Paradise: Welcome to Fiji
We have a one-way ticket to Fiji. We had this phrase on repeat for over a year. It sounded so exotic, after all. Now, we were on that one way flight, and with 11 hours of air time ahead, it didn't feel as glamorous.
Fortunately, it was a surprisingly easy flight. We landed at 5 a.m., convinced jet lag isn't a thing. We feel great! We thought. The time difference, however, is significant. Eastern Time is 17 hours behind. The time disparity equated to departing San Fransisco at 10 p.m. on Thursday, February 1st and landing on Saturday, February 3rd. We skipped a day, and lucky for us, that day happened to be Groundhog Day. Furthermore, for what it's worth, the evening was departed for our year away, was also a Super Moon. It was the first time in over 150 years that a total lunar eclipse occurred. And the spiritual meaning is often regarded as a tide of change and moving forward. Take from that what you will.
We splurged on the Radison Blu for our first four nights. We'd start the year off right. I deemed the cushy accommodations necessary to fully adjust to the climate and time change. The resort was a real treat. Radisson Blu is on Denarau Island surrounded by tropical gardens. It had several lagoon pools, relaxing areas, cafes and restaurants, all situated on a private beach.
Prior to getting to Fiji, the weather outlook looked bleak. Will was quite concerned that weather.com predicted 100 percent chance rain, daily. Which it did. But it was a tropical rain. It reached the low 90s by morning, so anytime it did rain, the precipitation was welcome. It would pour for five minutes and then become completely sunny. We found that it typically came down at 4 p.m. daily, if it was sunny in the morning. Additionally, if it rained overnight, it would be sunny when we woke. Regardless of the rain, the ocean temperature remained in the 80s. Upon landing, the first thing we did was dive in the ocean. It was too tempting not to.
After, I was keen on swimming in the ocean everyday, several times a day.
After our first dip, we grabbed breakfast. It was quickly evident that the resort catered to the comforts of their target audience: Aussie's and Kiwi's on holiday. It felt just out of our comfort zone. There were certainly early miscommunications. We ordered coffee. What kind? Coffee with milk? Blank stare. Café au lait? Blank stare. The server walked away. Upon returning, she asked, Flat White? I lit up: yes! Two please! It's served with Fiji's biggest export: sugar cane.
It was all so unfamiliar, until we ordered eggs with toast...and it came with peanut butter. You're quickly reminded you're in an environment catered to western comforts.
Regardless, from that point on, we learned to order Flat Whites. Lots of Flat Whites.
But that first day, we fell asleep at 4 p.m. Feeling good after our Flat Whites, even better after our piña coladas, we were braced for paradise. Until we literally crashed and didn't rally. Fortunately, we allotted ourselves a few days to recoup.
After day one, majority of our time was spent reading by the water. For us, it was a lesson in living in the present. It's something we both want to work on.
When we discuss our goals for this year, we talk about not planning, not perpetually searching for what's next. Rather, learn to appreciate the moment. We're both conditioned to focus on time by living according to a strict schedule. It's understandable, given that we're both Type A and anxious by nature. However, we're trying to live more intuitively. Less "should" and more "we'll see." It'll take far longer than a year to rid all inhibitions, but in Fiji, we took our first steps toward letting go.
Fiji was an extenuating circumstance for learning not to live with as many restrictions. We enjoyed piña coladas by the water.
We drank from coconuts and scooped out the fresh.
Found a breakfast spot, Bulaccino, where we became regulars.
Had literally every meal outside.
Toasted at happy hour on our private patio.
Walked along the beach at dusk.
Traced our names in the sand.
Yet, despite the romanticism, we inevitably felt restless. One morning we went for a run around the grounds. I was only reminded we were actually in Fiji when I'd look up to appreciate the vast mountains along the horizon.
We proceeded to run directly in the ocean, which will forever remain the most refreshing feeling.
We were brought back to reality with the Super Bowl. Will, growing up in New Hampshire, has long been a New England Patriots fan. They were playing the Philadelphia Eagles. Due to the time difference, kickoff was at 11:30 a.m. on Monday. The day prior, we asked the bar at the resort if they would show the American Super Bowl. They said it depended if the Fiji Rugby team advanced in the Hamilton's inaugural sevens since they were doing very well in the tournament. From an American perspective, at first I thought they were joking. Showing Fiji Rugby over U.S. football? But their deadpan response made it abundantly clear, finding the American Super Bowl would be a challenge. On Monday, we finally found the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club, which had a sports lounge of sorts. We asked if they would play the American Super Bowl or if they got NBC. As they searched through the channels, it seemed unlikely. They stopped at CNN and looked at us eagerly. As Trey Gowdy appeared on the screen, we felt defeated. Turns out, ESPN has some sort of international contract, so while we didn't get the American commercials--only commercials for ESPN--we did get the game. In true American spirit, we ordered a bucket of Fiji Golds and a plate of nachos for the two of us.
Ultimately, the Patriots lost. Fiji beat New Zealand and then South Africa, the Olympic Gold Medalists.
In more traditional cultural customs, we did have kava. The tea is the national drink of Fiji and it's seemingly ever-present. It's historically associated with religious and cultural ceremonies. But we found that many locals enjoy kava recreationally as a way to relax. Kava is celebrated for mitigating anxiety and can make your lips feel a bit numb. It's often described as tasting like muddy water. Because it does.
To enjoy, you clap once and say "bula," drink the kava, then clap three times and say "a maca" (pronounced a matha), meaning finished. It's very communal, as the tea is mixed constantly by hand with two small bowls made from coconut shells. High tide means fill it up, low tide means not as much. After five or six bowls, high tide, we can say we did feel more relaxed. Then again, we were in Fiji on Island Time.
Things we learned in Fiji:
1) "Bula!" (pronounced boo-lah!) is an ubiquitous greeting that means, Hello! Welcome! Fijians are enthusiastic with their greetings and it's contagious. "Vinaka" means thank you. Also, said frequently.
2) Fiji Gold and Fiji Bitters are the local beers. We preferred Fiji Gold.
3) Spotify has no commercials! You don't need premium here. I suppose advertising in Fiji isn't prioritized.
4) Detoxing from the news is more challenging than it seems. Will and I are still addicted. It'll take a while.
5) No one likes Trump.