Monday, September 21, 2009

We have arrived in Fiji

Hi All:

We are still having Internet problems so please forgive the broadcast character of this email. The Internet is apparently down for properties along the Hibiscus Highway, which our road is called. We are unsure when it will be taken care of but hope soon. So, for now at least, we only have Internet access when we go into town. We’re doing that tomorrow (Monday) after schoolwork is done. Luckily we have the laptops so we can pre-compose email and use Skype to our hearts’ desire.

So the adventure has officially begun. The airplane rides were long as you might expect but we managed to make it to our destination with our wallet and ourselves pretty much intact. We packed well, it would appear. In fact, judging from the scene at baggage claim and customs in Nadi, we brought about as much or even less than a lot of vacationer couples brought for just a short stay.

Fiji is absolutely gorgeous. It is wild, green and much larger than we thought. We look forward to getting to know the place during our stay. Aside from the Internet problem, our lodging situation at Siga Siga Sands (aside from the Internet challenges) is everything we’d hoped it would be. The property itself is gorgeous, with acres of grass and scattered coconut palms and other tropical shrubs. There are cows and goats (aka the lawn mowers) and lots of different kinds of birds, including mynahs. Ian seems to have a mental block with the name though and is calling them “myrnas”, “mayas”, “minas”, among others. It’s pretty amusing.

The house is perfect for us. There are two bedrooms, a bathroom and WC, a kitchen and L-shaped living room/dining room, which empties out onto a covered porch. The kitchen is straight out of the 1970s, with lovely red Formica and wood grain Formica cabinetry. There is no dishwasher and, as often the case in the tropics, sugar ants abound. What great motivation to up the level of responsibility in the dishwashing department! There is a nice big dining table, perfect for meals, family meetings and game nights. The tablecloth we brought from home (our “couvert”) fits it nicely.

The living room faces the beach, which is about 100 yards from our door. The main furnishings are a leather recliner couch and chair in a lovely shade of electric blue with a matching oriental rug. There are two desks (nice), two entertainment cabinets, a futon and a few more chairs. There are lots of chairs in Siga Siga for some reason. The owners have also provided us with a tv and entertainment system and games, movies, puzzles and sports equipment.

Ben and I hit the jackpot with our bedroom. It is just right in size and has a spectacular view out onto the lawn and water. I woke up to the dawn this morning, which was hands down the best one I’ve ever witnessed.

Tica and Ian have already started taping posters and pictures to their respective walls in their bedroom, which is on the northwest side of the house. They each have a twin bed with a bedside table between them. The dresser and closet seem to fit all their clothes and so far the fighting over space has been minimal.

We have already met some of the neighbors – Fijians with kids. Yeah! This afternoon as I cooked dinner, Ian and Tica are playing soccer with two of the boys from “beach right” (neighbors to the right as you face the ocean). At dinner, they voiced that their skills would probably improve tremendously during the next few months.

We are still looking for the best snorkeling spot. There is a lot to choose from. All spots require quite a hike over hard pan, up to a ½ mile. We tried beach right yesterday morning, which yielded a little stuff far out. We managed to locate the drop off, which looks very interesting but is too challenging at this point for the smaller humans among us. We ventured beach left last night and this morning, where the pickings were a lot more enjoyable. The hard pan gives way to a shallow area of sand and coral formations, which harbor a lot of critters, including some cowries. We’ll be doing some more exploring of the spot tomorrow morning no doubt. As part of school, we’ll set up a grid in different areas to survey the wildlife and monitor fish behavior.

Okay, it hasn’t been all wine and roses since our arrival. We, well Tica, did have had one rather tough moment yesterday upon our return from Savusavu. Stores are closed on Sundays here and there was not a scrap of food in the house aside from our handful of Clif bars and a 2/3 full jar of peanut butter. Leaving Ben and Ian at home to unpack the gear, Tica and I struck out for Savusavu Town by taxi. The object was to explore and get a few days’ provisions. This was the site of Tica’s and my first “We’re not in Winslow anymore” moment.

Savusavu Town (population 5,000) is the size of our hometown of Winslow. Like Winslow, it is a strip of stores about a ½ mile or so. Tica and I only explored about a third of it. Unbeknownst to us, Saturday is Market Day. People come from miles around to do their shopping. It was sheer mayhem, with Indian music blasting from speakers everywhere and people bustling around trying to complete their errands before the 2pm closing time. Oh the Humanity! We think we might’ve seen one other white person there but otherwise we were the only haoles in town. How strange it felt to be the minority for once. Eye opening….

The food situation was another discombobulating experience. We checked out the farmers market and were relieved to seem some familiar items – rice, carrots, cucumbers, garlic, onions and even tomatoes – among the mysterious fruits and vegetables. There were lots of spices too, which made me wish I’d gotten a good Indian food cookbook before we left. (Time to get Epicurious!)

The grocery store, one of a few in town, had some items that looked familiar. We managed to snag a big bottle of olive oil, some pasta and a can of kidney beans. Cereal is available along with lots of crackers. Protein was another matter though. It looks as though we’ll be eating lots of chicken, maybe some lamb and lots of peanuts. We tried a can of corn beef but it did not even make it to the taste test phase. (I think it was the visible beef veins that did it.) And, surprisingly, we didn’t see much fish. We saw a couple of people carrying around small skipjack tunas in plastic grocery bags but that’s about it. Clearly we have to do some more exploring.

Anyway, back to Tica. Upon our return, the poor girl, who has been a trooper through all of this – getting her room ready for someone else to live in for a year, having been on the road for six weeks already, and dog tired from the trip – poor Tica just burst into tears when we got home. It was all so overwhelming. She said she was disappointed that things weren’t perfect the moment we got here. What’s more, she felt guilty feeling that way because she was getting to do something that so few others will get to do. Poor sweet girl! It was heartbreaking to watch, even though we were pretty sure that being tired and hungry had a lot to do with the outburst. Sometimes you really just need to have a good cry.

Tica recovered very quickly after a peanut butter sandwich and some cuddling. Such a trooper she is! The episode gave both Ben and me pause though. We’ve known all along what a monumental undertaking this is. We’ve known what we have signed up our children for this as well. We’ve known that there would be difficult moments. To come face to face with the reality of it all, especially on very little sleep, was jarring to say the least.

But what a difference a good night’s sleep makes! We went to bed at 7:30 last night and got up with the sun this morning. We spent the day checking out “our” reef, visiting the local resort (Koro Sun) and playing with the neighbor kids. We learned that Ian is a crack “finder” of interesting things on the reef. Tica and I sat under the shade beach bure and did some reading. Ian and Ben went exploring and found the lily pond. Ben and I discussed tomorrow’s school plans. Ian played with the Ipod Touch.

We’ll see what tomorrow’s trip to town brings in terms of emotions and feelings of homesickness. With such a peaceful place to return to though, I feel like there is a good possibility that it will go better than the last shopping expedition. We’ve also done a little more research into town and realized that Tica and I completely missed the “yachtie” aka expat shopping mall down the street. Maybe we’ll find some goodies to help ease our way into the Fijian diet. Maybe we’ll find some dominoes. Okay, and some fish….We’ll look for some fish.

Vinaka (thanks) for reading. I’m going to send this in email form but we will likely post it on the blog as well and—if I can figure out how to do it – on Facebook. Feel free to pass it along as well.

Much love to all of you. Write if you feel like it. It may take us a while to respond but we’ll do our best.

If you would like to write to us, here is our address:

M/M Drury

c/o Siga Siga Sands

PO Box 393

Savusavu, Fiji Islands

Note that there is no zip code. Our landlord further tells us that it is important to write “Fiji Islands” as mail marked for “Fiji” alone sometimes goes to Fuji, Japan.



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