The surprising EXTRA entry from Fiji before Tuvalu
Day 3,361 since October 10th 2013: 200 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
Island time is a myth
As someone who likes to have control, as much as possible anyway, over my own life, I have certainly chosen a path in which it is often impossible to have control
Last week’s entry: Leaving Fiji: Tuvalu here we come!
Greetings from Fiji!!! Yes – I’m still here. The ferry which I thought I would have been onboard right now has only just reached Suva and will not depart until late next week…maybe? Who knows. It is raining outside. Not that you needed to know that but I guess it sets the mood. “Island time”. I’ve been thinking about island time lately and it is truly just a way to make something bad sound slightly more charming. The actual reasons for a slow-paced life, inefficiency, corruption, lack of development etc. on some islands, are to be found elsewhere than the oceanic setting. Afterall, Japan and Iceland are great examples of efficient island nations. Nah – I will refrain from saying “island time” in the future. In Vanuatu I met a man who said “Vanuatu time”. And here in Fiji I’ve heard people say “Fiji time”. Much more accurate if you ask me :)
I get really frustrated with delays, inefficiency, and lack of information. I try so hard to stay on top of things and I often find myself in cultures where answers need to be dragged out of people. I’m from Scandinavia which is often praised as a model for efficiency and high living standards. Perhaps the immense contrasts take part in my frustrations. But it likely relates far more to being relative close to the end of a very long journey and desperately wanting to see it come to an end. I’ll get back to the ferry later. Let me first introduce you to “No Wings” :)
Christmas hash run, Saturday, December 17th.
Ah yes!! My brothers and sisters at Suva Hash House Harriers finally named me. Hash House Harriers (HHH or H3) is an international group of non-competitive running social clubs found worldwide and dating back to 1938. I joined a “hash run” in Sudan and another in Brunei, but it wasn’t until I reached Fiji for the 3rd time that I became an active “member”. Up until the point when you receive your “hash name” you are referred to as “Just (name)”. E.g.: I would be “Just Thor”. But last Saturday during the Christmas hash, I and two others, were named. Jim (USA) was named “Paraquat” because he trains villages in organic farming (Paraquat is a toxic chemical that is widely used as an herbicide (plant killer)). Reiko (Japan) was named “Origami” as she teaches art at a college (Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding). And I was named “No Wings” because, well, you know… :)
My naming conducted by Hash Master Sir Big Ben. HHH is a "drinking club with a running problem" :)
A few days later it was Monday and I turned 44 years of age. December 19th became my 10th birthday within the Saga. Yes, I was 34 years old when I left home and now, I’m not. What were you doing in late 2013 and what have you done since? Well, thank you for the many wonderful birthday wishes from all over the world. And thank you for all the donations made to the Once Upon A Saga for Ukraine campaign which has now reached DKK 30,970 (USD 4,411). We are aiming for DKK 50,000 and beyond so please share the link with friends and family. That same Monday I joined the regular “hash run”. Always good and diverse company. On on!
Good crowd!! On on!!
While the Saga doesn’t focus much on politics it has been very interesting being in Fiji for the past few weeks. Fiji had two coups in 1987, one in 2000, and one in 2006. Frank Bainimarama has been in power since 2006. He instigated a coup as Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMP). Franks political party is called Fiji First. Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka used to be the leader of SODELPA (Social Democratic Liberal Party) but was ousted a few years ago. Rabuka, who was the instigator of the two military coups in 1987, formed a new political party in 2020 called Peoples Alliance. The final and 4th political party, which won seats during this election, is NFP (National Federation Party). NFP claims to be for all Fijians but is overwhelmingly supported by Indo-Fijians (Fijians with Indian descent). Right, so after 16 years of having Frank in power this general election called for change. Fiji First (Frank) did not secure absolute majority and neither did the main opposition (People’s Alliance (Rabuka)). Therefore, negotiations began between Fiji First, SODELPA, Peoples Alliance, and NFP, in an attempt to win or keep power.
Fiji First (Frank): 26/55 seats
People’s Alliance (Rabuka): 21/55 seats
NFP: 5/55 seats
SODELPA: 3/55 seats
With People’s Alliance and NFP aligned they held 26 seats together and so did Fiji First. SODELPA (Rabuka’s former party) became the “kingmaker” and could decide who got to hold power in Fiji. SODELPA eventually announced that they were siding with People’s Alliance and NFP, which meant that Fiji First (Frank) lost power after 16 years. It also meant that Rabuka (the man behind the coups in 1987) is back in power again. These days it seems to be trendy not to concede power after a political loss (e.g.: USA, Brasil). So it is interesting times here in Suva. “Divide and conquer” has been an age old and highly efficient tactic for many. Indo-Fijians reportedly make up around 37% of the population while the Chinese diaspora is less than 1%. There’s by the way a huge difference between how Chinese descendants of those who arrived in Fiji 150-170 years ago are perceived vs. Chinese business people who have arrived in recent years. The majority of Fiji is made up out of indigenous Fijians who are believed to have arrived some 3,500 years ago. In parts of Fiji there are underlying tensions between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians. And following the recent political development there have been reports of threats made against minority groups who are reportedly living in fear. As such the military forces (RFMP) which Frank used to be the commander of)) have been called in to assists the police in keeping peace. Some are saying that everything is fine and that the activation of RFMP is a political tool to keep power. Now tell me that isn’t interesting? Well, as your man on the ground I can say that on the surface everything looks peaceful. But what do I know…
Left: Gavoka (SODELPA). Center: Rabuka (People's Alliance). Right: Biman (NFP).
The Saga has certainly been exposed to Sri Lanka!! This interview reached 10K views within the 1st hour and 57K views in 48 hours. Watch HERE or click on image.
I do know that the good ship MV Manu Folau has now reached Suva, Fiji. I also know that I was informed that she would leave Tuvalu on December 15th, was set to arrive last Monday (19th), and depart a few days later. I received my Visitor Permit extension from Fiji Immigration Department last Friday (16th) and delivered it in time to Tuvalu High Commission (THC) that same day. All set and ready to go. As such I called the agent (Viky) Monday to confirm if departure would be Tuesday or Wednesday? Viky, who’s a great guy, informed that the good ship hadn’t left Tuvalu yet. WHAT?! I then emailed Acting Director Nito Lipine who’s in charge of MV Manu Folau in Tuvalu and he replied that the good ship would now arrive Friday December 23rd, and depart Monday 26th. On Wednesday (21st) I received an email from Ms Alio J. Panapa from THC in which she informed about the delay and that MV Manu Folau was scheduled to arrive Friday (23rd) and that departure was yet to be confirmed. Ms. Alio also encouraged me to follow their Facebook account for updates. So far there have been none at all. Today, December 23rd, I called Viky to hear if MV Manu Folau had arrived. Viky could confirm that the good ship was now in Suva and that departure might be around Thursday 29th. The crossing takes around 4 days so Christmas will now be spent in Fiji and New Years Eve will likely (maybe) be at sea. Who knows?! In part the delay in leaving Tuvalu was due to strong winds and in part due to inexplicable reasons. The delay in departing Fiji appears to be Christmas and other excuses.
I had a lovely chat with Ms Mavis on Breakfast at Fiji One. Watch HERE or click on image.
Argh to heck with it. So, what. It seems we will not reach the side goal of completing the pacific island nations before New Year. But we’ll get close. And there is currently no reason to believe that this delay in reaching Tuvalu will impact the overall timeline of completing Once Upon A Saga as the return to Fiji from Tuvalu might still go according to schedule (whatever that may be). There are some indications that the good ship will have to return to Fiji during January so that students will not miss school. Let’s see. Christmas in Fiji. That’s going to be nice. I’m still being hosted by Joji and Lisa who are absolutely wonderful. They are home for Christmas and I’m sure I’d be welcome to join but I have accepted an invite from two fellow hash’ers to join them on the 25th. Now, I’m Danish so for me the big night is December 24th. In most parts of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, presents are traditionally exchanged on the evening of December 24th. As far as my light research took me it is a “when does the day start” thing. The Catholic Church formally began celebrating Christmas on December 25th in 336. But before the mechanical clock was invented some countries (including mine) used to count the day over by sunset and not at midnight. As such the celebrations began after sundown on what to us is the 24th but back then was considered the 25th. Curious – huh? I guess the brits stuck with the 25th and spread that around the empire. On that note, BBC radio just turned 90 years and back then the British Empire reigned over more than 60 countries and 1 out of 5 people globally. Fiji was one of those countries until 1970.
I returned to Fiji Museum and picked up this souvenir. It is an iCula ni bokola (Chief or Priest's fork) particularly used for eating human flesh. I had a lovely talk with a staff member who could tell me that they have two more rooms, which have not been opened up to the public yet. Future exhibitions will include Fiji's history of cannibalism as well. I hope there will also be a section devoted to politics.
I finally had the pleasure of meeting Fiji Red Cross Director General, Ms. Ragigia Dawai. Lovely woman. Always good to catch up with Fiji RC.
I’m sad that I don’t get to celebrate New Year’s Eve in neither Fiji nor Tuvalu. I hear that here in Fiji they have traditions for splashing water on each other. And in Tuvalu it would definitely have been a special experience given their tiny population and their remoteness from the rest of the world. I wonder what it will be like on a ferry full of Tuvaluans? So here we are, at the end of another Friday Blog written in Fiji. I recently discovered that December 19th 2022 was my second birthday in Fiji! I was also here on December 19th 2019. Oh well – Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it and to those of you who don’t. At this point I’m guessing that there will be no entry next week because I’m onboard the ferry heading to Tuvalu? What do you think..?
Merry Christmas from Fiji.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Knee deep in Fiji time.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga