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Fijian time perception 04.12.2001

Figure it is about time I jot down some more of my traveling stories, that was the purpose of this blog after all.

As an introduction I can tell that I graduated high school in 1994, worked for a year, several jobs simultaneously, to get the money together for the trip I had in mind, which of course turned out different than I had planned. I left the 25th of July 1995, and when I returned on the 12th of July 1996 I could look back at having spent 1 month with family in the US, then of Island hopping in Fiji for a little more than a week, 5 months in New Zealand, 4 months in Australia, a wee trip to Bali, then Singapore, Sarawak [Malaysian Borneo], Brunei, Singapore [again], Hong Kong, Bangkok and London.

I traveled alone, all the way, and I haven't regretted it yet. I loved the solitude, the numerous conversations I had with people I would have never talked to if traveling with a companion, and the choice of being completely spontaneous if I wanted to. At times, I even enjoyed the loneliness.

The first month of my trip was with my family in the States, and it was great. First time I met them on their home turf, and just plain nice to get to know them all a little better. The trip didn't really start until I left LA after staying with my stepsister in Pasadena on the last leg of my US experience, boarding the plane for Fiji, alone. This is where I shall begin, Fiji.

I arrived in Nadi, the airport city on Fijis main island Viti Levu. On board the plane I had been talking to a girl named Leslie who was from England, as far as I remember she was a school teacher on leave. Once we entered the arrivals hall together, all the agents from the tourist agency assumed we were lovers, married, or at least together in a non-platonic kind of way. With me being a complete amateur of negotiating with tourist agents [I was utterly excited about all the offers they came up with, as long as it had the words reef, sand and bungalow in it], and both of us being less than fit for fight after the tiresome planeride, we settled for a five day stay on Mana Island, just a boat ride away the agent said.

After a nice long sleep at the "New Town Hotel" I was all ready to go to this lagoon haven - Mana Island. Novice backpaper as I were, I figured it would be some sort of small ferry that would carry us over the turquoise waves, I was soon to figure otherwise. The clerk at the hotel told us to follow the road to the beach 5 minutes away, and that the boat would pick us up at 11am. Of we went, Leslie and me, trunks in the backpack, munching on bananas. Upon reaching the beach I was surprised by the obvious lack of anything that carried even a remote resemblance to a quay or pier - just a beach there, you know - nice white sand and palms. Checked the clock - 10:50 - still time to lounge a bit in the shade - maybe even read another chapter in "The Red Dragon". Ah, better not, suppose the boat showed up and you had to rush on to it.

11:15 - No sign of any ferry, no engines roaring in the distance, just a couple more backpackers arriving at the scene, looking all set to go.

11:45 - Finished reading a chapter in "The Red Dragon" - still no sign of any ferry-like thing on the horizon, wondering if we had the wrong day [the boat didn't leave for Mana Island everyday you see - should have been a big sign].

12:00 - This local guy in all white casual wear who joined the party on the beach comes over to Leslie and me and asks, in what I could have sworn were Jamaican English, "Where are ya goin' man?". "Mana Island, but the boat was supposed to be here an hour ago" I replied. He gazed at the horizon, then at the sun, then his watch and then a long friendly stare at me topped with a "aahh, Fiji Time" - and then he walked back to the group he arrived with.

This was my first practical encounter of time actually having different meanings in different places. Sure you heard about places where people didn't mind the passing of the time too much, letting the sun decide when to be active, when not to be too concerned about life and stuff. Up until my arrival in Fiji my only experience with time was something you had to overcome to be able to get more of it - in Fiji it was different, and what a relief that was. After this lecture in Fijian time perception, I finally got into the proper Fijian vibe, basically meaning that you should kick back, things happen when they happen. Why rush? It is too bloody hot for being busy anyhow, and who is going to make a fuss about you doing todays chores tomorrow instead?

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