Vanilla and Chocolate

On our way back to Nadi from Port Denaru, we took the bus to Nadi Market (Central Nadi?). MrFodder were trying to get back to our hotel, and didn’t realise that Nadi Market wasn’t the same suburb as Namaka, where our hotel was. Hey, we had literally landed in Fiji that morning, cut us some slack!

We left the bus depot, and thinking our hotel wasn’t far, began walking. Not long after leaving, a Fijian-looking man greeted us.

Fijian: Bula!

Us: Bula!

Fijian: Where are you from?

Us: Australia.

Fijian: Aussie! Aussie Aussie!

Me: Oi! Oi! Oi!

Fijian: How are you finding Fiji?

MrFodder: It’s our first day here. It’s nice.

Me: How did you know we’re not from Fiji?

Fijian: (gives me an “Are you stupid?” look) Because I’m chocolate, and you’re vanilla. Hey, before you go, leave the vanilla behind and take the chocolate.

Us: (laughter)

He said that last line while looking at MrFodder. I was shocked, as I thought he was asking MrFodder to leave me behind and take him home instead.

Fijian: If you’re going to catch the bus, only catch it from the depot. I’m a local, so I know where the real things are. There are so many Indian shops here, but you want to shop from a real Fijian market. Let me show you.

We follow him across the road, and even though there are cars coming, he says, “It’s OK. Fiji Time!” and the cars seem to stop for him.

Fijian: I’m from a village 2 hours drive from here. I drive in and out everyday.

Me: Wow, that’s impressive!

Fijian: If you shop at the Indian markets, they just take the money and put it in their pocket. If you shop at the Fijian markets, we take the money back to our own village. So are you here for a holiday, or is this your honeymoon?

Us: Just a holiday.

Fijian: Ah, practice makes perfect, right?

Note: As we were going to spend a lot of time on the beach, and our wedding rings are still a little loose on us, neither of us wore them on this trip. He took us to the market, and seemed to be pressuring us to go inside, but we said that we weren’t interested in buying anything at the moment, and left.

We continued walking towards our hotel when another Fijian approaches us.

F2: Bula!
Us: Bula!
F2: Ah, so where are you guys from?
Us: Australia.
F2: Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!
Us: Oi! Oi! Oi!
F2: So how are you enjoying Fiji?
MrFodder: It’s our first day here. It’s nice so far.
F2: That’s good. So… just do me a favour while you’re here – (points to his arm) leave the vanilla and take some chocolate home!
Us: (hesitant laughter)

I realise at this point that he’s talking about getting a tan. Also, this entire encounter has a feeling of déjà vu.

F2: There are a lot of Indian craft shops around here. But I’m a local, I know where the local shops are. There’s a Fijian crafts shop near here, let me show you. It has things made from my village 2 hours from here. Don’t buy things from those Indian shops.

We reluctantly follow him to the shop to be polite. Once we’re inside, one of his friends pulls us aside and says he’ll perform a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony with us, free of charge! We take our shoes off and sit on the mat. He begins by putting some powdered kava into a cloth sack and soaks it in a water. He shows us a map and points out the location of his village, and also shows us a laminated yellowed newspaper article talking about the virtues of kava.

Ceremony Man: (to MrFodder) Today you can be the chief. I bet she’s the chief at home, so you can be the chief for once.

We go through the ceremony, with both of us passing up their offer of the muddy-looking kava water. They try to persuade us to buy some items in their shop, but we decline and leave.

By now, we realise we are nowhere near the place where our hotel is, and I look it up on Google maps and we are 1.5 hours walk away! Another Fijian comes up to us.

F3: Bula!
Us: Bula!
Me: (pointing to Google maps) Do you know how we can get to the Ratsun Hotel?
F3: Sure. I’ll show you on the map in my shop.

We follow him across the road (more Fiji Time Frogger antics).

F3: So where are you from?
Us: Australia.
F3: Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!
Us: (dejectedly) Oi! Oi! Oi!
F3: Do me a favour before you leave Fiji, OK? Leave the vanilla behind and take some chocolate!
Us: (barely a chuckle)
F3: This is a traditional Fijian crafts shop. The only one in Nadi. Don’t buy from the Indian shops, they’re not as good as not the real thing. While you’re here, we’ll show you a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony.
Us: Oh, we already did this at another store.
F3: It’s OK. You can do it here, too! (To MrFodder) Today you can be the chief. I bet she’s the chief at home, so while you’re on holiday, you should be the chief.

He says the same thing about his village 2 hours away. We go through the same welcoming ceremony. We see the same laminated yellowed newspaper article and the same map. SIGH.

We leave that shop without buying anything, I message my sister who tells us that the way home is a yellow bus at the depot we were at. We decide we’ll just catch a taxi, but the taxis we find are completely unattended. We see the bus we want driving past us and make a run for it, but miss it. I decided to summon my inner Fijian (after all, I’ve been doubly welcomed now) and wave at the bus. It slows down, blocking the traffic in the area, and allows us to board. I’ve finally stopped traffic!

In all honesty, the entire experience has really dulled my impression of Fiji. I absolutely hate it when people try to pressure me into buying their things. Your product should sell based on its own merits, not on slimy sales tactics.

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