Tuesday, February 21, 2006
From Melbourne to Fiji with a Choir
Before boarding the plane at midnight we were like a mob of sheep going through the final check. As the plane took off we saw the beautiful Melbourne's flickering lights for a few minutes before the dark clouds covered them all. The 767 Air Pacific plane was called the Island of Taveuni and we were on his way to Nadi, Fiji.
We had some problems with overweight languages and one woman had to pay more than a $1200 for her excess luggage. Her husband said it could have paid his fare, as he was left behind very unhappy! We were a group of eighteen Fijian adults and some children, and there were tourists also going to Fiji. The leader of our group was Jone Buadromo with the help of Sese, Seleima and Savaira. Drinks were served and then one hour later the food were served and while I was eating a slight turbulence rocked the plane and a friend who was half sleep said, 'What is this?' and I said, 'It's just an earthquake!' Then he swore at me!
The movie they screened in the plane was okay but we could choose to listen to Fijian or Indian songs in another channel. It was very good to see the smiling faces of the Fijian Girls working as hostesses in the plane.
We had to change our watches by two hours for Fiji time. Then I just slept and when I woke up day was breaking and I saw glimpses of the Yasawa Islands as the plane started to descend at the Nadi International Airport. The plane went from 20000 feet to 500 feet then the nose of the plane was trying for touch down and a few minutes later the plane stopped at the terminal and we were ready to disembark. Thanks goodness we were on the Fijian soil and safely landed thanks to the Captain and the Crew.
The winter cold weather in Geelong had been 7 degrees and I wore two winter shirts and a thick wool jumper and a jacket and two pairs of socks. When I got out of the plane in Fiji it was so hot as it was 28 degree and humid. I felt uncomfortable so I decided to take of my clothes one by one and when I reached the Custom I had a pile of clothes in my hand and my briefcase in the other.
We were met by Ravuama Vunivalu who was in Melbourne for seven years and then went to Fiji five years ago to join the Police special Branch to become assistant to Police Commissioner Romanu Tikotikoca . Ravuama had lived with us in Geelong for several years and was a bit of a rascal.
Ravuama had organised a forty-seater bus, but he had drunk kava the night before and came late and was very tired. We had to go Suva to stay in Pender Street at the Credit Union hostel. Our luggage half-filled the bus which had an Indian driver. The engine refused to start.
Savaira called out “What kind of transport is this? I would rather catch a taxi to Suva.”
Then the engine made a lot of noise and smoke filled the bus and we could smell the oil. The driver was very calm as if this happened every day and he probably thought we were a spoilt lot after living in Australia. By now everyone had changed into summer clothes.
Ravuama stood up and welcomed us officially, 'Welcome to Fiji. I apologise for this worn out bus. This is the only one left in the garage. All the good buses were gone.'
'Are you picking this Bus from the Mac Wrecker ?' said Savaira.
Ravuama answered politely, 'There is only the Western Wrecker .in Fiji. Usually when the buses break down passengers just have to wait and wait for another bus.'
We travelled through Nadi town and noticed the beautiful South Indian temple, then we headed for Sigatoka and saw the new Mellrose Bridge which replaced the one damaged in the flood. In Sigatoka Sairusi and others went to buy some Indian gulagula and a cup of tea and I went with Buadromo to the market to buy one kilo of kava for our sevusevu in Suva. It was $16 a kilo whereas in Melbourne it cost $50 dollars.
I saw a man from Navosa who was sitting on a vendor's chair with his friend and he called out my name Peceli. I turned back and looked at him. He was an old friend, once the Steward in my first church in Fiji. I had not seen him for over thirty years.
We reached Suva safely and people gathered to welcome us ready for a fortnight of singing in the Methodist Conference Choir Competition. We were tired but really happy to be in Suva.