A Fijian Visit

 

Once we spent a holiday in Fiji. When Trans Hotel management in New Zealand found out where we were going, they made us an offer to give us discounted accommodation for assistance I had given them over the years. They then supplied us with brochures of their ‘Man Friday’ hotel which showed a shop filled to overflowing with fresh fruit. A swimming pool in the shape of a native’s foot, plus a letter instructing the manager to look after us and ensure we obtained the discount. The accommodation was in the form of individual ‘Bures’ so we could cook for ourselves if we so desired. The swimming pool was a figment of their imagination, it didn’t exist. The lagoon when the tide went out, didn’t exist either. I inquired from the manager, ‘Where was the fruit shown in their brochures?’ I was told, ‘ Sorry, it’s out of season’. So we journeyed into Sigatoka and went to the market where there was plenty of fruit. I could see from the looks the merchants were giving me, I was about to be skinned alive. We had already been mauled several times over by the taxi drivers. So I thought I would try a new technique. I approached an old depressed and sad lady seated outside the market and said, ‘I will give you $10 to bargain for me a selection of fruits, plus all the ingredients for a curry’. You can keep any change. What a transformation came over her. She became a screaming harridan and very soon had obtained more fruit and vegetables for us than we could carry. She seemed extremely happy with the deal, and so were we.

 

I couldn’t get over how little some people lived on, I wandered through a village one day and stopped at their store. I could have purchased all their stock with my loose change that I had in my pocket. I saw some clothes pegs, and said to the girl in charge, I would buy the whole card, about two dozen. The girl said ,So many? Nobody, just nobody in this world, needs two dozen pegs. When we returned to our Hotel, fruit was in Season again. The shop was packed to overflowing with fresh fruit.

 

I’m not a fan of haggling for goods. But I did buy a Seiko Automatic Watch which I’m still wearing and did haggle for. On departure we were met at the entrance of the Air Port by an old frail Fijian. He had an equally old trolley and offered to carry our bags. I thought of what normally happens to money left over from a foreign visit. It is put into a plastic bag for our next visit, which never happens. So I said to the old chap. ‘For you, Christmas this year, comes early.’ I then emptied my pockets of all my money and gave it to him. We ran into the Ticketing Hall behind our baggage. The Fijian ignored all the queues and took us to a reception marked ‘Closed’ He jumped the counter and spoke to the clerk busy ticketing. He immediately reached up and marked his work area ‘Closed’ and came down to attend to us, and give us our boarding passes. Waiting passengers immediately switched queues and formed up behind us, only to be shunted off by our new found guardian, we were allowed to stand as VIP’s alone. Laura kept asking me how much did you give this fellow? I replied I didn’t know, but it’s great service, enjoy it. It so happened that there was some Port Chalmers people who we knew very well observing this carry on. After they managed to cope with their trauma of ticketing, they came over to inquire what was going on. How did we get such special service? I said I would tell them but there was an embargo on the information, and they were not allowed to talk about it. I had just been appointed High Commissioner of Fiji. It seemed a shame not to exploit the situation. Anyway it had a sequel a year later, when the same people came to Queenstown for a Yacht Race. Later when entering a Restaurant, I could see they were talking about me. When I came up to greet them, they all stood up and bowed.

 

 

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