After a scrumptralescent stop for In N Out Burger in Los Angeles, I had a 10 hour flight to Fiji. Fortunately it was a red eye and I managed to sleep off and on for the majority of the trip. Upon ladning in Nadi, Fiji, I found the warm air and ocean breeze reminiscent of my Maui days. Ahh, I love that feeling. I had a 9 hour layover in Fiji, but my flight delayed and hour and international flights require checkin 3 hours befre departure. That left me with 5 hours to explore Fiji. My friend Joy had recently stayed with some friends of hers in Nadi, and I had hoped to meet up with them as well. Unfortuantely, I wasn’t able to give Joy enough notice to contact them for me. Instead, she encouraged me to have a Fijian adventure, and that is exactly what I did.
If I had to describe my experience in Fiji in one phrase, it would be “strange, yet enriching.” This was, of course, my first time ever setting foot outisde the good ol’ U.S. of A., so it was bound to be an intriguing experience. Nadi is a desolate place, seemingly decades behind the U.S. The look and feel of the city reminded me of what I’ve seen of Asian nations like China and Japan. It’s truly an interesting place. I walked outside the aiport and managed to catch a bus for Nadi.
My bus tickets to and from the city cost me about $2.75 FJD, which wasn’t all that bad. It was about a 20 minute ride each way. As I boarded the bus, I noticed immediately that I was the only white American to be found, but surprisingly I didn’t notice being stared at. I went to work photographing my Fijian adventure right away. The scenery was pretty enough. It’s a dry land with beautiful mountains looming in the background.
I got off the bus in Nadi, and went about the city searching for a place to eat lunch. There were many people walking the streets, at least half of which were students wearing backpacks and uh….skirts? Eventually, I stumbled upon a small corner restaurant that had an inviting patio with tables and chairs in the shade. I went up and sat down just to rest for a few minutes, but was soon greeted by a friendly Fijian woman offering me breakfast. I asked for lunch instead, and soon had an enormous feast of chicken curry, potatoes, slaw, rice and soup in front of me. The food was delicious(with tip it cost about $8 USD) and the service was delightful. I got to talk to 3 of the waitresses and we shared a little bit of our heritage with each other.
While I was eating, a middle-aged Fijian man came and sat down at the table next to me. He noticed me and struck up a friendly conversation. I learned that he had been running a tourist gift store down the street for about 3 years. After I finished eating, he invited me to come and see his shop. We walked inside, and that’s when things got weird. He shook my hand for the third time in 5 minutes and informed me emphatically that I was welcome to Fiji, and that he wanted to perform a traditional Fijian welcome tradition for me. I watched as he proceeded to lay out some straw mats on the ground and starting becoming suspicious. I nervously glanced back at the entrance and told him I wanted to pass on his welcome. I was certain the door was going to slam shut and I was going to get beaten up and robbed. I mean, that’s how it always happens in the movies. He grabbed an old newspaper article and started to tell me about some drink he wanted to make me. It was a “Kava” drink, made from a local herb. I thanked him and made a bee line for the door. Very weird experience.
I explored a little more, constantly having merchants or taxi drivers extending the Fijian greeting of “Bula!” and trying to solicit my business. Then I hopped on another bus and made my way back to the airport. One thing I noticed there: Fijian airport workers don’t really seem to work at all. Except for the ticketing agents, every other worker I saw was either walking around aimlessly or standing and talking, or better yet laughing hysterically with another worker. How do they get anytthing done at that airport?!
Well, my Fijian adventure was an interesting one for sure. It’s definitely a strange place, and one that I’m not exactly in a hurry to re-visit. However, I finally have a foreign country expereince under my belt. Hopefully it will be the first of many!