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Vanesa/ Nicole’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 10 Mar 2010

Location: Natadola Beach, Fiji

MapSorry we haven’t written in awhile. For the past month we have spent almost all of our time job hunting, and let us tell you, it is not an easy feat. It would appear that no one in the Sydney area wants to hire travellers, apparently we are unreliable. So we have spent our time proving to employers that we are different.

A couple of weeks ago we had an interview with Rebel Sports (Australia’s # 1 sporting store, and Sport Chek’s competition.) We arrive at the interview 15 minutes early. Portfolio’s ready to go, business casual attire on, and big smiles on our faces. We get to the front entrance, only to find that every other candidate is either in high school, or just received their diplomas. “This will be a piece of cake. Hey, maybe they are going to offer us management positions, seeing how we are way overqualified.”

There were 11 of us in this interview, and we were clearly the oldest by a landslide. “Alright, now everyone break off into groups of 2.” We were handed a piece of paper which had 5 questions on it. “Now, interview your partner. We will give you 15 minutes and then you will have to sell your partner to the group.” Conveniently enough we were not allowed to be each other’s partner. That would be way too easy. So we ended up pairing off with some 15 year olds who had never worked before. After some coaching on our parts we managed to get somewhat of an interview out of them.

Presentation Time! “Who would you sit next to on a plane and what would you eat?” What kind of question is that? “What is your favourite movie?” How is that relevant? After sitting and listening to everyone present we discover that those presentations are ALL our interview consisted of. “Vanesa and Nicole, are you on a working holiday visa?” Oh oh, here we go. There is no way that we can disguise our accents, we are really bad actresses. “We will call you back by Friday.” Well we are still waiting for that phone call... clearly we were way overqualified, or at least that is what we keep telling ourselves!

In the end of our job searching, our determination and perseverance kept us going which landed us two job offers within the same day. Job # 1 – Club Med in Whitsunday’s (Housekeeping / Kid’s Club) and Job # 2 – P & O Cruise Lines (Child/Youth Activities). As they are both amazing opportunities with well known companies around the world, it was a toss-up. In the end we decided to go with P & O as it allowed us to travel more, see new countries; as well as, work in our field.

After receiving our notice of employment we were informed that we needed a special visa. This visa is called the Maritime Crew Visa, and in order to obtain this document the applicant needs to be out of Australia. So that is how we ended up here, in Fiji!

It is Sunday, February 28th and after an almost 4 hour flight we arrived in the beautiful country of Fiji. When getting off the plane the first thing that hit us was the humidity, causing automatic frizz and that gross sticky feeling. After making our way through customs and getting our passports stamped, we collected our luggage and tried to find our hotel transfer. When walking through the first set of doors there was a lady waiting who presented us each with a shell necklace, and we were serenaded by a group of locals.

After a short photo op we located the transfer company and signed in. Our transfer took approximately an hour and we finally arrived at the Intercontinental Golf Resort & Spa. Yes, the name sounds as fancy as the resort actually is! Upon arrival we could hear everyone whispering about how amazing this resort looked, us included. Low and behold, the driver announces the name of the resort and we realize that this was our stop. How did we score this one? We received many astonished looks, and glares from individuals whose jaws had hit the floor when they discovered that the two youngest people on the bus were the one’s staying at the 5 star resort. This resort is ranked # 7 on Forbes Magazine’s Best Resort List, and is home to the Natadola Golf Course (18 holes, Par 72) which was built for a Fijian Pro Golfer who use to play on tour with Tiger Woods.

We were greeted by a number of employees, presented with another shell necklace and escorted down a long hallway that overlooked the ocean. We checked in and the resort had a golf cart waiting to take us to our room. The gentlemen gave us a tour of the resort and it was even more gorgeous then it looked on the internet. When we arrived at our room we were absolutely speechless. Our room overlooked the ocean and swimming pool, we had a beach volleyball court in our backyard, a tub on our balcony, marble countertops, and two large comfy beds. We felt like the luckiest people on earth. We immediately hit up the pool and then had a nice “romantic” dinner overlooking the ocean. Geez, we feel like we should be on a honeymoon as we are at a couples resort... lol

Day two started off with an hour of yoga in the absolutely amazing resort spa. The rest of the day was spent playing some beach volleyball where we kicked some resort staff butt, and lazing by the pool. In the evening we got all dressed up and headed downstairs for dinner. Upon entering the entrance to the restaurant we got asked if we were sisters. That notion seems to be the common misinterpretation, that we were sisters in Fiji on daddy’s money. Later that evening at a Fijian cultural dance Nicole got asked if she was married. “Married, why would you think that, there is no ring on my finger” Apparently, in the Fijian culture when you wear a flower on the right ear it means you’re married, and when you wear one on the left ear it means you’re single. “Well let me just switch that flower around.”

Day three we had an early morning as we were going on a full day excursion to a little village called Namuamua. During our bus ride Nicole met a couple of new best friends, 4 year old Katarina, and two year old Beatrice from Italy. A butterfly happened to land on Nicole’s shoulder which started up the conversation with the children. To our amazement Katarina spoke amazing English for being from Italy and only 4 years old.

Our bus driver was very informative, filling us in on Fijian traditions and customs. In some religions that are present in Fiji they still believe in arranged marriages, and upholding their religions through only inter-religious unions. They also still believe in male dominated societies where the chief has to be male, and in charge of the tribe. It is strange to be in a country where these customs and beliefs are still upheld, you tend to forget how much some things in society haven’t changed in some countries when you are so used to equality in men and women.

After an excruciatingly long bus ride we arrived in a little village just outside of Suva where we had to suit up in a lifejacket for an hour long boat ride. After crossing the street we spotted our transportation, a long dragon boat style speed boat. We boarded the vessel and began our journey with Vanesa getting the front of the boat. The day started off beautifully, the clouds parted and the sun came out to play. Half way down the river we stopped by a magnificent waterfall. Everyone got out of the boat to admire the scenery, and take a swim by the waterfall if they dared. After hearing a consensus of complaints about the water being too cold, we the Canadian’s were the only ones who attempted to swim. The water was nothing compared to what we are use to back in Canada. In the end we managed to convince a couple of the younger teenagers to join us prior to our departure.

A bit further down the Navua River we transferred from our speed boats into a homemade bamboo tribal raft that was crawling with bugs. It was a really cool experience as we got to go down the rapids on this raft with a Fijian tribal member dressed in a hay skirt and war paint on his face steering the way. After tying the raft to some trees we returned to our boats to make our way to our final destination, the village of Namuamua. It was at this point that the sky clouded over and we got caught in a torrential down pour. When we arrived in the village we were soaked from head to toe.

As we got out of the boat there were several ladies waiting for us to assist with the transfer. We were required to remove our hats, sunglasses, shoes, and the women need to be wearing skirts that go past your knees (so we all needed to wrap our towels around our waists), before we could make our way to the meeting house. If you are wearing any of these items when entering a Fijian home or building it is seen as a sign of disrespect. Upon our arrival in the meeting house one of the gentlemen in our tour group was named chief and we had to sit in two straight lines, men in the front sitting with their legs crossed, and women in the back row sitting with their legs together and folded to the right side. We then got to partake in a traditional Fijian Kava (welcome) ceremony. This involved a song and dance; as well as, each member of the new group drinking out of a coconut shell full of special liquid that turns your tongue numb. Apparently, the liquid is not alcohol, but is so potent that if you drink enough of it you will get drunk. The tribal members asked if anyone was brave enough to try another bowl. Thanks to one of the ladies in the group, Vanesa was peered pressured into another bowl with everyone saying “Do it for Canada!” Well if it is for Canada, she mid as well take one for the team.

After the ceremony we got to go on a tour of the village. After a short muddy trek we made our first stop at the local school. It is a real eye opening experience to see what the classroom structure and education system was like. Each child was required to wear school uniforms, but the classrooms were dirty and supplies and textbooks were limited or non-existent. The school building looked like a portable with shutter windows, and all male teachers, showing a still male dominated society. It was so inspiring to see how little these children have, but to see the large smiles on their faces. We were granted permission to enter one of the classrooms of the younger children and handed out some candy that we had bought in the town, and to take some pictures with the children. We spent too much time in the classroom teaching the children about Canada and spending time talking to them, that when we left we had lost our tour group. We ended up wandering the village, meeting some locals and truly getting an even deeper insight into the way these individuals live. None of them have electricity; only some of the more well off individuals have solar power. They wash their clothing like the olden days, down by the river, and have only sheets covering their doorways and windows. It is amazing how much we as Canadians take for granted. We are fortunate enough to have the little things in life that make everything easier such as: washers, dryers, dishwashers, and electricity. We don’t even pause to take a moment to think how truly amazing we have it in Canada, and yet these people have so little and spend their days so grateful for what they do have, with big smiles on their faces.

When we finally located our group back at the meeting house we got to enjoy a traditional lovo lunch with plenty of local fruits and hot food baked in an earth oven. The day ended with a Fijian Meke Dance, our participation in the Taralala (snake dance), and the Isa Lei (the final farewell song). After a very exhausting, cultural filled day we made our way back by boat and bus to our resort.

Day four we spent relaxing by the beach and taking lots of pictures of the beautiful island. During one of our beach excursions we met a gentleman on a horse, who let Nicole go for a free ride back to our resort. The evening commenced with a lighting of the torch ceremony and a beautiful sunset.

Day five was our last day. We spent the morning reading by the pool before catching our transfer to the airport to catch our flight. We were so sad to leave this paradise and head back to the big city of Sydney. If we could have, we would have stayed until we needed to board the ship, but unfortunately our tickets were only until Thursday.

We are now back in Sydney staying at a friend’s place. We are getting geared up to catch our flight on Friday to Brisbane where we will board the Pacific Dawn Cruise Ship. It is super exciting as we will get to explore new places such as: Vanuatu, New Caledonia, The Loyalty Islands and many more. So stay tuned for more stories to come!