not even the taxi rides are bad in fiji

I can sum up my last week in just one word: airports.
Luckily however, the tides are turning and we are staying put again for a week.  I can’t believe it…I really can’t, but we have just begun a week’s stay in Fiji.

I still just can’t wrap my head around the fact that somehow we have made it to Fiji, even though I am here amidst the pined mountains and white sand beaches.  I’ve always thought of Fiji as a giant resort where there is nothing authentic and there are only tourists and the coconut beverages they sip on to escape from high-paying corporate jobs.  Or, I have thought of Fiji as the place where convicts run away to in hopes they’ll never be found again.  Isn’t that how fugitive movies end?  The Borne Identity for instance?

Basically, I didn’t really have an interest in Fiji and I doubted that there would be anything truly beautiful there.  I’ve seen white sand beaches and I didn’t feel the need to join a crowd of tourists in Fiji to see a few more of them.

What I found instead has been fascinating.  Fiji has its share of tourists, yes, but it also has a culturally rich mix of local islanders made up of Indian descendants from years ago, Immigrants from  the Polynesian Islands, and native Fijians- dark skinned islanders with thick curly hair and big, beautiful eyes.

And instead of giant shopping centers and luxurious spas plastering the countryside, there are the dusty roads and little school buildings that remind me of Sri Lanka and Cambodia.  There is a tiny grocery store where we can escape resort-restaurants, and a little bakery that sells two varieties of bread: loaves or rolls.

Then, of course, there are mountains.  Fiji’s mountains are my favorite feature.  The beaches are beautiful, but in my opinion, overshadowed by the beauty of these green, rolling peaks, dotted with pines and tall grasses.

On the hour-long drive to our hotel, the taxi driver told us everything we might want to know about his island, even listing their top five sources of income:
“One. Sugarcane.” he said, pointing out a crop of it growing alongside the road.
“Two. Tourism.”
“Three….pine chips for plastic production.” He pointed out a beautiful pine forest as we drove by.  I could have mistaken it for a Christmas tree farm.
“Four. Garment manufacturing.”
“Five. Fiji Water.” He went on to explain that fiji’s bottled water comes from the mountain springs- that there are Fijians with water to sell, but that the famed ‘Fiji Water’ was actually owned by an American living in Fiji.

He told us all about the flood Fiji endured in March, brought on by a tidal wave, and the Malaysian company that had been brought in to fix the roads.  He told us about primary and high school, and how most children cannot afford the fees for high school.  He told us where to get cheap food, cheap drinking water, and cheap transport.

I think he was the least nagging, and most professional taxi driver I have ever had.

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