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We were very taken by Fiji. It is definitely somewhere, were it not so far away, I could imagine having a second home and spending a lot of time.
Mark in particular didn’t want to leave and since leaving, constantly talks about going back.
It’s a strange country, with a lot of contradictions. It is a place where there is a lot of poverty and a lot of wealth. It’s the friendliest place I have ever been – and not just in a friendly to tourist way – as you drive or walk around the Fijians say hello to each other whether they know each other or not. However, it does have a military dictatorship, rather than a democratic government.
One of things I noticed reading the local papers or watching Fijian news is that they are very community based. Villages work in co-operatives selling their fruit. Raising money to buy more land for their village. Starting many community initiatives to help themselves and others. I guess it’s kind of what David Cameron, too late in the social history of Britain, keeps trying to bring back. I’m not sure it’s possible to bring back that kind of feeling after all that time – but I won’t go into what I think about our divvy prime minister – but as Fiji struggles to come out of being a third world nation, I think it might be that which sees them through. It is a place of hope. And it’s not often, in all honestly, you can honestly say that. Respect and affection for elders as well as for each other, and a certain code of morality in the younger Fijians is noticeable in how alien and old fashioned it is to me. It is of course not to say, there isn’t plenty of bad pennies and that lots of the young’ns don’t drink too much beer or cava and get into scraps but it’s just that the overall leaning of the youth isn’t disillusionment and destruction. I think possibly, the coming from small communities and the fact that Fiji is indeed a lovely place that they all seem to love, are key factors. I just hope I’m right and that Fiji has a promising future. The government has agreed to hold democratic elections in the next year. There are big investments being made in Fiji by the Chinese, whilst the Australian and New Zealand government are backing off. Will be interesting to see how this will work out in the coming years.
Anyhow, enough of my dull social commentary – here are some miscallaneous facts about Fiji:
- All over Fiji, there are animals (goats, cows, horses) tied up in random places along roadsides and in fields. This is where individuals or families own the animals but not land and because there is so much greenery in Fiji, they can feed on the lush vegetation surrounding wherever they are tied up that day. It’s an odd sight at first, but you soon come to expect it and I can’t imagine Fiji without it.
- There was a song that kept playing on the radio – ‘She likes the taste of my sugar cane’ – I kid you not – I presume it is from the Caribbean, but oh dear me, who came up with that!
- At the Suva Prison all along the outside wall, there was a vodafone advert painted on. Vodafone in general seemed to have more of a presence in Fiji than anything else. I wonder if it will take over Coca-Cola or McDonalds as the dominating brand we see all around the world.
- When the Cava is passed around – they do a long slow clapping when you you drink each time. Not sure if have mentioned much about Cava up to now. It’s the boiled roots of the cava plant and is soaked in cool water and drunk from a large wooden bowl, in scoops of smaller wooden bowls. It’s an acquired taste and I quite liked it. It doesn’t have a huge affect but it kind makes you go a bit fuzzy and relaxed. However, I did learn that the day after a big cava session for me was way worse than a hangover. It gave me a blinder of a headache and I tended to be grumpy all day (yes, more than usual, i know!!!) But I guess the nice thing about drinking cava is that you don’t sit in a corner, it is a social thing. You all sit around the bowl, hopefully with someone playing guitar and singing, and you take it if you want, but not if you don’t want to. Asking for ‘low tide’ means you get a small amount to save your head.
- 50% of the population is Fijian, the other 50% is Indo-Fijian. It was odd, because there was a lot of Indian food, business around and the familiarity in that made me feel at home, alongside song of the little britishness things left over from the colonial days of course.
- Home-made banana jam is lovely – it tasted bit like those strawberry n cream sweets you get – campino I think they are called. Not at all as you would imagine, in that it’s not bananary.
- When the main Fijian TV channel closes at night they play the national anthem. I don’t know why, but I liked that. Seemed fitting with Fijians old school charm.
- One of the main stores you find in most towns in Fiji is ‘Courts’ and it is the same logo as the one we used to have in the UK and sells the same kind of stuff. I guess they parted ways with the UK company which I think went under in the 90s sometime as it became an old fashioned kind of concept as a place to shop, but it’s big here and always find that funny. Anyone remember the ‘we sincerely hope to see you all in courts’ song from the tv ads? No? just me?