I was woken up by a phone call the morning of my flight to Nadi, Fiji. I was informed that Australia had just issued a red alert to travelers to the tropical island country due to a possible military coup. I checked the internet for news and called the airline. Their representative assured me not to worry, “Having a coup in Fiji is like having a margarita in Mexico.” I was slightly relieved, figuring since I had no plans to visit the capitol I should be unaffected. I just hoped my parents weren’t too up-to-date on the news.
Arriving in Nadi, I wasn’t sure where to go in my mere 6 days. I opted to leave the next morning for the Yasawa islands, depicted in all the brochures with pristine white beaches, clear blue coral-filled waters, grass-skirted islanders and smiling bikini clad tourists drinking from coconuts. It looked like paradise.
And it was paradise. The snorkeling was amazing, like swimming in the tropical fish tank at your local buffet restaurant. Nemos everywhere! Neon colors from the entire spectrum, fish of all shapes and sizes, and I even saw a few sharks! Life was regulated by breakfast, lunch and dinner times (all included in price of lodging), with snorkeling between high and low tides, drying off on the beach in the sun and napping in hammocks to fill in the gaps. My dorm bed was in a grass hut where I would awake to chirping birds perched on my bed rail; there was no hot water but showers refreshing. I visited an island village where I was introduced to the village chiefs bearing real flower leis and shown their school. School children in colorful purple uniforms sang for us and begged to have their pictures taken so they could see themselves on the digital camera screen.
I decided to live my last day in Fiji to the fullest. My flight was at 11pm and I had all day to enjoy. I took an introductory scuba course that morning, amazing but took some time to get used to the breathing. Then I had a drool-inducing 40 minute beach massage. Later I took my snorkeling gear to “feed the fish”, an island sponsored activity that involved taking bread into the open waters where the fish were already waiting for us---see, fish have brains after all! There were thousands of them, so many you could catch the little ones in your hands. At one point I realized I had wandered a little too far from the group when I noticed the fish were getting bigger, and, what’s that??? A STINGRAY???!! It must have been a meter long---plus the long pointy nose! Lastly, once back to shore, I decided to try swimming around the entire island. This particular island, South Sea Island, could be circumferenced on foot in about 15 minutes, a little oasis of sand and coconut trees that could be mercilessly wiped out by the most cowardly of tsunamis. It took about an hour, but exhausted and happy, I gathered my things for the ride back to the main island, and to the airport.
I was contented and excited to head back to the States for my sister’s wedding. Eager to show off my new tan, I realized my skin was starting to itch something fierce…I had developed a huge rash right there on the airplane. The doctor later diagnosed me with “swimmer’s itch”, sounds cute enough but the internet tells me it has something to do with flatworms mistaking me for waterfowl—EW!
By the way, Fiji is still on high alert for a possible coup. The Prime Minister was making an important speech on television the day I arrived, but to the adults’ dismay the Fijian kids at the hostel kept turning the channel to cartoons. On one island I heard an announcer shouting from the radio, all the islanders surrounding the radio with expressions of great concern---but found out they were listening to a live rugby game. It makes sense, paradise can only be unaffected by politics.
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