Working on Island Time

Two weeks in Fiji sounds pretty dreamy. I can sure think of worse places to spend two weeks. My latest adventure for work brought me to this small South Pacific island nation, where I would spend the majority of my time at places that I had seen only in surf videos, Cloudbreak and Tavarua.

As with most of my work trips, 99% of my time was spent working. I did however manage to sneak in about 4 surfs and one snorkel session. Aside from that, I pretty much spent my time cursing at the sluggish internet connection that we were getting out in the middle of the ocean. Slow internet will really test your patience.

All that said, Fiji is an incredible country. A melting pot of South Pacific / Asian nations, Fiji has three official languages: Fijian, Fiji Hindi and English. I am fascinated by language so it was cool listening to people interchangeably speak all three. The first few days I was giving Fijian a genuine try, but once my work load picked up, the learning stopped there.

As you would imagine, the Fijians run on island time, seemingly never in a rush to go anywhere. Apparently the warm weather and stunning, tropical landscapes keep everyone in a good mood. Even the strangers will give you a smile and greet you with “Bula” when you pass by. Island time definitely clashed a little with my strictly on time work style. It was a little challenging trying to work fast when my shuttles or meals were in no rush at all.

An overarching theme with most of my work trips, I got just a small taste of Fiji and was left wanting more. Of Fiji’s 300+ islands, I only saw a small part of two of them. I really just hit the tip of the iceberg. I would say a return trip is definitely in the cards.

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Straight from the 11 hour plane ride to Cloudbreak to kick the jet lag with a surf session.
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Cloudbreak’s reputation precedes it. However, a mellow waist-to-chest high day was a nice transition to my first time surfing on coral reef.
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Cloudbreak has a few distinct peaks and sets that swing wide, so there were waves to go around for everyone.

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Returning back to Port Denarau where the boat launched from.
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First time ever driving on the left side. One time I accidentally sat in the driver’s seat of the taxi.
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John, one of the ISA scholarship recipients, stopped by to say hi.

Tavarua

After a week of working from a mediocre hotel on the main island, I shipped out to Tavarua where I would set up home base for the week of competition.

Even though I couldn’t take full advantage of my time there, I didn’t take staying on Tavarua for granted for one second. This is probably the only time I will stay on Tavarua in my life. Not necessarily because I will never have enough money one day to stay on this private island, but more because of the way I spend money. Expensive hotels are usually not the top item on my travel budget.

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Waiting for my ride to work.

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Food on Tavarua was awesome. Fijian tacos for lunch this day! (I am sure they have a traditional name, but hey, they’re tacos.)
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Tavarua crew heading out to Cloudbreak. The Fijians started an ongoing joke that Chilean time is worse than Fijian time based on the fact that the boats repeatedly had to wait for our Chilean crew in the morning (we love you Carlos). This driver would clarify that pickup times were on “German time.”
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I rarely take selfies, but a rainbow is a good excuse.
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I spent about 30 minutes herding this spider outside alive, only to find another identical one at the foot of my bed. I didn’t get so lucky with that one. It ran under my bed.

Moses

As my trip drew to a close, I hadn’t really had much time to talk to any Fijians in depth outside of work, taxis, restaurants and hotel interactions. Those interactions are pretty basic and while you surely do learn something about the country from them, they don’t really tell you the whole story.

On my second to last day in Fiji, the day after the end of the contest, I decided to go on a SUP tour of the local Mangrove forest in Port Denarau with my guide Moses. Moses lost his job in the hotel industry after the cyclone earlier this year and recently wound up guiding SUP tours.

Surprisingly my first time ever on an SUP, I paddled through the canals formed by the Mangroves while chatting with my guide. Moses started by giving me a lesson on the Mangrove forest, which plays a crucial role in the ecosystem in Fiji. He gave me some impressive detail about the trees, adding that he didn’t have to study to guide the tour, he simply just learned about Mangroves growing up in Fiji.

The Mangrove lesson transitioned into Moses and I shooting the breeze, which is where I got some cool insight to Fijian culture and a serious case of wanderlust.

He told me of an island far away to the north that he grew up on called Rotuma. It’s the farthest Fijian island from the main island and they speak a completely different language. A smaller island called Split Island sits just off the coast of Rotuma, which appears to be one island from afar, but is in fact two separate islands with a narrow split down the middle that you can paddle or swim through.

Moses explained how it takes three days by boat to get there, so he doesn’t go back too often to visit his grandparents. He travels back for christmas once a year and the three days consist of lots of singing and dancing on the deck. According to Moses the girls ask the guys to dance, and saying no isn’t an option.

Moses’ long term plan is to start a SUP tour company on Rotuma to take tourists through the split island. When I asked him when he plans to start that business, he told me that he estimates that it will take 10-15 years to save up enough money to do so. Someone send this guy a few boards!

This is a running theme in my posts, but the people you meet tend to leave a more lasting impression on you than the places you see. If you go back to my posts from Joshua Tree and Costa Rica, you’ll see that this is just another example. Moses is a humble, inspirational guy. Hope to see him on Rotuma one day.

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Taking a break in the Mangrove forest.
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Outdoor pool bar across the street from the hotel.
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Maybe one of the reasons I kept messing up the breaks.
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Post pool kava session. Kava is a root from a local plant that is ground up and then you filter water through it. Makes your mouth kinda numb and gives you a little head buzz. From what I understand it’s a common thing for Fijians to drink at the end of the day.

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Epic night of bed bugs to top off the trip… When you get home from a long trip you want to relax, not thoroughly wash everything that you brought back with you. Oh, well.

Two weeks in Fiji was great, but I don’t think I can cross it off the travel destination list quite yet. I feel like I only scratched the surface as far as what this beautiful country is hiding when you stray away from the airport. I can cross two islands off the list, but there are still 300+ Fijian paradises waiting for me. Vinaka vaka levu Fiji.

2 thoughts on “Working on Island Time

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