The experience of a life time!
21.06.2011 30 °C
Bula, sincere apologies for my lack of updates in the last couple of months. No internet access has somewhat hindered my ability to communicate with everyone.
I have lived on a beach that's about 200m long this whole time, we sleep in little huts called 'bure's' with thatched roofs. The first night was the worst when we all woke up drenched to our skin wondering why it was raining inside!!! This has since been fixed by covering the roof in tarpaulin. We have a sort of makeshift outdoor kitchen and our ingredients consist of
- 2 minute noodles
- tinned tomato
- tinned sweetcorn
- tinned tomato pure
- tinned chicken luncheon
- tinned tuna
- tinned corn beef
- baked beans
Every morning we have to eat porridge which was okay at first, but I now never want to see porridge again and my teeth are rotting from the amount of sugar I used to make it taste slightly okay. Every few weeks we do get a delivery of fresh vegetables, potatoes, onions, green beans, aubergine and pumpkin for soup. Basically I have never craved fresh, normal food so much in my life, we all used to sit fantasising about what we are going to eat when leave the Island and get home. Can not wait to get into Waitrose, actually missing it lots especially as my thoughts of becoming a twig in Fiji have really not come true and I look more like i have been living in McDonalds. :,-(
Camp life is really fun though, minus the outdoor toilet you have to manually flush with sea water, and the fact I have not washed, apart from in a bucket for 10weeks. My nails are ruined and my hair is lacking nourishment. Bring on the spa's of LA, and shopping. Shopping is not even an option here, best way to save money as there is literally nothing to spend money on, apart from church donations. :-(
3 weeks in we all started to get very annoyed with the constant minging smell that was worsening in our Bure, distinctly near my bed. We thought it was just because everything was damp. Lo and behold, on closer inspection Emma and I come across a dead, Maggot infested rat on the floor. Surprisingly once this was removed the smell left and all was fine, still slightly damp but what can you expect living so close to water in a very very humid country... O yeah, rats live in our room with us, hygiene is a big must out here, sanitiser is my favourite thing in the world, but you still never feel properly clean.
Saturday night is party night, the rum here is 58% so pretty much knocks you down dead when you can't even buy mixer for it. I always manage to forget it's church and a day in the village on sundays, so after dancing the night away to 'Saturday night) I nearly always manage to near chunder at Sunday lunch at my families house whilst they are all watching me eat as I am a guest. I think I am always too grateful when the invite me to have an afternoon nap on the bed in the living room. Normally passing out for a few hours waking up dripping in sweat as it's so hot and we have to cover every inch of our skin in respect whilst in the village. Not good when you feel horrendously unwell. :-(
Diving, the actual reason I am here in beautiful Fiji was initially the most horrible thing I have ever experienced. The constant sickness that hit me and fact I had a really bad cold so couldn't get bellow 7 metres then an infection in my ear. Anyway, when we went on our first boat dive in a place called shark attack I actually decided I liked it. We saw two sharks and 4 turtles which was insane, so much better than doing skills and stuff. I always manage to do full somersaults off the boat too which is fun! I am a rather shocking diver however. The funniest dive I went on was when I was a buddy with my friend Emma, whilst kitting up on the boat I manage to fall over into my back, with my tank on my back on top of everyone else. 18 minutes into the dive I suddenly spot Emma swimming ridiculously fast away from me, I persue thinking she's seen a shark, next thing I know she has one of the instructors alternate air sources in her mouth. She thought she had run out of air but she had actually forgotten to turn her air tank on. She obviously didn't trust me to save her despite the fact I was right next to her and her buddy. :-( next thing I know i trip on a piece of coral whilst 18m down in water ending up flat on my back on the coral unable to get up again. Emma thinks it's more fun to take pictures of me rather than help me get up. On this dive we also both broke profile as my buoyancy control is rubbish so I had to be the 'Tea Bitch' for a day which really wasn't fun and miss a day of diving as punishment. Despite the fact the water has never been under 27 degrees, I can't go in not in my wetsuit as I come out with hypothermia basically shivering and wanting to be sick. I've even taken to wearing hoodie and jeans the hole time I have become that acclimatised to the weather here!
Most of the time on camp was spent sun tanning and eating snacks we got on ration run. Not really the weightless trip I anticipated but owell. :-( 5 weeks in my jeans that had fallen off me when I got to australia are far too tight so I started my extreme diet plan. Obviously days eating cake in the village could not be avoided and chocolate is a must when you are surviving off such a bland diet.
5 weeks in the government also put a ban on the drinking of Kava due to a Typhoid outbreak which is one of the main things we participated in when in the village. Kava is a sort of narcotic drug that is made from a root, ground up soaked in water in a massive bowl at the centre of the Kava circle. The village elders are closest to the bowl then everyone else in circles back from it. It tastes revolting, makes your tongue go furry, you feel sick and often feel the same effects you get from alcohol. It also makes you have really weird dreams! Everyone here does it everyday and they are so addicted that they have secret Kava circles going on despite the ban. I am secretly glad that we had a few weeks of Kava as it was truly revolting. Especially when one village decided they would also mix milk in to it. I was therefore being forced to drink milk for the first time since I was a baby basically, revolting. For Emma's leaving party in the village her mum Lasanni invited our Bure over for dinner and cake and we then joined an illegal Kava circle in a chicken pen which was such good fun.
Living on an island only being able to wash in freshwater when it rains has definitley made me appreciate my home comforts. I have however got far to used to the fact rats run round my bed at night, eat my suitcase and even poo in my shoes that where inside my suitcase. Worst of all the rat ate mine and Emma's Betty crocker chocolate!! :,-( I think it also did a wee in my suitcase.
Sunday church in our Bula dresses is always entertaining, especially in our 8th week when we went to a different village but our village came too. A 2.5 hour church service, we even had to move around whilst singing followed by dinner for approximately 300 people. Noodles, pork, chicken flavoured fish, taro, sausage stew (a step up in the world compared to camp but nothing compared to my beloved Waitrose), this was then followed by cake, jam sandwiches and lemon tea. Canada and I ran back from the village after seeing ourselves in a mirror for the first time in 8 weeks with no proper shower. The Fijian hair braids I now have cure my hair being a mess which is reassuring. :-) lol.
So I managed to go the entire 10 weeks without getting any infected mosquito bites or cuts like everyone else who have basically ruined their legs. One day 8 weeks in I get out the water and feel my leg is slightly itchy... Over the next 2 days this itch changes to a full blown swollen knee which is clearly an under the skin abscess thing. Antibiotics fail to make any difference along with every other drug that the camp doctor Yaz can think to use. Taking the approach that it may be related to coral I am put onto some pills that are also used clymidia which I find rather amusing along with a friend Lucy who has a similar thing in her leg. This seems to make a little difference so Yaz attempts one morning to squeeze it out. She's half successful but it's still really hard and I'm finding it rather painful as I couldn't really walk it was so swollen. Next thing I know the biggest needles I have ever seen are shorted into my knee as she has decided to anaesthetise it. I can no longer feel anything so the needles start to go in trying to syringe it out/ make a better whole to open it up not really too successfully though as it's still to hard. So I am drugged up to high heaven after all this to deal with the pain as I feel I am going to be sick, can't walk and want to cry it's that bad. Bear in mind this is all taking place on a wooden bench in a straw hut on a beach. Lol. This day got better and better no joke! Paul who's in charge calls us all to a meeting, I hobble there in tears it's that painful to hear "would this be a bad time to tell you Gaby that we at all going to Namena?" (Namena is a neighbouring island which is home to a luxury resort and a marine park which is the 6th best place in the world to dive, you have to pay for a tag to go there and this is our only chance to go and I can walk) obviously I refuse to be left behind, so drugged up which isnt strictly allowed when diving and going down with no feeling isn't the best plan in the world but what the heck. My buddy and dive group on strict instructions if I passed out, started being sick etc under water to bring me straight back up but we would still be an hot from any help. A risk I would obviously take not wanting to miss such an opportunity, plus I had already payed for it. So it was amazing and I couldn't feel a thing taking far more strong and weak painkillers than should be allowed. 16 tablets in one day and 2 injections is quite a feet I think. A bad day made amazing as the dive was incredible, obviously it only needed to get more stressful... Our boats engine totally dies half an hour from our beach, so we all hop into the village boat that also came with which is only designed for about 6 people but we get in 20, this is not that easy when you can barely stand so I sort of topple into the boat screaming in pain to be handed yet more pain killers that I had taken with me in case by Kai the Fijian who is hilarious.
Diving has got better and better since being here, apart from the fact we have to do a few fish surveys. I am awful at these having never passed any of the tests on fish choosing to top up my tan instead. Hopefully nobody will be able to recognise me on my return I look that fijian.
Anyway this is the briefest update and doesn't really account for the last 10 weeks of my life. 8 weeks in was when I started to crave to go back to civilisation and be reunited with SKYPE!!! lol. Also steroid my starvation die whilst in America so as not to be severely depressed when I return home in 2 weeks time. Bring on LA and San Francisco really. The best thing about America is that a friend Bex from here in Fiji has changed her flights to join me out there so we can experience normality together! :-)
Normality is amazing!!! Back in Savu Savu in my element! :-) never eaten so much in my life!
Heading to LA tomorrow with Bex which shall be insane! Went shark diving and saw lots which was really good. Pretty entertaining as I ran out of air 20mins in so had to share a regulator with the man leading the dive which was rather funny but better than having to come to the surface and miss out! Also conquered my fear of swimming through small spaces as we did a cave dive which was really really cool and something new I hadn't tried before!
Just arrived in LA now about head out to universal studios!!! :-)
Lots of love