalination plants exist. It is a stark contrast to Australia, the dry continent, that has guttering on every house and very little investment in desalination. 

Those adventures have brought me to the fringe of the festive season. Plans are to returned to Australia for Christmas and my daughter's wedding for eight days. Selamat Natal - until the New Year!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Markets, museum and movies

Rows upon rows of fresh fruit and veg are at the Suva Markets. 

They sell things by the 'heap'. So a heap of pineapples has about six pineapples in it. A heap of mangoes has 4, a heap of pawpaws has 5. If the heap can fit in or balance on a plastic bowl it does. Everyone seems to use the same standard measure and the prices have very little variation. A heap of pawpaws was FJ$2. There were bigger ones for FJ$3 but they didn't fit in a plastic bowl.

Everything here seems to come in a miniature size,  except for the breadfruit. The pineapples are small and ridiculously sweet. A small one, once peeled is a bit larger than a big apple. It is like all the fruit comes in individual portions. My grandmother always said good things come in small packages and when it comes to fruit here, that is true. I don't know if the farmers are too impatient to let the produce grow any bigger or it's to do with environmental adaptation but the results are delicious.

I walk down the hill to the market which takes about 25 minutes. Once I've loaded up it is time to catch a taxi back up the hill at a cost of about FJ$2.70 (maybe AU$1.60).

One of the great things about finding accommodation before arrival is that settling in and meeting people is easier. There is plenty of Fiji time happening already so if you layer that with not being able to find a place to live and having to work out sim cards, phone credit, exchange rates, bank fees, internet, food supplies, etc time would be gobbled up very fast and the process of settling in would take longer. 

A group of volunteers came in earlier this year. It took them weeks of living with bed bugs before they could find suitable accommodation that had some sense of permanency to it. Apparently the easiest way to find accommodation is by word of mouth which kind of makes real estates defunct for rental purposes.

Tuesday rolls on and it is Melbourne Cup day, 4 November. Since my arrival I have seen banners advertising betting for the Melbourne Cup. Indonesia is a non betting country so this advertising surprised me on my first day.

whipper snippering acreage
I visit the Fiji Museum. It is set at the rear of an area called Thurston Garden. When I arrive the gardens are being 'mowed'. With whipper snippers. Grass grows quickly in the tropics so I get the need for regular maintenance but a whipper snipper? Vast tracts of land. Whole backyards, parks, gardens. 

At least these guys were wearing knee high boots, long protective aprons, goggles and ear muffs. The other day it was a barefoot operator with no protective gear at all. Mind you, I never saw a mower the whole time I was in Jakarta but it isn't renowned for its abundance of park areas.

Thurston Gardens
Now defunct military uniforms -
I've never thought of a puffer fish as head wear
The museum is interesting enough. 

It touches on when the islands were settled, colonisation, independence and races and religions. 

With a small side serve of nature. 

I have no desire to run into these
beetles, larger than my camera
A wedding headdress -
teased coconut hush and shells
Colonial influences

Bollywood badness. God, Bollywood movies are crass.

Happy New Year is an Indianised version of Oceans 11. It is blinged to the max with 100 costume changes, includes a vomit-worthy romance, and a secondary story of winning the world dancing competition set in Dubai with luxury everything. Not only do the Indian actors overact, the storyline runs just short of world domination because their martial arts skills are better than their Asian counterparts, their motivations are righting wrongs and saving dying parents, while they are rescuing a child in danger (enough to be elevated to cult worship status) and teaching virtuous skills to small children. Oops, don't stop there! The icing on the cake was they won the World Dance Championship (they got into it through vote rigging and then a pity vote, not for their talent) and their 'dancing' evolved into badly overlaid singing to win. WT....?

That is three hours of my life I will never get back. I now harbour no regrets that I never went to see the Sunday afternoon Indian movies at the Grand Indonesian cinema whilst in Jakarta. But there is obviously a market for crass movies. I'm just not in the target audience. 

Sushi and sake rounded off the day. 

Grand Pacific Hotel

Other sights around town include the Grand Pacific Hotel. Set on the waterfront it screams opulence. The story is that it was closed for many years and has been refurbished and reopened recently.  

The staff are dressed to impress. The dude that opens car doors is hard to miss with his hat.

Of course, there are the obligatory KFCs and McDs around as well as Gloria Jeans coffee shops. 

The hat adds another 20 cm to his height.
Mixed in with a sikh temple, a mosque and numerous churches Suva is a visual landscape of diversity.

You can walk most places although for me it is mostly downhill going initally. Loaded up with groceries or shopping means a taxi ride back up the hill. While the centre of town is flat it is only a few streets back from the waterfront where the climb begins. 

From another angle I walk down to the University of the South Pacific (USP) to check out their campus and bookshop.  

And from there it isn't far to another shopping centre with cinemas. 

Another three hour marathon is spent watching Interstellar

The cinemas are reasonably cheap. Regular cinemas at about FJ$6.50 with the reclining chair cinemas being FJ$10. Much cheaper than Australia but not as cheap as Jakarta. 

Bula  - McDonalds makes you welcome in any language
Like Jakarta, there are security guards at apartment blocks. Unlike Jakarta ones, they aren't smilers or greeters. 

It is a shame because they are the first point of contact. I see on an expat facebook page that this is a regular complaint. 

I've also heard but have not yet experienced the shop stalkers. 

A sikh temple
I got used to this in Jakarta when you would have a shop assistant at your elbow every step of the way. At times it was an invasion of personal space, it gave the impression you weren't to be trusted and when they started suggesting what you should buy when you were only browsing was nothing short of annoying. 

I did experience here though, the cash register chick ringing up the goods and then passing them to the security guy who checked the product(s), in my case there was only one product, and he checked the register receipt and then stamped it before I could depart. Mind you he stood beside her and watched her ring it up as well. A bit of overkill for a packet of stick on hooks. 

Fun Fiji fact: only 4 of Fiji's 27 airports have paved runways. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Dawn in/of a new life

Early rising, my body clock is just as confused by the time as I am. I was out walking about 6am.

I was fortunate enough to make contact with someone who had a room to sublet in a two bedroom apartment before I arrived. My arrival was too late in the day to turn up with a million suitcases and expect open arms and a hot cup of tea from a complete stranger. So the plan was the morning after arrival I would loiter around the footpath outside the apartment block at 7.30amish to meet my proposed roomie.

With time to kill I lapped a couple of blocks to try and get my bearings before I made my way down to the town area finding a hot bread shop open. Thankfully, I had ordered coffee and food before the mad rush of people who spilled in through the doors about 10 minutes after me. The place was chockers. Note for future reference: don't go to the hot bread shop at 6.45am on a weekday if you want to be served that same day. 

By 7am I had seen more people in that shop than I did at the domestic airports in both Suva and Nadi.

By 7.30am I was loitering as arranged and met my proposed flatmate. The next few hours found me moving my luggage into my new abode and then heading off to the volunteer office for orientation. 

My schedule for orientation was to be for the remaining two and a half days of the week. But with a big dose of Fiji time full days became a half hour session and orientation fell over into the following week also.
I was looking forward to a two hour Suva tour which was on the schedule. It ended up being a half hour whip around town, this is the hospital, this is the private hospital, this is the Australian High Commission and up the road is the US Embassy. Oops, out of time, here we are for your next appointment.

That appointment was with a doctor. She was very informative.

"Yes, you can drink the water here. The infrastructure is old so the ground water tends to leak into the pipes. It won't kill you but you might get sick." 
"We treat everything with antibiotics. Tests take a long time to do and aren't reliable, or accurate in most cases, so we just treat with antibiotics. You know how it goes, when in Rome…." 
"Dentists? Oh yes, there are two types here. The ones that have been trained overseas and the ones that have been trained locally. The ones trained overseas will give you dental treatment; the local ones just pull your teeth out. Fixes the problem." 
"Yes, we were a bit late in getting on top of the dengue fever outbreak last year. You know, lots of talk about elections coming up this year, we got distracted. But we will be on top of it for next season. When is next season? October, November. Yes, that would be now."
I wondered about her bedside manner. She wasn't cushioning the blows so far.

The first week finalised with a cool beverage overlooking the bay on sunset. No, there was no sunset visible but the Fiji Gold is a nice drop. 
The weather has been overcast since my arrival. At some point of the compass ominous rain clouds are threatening. When they open up it isn't for long and when they aren't overhead and the sun peeks out it is hot. Not oppressively humid as yet. Mind you, this is the doorstep of the rainy season so it won't be far off. The locals are talking about it being unseasonably cool. The nights are 26 ̊C. Not in need of air conditioning.

I checked out grocery shopping. Anything imported is expensive. Local produce cheap. I was so excited to see this in the shops. I haven't seen one of these since I left high school. They were a favourite back then. 

Jelly tip - a substitute for a gaytime 

Solo fisherman off the seawall
If it isn't the sea it's the mountains
Heading down towards one of the unis
My new flatmate had already arranged to go to basket weaving classes on the Saturday so I tagged along for the adventure. 

You weave the inside layer 
We were taught by two local Fijian women. Their design of weaving is unique to their family which is part of their livelihood. So, we can't be showing any other Fijians how it is done. 

Staining the outside layer with
boot polish before we burn it

My teacher's name was Evie. She was a hard task master. Showed me once and instructed, "Weave."
She continued to use that word like a riding crop until I picked up my pace and finished the bag well before the others. 

The use of dark tan shoe polish over the outside of the woven bag gives is a polished glow after it has been set alight. 

You would think natural materials such as fronds from trees would be an extreme fire hazard when holding it over an open flame. Not a fire extinguisher in sight. 

And you hold it over the open flame with your bare hands.

Adding the decorative bits - the flowers
In another time and in another place this would be a reason to shut down the work site because there was no compliance to workplace health and safety standards. Not here.

 Lastly, you add the button and catch, the handles and the decorations. (not in that order).

The finished product
And the end product is a strudy woven handbag. 

Still on the theme of OH&S. Later, there were council workers digging up the roadway during the night. 

A solitary torch.

They did have hi-vis clothing on and boots so that a marked improvement that I have seen since my last visit here. Then they were building a jetty with an excavator and a pylon driver on the water's edge. The uniform for the whole work crew was boardshorts, singlets, no shoes, the odd one with thongs and definitely no hard hats. The public mingled on the beach around them. At least this work crew had a few markers on the roadway around where they were digging their hole.

That evening I made it on the invitation list to an invite only Halloween party hosted by the American Women's Association. It's all about who you know. I know three people here. I'll reword that. Know is too committed a word, met is more accurate. I've met three people here. 

The party was run (I say run because it was scheduled within an inch of its life) from the point of entry. Two at a time only were allowed through the gate. Once checked off the invited guests only list and paying the entry fee you got your mugshot taken before being instructed to go to a door and knock three times.

Frankenstein, or one of his relatives, allowed entry through a cobweb infested, scarily decorated hallway to mingle on a deck in low lighting. Once all the guests had arrived, the lights went on. Then there was a rotation of games scheduled. (I don't know if throwing darts at a wall with a ceiling fan whirring above the dart board after numerous alcohol beverages were consumed would have met OH&S standards either.) A word search, a card game, fishing and hula hoop (which was actually ring toss or quoits depending on where you come from) were the other forms of entertainment. The household staff was dressed in theme also—the housekeeper and the guards all masquerading as vampires or zombies.

The bonus of the games is that you had to mingle with people you hadn't met. Superman was as dodgy as hell. Voting himself as best dressed in both the female and male category a number of times on leftover voting forms. I certainly hope he didn't work in the electoral office in the recent elections here.

Until next time, moce (pronounced mothey) goodbye.