12: This neighborhood has a distinct contrast. Guards stand outside mansion walls on manicured lawns. 5 minutes ago we where winding through the remnants of a jungle. 5 before that we where in the sweltering center city of Nadi, cruising the modest market. We arrive, ring the cat bell and unstick ourselves from the vinyl coated seats. Lunch is found in a quarter that can only be described as little Australia. Booze shops, meat pies, and a dramatic price increase.
2: Michelle, the kindest Fijian girl, gave us the tip that by buying a resort bus pass for $8 bones we could bum off any resort and go for a swim in their mega pools. With a smile she dropped us off and waved goodbye. By now, sleep deprivation was starting to take its toll. We where too tired to take pictures, being awake for 20 hours, we where dragging. This kind of easy tourist street is far from our modus operandi, but our will was crumbling under heat and lack of sleep. We needed a cold drink an a place to stop. I passed out.
No time: it had escaped us. The whole “island time thing” struck. We had no electronics or a watch.
Later: We met Debbie somewhere on our circuit of sleeping, shade and swimming in luxury’s lap. She was an older woman from Brisbane, who exuded that kind of deep south Australian charm that is common and beautiful. “You remind me of my kids!” she said with a big accent and even bigger smile. She took it upon herself to be our resort host. Before I knew it I had a sticker taped to my chest with my name on it, the Aussies tossed me cold beers and spoke about motorcycle injuries. Linzay was already up in Debbie’s resort penthouse taking her first fresh shower in days of travel. Big hearted people.
Even Later: The south pacific sun sets all too quickly. Before we knew it we where on the last 6:00 locals bus, from the tourist ghetto. Tired local women, clothed in big flowery dresses, eased their way onto the crammed bus. They walked with tired feet and big smiles. I chatted with the ones who weren’t sleeping. In Nadi, we got dropped off far outside of our mental map, and ages away from the airport. Without missing a beat, the colorfully dressed Fijian women scooped us up like lost puppies. “You come with us.” It wasn’t a question. They waved and laughed with everyone walking past, until we reached a van that was riding low with passengers. The driver bantered back and forth with our saviors. I heard “airport” get said several times. I imagine our impromptu guide was threatening the driver with a certain death should we not make it. He rolled his eyes and swallowed in big gulps. $2 and off we went. Linz was fully passed out in the back seat, drooling next to a man who had arms like taro roots. The whole van was watching her, chuckling as her head rolled from side to side at each bend. The Van dropped us right at the front door, the threats from the woman still fresh in the drivers eyes. We bid our farewell and thank you’s in the dark. Big hearted people.
I had the next 15 hours of plane travel to think about the kindness I had received. Having been in the South Pacific before, and having heard the reputation of Fijians, I wasn’t surprised to find such welcoming people. What surprised me more was my own stereotypes of wealthy foreigners, big nice buildings and constructed paradise. It took this trip to realize that the best parts of cultures and attitudes only intermingle if they are given the chance. A chance that not everyone experiences the same way as I do. For some people it means getting a time share, and if thats what it takes, then good for them.
For the record, I never got sick from the water.