Updated: Jul 7, 2019
Always a bit surreal to come back to what's called 'reality' - well, only 'my' reality anyway.
Unlike what people traditionally thought of a Fijian holiday, beaches, resorts, etc, I saw an incredibly diverse culture, a stark contrast between the village life and the resort life that tourist like me, most of the time. Two polarised lifestyle, co-exist in harmony.
To put it plainly, I paid FJD$40 for an hour massage, equivalent to ~ AUD$26, less than half of what you pay in Australia, but the masseuse lady actually only gets FJD$2.5 for the hour massage work. Being a past qual-researcher and ultra curiouser, we talked about her life to the details of how her husband left her for her best friend, leaving 2 kids and her behind, because "she does't party", how a white guy John B owns the resort and live in NZ.... how her ancestry is from Beqa Island known for sharks and without going into details, a huge shark once appeared in Yasawa Islands to teach her ex-husband a lesson after her desperate pray to her ancestor for a more peaceful life - she believe the huge shark is her grandfather. She didn't tell me her entire life story to earn sympathy and tips, she insisted on not talking my tiniest $5 tips which is equivalent to 2 hrs of pay but I left it in the massage hut and run away.
The trip was an eye opener, definitely much more exotic than I imagined. It wasn't the resort life that I mostly enjoyed, it was talking to these local Fijians, getting to know their life, their family stories, what do they have for dinners, their earning/cost of living balance, who owns the resort they work in, how they get to work, what they anticipate their children to do when they grow up.... it was not the tropical fishes we encountered but these yakking that made the trip most colourful. Visiting and driving through villages where chickens running around and colourful cloths flying on a long line, over the hill on the other side of the island (or another island nearby) from the beautiful, picture-perfect resorts we stayed, live some hundreds of village Fijians in their straw/bamboo bure, or slightly modern but tiny brick/concrete/stone houses.
Of course, the nature itself is breathtaking and every changing, one moment the sun is burning sun, reflecting silver sparkles over a turquoise sea, the next second a purple grey storms buckle down with heavy rain and the sea becomes uninviting. The water is super warm (27C I guess), most days the water is clear but there has been times when we went further out to snorkel and the mud water was coming from the island, almost immediately the water becomes unclear and it's scary to be out at sea and can't see the water around you so we had to swim back to the island quickly. The visit to the infamous Sawa-I-Lau- Caves was so choppy. Let's just brand it as.... a 'convertible' mini boat (with no roof) for a good 15 minutes on super bumpy waters where I felt the amount of papaya I had for breakie still wasn't enough to keep me on the boat, but it might come out the wrong way. The cave visit was a mini-Tomb Raidar experience where you dive under the cave for merely seconds to visit the next cave in pitch dark. (google image Tomb Raidar swim underwater if you want to know what it's like). It reminded me of the black water rafting we did in NZ more than a decade ago when I didn't used to get claustrophobic but to be honest I did panic a little bit in the second cave when there was zero light and you're floating in water not knowing what in and around you. Driving from Nadi to Suva was very scenic, surrounded by lush green forests and small villages nestles in the hills. There are frequently cows, horses on the side of the road and villagians trying to hitch-hike. One day the car in front of us ran into a poor pigglet running out - the little thing rolled around and stood up and ran away, hope s/he survived. My favourite moment of the road trip is getting a fresh coconut on the side of the road haha, even if they are selling us ~AUD$2 per coconut - this is almost Sydney price. Knowing Fijians average income you know it's a rip off but it didn't bother me because omg the fresh coconuts are the best! Plus, when the guy asked me if I needed a straw, and chopped a small hollow stem and brightly laughed "It's Fijian straw! Hahahaha" - priceless moments, money can't buy.
Some of the other highlights are... snorkelling with a 1.5-2m shark in some other island nearby to Beqa (the one known for sharks), even though I only saw half of him/her. S/he swam passed me gracefully but fairly quickly so I didn't get a chance to have a closer look. Plus the hired goggles as part of the tour keep leaking water that stung my eye to much. But with my sore eyes I still saw a huge tuna swam very quickly just under me. Also the roadtrip back to Nadi from Suva, when we went offtrack, with a robust, reliable hired Kia going through all the pot holes, passing a small village with abandoned houses and friendly locals offering fresh coconuts, showing us the 'way' to reach the beach - which is pretty much driving through the grass field with no apparent 'way' per se... Oh and my birthday, lucky girl, we were at two different resorts on my birthday and the day after so I luckily had two batch of birthday songs (the English one we know with the addition repeats of "May God bless you, may God bless you". I woke up at sunrise, did some yoga while in the sea with little fishes surrounding me, salute to the sun as it rises across the sea. Filmed my future promotional video, maybe (while I really don't like the idea ever having to self-promote on social media but that seems to be the way to go if you ever want to attract a crowd). It's very difficult to explain by words but somehow the Fijian culture as it is, almost echos my feeling about having to ever promote and capitalising on yoga (which is against the traditional and my own synthesis of yoga philosophy), maybe the local viligians also don't like the big resorts - often owned by rich white guys, are being built one after another, taking over the once secluded beach and land the locals owned, at the same time, tourism is a lucrative business that the locals try to milk everything they can out of it, from selling coconuts and a meal everywhere at aussie rates (meal are roughly AUD$25~35/per main at most places), to mandating every activity to a 'tour' so that they get another AUD$25~80) out of each tourist. Capitalising on yoga is not my end game, but I need to set up a cyclic model that will enable me to do other charitable things. Somehow, the resort-developing, while giving back to the villages, very much resonated.
The beauty of it, is that local Fijians, Fijian Indians, the Commonwealthians in my words (English, kiwis, aussies) with distinct and diverse lifestyle and socio-economic status, but in harmony.
To sum up, if you ever go, don't just stay in the resorts (do that, but not only), go visit a village, talk to your waiter, ask them where they have their lunch etc. I did, so we ate at a foodcourt in MHCC in Suva the last night, which turns out to be one of the best meal and we paid about a quarter to what we've been paying elsewhere. Talk to the locals, they are friendly and you'll never imagine the stories they could offer. We made a friend with the people working in the resorts, and I am starting to miss them! But I am glad I decided not to wash my hair so I am bringing the salt from Fiji reef to the office on my hair, hehe! Enjoy Fiji, not only in a facade resort-life, but get to know it, for real. There's also a hipload to read, if you're keen about cannibalism, which I won't ruin everyone's appetite so I'll leave the job to Google. Bula, Vinaka :)