A Dragon In Fiji

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Decades ago, I listened to Tony Robbins say that the Fijians are the “happiest people in the world.” Many live in what Westerners consider squalor and drink a liquid that tastes like dirt, yet, according to him at least, they were smiling and happy, far more so than the typical Westerner.

-By Caleb Jones

I’ve heard a lot of other things about Fiji over the years, both good and bad. This is my first visit to the small island nation, and I was very curious to see if what I heard was true. My reason for this paradise stopover on my current one-month trip to Asia was threefold:

1. To force myself to take a relaxing, three-day vacation after my nonstop go-go-go of the last three weeks in Asia.

2. To break up the painful 15 hour flight home into something more palatable: a relatively quick five hour flight to Fiji (from Australia) and then a 10 hour flight from Fiji to the US a few days later. Much better.

3. To ease back into the time zone of my home, instead of suddenly flying home and then feeling like a damn zombie for four days, which is about how long it takes me to get back to 100% when switching from opposite time zones going from east to west. (Going from west to east is much easier for some reason.) That last one worked even better than I planned. The Fijian time zone is only three hours different from my home zone, Pacific Standard Time. It’s a full day ahead, but the actual time is only three hours behind.

Therefore, to reset my body clock without shocking my body too much, here’s what I did. As soon as I got on the plane in Melbourne, bound for Fiji, I switched the time on my phone and laptop to PST and considered myself on PST for the rest of my trip. During my entire stay in Fiji I forced myself to be on PST.

This means that I woke up every morning at 9am my time, which was 6am Fiji time, just in time to see the sunrise. Since your body clock is about sleep and blue light, as soon as I woke up I turned on all the lights, opened my curtains, and stared out into the morning sky for a while.

This was easy, since my hotel room was right on the water in a lagoon. Here is what I woke up to every morning:

I could have stayed in an actual hut on the beach (called a bure); that would have been awesome. The only problem is huts don't have air conditioning. During the day that would have been fine, but at night? When I had to go to sleep? Uh, no. I’m as Western, Northern, and white as they come. If I have to go to bed while feeling hot and humid, I’ll be tossing and turning all night and won’t get any sleep. So I did the next best thing; booked a hotel with AC but located literally on the water. It was nice.

Back to the body clock thing. Around 5:30pm my time (2:30pm Fiji time), I would hustle back to my hotel, turn off all the lights, close the curtains, and be a hermit for the rest of the evening until 11pm my time (8pm their time) which is when I went to bed. During that evening I would avoid looking at my phone (too much blue light there) but would allow myself to work on my laptop since I have the f.lux app installed.

This has worked great so far. I was a little sleepy during my first few days in Fiji (since I was getting up very early in regards to Asia/Australia time zones), but since the goal was relaxation, that was okay. By the time I arrive back home, my body clock will be completely adjusted and I’ll be able to hit the ground running. Fiji is a truly a beautiful and relaxing place, but before I get into the details I should tell you about my only major screw-up during this month-long Asia trip. It was a doosey.

Because I’m a dumbass, I figured that Fiji was a little island like the Bahamas, where it takes you about 30 minutes to drive across the entire island. In actual fact, Fiji is a gigantic island, more like Hawaii, with hundreds of square miles, multiple cities, and multiple climate regions.

Whenever I find a hotel, I use Google Maps to verify how close it will be to everything, in both walking and car distances. I did not do this when I booked my hotel in Fiji, thinking the location didn’t matter because everything would be a max distance of 30 minutes away. (Oh, you sad dumbshit BD.)

So I walk out of the Fiji airport, find my hotel shuttle, get in, and we go. I’m excited as I always am, and can’t wait to get out and see everything. Just 10 minutes later, we arrive at the hotel. I’m thinking, “Wow, this is really close to the airport. Cool!” Getting out of the shuttle, I realize the hotel has the same chain name, but is not the right hotel. I determine from asking around that indeed I’m at the wrong hotel, but I can take a taxi to get to my correct one.

So no problem, I hop in a taxi, tell him where to go, and off we go. I banter with the taxi driver, and he remarks that it will take three hours to get to my hotel. I laugh, thinking he’s making a joke. He laughs too. A little later he says it again; it will take three hours to get there.

“Wait a minute,” I say, my blood turning to ice water, “Seriously?”

“Yes, sah,” he says.

“Wait a fuckin’ minute. It’s going to take THREE HOURS to drive to my hotel? From where we are right now?”

“Yes, sah,” he says in his thick Hindi accent, “About three hours. Suva. East side of island. About three hours from here.”

I shake my head. “THREE HOURS?” I say again. I had just sat for five hours on the fucking flight over. I hadn’t eaten or gone to the bathroom.

“Yeah,” he says again, “Three hours. I get you there by 8:45pm.”

“How much is this going to cost?” I ask, shaking my head in disbelief and seriously pissed.

“220,” he says.

I whip out my phone, bring up my currency converter app, and plug in 220 Fijian dollars. It reports an equivalent to $101 US. God dammit. I just went $100 over my travel budget, not to mention wasting three fucking hours, and not to mention I’ll have to do this all over again on Thursday to get back to Fiji’s only international airport. Fuckballs.
I think fast. Maybe I can cancel my hotel and just get one closer to the airport. But no, I was a dumbass yet again. For some reason, during my Hong Kong euphoria, I broke one of my own cardinal rules and used Hotels.com to book the hotel room. This meant that the entire stay was already pre-paid, uncancelable, and nonrefundable. Fuckity fuckbeans. I really screwed this pooch.

“How do people normally get to the hotel from the airport if it takes three hours by car?” I ask incredulously. My eyes narrow, thinking this is some kind of scam. “People take domestic flight to other airport when they land in Nadi. About 30 minutes.”

Oh well. Since everything in my life is my fault, I decide to reframe the experience. I clear my head, and “decide” that I’ve paid this nice taxi driver $100 to take me on a three-hour tour of his beautiful island. I take a few deep breaths, sit back, and relax.

On the way there, I have the guy stop off at a gas station so I can take a piss and quickly grab something to eat in the car. He politely does so, and soon we’re back on the road. I’m in the back seat with my shoes off, leaning back, and watching the beautiful landscape go by. When it starts to get dark, I pull out my laptop and get some work done, which is easy for me since I have nine hours of laptop power wherever I go. It ended up being a nice and relaxing experience. Sometimes you’ll screw up in life, but life is still what you make it. Your happiness is your responsibly; no one else’s. Now let’s talk Fiji:

1. The people. Interestingly, Fiji is made of up two distinct races: Fijians (about 50% of the population) and Indians (about 44%). The Fijians are various, casual versions of Christianity, the Indians are very devout Hindus.

The Fijians are indeed super happy, amazingly so. Whenever you see any together, you always, and I mean always, see them smiling, laughing, and joking around. When you drive by their ramshackle homes, they smile and wave at you as you pass by. Even if men are working out in the fields, sweating and doing back-breaking work, when you drive by they pause, smile big, and wave. Little kids actually play outside here (mostly because it's a third world country and there isn't anything else to do). I haven't seen children play outside since...the 80s.

Not once during my entire visit so far have I seen a Fijian upset, about anything. Even in Australia I saw a few pissed off people, but not here in Fiji. The Hindu Indians here are also happy, and very polite and pleasant, but more organized and reserved than the Fijians. They’re also much classier, snappier, well-dressed, and poised. Most of the Indian women here dress in traditional Hindu fashion, with bright, colorful, sparkly (and sometimes just a little sexy) dresses, complete with bindis (those things in the middle of their foreheads). The Indian men are also a little better dressed than the very casual, often slovenly Fijians.

Watching the outcome independent Fijians alongside the very outcome dependent Indians here has been a fascinating social study. Both groups get along great, and I haven’t heard one group badmouth the other (though perhaps that might be done behind closed doors here; not sure).

The difference between the two peoples is stark. As just one example, if you get into a taxi with an Indian driver, he’ll be very professional and negotiate with you hard. His taxi will be completely clean, plush, comfortable, and nice. Get into a taxi with a Fijian driver, and the car will look and smell like shit (sometimes literally) and the guy will be smiling, laughing, and joking with you for the entire trip. Both taxi rides are a fun experience.

The world "bula" completely permeates this culture. I've never seen another culture dominated by a single word. Bula is said like "hello" but it also means "life" or "good health," and is used as a blessing (like after someone sneezes). Not only do the Fijians say it constantly, the word is plastered on signs everywhere you look. You'll see it on a billboard for McDonald's. You'll see it mounted above their ATMs. You'll even see it on their water: They also have "ridiculous" ice cream here. It says so on the ice cream: So cute. And speaking of cute...

2. The women. Two kinds of women are here, so we’ll tackle both.

Sadly, the Fijian women have extremely masculine facial features, making them look quite unattractive, even the ones who are young or have big boobs. Again I made the mistake of assuming Fijian women would look super exotic-hot like the amazing women of the Bahamas. And again, I feel stupid for making such a foolish assumption. (Bahamas is in a completely different part of the world, with a completely different culture and race.)

I spent an entire day in Suva, the capital city of Fiji (more like a capital town, population about 175,000). Even considering this, during my entire stay so far I’ve seen a grand total of two Fijian women I consider minimal cute enough to have sex with. Not good. Even then, both these women clearly had some foreign blood (Indian, Asian, or European). As usual, mixed women are cuter, but those pure Fijian women are definitely a local’s taste only.

Like everyone else in Fiji, the Fijian women are very nice though. They smile at you, wave at you, and maintain great eye contact. They’re always happy to see you, the young and old women alike. This could be because I’m white, but I’m not sure that was the case (it’s hard to tell sometimes).

Big, 1970s-style afros are in style with Fijian women, which I find fascinating. You see women all over the place looking like Pam Grier in Coffy. Kinda funny. I just wish they were better looking. Now the Indian women, that’s a completely different story. Many of the ones who aren’t overweight are super hot, shockingly so, far more than Indian women I see in the US. I have no idea why this is the case, but if you ever go to Fiji and visit its small cities you’ll see what I mean. Holy moly.

I talked to several of these young Indian girls and man, they were so hot I have to admit I was getting pretty excited. Perfect skin, beautiful eyes, perfect, feminine features, lilting voices (standard Hindi accent), sexy, tight bodies. It also helps that they are arrayed perfectly with their makeup and their Hindi dresses, with shiny diamonds in their foreheads.

The problem, as I understand from many men who know Fiji well, is that the Indian girls here are notorious prudes, and that you shouldn’t even bother talking to them if sex is one of your goals. If you want to get laid here, you’re going to have to deal with the Fijian girls (yuck), or perhaps the Fijian or Asian hookers who frequent the larger towns (again, yuck). I didn’t have the time or the desire to prove this wrong on this trip, though perhaps on a future visit I might.

You know those jaded older Western men who go abroad, and find a young foreign girl, fall in love with her instantly, and marry her almost on the spot? I would never do something so reckless, needy, and stupid, but I as a man I understand the emotions involved, and these Indian girls demonstrated this for me.

I mean, you’re sitting there talking to a young, hot woman who is pretty much a 9, and she likes you, she’s smiling, happy, super-feminine, not jaded, not pissed, not nervous, not demanding dinner or drinks, not spouting off crap about how she’s strong and independent and doesn’t need you, and not making demands about how a “gentleman” should behave. There’s none of the angst, stress, masculinity, or suspicious vibe so common in Western women. Just pure happiness, attraction, and femininity.

I have to admit, it’s quite compelling. Again, I would never marry a foreign woman on the spot (I would never marry anybody; traditional monogamous marriage doesn’t work anymore), but I understand the emotions behind the act. Thank god I’m not a beta, or I would be dumb enough to marry one of these Indian girls (if their religious and familial Societal Programming allowed such a thing with a non-Hindu, non-Indian white man). Eye carubma.
3. Third world. Fiji is a third world country. It’s not a third word shithole, since I make a distinction between “third world” and “third world shithole.” It is still pretty shitty though. Local newspapers have headlines such as “Two Die In Sword Attack” and “Ebola Scare Returns.”

Most people live in homes like this:

Some of these houses do not have floors; they literally live in the dirt. Even with the ones that have floors, most do not have plumbing or electricity. Many other residents here live in large tents instead of houses.

A very small and lucky few live in boats:

The higher-income ones live in the cities, such as Suva, its capital and second largest. Even in that city, you won’t find any building taller than about eight or nine floors. Walking around a Fijian city is tough; they don’t have the usual emission controls most Western cities have, so there is a constant blast of very thick exhaust fumes blowing in your face. Walking around downtown is like walking inside of a giant tailpipe. In some ways it’s worse than cities in China.

One good side effect regarding this third world status for visitors is that everything is super cheap. Even in my hotel, which was a mid-range one by Western standards, the big breakfast buffet was just $16 US, so I did it every morning. $16 would be the cost of just a salad in a Western (or even Eastern) first world city.

Land is ridiculously inexpensive. You can buy amazing beachfront plots for less than $10,000 US. Even people living in ramshackle homes own vast acreage (though non beachfront) all the way to the interior of the island.

It’s still the third world even in the hotels meant for Westerners. When I checked in, the air conditioner didn’t work. I had to go back out and complain. The guy told me I had to place my room card key in a little slot for it to work. I’m familiar with this system, but didn’t remember seeing a slot. I went all the way back to the room, looked around, couldn’t find it, and had to go all the way back to the lobby again. This time the guy came with me to “show me where it was.” I thought, “This should be good.”

He came into my room, looked around, and to his shock, he couldn’t find it either. He futzed with the controls for the AC and clearly it was still blowing hot air. Finally, in an embarrassed tone, he told me we'd have to switch rooms since there were no technicians on staff that late. I told him as long as the internet and the AC worked that would be fine.

They moved me to a room that indeed had a card slot, and the AC worked fine. Then I hit the internet, and it was like being on dial-up in the 1990s. It worked, but barely. To get real online work done, I had to move my laptop out into the lobby, where even there it sucked but was a little faster.

See, shit just like this happened in Australia too, but I expected this crap in Fiji because it’s the third world. When this stuff happened in Australia, it just made Australia look bad. Anyway, my hotel was very nice. It was right on the water, just like I had planned. The lobby, which was all open-air, looked like this. Nice.
4. Beautiful landscape. Fiji is beautiful. The beaches are nice, the water clean and warm (though not in the cities). Crabs walk right out of the ocean and just walk around. The east side of the the island (and yes, Fiji is more than one island but I stayed on the main one) is mostly uninhabited and covered by hilly, lush jungle. I'm astounded by the various types of trees here. Most forested areas around the world I've seen is dominated by two or three types of tress that you see lots of, usually growing together. In Fiji, there are scores of types of trees, all growing together in a green mass. It's impressive.

I got nailed by mosquitoes here but not too bad. If you go inland they’re more of an issue. I stayed on the edges (beaches and cities) for my trip.

5. China’s silent influence can be felt in Fiji everywhere, much like in Australia. Many of the TV channels in Fiji are in Chinese, even though Asians make up a very tiny percentage of the population. The Chinese have purchased vast tracts of land for future expansion, marking them with colorful Chinese flags. In one of these areas I saw, China is going to build an entire town, “Chinatown.” China is also going to help build a second international airport in Fiji, dwarfing their current largest one in Nadi.

Often you’ll be driving down a country road, looking at all the shit houses, then suddenly come across a huge, clean, modern, high-tech building, like a hospital. Every time you ask the taxi driver about it, he’ll say “China built it!” When you go to the cheap or mid-range resorts, you see a lot of Australians, but when you go to the expensive resorts, you see Chinese.

When you drive by the warehouses and shipping yards, pretty much all of the containers you see are Hong Kong or Chinese companies. The Fijians are very happy about China’s involvement and money. Constantly you hear, “China built our hospital!” “China is going to build us an airport!” “China is building us new schools!”
In a few years, China will own Fiji, just like they’ll soon own Africa.

The West fails, the East rises. That’s why I’m here, following the money.

That’s it for now. Next up, I finally return to the US, but before I go home I'm spending some time in one of the best-looking woman cities on the planet, Los Angeles...

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