Trepidation without a cause

I had a major anxiety attack over going away. I was quite contented to stay home, really, and the travel reports that nephew Hugh had obtained for me did more to increase the angst than to calm it. The ticket was already bought and not refundable so I was going anyway, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit gloomy. I don’t know why.

Finally he said to me rather firmly, “Look, they want tourists. Nothing’s going to happen to you. Just don’t go to Suva. ” There had been some trouble in January in Suva over the current government. There is always conflict there between the Fijian natives and the Hindo-Fijians who are the commercial class.

I was travelling with Heather and her husband and Lizbet, my other sister. They have time share and are happy to share costs with us. Travelling in a group is better for me now than travelling alone and I don’t like organized tours that keep pushing you forward to see one monument after another.

Heather and her Dauntless Husband came down four days before departure. He had an specialist doctor’s appointment. Lizbet came on Friday night after her last day at school. It’s the beginning of Spring Break. We left on Sunday.

With so many people in the house and all with their suitcases open in some form or another of reshuffling and redeciding what to take, it was impossible for me to think. Six days into the trip, someone asked for Q-tips.

“I have some!” I proudly announced. But they were nowhere to be found. I found them this Friday when we returned, still sitting on the bathroom counter where all my first aid kit for travel was spread out in excellent organization for the trip.

It’s a hot country. We were going to a resort with sand shores and a gorgeous looking pool. I also forgot my second (and best) bathing suit.

As we were going out the door, Lizbet asked “Do you have a hat? I don’t have one.”

“Oh lordy,” I groaned inwardly. I get sunstroke so easily. I hadn’t thought about a hat.

But I had two tucked up in the storage closet from the last tropical trip I took. I’ve used my favorite often since, but it is deteriorating. The straw is developing holes. The other one isn’t flattering but it has a wide brim. It’s great for a scorching day.

I grabbed them both and said she could use one of them.

And so we went. It was a gruelling trip – over 24 hours from pillar to post. Seven and a half hours of flight to Honolulu; a nasty bit of Immigration at about five in the morning, our time, with little useful sleep preceding it. I suppose that they can’t have anyone in the plane when they are refuelling; and the American’s like to do their own security checks as we touch down into their territory. At such an early hour it was unpleasant to have to deplane with absolutely all of our traveling possessions and then wait around for an hour and a half for everything to be ready to go.

We arrived in Nadi airport at 5 a.m. the next day after another 7 hours or so of flight (having crossed the International Date Line) . Don’t even try to figure out the hours – with the time zone changes and the date line, it’s not worth the bother.

In Nadi, Dauntless Brother-in-Law had arranged a bus trip for us to Pacific Harbour and our hotel, The Pearl of the South Pacific.

Despite our sleep deprivation, that was a glorious ride. It’s the kind of travel I like to do, where you are riding in the same transport as the rest of the people in the country (and no, I didn’t try a donkey). Lizbet who I call our Ambassadress and who someone else calls Chatty Cathy (figure it out, it’s somewhere in between) started talking to the passengers beside and behind her.

When I shook my head in wonderment as to how she did it, she said with amazement, “It wasn’t me. It was you!. If you hadn’t been drawing the person across the aisle, nobody would have talked to me. They thought you were amazing!”

I looked at the drawing. It hadn’t succeeded at all. It was like a cartoon. I was afraid that the girl that I had drawn would be insulted by my feeble effort. In my defense, the roads were terrible. There were more potholes than road and it was very difficult to get a continuous line of half an inch without being bounced out of the seat and repositioned back into the sunken upholstery.

The windows were covered with a light film of mud. Without opening the window, one could see nothing; and yet, it was raining. So when the window was open, this slightly muddy precipitation whipped into my face. When the rain let up a little, the two photos I tried to take went all fuzzy. Over and above, with the humidity, the lens tended to fog up so that focusing became impossible.

We stopped in Nadi proper – the business district – to pick up more passengers. There I managed to get a few pictures of street vendors and of people doing every day things. At Nadi bus station, we picked up two fellows that sat behind us. One was very obviously an Island native. He had the tightly curled mass of hair and broad features including a very friendly grin. It was he who was asking after the drawings. Beside him, his friend looked like a New York black or an African black of medium build. He is difficult to describe because he was ordinary. The first one introduced himself as Ben and the second as Jimmy.

Lizbet was curious and started to pump them with her barrage of questions. Come to think of it, she would make a perfect spy. She blathers on so innocently asking questions but remembers all the names and all the answers afterwards.

“What do you do? ” she asked Ben.

He looked at her with his persistent grin but a suddenly blank look in his eyes.

“Do?” he asked back, as if he hadn’t ever considered that he was expected to do anything.

He hesitated a while. His face became perplexed. And mind you, he spoke perfectly good English with an Australian accent.

“I guess… ” he started, then hesitated again. His grin reappeared giving an air of perfect contentedness. There didn’t seem to be the slightest coquetry in his answer. “I guess I’m a journalist. Yes, you could say I was a journalist.”

He went on to explain that he had worked about six years in Australia for a newspaper and that he had written for them all that time. But he came home. Now there was no job for him and he was working on a project, a writing project. It was in the middle and it wasn’t very firm yet so he didn’t want to say any more about it.

All the while, Jimmy nodded his agreement, almost in admiration of his traveling companion, his happy face bobbing up and down. Lizbet was not about to let him off easily though, and turned her focus on him. “And what do you do?”

He had the same hesitation, as if looking through a list of occupations that would be plausible to say out loud.

“I’m a musician,” he said finally. “Yes, I’m a musician.” This last was a confirmation, somewhat to himself, as if he’d passed that exam question with honours and could definitely advise you, should you need it. He was positive now that he was a musician.

I found that rather amusing. I was enjoying listening to the banter while I tried to get a better drawing of the young lady with a grey striped scarf around her throat.

I hadn’t been an hour in the country and I already had a feeling I was going to like the people. They stand and sit proudly. They have a quiet dignity about themselves. They were courteous and warm towards us.

Soon the young lady got off the bus and then the two young men. They waved gleefully from the ground as the bus took off again, as if we were friends that they were seeing off on a holiday. We’d known them for less than half an hour.

Along the roadside, we would see small horses and occasionally cattle. Jungle growth lay a broad blanket of lush green over everything but the roadway. In a few places, the earth had been exposed – a bright, rich red soil. At one spot, we traveled parallel to a long sandy beach. The breakers formed about half a mile out to sea in a white line and a calmer water came up cloase to the shore in broad flat waves.

I must have dozed a while because I don’t remember seeing much more before we were deposited, baggage and all, at the Arts village, just a kilometer past our hotel. A taxi came to drive us to the hotel. The fare for all four of us and our baggage was two Fiji dollars. That’s like one dollar thirty cents Canadian.

We were glad to find our room and settle in for a nap. It had been a long flight. An arduous journey.

There are lots of stories to tell, but they will have to be written in the days that come . That’s it for now.

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2 Responses to “Trepidation without a cause”

  1. bluewaveted Says:

    Nice entry. I got a sense that I was really there as I was reading it.

  2. bluedragonfly Says:

    Ah hah – I was starting to wonder where you were! It’s great to read a new post.

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