Images of Fiji as seen through my eyes.
I came to Fiji the first time a year ago, to visit my partner. In that year, I travelled to Fiji 6 times for various lengths of time, and eventually married. I was at first shocked – Fiji is not what you see in the travel brochures. Fiji is villages, open drains, shanty towns which are called “settlements”, temporary structures, burning plastic, towns filled with garbage by the side of the road and wages of $10 a day for many. Fiji is churches and about proclamation of faith.
Fiji is also religious tolerance and cultures living side by side in an unexpected way. Hindi flags on bamboo poles identifying the beliefs of those within, merged with churches of every Christian denomination. Fiji is home vegetable gardens and every shade of green, dominated by coconut trees. Fiji is open rubbish pits with smouldering plastic, and diesel fumes.
Fiji is also where neighbours know each other and a walk anywhere leaves you with a new friend or acquaintance – often the acquaintance of a relative.
Fiji is where people ask, “where do you STAY?’ instead of “where do you LIVE”, as every Fijian identifies with the village and island of their birth, and if they are living in another place, they view it as temporary and therefore just a “stay”.
Fiji is a nation of many islands, many contrasts and many contradictions. Fiji is a place where you only say what the listener wants to hear.
Fiji is a place of welcoming and acceptance – a place where children are still children, and play, play, play is a way of life.
People do not fill their time as in developed countries with technology, reading, art, or other pastimes or hobbies. People fill their time with the business of living. Sport is the only distraction. Indo-Fijians mainly playing soccer, with the i-Taukei Fijians focusing all of their hopes and dreams on the 7-a-side rugby.
There is a belief that God will fix all the ills of the world, and also somehow dispose of garbage. If it took the Christian God six days to create the Universe, it will take him a hell of a lot longer than that to clean it up.
No matter where you are in the world, please think about what you buy that is plastic or rubber, and how you dispose of it, as it really does all wash up somewhere. From where I am sitting, it looks to me like that place is Fiji! Forget global warming, the Fiji Islands will be swamped by plastic garbage and discarded flip-flops in the near future. The plastic waste that engulfs these islands has to be seen to be believed. I will try and show some of it. Please put your name on your plastic sushi fish before you throw it away, and if I find it here, I will let you know.
Fiji is a group of islands abundant in fish, but most fish eaten is from a can, the supermarket shelves are full of it. A place abundant in fresh fruit, but fruit juice is $10 a bottle. It took me a long time to realise that Fijians cannot buy fresh fish, as very few people have a fridge to store it in.
Fresh fish is only sold by the “bundle” – you have to buy either two very big fish at a time, or 6 to 8 small ones. You cannot buy just one. Consequently, Fijians only eat fresh fish on special occasions, or on Saturdays, as there is no way to store fish at home.