Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another Shitty Day In Paradise

Right, I've been nice so far haven't I? I haven't had much cause for complaint on the bulk of this trip but moreover I've tried often in the face of good reason to stay chipper.You only need, if you have arranged without my knowledge or permission, a camera crew to follow me on and document my travels incognito, to rewind your tapes a few days to witness me being the positive counter to Adam's initial negative perception of this country.Well I've been forced to take up a counter position just lately so this once, indulge me, I'm going to get angry, okay? All strapped in and ready? Good.


Nadi (pronounced, inexplicably, Nan-dee) is a dilapidated backward spread out refugee camp of a town. All the 'resorts', and this word is applied without justification to every business that offers accommodation - none of them live up to what it conjours in your mind - are divorced so much in random location and quality both from each other and places where the word paradise isn't used unjustifiably, like Thailand, as to make you wonder how they have the barefaced cheek to even pretend to have a tourist industry, let alone actively solicit the visitation of foreigners in pursuit of happiness.

I was warned by a deceptively pleasant customs officer, on arrival, to ensure the cab driver turned on the meter when he took us to New Town Beach, a trip that should, she said cost $5FJ (about EUR 1.80) That sort of advice soon goes without saying in most of South East Asia - so no worries there then- other than the immediate advertisment of a poor and dishonest population. Then again aren't most taxi drivers dishonest? Especially at airports? If I flick through my mental slideshow of holiday snaps I find that yes this is the case. At the taxi rank the drivers says, when we ask, as instructed, for a meter, that yes, he has one... But it only goes for 10km, and our destination is outside that radius. Complete bullshit, of course, but he says this in full view of the taxi rank manager.He tells us the fare is $10. Fine screw me out of two euros. Fuck you, who cares? On the way out the security guard stops the cab to make sure the meter is on - and it is - only for his sake. It's flicked off once we get through. We tell him that we don't have a place booked when he asks, but have done some light research online and that this looked like the best area. He tries to drop us out on a desserted road and finally takes us, to what we learned later, was probably the crumbiest joint in the area. Who cares? It's only for one night.Whatever.

Next day it's a bus to Pacific Harbour, the self styled 'Adventure Capital of Fiji.' There are 3 gift shops and 2 hotel/hostels there. Oh and a post office. Did I mention the post office? Well there's a post office there too. We shark dived, as previously mentioned, which salvaged something of the trip but the 2 days there were punctuated by overpriced accommodations, lousy food, torrential rain and drunken friendly advances from the locals which quickly became violent attacks from the locals. Incidentally, not only were these people clearly too drunk and hostile to the tourists but all out fights were ignored by the bar staff - a nice cherry to crown the dollop of cream that is their thus far service-with-a-frown. Almost every situation in which I've wanted to buy something or give money to someone for something I've had to physically acquire their attention and then feel like my custom is an open handed insult, not to mind inconvenience.

But we make it back to Nadi, consoling ourselves with the advice that we've gotten from everyone we've met who's been here. 'You have to get off the main island.'

So we book a trip that takes us to Mana island to dive a site called 'Gotham City.' And that's where I am now. So why am I not diving? Well there's only 1 instructor here and he's fully booked today. And the ONLY OTHER DIVE SHOP ON THE ISLAND WON'T TAKE MY MONEY! Seriously. They just flat out refused $400 becuase I wasn't staying with them. We can't even buy things from their shop! And we booked all this stuff, necessarily, from the mainland. Oh and all our meals are paid for too. Great, huh? Funnily enough, no. I was just given a plate of lukewarm macaroni and cheese in a queue! And all the while an interminable cycle of horrible, radio fodder, chart music is being pumped out with the volume all the way up to 11. And just the first 15 seconds of each song! There's a completely oblivious Fijian at a computer smiling away to himself as he starts up a , say, Lady Gaga tune. Then 9 seconds in he starts a Beyonce track, then 12 seconds later Who let the Dogs Out? - a questions I've been asking myself more and more lately - in a constant maddening cycle.

It's crossdressing night here tonight and apparently you don't get served unless properly (or improperly I suppose) attired. Ordinarily I'm cool with some such nonsense but my usual good nature and patience are being put under a lot of stress right now.

Not 30 minutes ago I walked along the beach far enough away to escape the tumble dryer of top 30 hits and asked a local if I might lie in an unoccupied hammock on an almost empty beach in front of an empty hotel and she said 'No, it is not allowed.' I would have to be a guest in a different hotel for that...

So I walked back here thinking at least my old friend the net will help me vent but the generator is off between 10am and 3pm here so I'm foiled again. I'm actually writing this with a pencil, grudgingly lent to me by the peevish, sow-faced woman in charge, on the back of my faxed itinerary, the one that saved me being refused entry to New Zealand only 2 weeks ago.That's dedication, you say.No, it's raw anger. This has taken long enough so that the "DJ" has stopped ruining me with his listening habits and has been cathartic enough to downgrade a real Fuck-The-World mood to simply a Fuck-Fiji one.

We keep being told that $100 a night is a cheap way to see paradise. But none of this comes close to the Gulf of Thailand or anything nearby and everything costs 400% more. And even at that we're being treated like shit and being told we should be grateful. We dearest Fiji, I invite you to perform a lewd act on yourself. My heart belongs to South East Asia.

An Update upon typing this out from the original: I didn't get to dive that Gotham City site either. Weather was too choppy. And I was hungover as hell when we did dive the 7 sisters site, which was pretty nice but we had to walk down the beach fully kitted up both ways so no more diving for me. Especially since the showers here are icy cold too. They show real creativity here in destroying the potential in raw material as wonderful as the natural landscape of these islands.

But that's only another minor gripe. Worse yet, with all my little hardships and group complaining during the last 48 hours I forgot the birthday of someone special yesterday. They'll let it slide, I hope, and let me start it's making up with a little late but doubly wished Happy Birthday!

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