Posted by: monsonmadness | June 20, 2012

Impressions of Fiji

We had barely come home to this…

…when it was time to say goodbye again to our cute kids. Off on another flight, first to Samoa, and then onwards to Fiji. Check out this cool photo from the plane…

We got a taxi to the temple and spent a few hours there. We were able to perform proxy baptisms for family members, it was a great experience. We saw lots of people that we knew from American Samoa which was really nice.

Afterwards we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant with a couple from the temple presidency who we knew, but the food was naff. They were kind enough to give us a tour of Apia, and then drive us out to the airport.

Our flight to Fiji didn’t leave until midnight, so we had a long time to wait and not much to do. We had a sad experience with a handicapped young lady who was at the airport. At first it was pretty scary because we thought she may be drunk and weren’t sure what she wanted. Turns out, she just wanted someone to talk to. She had been shunned by all of the other waiting passengers who were shooing her and telling her to go away. She was crying, saying that Samoans had no respect. She chatted to us for hours in Samoan, and we couldn’t understand a word except for when she said a few English things, like asking us for water and money.  We found out that her name was Elena (Samoan for Helen).

She moved closer and closer to us, and started copying our gestures and movements. She was mimicking our yawns, smiles, toe taps, everything, all the while talking very loudly in Samoan. Finally she was sitting right next to me, and started shouting out to people that we were her brother and sister.

There were some uncomfortable moments where she would lift up her clothing and expose herself, but we looked away until she was done. She had no concept of appropriate public behavior, and was just like a small child trapped in an adult body. After a couple of hours, she was forcibly removed from the airport. The security guard apologized to us, saying that she had a “broken mind”. It was sad. I wonder what will happen to her.  Throughout the whole experience, the scripture “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren” was going through my mind. She just wanted someone to show her some love and respect.

Maybe it was because of this sobering experience that our first day in Fiji was a little melancholy. Most tourists stay in the huge beach resorts in Fiji and get little exposure to how local Fijians live. We had decided to stay off the beaten track, and so we had a long drive though the small villages to find our remote resort. Like the other Pacific islands that we have visited, villagers make their living by fishing or by selling fruit at the side of the road. They wear ragged clothes and most don’t have shoes.

We were silent as we drove, both of us feeling sad at the sights we were passing. The homes were nothing more than shacks, the poverty was extreme. The bigger towns were extremely run down, with shanty buildings, and although all the locals waved at us as we drove past, we didn’t feel safe stopping the car.

Finally, after driving for half an hour over pot holes and boulders, we found an isolated beach that we wanted to stop at. As soon as we parked, we saw small children running as fast as they could towards us. I wound down the window to say, “Bula”. They were so excited, they wanted everything they could see in the car, and were trying desperately to reach in and grab something. Since I wasn’t about to give them my camera or our only bottle of water, I gave them the next thing they asked for, “paper, paper”.

I had a computer printout of the beach, and perhaps they recognized it as their home. Maybe they just liked the pretty colors of the blue ocean on the white paper. They acted like it was Christmas time when I gave them the paper and they ran back across the grass waving it above their heads triumphantly as if it were a winning lottery ticket.

We only stayed at the beach for a few minutes but it was enough time to meet several local fishermen who were going out spear fishing, and to see this horse walking down the beach.

It was really hot and we were getting hungry. We hadn’t passed anywhere to eat in the last hour, and didn’t know what would be on the road ahead of us, so we stopped at the fancy overpriced golf course for lunch. The views were magnificent and the food was good, but the last 24 hours have left me with an uneasy feeling of why I have been blessed with so much when others have so very little…

Later on that day during our drive we saw many more animals crossing the road including a horse, a cow, a goat, a mongoose, a donkey, and of course, lots of wild dogs. We passed schools where children were outside practicing rugby and netball drills, and fruit stands where groups of women were casually breastfeeding their children as they waited for customers.

We finally arrived at our resort in the middle of nowhere late in the afternoon and were so tired that we crashed until dinner time. After dinner, Michael stayed up writing and I fell fast asleep. Wonder what tomorrow will bring…

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Responses

  1. Beautiful place, but seems like there are some sad stories..Are there not enough resorts to employ a majority of the villagers? What is the local infrastructure like – are there schools?

    • Fiji is made up of 332 islands. On the two main islands, the population is 850,000, and three quarters of this population live in the capital, Suva. The resorts are all on the other side of the island, 3 hours away from Suva, so most tourists only ever see the beautiful resorts and beaches, and not the real Fiji.
      The minimum wage is $2.50 an hour, but most people just farm or fish to support their families. The school are very sad. The hospitals are the same. This trip was very sobering for me.

  2. Very humbling. We really do have so much.

  3. Helen- have had a call from Anne. She wants to get in touch with you urgently. There is a consignment of aid going to Samoa early next week and it is only half full. She wants to know what you would like her to put in it-what do you need?. Please communicate as soon as possible I enjoy your posts, Love Liz.

      • Hi Liz,
        Sorry, we haven’t had internet access for a few days. Is the consignment going to Samoa or American Samoa? I am in American Samoa, so we need to verify it’s coming to the same place! Is she asking what kind of things do the people there need? I will be on email tomorrow and Sunday if either you or Anne could send more details. Thanks so much.

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