crime is innocent

A guy I took the sailing course with (Dave) talked about crime in Fiji in a way that I think is very truthful. He said that there is crime in Fiji, yet it’s often innocent. It’s true.. houses get broken into and people can get pickpocketed, but it’s by people that are just trying to help out their family or buy their next case of beer. The crime here is usually not very malicious. Fiji isn’t really dangerous.

Last week the big news of the week was that five prisoners escaped from the big jail a little ways away from Suva. I’m not sure how they escaped (Kat asked me if they dug a tunnel for 5 years using a plastic spoon), but they were ‘on the loose’ for many days. I found it a bit strange because there was added security everywhere and lots of police officers, but none of the prisoners were being caught. You would think that with a country so small, it wouldn’t take that long. In Suva, taxi drivers are the people that really know what’s going on and one taxi driver explained to a bunch of us that the police officers are ‘trying’ to catch the prisoners, but they really aren’t. It’s quite probable they are being bribed with money (since lots of people need money) or that they are friends/family of the prisoners. The taxi driver said that soon enough they would call in the army and then within 24 hours, most or all of them would be caught. Sure enough, less than 24 hours later they had 4 out of 5 captured. (now all five are captured)

Another thing I found out this week is that if a police officer catches you in a speed trap, you can pay the police officer $20 cash, and they will pocket it and they will let you keep going. There are a lot of differences between Canada and here.

This week has been pretty good. Mallory (from Nebraska) cut my hair on the weekend and it’s short again. She did a really good job! Monday night was her birthday and her parents flew over from the States to surprise her. It was really hard keeping it a secret. They had a big dinner at the Novotel in the burbs of Suva and spoiled us with delicious food and drinks. I had fish three different ways in that meal! On Tuesday, the bar/club we always go to had free cocktail hour and it was the most intense hour of my life. It was a lot of fun though!

I have been doing lots of errands lately.. finishing up my New Zealand Working Holiday visa, helping plan Mary Ellen & Paul’s and Helenka’s Fiji trips, applying for grants… lots of things like that. I am looking forward to seeing Mary Ellen and Paul! I am lucky enough to be joining them for almost a week in Savusavu during my study break. Unfortunately Helenka is here at pretty much the EXACT same time, so I might see her the last night she is here, but maybe not. It’ll depend on boat times/flight times back from Savusavu.

yasawa’s – waya lailai island

The last place I stayed at was the most memorable.. it was really a great time. The resort (Waya Lailai) was collectively owned by a village. As soon as we stepped off the boat, all the workers ran up to us and started introducing themselves and hugging us. There were only 9-12 people staying there when we were there which was really too bad because it was a lot of fun. I stayed in the 5-bed dorm and met some girls from Austria, England and Germany. They were really nice and we did pretty much everything together. It was also the only place where I met guests that were staying in one place for an extended period of time.

Lunch

The second day a bunch of us went snorkeling with reef sharks. I don’t know why I decided to do it because swimming with the manta ray was so traumatizing but YOFO (you’re only in Fiji once… which is also inaccurate, pretty sure I like this place enough to come back). We snorkeled with 4 reef sharks, the longest ones being 4 or 5 feet. The sharks must have thought I was cool because they really liked to high five (high fin?) me. Or slap me with their tail. The guides were catching smaller fish with a spear and then shredding them so that the sharks would get closer. The sharks kept coming closer and closer to me and chowing down on their food in front of my face (uh, scary) and I didn’t realize until after when Corey told me that I was swimming right where they were throwing the fish pieces. Oops.

That’s my knee haha

Climbing in a bathing suit and sulu is kind of silly

This island was extra exciting because there was some bouldering/climbing! There was one big volcanic rock (oh conglomerates and beautiful breccia, big earth science nerd right here) that we could boulder on right by the ocean. It was sweet.

Later that day, almost everyone in the resort decided to do the hike on the island (it’s one of the best in the area) up to Vatuvula Peak. It is 349 m to the top and looks a lot like the Stawamus Chief in Squamish. Made me miss home a bit. I was not feeling so hot on this hike at all (either the water or the food was not making me feel good) and it was not my classiest moments, but it was an awesome hike! You could either go to the almost peak, or scramble/climb up to the top so naturally I went to the top (no regrets). There were a couple of places along the way that I pulled on my climbing shoes and sat on top of boulders.

The last night we all stayed up ‘late’ and drank kava with the villagers. It was good fun and like being back in Bureta.

On the last day, a whale swam by between the island we were staying on and the one across the channel. We think it was a humpback whale. Apparently it is pretty rare to see whales there, I think it was a sign.

There were definitely some negatives about this last place (feeling so sick and my bed definitely had bed bugs), but I loved it and I’d love to return. I have really great memories from this place.

Kuata, Waya Lailai and Waya Island – view from the flyer

In the late afternoon of the last place, we packed up all our stuff and hopped back on the transfer boat. It was fun running back into Kaula and Stefanie and other people we saw at the past resorts. I got back to Suva later that night with an intense tan and swollen snorkeling lips.

Kaula and Stef had one extra day in Fiji, so they actually decided to pop over to Suva for the day. We had a delicious (and relatively upscale) Indian lunch (soo tasty, yum!!) and showed them the market, flea market and a few sights. We took them to USP and showed them around there too. It was good fun and great to see them again.

yasawa’s – drawaqa island

The second island, Drawaqa Island, I stayed on was much smaller. It only had one resort on it (Nacula Island had about 5). We decided to stay at this place because it was close to where the manta rays come to feed.

The resort had three beaches!

The way the manta ray swim worked was that the staff would check every 1/2 an hour to an hour if there was manta rays swimming by. If there were, they’d radio the resort and then we would all go out and snorkel with them. We were all getting a bit anxious because it was almost the end of the second day and we still had not seen them. But right when we were not expecting it, we heard all the staff say “MANTA SWIM!!”, drums were playing and basically everyone dropped what they were doing and panic ensued. In general, the whole resort went into nutso mode and people were running out of the showers they were taking and grabbing snorkels, their bathing suits and scrambling to figure out where were were supposed to meet. It was hilarious, haha.

I drew this when I was bored, haha

Probably about when I started screaming

We saw one manta ray, that was GIANT. It was about six feet wide. I felt incredibly dorky because there were ~50 tourists all staring at this one manta ray and clubbing each other in the heads with our fins. The manta ray would swim really swoopingly back and forth in the channel, and then for a while it did barrel rolls (it was feeding). As everyone trickled back into the boat (.. I wasn’t listening to the guides saying to get back into the boat), the manta ray got closer and closer to us. I knew that manta rays didn’t eat people, but there mouths are SO BIG (it could definitely fit me in it) and when it is coming right towards you it is pretty scary. Corey said he could hear me screaming through my snorkel as it came towards me, and after it finally turned right as it was within touching distance of me. I hyperventilated for ten minutes. At least.

I am proud of this picture. National Geographic please call me up!

The manta had HUGE gills and really cool white markings on its belly. Here is a video of it feeding:

This was probably taken one of the times where I had my head out of the water trying to see where everyone was looking and then Corey would yell “LOOK DOWN” and I’d shove my head in the water and realize that the manta was like two metres away from me (eeee it still gives me the creepy crawlies).

Right after swimming with the manta ray (PERMAGRIN)

I did two activities like this in the Yasawas and I am not sure how I feel about both of them because I think with that many people around it makes the animals very stressed. We weren’t feeding the manta ray, and it was in its natural environment, but I still don’t think it justifies the consequences. All those years of Mom and Dad not letting me go to MarineLand has paid off apparently. There is definitely something different about stumbling upon a manta or shark in the water, then going somewhere where it’s more commercialized.

Barefoot Lodge (the resort) was also good because it had really great snorkeling and a short hike to the peak (with mountain goats!).

Mega-pineapple

I stayed in a dorm bure that had three single beds in it. Rachel (another USP international student), Corey and I hung out a lot with two great girls (Kaula & Stefanie) from Auckland. They said that when I fly into NZ I could crash at their place (most likely taking up that offer!).

Kaula and Stef with the coconut bracelets we made

egad

yasawa’s – nacula island

That’s me!
Photo by John

 

Over seven days during spring break, I stayed on three different islands in the Yasawas: Nacula, Drawaqa and Waya Lailai. I also visited two other islands. Jam-packed trip!

After staying the night in Nadi, we got up early the next morning to catch the shuttle to the Denarau marina. Wowee, Denarau is definitely tourist town. Adrienne, Corey and I boarded the white person/sunburn express (the transfer catamaran) and settled in for a long trip. We decided to go to do our trip North to South. The boat ride was very beautiful and it was cool seeing every island as we passed by. Some of the islands we saw in the Mamanucas were incredibly small! You could walk around one in 3 minutes.. I would not want to be stuck there when there is a tsunami. The boat was also incredibly organized and on time. The boat would stop in between a couple of islands and then each resort would pull up in a smaller boat and drop off/pick up people. It was like ants running to food.

Me and Adrienne

The first place we stayed was called Oarsman’s Bay Lodge on Nacula Island. I had heard that the snorkeling was really good there and there was some good hiking.

Nacula Island from another island

Much to our happiness, we realized that we had picked the locally owned resort instead of the foreignly owned resort next door. The other resort was booked solid the whole time, but at our resort on the first night there was probably about 12 of us and the next night there were only 6 of us. Nacula Island is right beside where they filmed the movie Blue Lagoon. I hadn’t seen the movie before this trip – it felt like a movie you would watch in middle school health class. We decided to take a trip over to the Blue Lagoon, but it did not look like what it did in the movie (sad). We also decided to go night snorkeling which was really cool! I got to see a lionfish and three sting rays. One sting ray was feeding near the bottom and you could see it pulling a worm out of the sand and chowing down on it. I made sure to make a sting ray face while watching it like I do at the aquarium, haha. The biggest sting ray we saw was about 2 feet wide and 4-5 feet long including his tail.

One morning a few of us hiked up to the peak of the island (Naisau 238m). It was incredibly beautiful here.

Photo by Corey

Photo by John

The last day we were there we decided to to go to the caves on the Sawa-I-Lau island. To get into the second set of caves you had to swim underwater. The second cave was totally pitch black. Brooke Shields was in this cave in the movie too.

Inside the second cave

Overall, it was a great first stop. The resort was very home-y and I even got an upgrade and didn’t have to stay in the dorm! That was sweet, it was only about 20 paces to amazing snorkeling.

My marine biology knowledge is definitely increasing, but slowly. I have progressed from “fish” and “not-fish” to “skinny fish”, “big fish”, “colourful fish”, “crab”, and “not fish or crab”. I do want to identify as many as I can before I go back though.

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intro hobie course

I am done all my midterms! Only one more group project and then I am past the first busy time and can cruise into finals comfortably. My midterms have gone well so far: Managerial Accounting: A! Earth Science: A+! Managing Change in the Public Service: A+! I haven’t received my Human Resource Management paper back yet.

For the first 2/3 days of my mid-semester break I took the Hobie Sailing course. It was good fun. The first day was extra windy which was great for awesome sailing but not very good for learning. Our skipper Mica refused to capsize so we avoided it all day (but got reeaaally close). Others were not so lucky… one boat capsized at least five times! Here is a montage of how Saturday looked:

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The second day was a lot better because the wind was calmer. By that time Mica was more confident with us and with our excellent sailing skills (and probably also didn’t think we were going to die the whole time) so we pretty much did everything and he just told us when we sucked. Baha not really, he was very helpful and patient. He is 20 years old and has sailed in regattas in cool places like Thailand and Australia. I’m jealous.

I almost forgot! Saturday evening we had a BBQ social after the course at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. (In a different location from the Hobie club) We had one of the most delicious meals ever there. Grahame (the president of the hobie club) is also the owner of Fiji Fish, a huge wholesale tuna exporter. They export tuna to the US, Japan and Europe. We feasted on steak, salads, potato/sweet potato salads, sausages, tuna sashimi, seared tuna steaks and chocolate eclairs for dessert. The tuna had just been caught the day before and was really fresh and so so so so delicious. Yummmm.