Monday, May 31, 2010

Wallis - Week 1

During the week, I was home alone while Sefo went to work - he gets a lunch break between 12-2 so we can have lunch together and see each other so it doesnt feel like such a long day alone! During the day I've been spending my time on the internet, watching some TV shows I have on my laptop, cleaning, doing washing, napping, reading...pretty much relaxing!! Although I did start planting a bit of the vegie garden - I dug a little patch up near the pigs - I planted rockmelon, watermelon and pumpkin alnd already there are a few seedlings coming up! We have plans to dig a bigger patch in an area that is a bit more protected so we can plant some of the seeds that I brought over - tomatoes, capsicum, corn, zucchini, snow peas, basil, dill...yum! hopefully they grow!! It's something to keep me busy!!

When Sefo and I are together we keep busy - One night we went over to his cousins house, L is house sitting a few doors down from where we are living so we went over for dinner. L didnt cook as he had been too busy so we got pizza!! We sat around watching video music clips he had downloaded and eating pizza and drinking beer - who would have thought I wasn't at home anymore!!

On Friday night we went and bought a couple of beers and went for a little drive around the island! Everyone drinks and drives here- but there aren't many people on the roads and there aren't many accidents (and there aren't many policemen!)...and I guess that was what gives Sefo the skill of being able to open a bottle of beer with the clip of the seatbelt!! Its the perfect shape to use as a bottle opener!! After one beer I also got up the courage to try driving!! On the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road! But so long as I remember I have to be in the middle of the road it's not too bad!! I did ok! I just have to learn how to get around here so that I might be able to go places on my own! There is only really one main street, but there are no street signs to help me navigate - I just have to try and remember landmarks and houses that are on the corners!! But its not that big, so if I do try and go somewhere on my own, I'm sure ill find my way back!! Hopefully, coz I cant really ask anyone for directions!!

On Saturday Sefo works in the mornings. This week, after the rain had stopped, we decided to go fishing. Well, Sefo fished (spearfishing) and I snorkelled! The coral is amazing - purples, greens, blues, reds - like the barrier reef before it was damaged! The fish are also amazing - I love to see the angel fish swimming around in their pairs, the tiny electric blue fish that stick close to the coral, the shimmering trevally which Sefo speared!! The fish amongst the coral really are spectacular! So colourful. And friendly! I stood on some coral and had a little rest and they kept coming and nibbling my feet! Perhaps not so friendly!! Sefo caought 9 fish altogether -yum yum!!

On Sunday it was mothers day. Sefos mother wasnt here (his parents were in Noumea) so we went to his relatives house and had lunch there. We ate a little pig, which Sefo was given for fixing someones internet, sushimi, yam, rice, octopus salad and a yummy chocolate cake with icecream for dessert! Sefos Aunt, S, speaks a little bit of English, his Uncle speaks really good english (which we didnt know until lunch!) and his cousin, who we had pizza with, lived in Brisbane for a few years so speaks fluent English. Not that I expect everyone to speak English with me, but it certianly does make it easier and makes me feel more relaxed and part of it all! His aunt is a great cook and makes lunches for people who work for the government - and after I told her I was looking for something to do during the day, she said that maybe I could come and help her! She is in Noumea for a week, but I think it would be lots of fun to go and learn some cooking skills from her, something to keep me busy and maybe she can also help me with my French, and i can help her with her English! Hopefully it happens!

Monday we collected Sefos parents from the airport. Now we have to get the little house fixed up so that we can have some space for ourselves. Sefo has a friend who is supposed to be fixing the tiles, but he hasnt been for a week to do anything -and keeps saying he will come but never quite makes it! Hopefully he comes soon, otherwise we will just move in there anyway and then he will have to work around us!!

The weather is lovely at the moment - warm but then surprising tropical storms arrive - I can see them coming over the ocean - so it pours for a few minutes which cools everything down and then it gets warm again! It hasnt been too humid - more like a good ole fashioned Aussie summer (but with rain!)

So thats been one week down - no home sickness yet!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Return to Wallis Island!

The massage was definately worth it! Very professional and relaxing! And the good news is that the diva who seems to run the place (he called herself a diva - a man who puts the most beautiful makeup on!) - he said that they are opening a nail salon and a hairdresser in the same little strip which will be great to go to - as an option rather than the expensive resort places!!
It was a good note to leave on...

We arrived in Wallis to pouring rain! So heavy that they made us sit on the plane and wait until it got lighter!! We checked through quickly and waited outside for our ride. Sefos cousins came and picked us up and took us back to their place where his aunt had cooked us a delicious lunch of prawns (using the cognac we bought her duty free!) and some steak and kebabs - and vegies!! - oh, and of course rice! We sat at ate while it poured rain outside! Very tropical! Sefos cousin, L, lived in Sydeny for 3 years so he speaks English so it was nice to be able to chat normally and feel left out too early in my arrival!!

Sefo's house didnt look too different to the way it was when i was here is January - the cyclone (Thomas) destoyed all of the vegetation, but it is growing back, and they have nearly finished all the clean up. It was nice to be back at his place. And to be honest, its nice that his parents are still away on holidasy for another week so that we can have a little place for the 2 of us where its like we are still in Melbourne (in the middle of summer!!)

Sefo has gone back to work. Ive done a little bit of gardening and my next job is to prepare a patch to make my vegetable garden! Ive spent a lot of time on the internet and watching some TV shows ive downloaded! Its so hot in the middle of the day - too hot to do anything outside! Sefo comes home for lunch between 12-2 so its great that i see him during the day!

So far...its good to be back!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Denarau - hotel, food, port and massages!

We are staying at the Radisson which is a lovely resort. The pool probably isn’t as good as some of the other resorts, and the bars are a bit more of a weirder style – but we have some drinks in our room so we don’t really need to go hang out in the bars!! Other than the pool bar in the afternoons as they have 2 for 1 priced drinks between 5-6pm which is great! The room is nice and I love that someone comes to make our bed every day!!

We have eaten at the buffet (it’s called ‘Easy on the Wallet’!!) which has an assortment of average food. We also ate at the Asian restaurant which was really lovely –and if you come here I recommend the lemon chicken. It’s not like we know it in Australia! It’s beautiful delicately tempura fried pieces of chicken with a side sauce of lemon and side of almond flakes for dipping! Really delicious. And the sushi is lovely too!!

We had a fancy dinner to celebrate our 2 year anniversary (which was actually in March, but we missed it due to the distance!!). We ate at the Cross, which is a place which MasterChef wouldn’t be able to fault!! Designer food if ever I’ve seen it, but really was delicious. There were pyramids made out of bread sticks, parmesan cheese rolls (like a big bracelet!) and sorbet to cleanse the palette and cold towels to freshen up between courses!! 3 course meal for about $60AUD isn’t bad at all!

We have walked down to the port a couple of times - there are heaps of restaurants and cafe style places down there –all cheaper than at the hotels! When the ships come in (the big cruise liners) there are people everywhere!! But if you can go on a day when there are no ships in sights it’s actually quite a pretty little port for meandering around!! We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe – where the staff every so often stop work and stand up to do a little dance routine! Hilarious!

We have booked a massage for tomorrow –in a little massage place which has reasonably priced massages!! The hotels all charge a huge amount for a massage – about $140-$180FJD each! We actually found a place in Nadi Town when we were there – it charged $30FJD an hour! What an experience – although I’m not sure in a hugely positive way! It was in a rundown little house which had rooms with curtains, but limited fans! We were put in a double room so we could be together. The beds they used had the cut-out for the heads but no padding – with all the pushing and pulling with the massage I ended up with the sorest spot on my head –feeling like it’s all bruised!! I asked for a medium massage and Sefo asked for a hard one – it didn’t take long for him to downgrade to medium and I kept having to say it was too hard to me! The lady had elbows in various places, fingers pressed right into muscles and found every sore spot I had and really worked them out (although I’m not sure she realised they were sore spots – unless she heard me crying!)! It was so painful! Not the nice relaxing massage I envisaged! But at least I thought that I would feel better afterwards! I felt like I had been hit by a bus! So sore!! So the point of this story is to link it back to the port and to explain why we wanted a bit more of a fancy massage and not so much of a cheap one! We found a happy medium (I hope!) with the massage place at the port – reasonable prices in a nice smelling, air conditioned room! I’ll let you know how it goes!!

Wedding Update

We had made an appointment to meet up with our wedding planner, S. When we were here in Fiji scouting for wedding venues S was sick and so we met a guy who took us around and showed us the sights of the Sofitel. The guy was helpful and friends, and it was a bit odd that he actually said that if he was getting married he would choose the Outrigger!! I’m not sure he had actually been there though, as the chapel on top of the cliff sounds amazing, but when you are actually there it is incredibly windy and the views over the coral coast aren’t as spectacular as you might imagine since its all coral and not the lovely crashing waves or calm tranquil water that you would hope to find in Fiji – it’s just brown, muddy coral water!!

This time the plan was to meet S and to go over the wedding plans we had to date. She met us in the lobby and we sat down and had a drink and went over some of the details of what we had planned (some were probably new for Sefo since I have done most of the planning while he has been in Wallis!) We went for a walk around the Sofitel and revisited the important places – which were all different to what we had originally been shown!! Apart from the chapel of course! But it’s better than before – the dinner venue is more secluded and has a paved dance floor! The wet weather backup room is small but fingers crossed in August we won’t need that!! It was great to be able to go back and see it all and get a clear picture in our head of what will be happening! It amazes me how many people arrange a wedding in Fiji without seeing any of the venues – pictures always look good, but reality can be very different!

We did have a little scare with regard to the wedding plans when we arrived in Fiji –I brought Sefo’s wedding ring from Australia – we bought them together but it was being made in his size so I had to pick it up and bring it over – he tried it on here and it’s pretty tight!! Oh no!! Although I remember thinking the same thing when I got my engagement ring, and my finger seems to have shrunk to fit it – or something has happened to make it fit better!! But anyway, we decided to go into Nadi Town to see if we could find a jeweller to re-size it as it was really our only chance to as I doubt it can be done in Wallis!! We tried all 3 jewellers but apparently in Fiji they don’t resize white gold (its 2 colours) so it looks like the ring we have will have to do! Although hopefully it will be ok as when we got back to the hotel and he tried it on a bit more and thinks ‘it’ll be right’!! I guess it has to be!! At least til we come back to Oz!! At least his suit fits!!

Now just a few last things to finalise! And only 2 and a half month to go!!

Lotouka Town

We went to visit Sefo’s relative in the town of Lotouka. We were quoted $50FJD for the trip to Lotouka from our hotel – so we thought we would save some money and take the bus. It cost us $2FJD to go to Nadi and then we had to get another bus from there. The trip to Nadi was really interesting, we thought it would take 10 minutes (a little more than the taxi, which cost $8FJD the previous day!) - how wrong we were! Half an hour later we arrived in Nadi, after taking a detour which took us past some local houses – it was like being in the 3 little pigs, as some were made of wood, some were made of concrete, some were made of corrugated iron- although they all had lovely gardens! I was the only white person on the bus so it really felt like we were having a true local experience. It was really interesting to see some of the local families and where they live – a very different Fiji to Denarau!

We arrived at the bus stop and found the bus to Lotouka. It cost $2.85FJD each – what a bargain! 2 hours after we left our hotel we arrived- we took many detours down many dirt roads but got to see much more of the countryside than we had planned! We went past schools and homes and work places stopping frequently (it’s amazing that when you ring the bell the bus stops, and some people would ring it 10metres past where it last stopped so it was forever stop/start...not so good for motion sickness!! I think we decided we would pay $60FJD to get a taxi back!!!

We finally arrived in Lotouka and we met Sefo’s relative, S, out the front of the post office. S took us to the ‘club’ which is apparently where lots of Aussies and New Zealanders hang out. He used to work next door and is a member, although doesn’t go there very often since he retired a few years ago. There was only a few other people there but we sat and had a drink and a chat. S has a mother from Wallis and he grew up there and speaks the local language– his father was English. S married a Fijian woman and has lived in Fiji for a long time.

After our drink we went for a walk through the town – it’s a reasonable sized town with lots of shops and even more cars. What was surprising was how dirty and smoggy it was. It was much worse than Nadi, which is apparently a bigger city! Sefo and I both felt like we had smoked a pack of ciggies each after walking around for about half an hour and we were dying (!!) for some fresh air! We went to find something to eat, but it was about 4pm, and most places close between 4 and 6.30!! S dragged us from street to street insistent that he find somewhere where we could have something to eat – in the end we found somewhere open in what resembled a food court! It was terrible but S being the lovely host that he was kept getting us more and more food and encouraging us to eat!!

Eventually we finished and we took a taxi ride to his place. He negotiated for the taxi to come back at 6pm and collect us – for $28FJD (‘don’t pay him $30’ he said- we would have paid more if it meant not getting the bus back!!) S has a lovely home which is elevated over the town, and therefore has some clean air!! His garden is beautiful with many different fruit tree – mandarin, banana, coconut, papaya and more! We had a nice rest and more of a chat before the taxi came to pick us up.

When we got into the car, the taxi driver mumbled something about his mobile phone – I thought he said would we mind if he talked on it- we said go ahead! He actually asked us if we would mind if we went and got his mobile phone from his house!! So there we were, him asking if we wanted anything while he went inside, and we sat - parked in a taxi- while he ran inside to get his phone!! It was a nice little detour, although a little too dark to make the most of taking the scenic route!! It took 30 minutes to get back to the hotel in Denarau and we were much more comfortable than we were in the bus!! I paid the taxi driver $28FJD as I felt I would be cheating S if I didn’t!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I made it to Fiji!!

My flight was eventful! B and M dropped me at the airport (at 5am so good effort from her!!) and it was a Qantas flight to Sydney. When I was checking in she said my baggage was over weight and i said i know-thatd why i paid for the extra! She said i paid jetstar (who I got the whole flight through) and not Qantas (who are carrying the Jetstar passengers!)! But luckily she checked me in and i wasnt charged any extra for the luggage - there would have been trouble if i was - considering the dramas i'd had getting it down to 26kg in the first place!! but it was all ok! phew!!
I arrived in Sydney and raced to the bus which would take me to the international airport and as i was getting my new boarding pass from the Jetstar terminal (my luggage was checked all the way through but had to get a new boarding pass because it was a jetstar flight) she asked where my ticket back to aust was. I explained that I was going from Fiji to Wallis (and my ticket was in my checked luggage!!). She said that she needed proof of this before she could give me a boarding pass. I had to race to the free internet in order to show her the email for the aircalin flight to wallis. She came and saw this, but because it was only a return flight to Fiji it didnt matter - I needed to prove that I had a ticket to return to Australia! I had no idea! I thought so long as the country that you were entering, knew you were going on to somewhere else, it would be fine. Apparently not. The Jetstar lady was very nice, and she said she couldn't give me a boarding pass unless i bought a ticket from Fiji back to Sydney. So, as it appeared to be the only way I was gonig to get onto the flight to see Sefo, I had to pay $500 to buy a one way ticket!! I wasnt silly, although I spent much more than the ticket is actually worth, I did purchase a jetstar fully flexible ticket that i can get my money back on which is good-considering i dont know the exact date that I am going to be returning to Australia! But so much hassle-and so much stress as all this had to be sorted in about 10 minutes to ensure that I made my flight! She then had to give me an express card so i could get to the gate in time to board! I raced through. I had seconds to choose a few mags-which i did without even looking at them, bought the first few bottles of sparkling i came across! and arrived as everyone was boarding. I was very sweaty and smelly...but i got there!

Then on the plane, it was delayed -the air hostess came and talked to me on the plane - she wanted to see my baggage sticker, which was all ok - luckily i hadnt lost it! Then came the announcement saying the plane was delayed sorting out baggage! I can only assume - considering my day so far - that the 'misplaced' baggage was mine!
There was a positive - the delay mean that I only had to wait about 10 minutes for Sefo at Fiji! I stood waiting directly out of the gate - I could see on the arrivals screen that his plane had landed. Every pair of shoes i could see come towards me (the glass was frosted to the feet!) i examined to see if they were his - any that were similar my heart rose to my chest and a tear sprung to my eye!! And then it was him!! I ran over to him and through myself into his arms for a hug! And there was nothing i could do to stop the tears!

The Radisson Hotel is nice -and its hot, although Sefo doesnt think that it is, which is a bit of a worry!! Its so great to be with him again. And being in Fiji means that i can pretend its just a holiday for a little bit longer!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The First Visit

When Sefo and I went to Wallis in January, I stayed for 2 weeks. I then left to return to Australia for a while, and Sefo stayed to find a job.
These 2 weeks were full of ups and downs! Let me share a few to hopefully paint a bit of a picture of this relatively unknown place...

In Wallis they have beautiful fresh flowers and the ladies make up wreaths which they wear around their necks to give them a nice perfume. Men and women both enjoy wearing them. They are given as gifts and if you arrive at the airport you are sure to be given a few! When we arrived at the airport Sefo's mother picked us up and gave us a few of these wreaths to wear around our necks. They smell lovely,but their smell is also very strong. Sefos mother is excellent at making them (and uses the most beautiful flowers from her own garden).

The country is Catholic. All of the locals are Catholic and worship to the Virgin Mary. There are beautiful statues all around and church is a big part of their culture. Before leaving Australia I asked Sefo if there were any particular clothes that I needed to wear to church, as I knew it was tropical I was taking all of my summer clothes. I had been to church with Sefo in Australia and knew that everyone here wears anything that they feel comfortable in. Sefo said no. I should know by now that boys dont really think a lot about clothing!! Unfortunately for me when it was time to go to church I put on a pretty singlet top. His mother saw it and asked (via Sefo as we dont speak the same language) if i had anything more suitable. Sefo asked me to show her all of my tops that might be suitable. In a procession that followed I held up each of my tops and his mother shook her head at each one!! In the end we settled on the original one I was wearing, despite it exposing my shoulders. As we were leaving the house, Sefo's dad looked at me and said something which I couldnt understand but which sounded quite brash. I asked Sefo to translate and he said that his dad was just wondering if I had anything more suitable to wear. After the whole debarcle of trying settle on a top which got his mothers approval, I really couldnt take, what I perceived to be, critisism.

Im a fairly sensitive person and his fathers comments, combined with me feeling like I was letting Sefo and his the family down (despite not really knowing any better!) bought me to tears. I was so embarrassed, but I really dont know how to stop crying once I had started. Sefo didnt seem to think my top was a very big deal and tried to reassure me that it was fine, but it was just a little bit too much for me! I had a short drive to the church to compose myself before I knew I was going to be introduced to a lot of locals (and extended family), and now knowing that I was not suitably dressed. What a disaster. We got to church, and I was the only white person there which made people look at me even more (and probably notice my clothing, although in retrospect maybe looking different meant I might get away with wearing different clothes!) Im not sure where the French people go, or if they dont attend church.

Every week at Church Sefo's father helps the priest with the service so his mother, Sefo and I sat up the front, with our handheld fans while I watched all the other locals arrive. They were all wearing big tops (mostly white) which looked lovely on them, and they wore anything on the bottom, many bare feet or in thongs. It was so hot inside. I fanned and fanned. We stood, sat, knelt. There were prayers and there was singing and guitar playing and it really was lovely. Until everything started going fuzzy. It was so hot and the smell of the flowers around my neck were making me feel hot and itchy. I knew I was going to faint if I didnt sit down. I whispered to Sefo, asking if I could sit. He said no. I said I was going to faint. He took one look at me and said I should sit down. Apparently his mother later said she thought I was being lazy! When Sefo explained to her that I was going to faint she was very understanding. My gorgeous fiance said that part of him wished I did faint because then he could have played the hero and carried me outside! I thought I'd had enough attention paid to me already!!

Kareoke is a popular Saturday night pastime!
Sefos friends, a married couple with 2 lovely boys, have a friend who comes to their house with his amazing Kareoke set up! It is set up outside and they put a big projector screen against the house, with fancy computers and massive speakers! They have 3 microphones and some really daggy 70s and 80s music!! The music is a mix of English and French songs, and although they dont speak English they certainly know all of the words! It was funny as they would give me the microphone every time an English song came on, but because the music was so old I really didnt know many of the words! They would all be singing along while I would be reading but have no idea of the tune! The only one I really knew was Kylies 'Locomotion'! They set up a table outside and cooked up a nice BBQ -the boys all sat at one end and the girls at the other. I went to chat and sit with Sefo for a while - until he pointed out that I should rejoin the girls and they dont tend to mix it up there!! I think it might be a chance for them to have a girls night and a boys night - but all together!!

They have supermarkets in Wallis with lots of different food, just not many different brands of hte same foods. The cost of living is quite expensive though so most families have access to a plantation where they grow their own food. Sefo's family have a plantation where they grow taro, yam, breadfruit, pineapples, bananas. There are coconut palms everywhere and mangoes also in his backyard! Often the bird get the fruit, especially the pineapples but the fresh fruit is amazing! The starchy vegetables are something that taste really different for me, and I'm hoping that I will get used to it.

Due to the French influence they have lots of bread - baguettes, pane chocolate, croissants! Yum! They also eat lots of pork, chicken and rice.
On Sundays (church is Saturdays afternoon usually), Sefo's family normally makes an Umu, which is where they cook food underground, wrapped in banana leaves. They cooked food in coconut milk, which they make themselves and often cook a whole piglet. Cooking the food this way adds a strange smokey taste - something else to get used to!

The island is tropical - a bit like Queensland hinterland. WIth palms, green long grasses and blue skies- until they turn grey with an afternoon storm! Its much hotter than Fiji/Cairns, and probably more like Darwin (although I've never been there). There is one set of lights and one roundabout. There are no road signs, but most of the roads are paved. But beware when driving (on the right hand side of the road!) of pigs! There are not many police but there are also not many cars. People drive all the time, there arent many walking or riding bikes, probably due to the weather. The main island has beaches, but not particularly beautiful ones. Sefo said that the people have used a lot of the sand for making concrete -to the detriment of the beaches. But its only a 10 minutes boat ride away to some smaller islands. And these really are a tropical paradise. White sand, blue/green clear water. The best snorkelling I have ever seen.

Sefo and I went and camped on one of these islands for 2 nights. His grandmother had built a hut there, so they keep chairs, have a table and have rigged up some deep freezers to catch rain water so after a day in the water you can have a wash to get rid of the salty water. We made fire to cook a BBQ (the fish Sefo had caught spearfishing). We lugged a tent from Australia and plan to do quite a bit of camping when I move there - waking up to the water lapping at the sand a few metres away is just beautiful. We spent the days snorkelling - cliffs of coral and the most amazing tropical fish. Sefo has a spear and he sinks to the bottom, holding his breathe and waits for the fish to come. Then...POW,,,we have lunch/dinner! Its amazing to watch him underneath me holding his breathe, silent and waiting. A real hunter! I cant wait to get back to the little island and do some more camping with Sefo.