Been there and back again. Paradise they say. A week ago I was a sibling of an unmarried sibling. Neither of us had successfully reproduced. Now she's married and having a child around December. A week ago I had mum, dad and a sister. Now I have mum, dad, a sister, a brother-in-law and around 120 relatives by marriage. My sister's new husband, who I only met the day before the wedding, came across as a gentle soul. Though I guess I was only exposed to him for under an hour. Dinner at a downtown Suva Chinese restaurant (salt and pepper calamari!) then off to Mad Dog nightclub, the place they met. There was no way to tell that I was in a Fijian nightclub rather than a Fortitude Valley club - it was cold, music was loud, a ring of booths around the edge of the establishment, a pool table and a friendly barman.
Somehow I never felt like I had left Australia. Maybe it was my parents being close by most of the time. Or maybe I am used to seeing streets of bikes and scooters when I am OS in Asia. Or maybe it's the relatively western facade you see everywhere. Very little obvious poverty - only one approach from an Indian woman trying to sell us three bags of old peas at a BP petrol station. When I refused she started asking me for small change, and when I refused that she turned to S asking her for small change. Another time, nearby in Nadi town, a man around 30 sat down next to me as S and I tried to decide what to do that day. Thinking of the notorious (but harmless) sword salesman of Nadi, I leapt up immediately and started walking away. He followed, telling me then S that I was rude and people are not rude like that "over here". He followed S and I up the street, telling S that "her husband was angry" and entreating us to go down a certain side street towards some markets. In my mind he was trying to get us to buy overpriced goods from a store he had links with, in return for a commission from that store. I did not think that he was a physical danger at all, just an annoyance. However the situation was complicated by S's confusion, understandable considering she has not been through the scams and rip-offs I went through in India fifteen years ago. S thought this man was genuinely trying to help us and was trapped between support of me and kindness to strangers.
Though that's how these guys work I guess, preying on people's niceness. I guess I worked this out subconsciously years ago and hence my ability to be totally rude which is normally totally out of my nature. Don't give them an opening. This works fine when you're alone but when you have a couple with conflicted motivations.
The Sheraton Fiji had beautiful views, location, people etc. It was once a mangrove swamp, cleared for this resort. Once again the case of tourism dollars bypassing environmental concerns. However I am old enough now for my conscience to have quietened down to a dull murmur. Maybe that's the metro subduing it, maybe just age. At this stage I would be more than happy for my inner voice to develop a louder volume in my inner monologue.
But around three days before the return U stupidly decide to keep $250 so I have enough to get on upon my return. From then on the flavour of the trip has altered slightly. A countdown has begun. At first it's 3 days till I score, then two days, then a day, and then I measure it in hours. The night before I leave, as I lie in my beautiful bed with paradisiacal views, do I think of the goddess at my side? Or of the beauty all around? No, I wonder if I should SMS some people in Australia who can arrange for me to score upon my return. And I don't mean on the day of my return, I mean within hours.
In the end I decide not to, which perhaps I think is a strike for victory, for strength. But all it means in practical terms is that once I pick up my car, my mind races for hours telling myself I won't be able to score, that I will be that most pathetic of junkies, a junkie with cash but no contacts. I run all the usual scenarios...should I go down the local shops where I've seen stoned people hanging out lately....should I ring the Rumanian who used to sell to me until she stopped a couple of months ago when she had too much police trouble? I make some calls, leave some messages, try to concentrate on Million Dollar Baby. But it doesn't work. Tropical Paradise didn't take my mind off it. A ripped DVD in my flat, scene of a thousand shots, will hardly do the trick.
At last, 2 whole hours after leaving the airport, I get a phone call. One of my left messages has paid off. Someone will be glad to spend $250 of my money as long as they can keep a fifth of it. The ancient machine creaks into pseudo-life again.
Lucky I didn't get S that Jean Paul Gaultier Classique fragrance duty free. We missed the duty free on the arrivals side, maybe we were thinking too much about gabo, maybe the stores were too small in that area.