Signature or Thumb print? I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign.

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My niece, Rosie, outside her house at Baba Settlement, Levuka

What makes a country “developed”, or “developing” as a nation for that matter?

How can you tell, what are the signs?

Often, I pore over statistics, and unwittingly commit them to memory in an effort to latch on to something… an effort to make sense of the country I now live in, and what really makes it a “developing nation” or “small island developing state” or any other platitude created by developed countries to describe a country that is in many ways very, very poor fiscally, and in terms of infrastructure.

What is it that Fiji wants to develop into?  In developed countries I feel that the main things that are coveted by those on the other side of the divide are Education, Sanitation, Health Care.  We could have all of those things here with the right focus.

Any who are my friends are now painfully aware that I have developed an annoying habit of being outraged about the figures and indeed how many useless figures I retain, and I am sure they wonder WHY?  What happened?  Why can’t she just relax?  Do I even like her any more?

I am amazed that I know, and tell anyone who will sit captive for more than 30 seconds in a machine gun – rapid fire -one way conversation,  just for example that…..

There are 44 million PET plastic bottles produced in Fiji every year (and that figure was from about 10 years ago)

Fiji is the 40th best place to be a mother (in a list of underdeveloped countries)

Approximately 40% of women suffer from anaemia

Between 100,000 and 300,000 people live in “informal settlements” or shanty towns

Every day in Fiji an estimated average of  one woman is permanently disabled as a result of domestic violence, 10 loose consciousness, and 43 are injured

In fact Fiji is the fourth worst country in the world for domestic violence of nations that have undertaken a comprehensive study of a particular type (see Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre Report for more and more and more details)

More than 40% of Indo-Fijian women are illiterate in rural areas

But still, I needed something to hold on to… where is the sign I have been looking for that Fiji is just so different from the developed nation I came from, and why do I need to think about things differently now?  Why and how have I become a different woman than I was two years ago?

Today, I saw the sign…..

I had to go to the Vodafone shop in town to register my phone number as originally I was sold a SIM card without being asked for any identification.  After 9/11 mobile phone operators need to know who is registered to a certain mobile number.

It all went swimmingly.  I took in my ID, the young man at the counter re-activated my number and then gave me the form to sign.

In the signature area, it said simply “SIGNATURE OR THUMB PRINT”.

Maybe the only thread of myself still linking me to my previous life, and the girl my friends used to know, is that I have had to open this post and amend it, to admit that the whole time I have been writing, I haven’t been able to get out of my mind the old Ace of Base Song “I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign….”

 

 

 

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Getting around Fiji – part two – taxi driver phone contacts -Suva City, Nadi airport and Suva airport/Nausori

Getting a taxi in Fiji is normally easy, unless of course you are in a hurry and really need one.  Then, Murphy’s law applies.

To phone a taxi, you normally need the driver’s number.  In the Suva/Nausori area, most drivers will come anywhere you need, and travel freely along the corridor (Kings Road and Princess Road).  You can book a taxi in advance, or call as you need.  It is a good idea to have a few numbers stored as if you are in Nausori at the Suva airport, and the driver is stuck in Suva, you will wait about half an hour or more.

If you know another reputable driver in another area and want to add their details, please respond below.  See also, Getting around Part One – tips, mobile phones, ATMs.

Suva Airport area (Nausori area) reputable licensed taxis

Atish +679 9216093

Soni +679 9212511

Deo +679 9953568

Satea +679 9724312

Saleim (modern 5 seater van with luggage space) +679 9425271

Forum Taxis (very quick service) +679 9337818  /+679 8400402/ +679 7192710 forum.taxis@gmail.com

Suva City areaIMGP0198

Bau Taxis (Vinesh) +679 9953521

Saleim (modern 5 seater van with luggage space) +679 9425271

Ali +679 9667994

Forum Taxis (very quick service) +679 9337818  /+679 8400402/ +679 7192710 forum.taxis@gmail.com

Nadi Airport to Suva City/ Suva City door to door pick up to Nadi Airport

Safe Shuttle Service – modern sedans $25 per person, will pick up and drop off door to door +679 8777047 (Tiko)

Getting around Fiji Part One – Transport tips Nadi to Suva, ATMs, Mobile Phones

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Buses lined up at Suva Bus Stand

If you are planning to travel in Fiji – here are some tips to help you in your travels.  There is so much to tell, so this is Part One.  For additional info see also Part Two with taxi driver numbers and contacts.

IMGP2413Nadi (pronounced Nandi) to Suva by plane

Flying into Fiji is so memorable, and I always love it.  You know when you are approaching Fiji as after flying over open ocean for hours, suddenly you see billowing clouds that go up and up into the heavens.  They seem so solid, and are in layers, one on top of the other.  If you are travelling to Nadi International airport, as you arrive there will be a little troupe of singers to welcome you, and also see you off.  Many tourists do not know what to make of this, but it is really a welcome sight and sound for homecomers to Fiji.  The group normally has a wooden box on a stand for tips/gratuities.  I encourage you to support them as wages here in Fiji are very low, and every dollar counts.IMGP3269

If you are getting a connecting flight, after you go through customs, go out the door and turn right, and walk over to Domestic check in.  Don’t delay, as there is often a long line.  Once you check in, you can go outside for some fresh air, or get a drink or whatever.  If you have been told that your bags will be checked right through to Suva, and you don’t get your bags through customs at International, you will have to run back for them, and risk missing your connection.  I have done this once.

As Nadi International is the first port of call, you must get your bags through customs.  Coming back however, if you check your bags at Suva and then are going through Nadi to your overseas destination, you will not have to collect your bags, they will be sent straight through to your connection.  There are toilets once you get down the escalator at the baggage claim.

IMGP0198Mobile Phones -There is also a vodafone shop as at the airport where you can get your Fiji Vodoafone sim or internet wireless device (dongle/flashnet etc).  Note:  you must have a handset that its unlocked, and not locked to any network as if you try and use an Australian Vodafone prepay phone, it is locked to Vodafone Australia, and the Fijian sim card won’t work!  Otherwise a dual sim phone is handy.

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Elliot, Dom and Roni at Suva/Nausori airport

The overhead lockers in the Nadi to Suva flight are very small, so make sure that your carry on baggage is within the limits for your own sake and the comfort of all.

The trip from Nadi to Suva by plane takes 23 minutes.  Suva airport is not really in Suva, it is in Nausori.

Nadi to Suva by Road : Taxi, Bus, Minibus, Safe Shuttle, Hire Car?

To get from Nausori airport to Suva City, you have to get a taxi, bus or minibus.  Taxi costs around $25FJD.  Make sure that you confirm the fare with the driver first.  If he says he is going to put you on the meter, that is fine, as the meter will show about $25. Sometimes, you can negotiate a bit of a lower rate, depending on the driver and time of day.  If you are on a budget, get a taxi to Nausori Bus stand.  At the bus stand, there are the local buses to Suva (fare $1.60FJD).  Also, there are minibuses just next to the bus stand near the Mobil service station.  You just get on – sometimes they are very crowded, so if you have baggage, you need to pay for the seat for your bags.  Fare to Suva is $1.50FJD.  There are also express coaches such as the Sunbeam, Intercities, and Pacific.  They are comfortable, and you can put your luggage underneath the bus.  The fare to Suva is still only around the $2 mark.  It is not my favourite way to travel though as it gets very hot inside sometimes.  I prefer the buses with the open windows.

The trip to Suva by taxi takes about 25 minutes if there is not too much traffic, by local bus about 45 minutes, and by coach about 30 minutes.

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Local bus

There is also a smaller bus (about a 30 seater) that goes from the Nausori bus stand about every 20 minutes.  Just ask anyone to show you the Princess Road Bus, or as the “Back road Bus”.  This is by far my favourite way to travel to Suva if you get a chance.  Rather than going on Kings Road, it goes the back way through the mountains, past Colo-i-Suva which is in the rainforrest, through Tacirua (pronounced Tathirua) and Tamavua, and then down Edinborough Drive to Suva Bus stand.  The fare is $2 and it takes about the same time as the local bus.  The trip is so beautiful though, and it really gives you a feeling of being in Fiji.

Tips

  • There are some services which operate outside of Nadi Airport.
  • Hire car – I know you can hire a car, but I have never done it, and if you are not experienced on driving the Queens Road Highway, it may be best to think twice, especially in bad weather.
  • Express Bus – the Sunbeam stops outside Nadi Domestic terminal.
  • Taxi – all airport taxis are painted yellow, and the standard fare to town is $15.

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    Licenced Minivan

  • To get to town cheaper, walk outside the airport, and cross over the road.  Wait on the side of the road for a minibus to Nadi.  Just hail any van that has the initials LM for licenced minivan on the numberplate.  The fare is $1.50. Once you get to town if you are going by taxi, ask them to drop you at the minivan stand at the bus stand in Nadi.  If you are going by minibus, they will normally drop you off outside Jacks Department Store.

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    The road from Nausori/Suva airport on the way to Suva

  • It is a 5 minute walk to the bus stand, or minivan stand which is behind the market.  If you are worried about asking where the bus stand is, just ask where the market is, and you will see it.  All of the Fijian people I have met are very keen to help you and show you where to go, often accompanying you.  They love to find out where you are from.  Don’t be put off by this, as your place of origin is very important here in Fiji.  Fijians are very attached to their birthplace, and mothers and fathers villages, so they will often ask two questions: Where are you from (where were you born), and where do you stay (where do you live now away from your birthplace).  For example, Fijians who live in Suva but were not born there will make the distinction that they “stay” in Suva, but are “from” Gau.

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    Suva to Nadi plane

  • The minivan stand is where you can find a “return” taxi to Suva, or a minivan.  The cost of return taxi or minivan to Suva is about $20 to $25 per person.  If you hire a whole taxi, you can travel to Suva in comfort for about $100 negotiated.
  • If you are traveling by minibus, and have luggage, you have to pay for 2 or 3 seats so a taxi is just as cheap.  Minivans are notoriously dangerous, so many Fijians out of concern for you will advise you not to travel that way, even though they do so themselves due to financial constraints.
  • There is also a service called the “Safe Shuttle Service”.  This service takes passengers from Nadi airport to Suva or any place in between.  They have clean, modern cars, and you book in advance.  It is $25 per person, or $100 if you want to hire the whole car.  Returning, they will pick you up from your door.  Best to phone in advance and talk to Tiko phone +679 8777047. Their base is near the sea wall outside the Olympic Pool in Suva.

IMGP0720Tips General once you get settled

  • Taxis are recognisable by the numberplate which starts with LT (for licenced taxi).
  • Minibuses have numberplates that start with LM (licenced minibus).
  • Some taxis do not have the little taxi sign on the top, but if they have the numberplate, they are licenced.
  • To tell where a minibus is going, their route is written on the side of the bus – for example Nausori/Suva/Nausori.
  • You can hail a minibus anywhere along the road, and if it is going in the right direction, it will stop.
  • You pay the minibus driver when you get out of the minibus.

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    Elliot, Dom, Roni at Nausori Bus stand

  • You don’t have to tip taxi drivers, and if you do, they will be very happy if you just round it up to the nearest dollar, and will STILL try and give you back the 10 cents!  Taxi drivers in Fiji are a really nice bunch.  Often students earning extra money, or retirees.  They are a great source of information.
  • Taxi drivers will often try and give you their number – TAKE IT, as there is no central number to call if you want a taxi.  You call the drivers you know and see if they are free.  Also, you can book them in advance for a negotiated fare back to the airport, or if you want to go on a longer trip.
  • All taxis have a little red sticker on the top of their numberplate on the bumper bar.  It says where they are based.  For example, you will see “Suva City”, “Nadi Town”, “Suva Rural” which is near Colo-i-Suva rainforest park and Tamavua, “Nausori Town” etc.  Why does this matter? See next tip…
  • If you see a taxi driver or minibus driver flashing their lights at you while you are waiting at a bus stop or by the side of the road, that means they want to know if you want to get it.  Flashing lights from a taxi often means that they are returning to base and want a return fare.  This is very handy, as if you are on the way from Nausori or another town, heading back to Suva, and you can get a return cab, the fare is between 70 cents and $2 depending on the distance.  You would be safe if you gave $2 for any of these trips.  Make sure before you get in that you ask the driver if he is a “return”.  If he says no, he will put you on the meter.  The meter fare from Nausori to Suva is about $20 to $25.

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    Tom on the bus

  • If you see a minibus flashing their headlights, it means that they have a spare seat if you want it.
  • To hail a bus, minibus or taxi, you put your arm out at about 45 degrees, and make a downward motion with your handIMGP8167
  • If a fellow passenger taps you on the leg, it doesn’t mean that they are keen on you, it means that they want you to ring the bell for them
  • If you have a lot of shopping, you can put it behind the driver on the bus, or on the gearbox cover.
  • If you have vegetables with dirt on them such as a bundle of root crops which you should take if you are visiting someone, you put them under the bus in the open section, and when you get off, tell the driver you are getting your things.  When you have them out of the compartment, slap on the side of the bus to let the driver know that you are OK for him to go.
  • If you hear people making a kissing sound with their lips, it also doesn’t mean that they are keen on you or another passenger.  You often hear it on the minibus.  That is the noise people make to alert the driver that they want him to stop at the next bus stop.  Many ladies simply say loudly “bus stop driver”, but men make the kissing sound.  The kissing sound is also how you can hail a taxi.

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    Suva bus stand

  • If you hear a car beeping its horn behind you as you are walking, it is a taxi driver asking if you need a ride.  They will do this often, as most Fijians do not have cars, and taxis are so cheap, it is a very popular mode of transport especially after shopping.  Normally just a couple of dollars if you are going from the market to home.IMGP6619
  • A quick note on shopping – if you are in Suva or Nausori market, or other large markets, there are wheelbarrow boys.  They will carry your shopping to the bus or taxi stand for you for $1 or $2.

ATMs

There are so many ANZ ATMs in Fiji, and also many Westpac ATMs.  You can get out up to $900 FJD at one time, and the cost at transaction is around $9FJD.  Both my Australian cards work at the ANZ, but only one of them works at Westpac and BSP (Bank of South Pacific).  There are ANZ ATMs at both Nadi and Suva airports, and at many supermarkets.

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