Situation Update / Some old photos from Fiji and Vanuatu

There’s nothing much going on at present other than another vote of no confidence scheduled for Friday. But there hasn’t been the build-up of tension or increased security that there was last week. Still, we’ll keep an eye out for changes to the situation.  

Other than that things have been just sort of chugging along:

  • We’re going out to dinner on Friday night for Louise’s birthday.
  • Went diving on the weekend.
  • I’m going kayaking soon.
  • Kids are happy at school.
  • Cody started piano lessons and Pidgin lessons.
  • Erry is a ‘wocket’. 
  • No-one is ill.
  • RAMSI and GRM are set to make decisions in the next few weeks about the shape and size of the programmes next year, which means we might get an inkling as to whether we’ll be in the Solomons. 
  • We have been notified by our landlord that she is going to put the rent up to seven hundred thousand US dollars a calendar minute next year, so we will be moving if we stay in Honiara.
  • Making a few new friends, sort of. 
  • Car still broken, so no change there.
  • Weather hot and rainy.
  • All is basically OK.

We’re looking forward to the wedding in September very much and have re-made our flight booking so as to come over on the Wednesday rather than the Thursday or Friday, and have booked a few nights in Sydney at the YMCA Hotel before we come up (Wed and Thur). We have done this in case our flight on Wednesday is delayed by a day or so. Given that Solomon Airlines currently has no actual airplane, owned or leased – which is something of a drawback in an airline, it must be said –  such a delay is not out of the realms of possibility, and in fact is very much in the realms of possibility and has a P.O. Box there.

As you know the camera has had it, and that does turn out to include the video function as well, so I am clutching the bottom of the envelope here by putting up some photos of Fiji and Vanuatu from nearly a month ago. The kids still look the same as they do in these pictures, only slightly older, but I have undergone a radical transformation and now look like Brad Pitt.

FIJI is a dimension of pure evil:

nandi.jpg 

The first thing we did on the first morning was get breakfast and hit the shops. Local ethnic Fijian touts – including a very drunk policeman – kept approaching us and assuring us that all the Indians were very untrustworthy and would rob us and pick our pockets. The way to avoid this was of course to visit their own fine establishment where quality local goods and service were a proud tradition.

I guess it probably rates as a laid back town by world standards, but it’s still much more full on than Honiara. All the Indian women call everyone ‘darling’ in a very passive-agressive manner, and grab you by the elbow as they shop-talk you. After the very restrained Melanesian ways of the Solomons, the sudden dose of Asian forwardness and competition was a bit of a rude shock. Even though it is nothing on the level of intensity of Vietnam or Malaysia or Bali, we still didn’t really like it.

Everyone in every shop said ‘Bula’ (“Hello / Goodbye / Welcome / Buy things”) at every opportunity, to the point where we began to suspect that the need to say this was being impressed upon them by the tourist authority, and that businesses must get paid a commission for saying ‘Bula’ to tourists a certain number of times per day ( I’d guess you need about 500 ‘Bulas’ for a bonus payment). I’m sure if Australia ever became totally reliant on tourism we would all be forced to say ‘G’day’ in a similar manner. 

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Despite the hard sell – or possibly because of it – we purchased very little other than much-needed shoes. I got Cody a ukelele, and we got Erin a grotesque plastic doll which she immediately dismembered and then wept over piteously. Then we headed back to the hotel. I don’t really like Nadi much, just based on that one day.      

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The hotel – the Mercure – was a total shocker and had ‘fake paradise’ written all over it. They even had a little imported sand beach, even though it was a few miles inland, and some coconuts that had been dug up and transplanted, but also had all the fruit taken off them so it couldn’t fall on you while you lazed about, which might prompt you to sue the owners. Basically, it had that ‘beach away from the beach’ feel that just makes you want to gouge your eyes out.

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The following day we went to Denarau Island, which is a huge cluster of luxury resorts near Nadi. We had pizza and cocktails on the beach at sunset, and later by lamplight, at a very impressive and luxurious resort with decor that was totally perfect, but utterly disconcerting, and made the Mercure look homely and basic. It had a sort of ‘thousands of innocent natives have suffered for years to bring you these few moments of perfect luxury’ feel to it. Intoxicating but basically, awful.

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I wouldn’t ever do this again. It takes your soul away. Don’t go to Nadi or Denarau. Go to the outlying islands of Fiji, or Vanuatu. This place is evil.

Vanuatu is a powerful force for good

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Look: they drive on the wrong-hand side of the road in Vanuatu, presumably on the understanding that if the French do it, it must be OK. So naturally enough we both nearly got killed a few times in the first few days by stepping out confidently into the road after having ensured that no traffic was coming on the opposite side. Beep! Look left, stupid.

The glass bottom boat tour was a bit disappointing – one of those things you do for the kids, who then prove uninterested after the first ten minutes so you end up wondering why you are there.

glass-bottom-boat.jpg

It’s very pretty there. We both thought the terrain looked quite Australian – far more so than the Solomons – and reminded me of Southern New South Wales (despite the islands being originally called the New Hebrides). The city itself is very cute and in a great spot on a peninsula with a few islands offshore to shelter the main harbour.

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Finally, here’s Erin at the resort, which was lovely. I can’t think of too much else to say about it really, because we weren’t actually there that much. We kept popping out into town.

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The camera was taking about one decent shot in four at that point. The average is much lower now, so there’s really little point trying it. I might put up some ‘flashback’ photos of the original Hebrides from the Scotland trip in a bit – it was nearly year ago now we went there.

So what else did we do?  

  • We left the kids with carers and went out to dinner at a romantic restaraunt with a table for two overlooking the bay. A huge storm came in and we got cold and rained on, which was funny, even at the time.
  • I took the kids out on the lagoon in a outrigger canoe which was utterly impossible to steer, to the point where I had to swim it back into shore, while the kids looked on with polite interest and reminded me that this wasn’t how George the Melanesian man did it yesterday.
  • While I did that, Louise tried to have a local church experience and ended up being berated by slightly crazed evangelists from Singapore.
  • We went diving and Louise went down to 45 meters!
  • We visited a turtle hatchery and Louise held one but I had too much sunscreen on my hands, which apparetly they dislike.
  • We sailed about the island where they filmed SURVIVOR Vanuatu and ruminated on how much we hate that show. 
  • We drank a lot of imported French red wine from ‘La Petit Cave’ bottle shop.

Good times.

Anyway, enough from me, hope all are well,

Love,  

S.

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2 thoughts on “Situation Update / Some old photos from Fiji and Vanuatu

  1. Mary Mckenzie and John McKenzie says:

    Dear ALL

    We are in the middle of a technological revolution – switching to broadband, getting a new mobile (it is very small and I keep accidentally taking photos which, of course, are of nothing I can identify, up very close). I am also planning to get a proper digital camera, having done a course at U3A on how to choose one – but that is on hold for the moment. We decided to get a new house phone system when we switched to broadband, because the old one is packing up – won’t let you hear who is calling, answers calls after two rings and won’t let you change it, keeps making strange noises etc.. The process is not finished. but, so far, has involved lots of trial and error and we have not yet managed to get the answering maching to use our recorded greeting – it just switches to Telstra 101. The broadband is still to start – they have to send me an email about how to get started.

    Vanuatu looks great – and the kids look terrific. We got an update on the SI today from Foreign Affairs which warns against wearing revealing clothes or showing affection in public. That is the only change.

    Don Nairn and Robin are arriving on Monday for a few days and we will be doing the Adelaide tourist bit. Not much else, except that U3A is involved in a dramatic saga which is depressing and time consuming for John – too tiresome to repeat but I will be glad when it is solved.

    Our dearest love to the kids – tell Cody to enjoy the piano and pidgin lessons – and tell Erry we love the idea of her being a wocket
    Will try to catch you on Lou’s birthday – love Mary/Gran and John/Grandad

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