Foibles Of Fiji

foible |ˈfoibəl| noun

A minor weakness or eccentricity in someone’s character: they have to tolerate each other’s little foibles.

Geckos and Sea Snakes:  Geckos are not harmful. The look like regular lizards and not like the gecko selling Geico insurance. They are actually useful in as much as they eat small insects and mosquitos but they have a tendency to poop indiscriminately. There are often small ones on the deck that I just leave alone. When I went to get a drink of water the other night and one about seven inches long jumped out from under the stovetop, I knew I had to make a stand for my territory. He had the advantage because he could walk upside down on the ceiling so every time I got a chair under him, he just moved. Once he got down on the floor, the tide turned to my advantage. He could run but there was no place to hide. When he knew I was about to catch him, he released the tip of his tail. I had not touched him. He just released about a half inch of a wiggling tail as a distraction. He did not know I am a college graduate, so his little diversion did not work. I put him and his wiggling tail outside. I hope they were able to hook up again.

Sea snakes are poisonous but I am told they will only bite a human if you stick your fingers in their mouth. I repeat, I am a college graduate so that theory is not about to be tested. When I saw one coming toward me the other day, I got out of the water faster than I knew I could move.

Names of Yachts: I have been going into town and down to the bay to use the internet and often take note of the names of yachts. Here are a few: Equanimity, Vixen, Summer Soul, HeartBeat, Tango, Sanity, and Uppity. I like to make up stories to go with the names. Great for the creative imagination. Vixen — wishful thinking. HeartBeat — had an heart attack and is grateful for every beat of his heart. Uppity — just telling the truth.

Insects and Bugs: This is the tropics after all and crawling critters can be a problem. The key is to not provide a food source inside your house. After a couple mornings of waking up to find ants crawling over my unwashed dishes, I remembered the words of my mother, “Don’t leave crumbs and you won’t get bugs.” Even a beer bottle left in the sink overnight was covered with ants the next morning. It is not enough to just rinse them and leave them in the sink. I now wash all dishes soon as I finish eating and put them away. All food is stored in a sealed container or placed inside the refrigerator. Fresh fruit, picked from the yard is kept on the deck until ready to be eaten. No food is left on the counter top at any time and all garbage is kept on the porch in an enclosed bin. No ants. No bugs. No dirty dishes. Period. Thanks again mom. You’re the best.

Guns: I can not speak for all of Fiji but no one here has, nor desires to have a gun. Some of the bank security guards carry a night stick but I have not seen a police man or military personnel with any type of firearm. The positive influence of the British no doubt.

Clear Eyesight: Maybe it’s because there are no optometrists in town to tell people they need glasses or maybe because they are too expensive,  but I have only seen one person in Savusavu, a bank teller, wearing glasses. Perhaps the people of the islands have clear eyesight or maybe there is a social stigma around glasses. More research  in this area is needed.

Smoking: Smoking is not done publicly in Savusavu. The teens and young adults seem to prefer the bus shelters after dark for their smoking and beer drinking. I see empty cans and butts when I catch the bus in the mornings. I have only seen one man smoking outside on the public street although I know smoking is done inside the home. Cigarets are for sale in all the markets but they are expensive by Fijian or American standards.

Removing Shoes: You don’t have to put up a sign asking people to remove their shoes before entering your home. It is automatic. Everyone does it here. The other night I attended an Hindu service at Boudan’s home. There were at least 30 pair of flip flops outside his door. The key is to make sure you get the correct pair of shoes upon leaving and pray there is not a fire. Talk about chaos! Sixty feet trying to find the right and left shoe.

Men & Women: Men and women don’t hug or embrace when meeting one another on the street or in the home even if they are long time friends. They shake hands. Married Hindu women cannot have contact of any kind with any male who is not a relative except as it relates to the conduct of business i.e. a post office clerk has to talk with men in the course of  her duties. The other day when a chef, friend and neighbor I order meals from hugged me, I was very pleased as it was the only physical contact I’ve had with a woman since my arrival, but she is Thai and already married. Well, so much for hugs.

Recycling: They don’t have recycling in this part of Fiji. I don’t know about the larger cities on the other islands. If I had $200,000 FJD to invest, (the cost for a non resident to start a business here) I would start a Recycling Education Program for the general public especially needed now that plastic bags have been introduced in the markets. The government has just started a program in the elementary school system to teach the children about recycling.

While waiting for the bus one day, I had the opportunity to share a conversation with an elderly gentleman who is a care taker for a few properties in the area. I was trying to explain the benefits of a recycling program to reduce the cans etc. around the bus stop. He could not grasp the concept and then the bus came and we left our conversation unresolved.

A few days later we met again. “I think I understand recycling now,” he says with a big smile on his face. “At night the frogs and the crabs cross the road and some get run over by the cars. The mongoose comes along and eats the dead bodies. Sometimes the mongoose gets run over and the crabs and the frogs come along and eat the mongoose. That’s recycling,  right?” His round face is beaming now.

“Yes, Fred, I think you got it.”