Gasping for relief and peace after leaving all of Nakavika in my wake, I finally turned to my taxi driver, a middle-aged, toothless Indo-Fijian with a cheeky grin ready to start some chit-chat. Once again, I had a conversation with a local that scored me points for America in their eyes, and knowing the consequences of getting too invested and connected, I refrained from supplying him with my phone number, which he requested. I remained kind but cold, occasionally hyperventilating from a hard cry long gone. It was a sunny day on the Coral Coast. I made my way to The Uprising and straight to the bar.Read More
A blending of India's food and occasional putrid odors, Uganda's smoking fires and Hawaii's humid sweetness, spices and diesel exhaust, dust and flowers, fresh air infused with very specific whiffs of soap and oils - I can't explain Fiji's air any better than this. I wriggled in anticipation for Garrett's first smells of the island. After sitting/contorting in our seats for 11 hours across the blue Pacific, we stomped onto the tarmac . Garrett immediately cheered for his arrival to a country he instantly loved. The weather was uplifting, the people light-hearted, and all we had to do was pass through immigration to merge out of limbo into the South Pacific.
Even though we are planning some trips to scattered islands and are technically just visitors to Fiji, we decided, in our sleepless stupors, that we were teachers and should present ourselves as such to Fijian immigration. And so began a sweaty pursuit for an extension to our now limited visas.
While Garrett ran downstairs to exchange some money for the visa payment, I worked with the officials and made a hand-written document explaining our intentions for volunteering and where we would be staying. I had no idea what wording was expected, so I pulled out a few lawyer phrases I learned from TV.
That simple letter with an address for Nakavika was apparently all we needed…that and a letter from the school we claimed to be helping, only to find out in a couple hours that we had planned to be in Fiji for the exact days of the big nationwide school break. All these things we had to hurdle were mere technicalities, which we eventually figured out thanks to our friend and contact in Lautoka and another immigration office in town. Though we could have sidestepped the initial troubles by saying we were just tourists, it seemed we were being more honest with our intentions, and it really wouldn't be too hard to get a letter clarifying our acceptance and intent from the village when we get there.
A half hour on the Queen's Road got us to Lautoka, and since Sugar City is the only city I know in Fiji, we came back to a familiar (cheap) hotel, shopped at a familiar (colorful) market and met up with Kimbo at a familiar volunteer house - to tap into the Fijian mentality and become better acquainted with the savvy of an expat.
Running around in the [near] equatorial sun after a day of flying gave us a beautifully rancid stench, and there seemed no better remedy than taking a dip in the hotel pool. December 4th, 2009 and we were swimming outside. We couldn't help but laugh and splash and entertain ourselves with challenges from childhood, all the while feeling the disbelief in our current location.
I couldn't believe we actually went through with it. We came to Fiji.
Wandering town yet again for our last meal of the day, we found some great Chinese and moseyed back with plans to watch Star Trek on my laptop and take an evening swim. We fell asleep immediately upon getting back from dinner. It was 7:30pm in Fiji.
Next came the long, long road to the village of Nakavika.