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Thursday, October 27, 2011

28th Oct – Should I stay or Should I go?

This morning I had a personal guide and tour of Nadi and surrounding area. I find it really difficult to understand how someone of limited means gets the opportunity to have a tour guide of my own, like millionaires have. I waited in reception for the bus to collect me, and a young Fijian Indian picked me up in a Hilux. I thought that he was just collecting me to add me to a bigger tour, but I was it.

We started at the Hindu temple, the biggest one in the Southern Hemisphere. One of the problems I have with religion generally is that it attracts people with very little, and yet the lavish nature of churches and temples (money lenders in the temple comes to mind) is built on the hope and donations of such people, growing wealthier and wealthier selling the promise of a better life. I think it was Martin Luther King, who said something along the lines of judging people by the contents of their heart – maybe that should apply to churches and temples as well. Whilst the Hindu temple was lavishy, much of its colourful nature is provided by paint, as the stories of the various Gods are painted on the ceilings. It is, however, a beautiful thing, and so I enjoyed it for what it was.

From there we went to a ‘Market’, which turned out to be a tourist gift shop selling tat, but it represented an opportunity to buy something typically Fijian, so I made the best of it. I much preferred the next stop, a food market, where the fruit and veg were on display, including the roots that make the cava drink, along with exotic vegetables that are not normally on display at your local supermarket, unless its on the Handsworth Road.

From there to the Garden of the Mountain of the Sleeping Giant, which was created by the late actor Ramond Burr (older readers may remember Ironside and Perry Mason). He established an orchid garden on the side of the Mountain of the Sleeping Giant, which runs down the centre of the Island. The flowers were colourful and beautiful, but the smell was incredible, What I don’t understand is how he got his wheel chair up the mountainside to plant them. In fact if I was a criminal in San Francisco in the ‘60’s, I’d make sure I’d commit all my crime on the second floor of buildings – that would reduce his detection rates.

Finally I was taken to a hot springs and spa nearby. This was in a field, off a beaten track, with a hand-panted sign welcoming you. It was part of a village farm, started by two families in the 60’s, but now there are over 100 inhabitants. (They obviously didn’t have a telly). In the field was a hut, a standpipe shower, a muddy pool and a stream. No expensive 5 star accommodation attached, with holistic treatments, menus full of calories and noughts on the bill here. The manager of the spa explained the history and geography to me. Fiji is volcanic, hence the mountain range down the centre, and this gelogy had created a hot spring in the field of more than 70 degrees C. This fed a couple of pools, one with volcanic mud in, and the other via a stream, into a spa pool of 35 degrees. The smell of sulphur was again apparent, but nowhere as near as strong as in Rotoroa. I didn’t have my cossie with me, so had to make do with smearing on my legs and arms, but an Aussie couple who had the full monty showed me how they were floatingin the mud pool. From there the standpipe washed off the worst of it, before getting in the 35 degrees warm spa pool. From there to completely relax me, I was offered a 15 minute massage for 10 Fijian dollars – about £3.30, by one of a group of village women.

The massage was a weird one, the oil obviously contained coconut oil by the smell, but as she rubbed, it heated up beyond the temperature of her hands, a little like Ralgex would. What I really liked was that within this hut, the village women were gossiping, and little children were playing, almost as if I was an intruder to their normal everyday existence. A guide this week told me that Fijians without money have the biggest smiles, and those with money rarely smile. These women seemed incredibly content with their lot.

This village business was purposely non – commercial, in the way that it operated. It didn’t spoil the experience by selling pots of mud, postcards, expensive massage oils, and it was their vision to stay this way – keeping it as close to natural as they could, whilst making a profit, and providing work for the villagers.

Re-invigourated by the experience, I caught the Bula Bus ( a local service around the resort) down to Port Deranau, for more sight seeing. Sadly the harbour did have some boats in, but most of the area had been dedicated to the Retail Gods. My guess was it was designed by Westfield, and could be called, MacArthur Glen, or Banbury Designer Village. I don’t get this sort of holiday. Resort Hotels with shops, and then a shopping centre as a holiday experience, in its own right, which could be anywhere in the World – Cape Town’s V and A, Bluewater, Barcelona’s Maremagnum ad finitum.
Give me experiences like that little spa anyday – I don’t even know if it had a name.

This is my last evening, and so my last full entry into my blog. I may add one or two further thoughts, as they come to me, and I will add the missing photos once I get faster internet speeds.

It’s been a fantastic experience, not sure it’s been a life changing one, although I wish I understood where all the niceness, trust and politeness went out of British life. Its slipped away without us noticing or putting up a fight for it. Yes I’ve seen the tourist side of life here, but in the UK I feel I have to thank the waitress, barman, hotel staff whoever, for lowering themselves to deal with me. In Fiji, the normal facial expression is a smile, and they exist on what they call Fiji time – they will get round it it whenever, maybe they know that there’s time to change the world tomorrow. In New Zealand, their earnestness to do the right thing, be friendly and helpful, I think backfired on the English rugby team, who pushed the sensibilities of the New Zealanders in the wrong way, and maybe the earnestness changed to self-righteousness over standards (mainly sense of humour) that were different between to similar and yet different cultures.

At times the blog has felt a bit diary-ish, and a lot like a list of to-do’s done, but I hope it has given readers a feel for the respective countries, and some of my thoughts and experiences along the way. I don’t know what the UK has to offer me in terms of gainful employment on my return, and how my unique set of skills will be employed. I don’t want to be a wage slave, working and travelling long hours, and yet I want a real reason to get up in the morning. An interesting conundrum that I have yet to solve. I do think I’ve seen another, more relaxed way of living and working, and I wonder if as the spread of McD’s and Subway makes their societies more global, they will become more cynical societies as a result. I hope not, as we can learn a lot from them. I hope that we return to a simpler economic model, one where profit generates jobs, and is from growing or making things, and from good service in our everyday lives rather than the House of Cards model of using money to make money – of course it was always going to go wrong, eventually the money had to run out – why could no one see it coming? Profit for profit’s sake is not quality of life for anyone, even those with the massive bonuses to spend in shopping centres in exotic places, when they could buy completely pointless things at home just as easily.

Should I stay or should I go? – The Clash – the dilemma of returning home, of what to do next, of where the UK is going. On in the Hard Rock café at lunchtime – oh the irony of my rant,when I’ve succumbed to a global brand for lunch.

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