Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kere kere

Aka, our house girl, ‘kere kere’-ed our television. She walked in and asked ‘kere kere, can I borrow your television?’. A direct translation of this would be ‘please can I borrow your television?’ but in Fijian this means ‘please can I borrow your television (and not give it back)?. Good thing Deb and I don’t watch it anyway.

What it means to go fishing

At home, our kitchen cupboards are stocked with plastic bottles of tap water for when the mains burst and the water gets cut. That’s when we shower with a bottle and bucket flush the toilet. There are bars on all the windows and deadlocks on the doors. We hang our washing out to dry and wonder if it will still be there when we come back.

Aka, our house girl, leaves the outside lights on at night. Lights on, doors locked. Even when we’re all at home. We’ve learned what it means to go fishing here. A bamboo rod will come through the window slats and hook onto anything valuable within reach. So anything treasured is kept hidden.

The dead beach

The weekend started with a bumpy SPCA van ride down the Coral Coast to meet Jess for her birthday. We swam in the pool while it rained and lightning made silhouettes of the palm trees in the night sky. There was far too much drinking and vomiting in the poolside garden, and a topless Norwegian girl asked us if we’d seen her bra.

In search of a waterfall we walked barefoot for hours, through a forest behind a nearby village. We brushed our toes across ‘touch weeds’ and their little fern leaves curled up as soon as our skin made contact. Our feet were sinking in the mud and our legs were smeared with black and red.

At Sigatoka sand dunes we found a dead beach. A dreamscape. Black sand with old driftwood and seed pods, littered with plastic bottles and broken flip flops. Waves lapped at a giant tree branch submerged in the sand. Hermit crabs were the only sign of life around.

Walking back through the forest we discovered the first offerings of a public art project. Women made of tree roots sculpted around tree trunks. Tree-huggers with their heads bent forward and their arms wrapped tight. Not much further on we found the ‘tree of lost souls’ a beautifully shaped tree with strings of flip flops hanging from every branch. All odd flip flops. Washed up on the dead beach.

We were pulled over by the police on the way home. With none of us wearing seat belts and Lars sitting in the dog cage with the spare tyre at the back. Policeman looked over the van, saw us all inside, and asked for a lift. He’d hailed us down thinking we were a public mini-van.

They called to say they couldn't see the mainland

They called to say they couldn’t see the mainland. It was raining so hard on our return to Viti Levu, the captain called Caqalai for advice. We spent Prophet Muhammed’s birthday weekend snorkelling, diving and crown-of-thorn-spearing on a tiny little island off the east coast, where Rae’s friend is a dive instructor. Someone would blow a conch shell like a horn to let us know when meals were served but otherwise we lost all sense of time.

Skipping over asphalt islands

When it rains in Suva the roads become rivers and we skip over the asphalt islands that are left above the surface. Flip flops spatter mud up the backs of our bare legs. The air is thick with the exhaust of local buses and all along the roadside grows cassava, bele (spinach leaves) and dalo (taro root). Pairs of small children twirl coloured golf umbrellas to mark the school crossing. Taxi drivers lean out their window to offer you a ride. Strings of laundry adorn the house fronts and mounds of rubbish are set alight.

Joseph and his shiny, shiny pants

Joseph and his shiny, shiny pants. That’s what made me want to write. Deb, John and I were sitting in the SPCA van waiting for Joseph to give us directions to Artika’s wedding. The van with the broken door. So we had to climb over the front seat to get to the back, which is difficult in a skirt – and even the men wear ‘skirts’ here (sulus). After half an hour on the side of the road, Joseph came back for us. His pants shone silver in the moonlight. He had gone to fetch some of the other SPCA staff and then our van could follow his the rest of the way. A small SPCA convoy through the dark streets of Suva. Empty except for a few dalo sellers who sleep on the roadside with their wares.