September 08, 2003

Moce Fiji

Back in La-la Land now, where I write this at an internet station in LAX and we await our flight out at 10 tonight. I slept for much of the 11-hour Air New Zealand flight in, but we managed to score a direct flight back, so the wait's worth it. Huzzah!

It was tough leaving, but it's good to be almost home.

Report, Mr. Sulu

So, Fiji. Fiji is a delight. Our room faced the ocean, which we could hear crashing nearly at our door at high tide. At low tide, we could walk out nearly to the edge of the reef (the ground underfoot was sand and mud and shelss and crushed coral) and see the wondrous miniature wolrds in the tidepools: turquoise fish like little jewels, sea urchins in crevasses, electric-blue starfish. There was some kind of bizarre black sea-slug or worm that was everywhere; they looked like machine hoses jutting out from under the rocks, groping slowly around their shallow pools. And in the deep places, brilliant coral was everywhere, branches and clusters and knotted brains.

The Fijians are great people - a touch conservative, but warm and friendly almost to a fault. Even the con-men are nice enough to strike up more or less genuine conversations before they try to filch you. The population is about 53% native Fijian (a racial blend of Melanesian and Polynesian), 40% Indian, and the rest "other" (mostly Australians, New Zealanders and Chinese), with a few pockets of racial tension but more harmony than you might expect.

Everywhere you see the sulu, the skirt that's the national garment (unisex, though men favor a version with pockets and a beltlike strap - I bought one, naturally, and wore it to happy hour). Every city has handicraft stalls selling local wares made by the villagers - baskets, beads, penadants, and the ubiquitous war clubs and cannibal forks. (I didn't leave with a club, alas, but we made off with quite a few forks and other neat things.) And Fijian beer, both Fiji Bitter and the lighter Fiji Gold, is quite excellent. I could go on at some length about the food (and the best calamari I have ever, ever had), but I risk tedium already, so I'll stop.

Got just a touch homesick by the end of it all, wishing for my big fearsome cosmopolitan city. So it goes. We're almost there now, and happy to be so.

I'm sure I'll be missing the sea all too soon (and spending days on our villa porch, smoking Silk Cut like my literary heroes John Constantine and Bridget Jones), but for now - it's nice having home in sight.

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