Immediately following our departure from New Zealand, we had a bit of a layover in Fiji….for six days. Fiji is a straight shot north from New Zealand, and only takes about three hours to get there by plane. It’s a tiny island nation, formerly occupied by Great Britain (until the 1970s), but has its own language (Fijian), and currency (Fijian Dollar). Luckily for us, everyone we met also spoke English, and the Fijian Dollar is worth about half of a U.S. Dollar, so it was a fairly inexpensive stay.
In all honesty I didn’t know a great deal about Fiji before going there, outside of knowing that there is expensive bottled water that comes from there. First and foremost, there is an important distinction to make between ‘Fiji Water’ and ‘Fiji water’. The first is what you have likely seen in various stores. This is bottled from natural springs that have been taken over by an American company called JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery. Then there is ‘Fiji water’ which comes out of the tap – do not drink it. Ironically, 53 percent of Fijians don’t have access to clean drinking water, and have to either pay top dollar for Fiji Water, or drink the contaminated water that is available to them.
This water situation was the first insight I had to how impoverished the country is. I had always had this idea that it was a pristine tropical paradise, and certainly, parts of it are. Just look at it!
However, the popular image does not reflect the disturbing poverty that the majority of the country lives in.
What is particularly unsettling is the fact that these villages are situated right next to multi-million dollar resorts for tourists. Sam and I were staying in a small hostel, but we did have to walk over to one of these resorts to buy sunscreen, and in a mere hour of walking we saw the shocking disparity of wealth.
This dichotomy between rich and poor, visitors and residents, pervaded throughout Fiji. I sympathize greatly with the native people of the country, and I’m not sure that I can be argued that they haven’t been taken advantage of. Despite this gnawing sense of inequality which was to be found all around us, we tried to enjoy the country in the little time we had there. That looked exactly like this.
Hammocks are about as common as air in Fiji, enjoyed by all people regardless of their socioeconomic background. I’d reckon that we spent about two full days in them if you added all of the time up.
If swaying around via ocean breeze isn’t your scene (and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be) you could always explore your surroundings. Beautiful coasts are in massive supply. Even our new friend here ventured outside the hostel with us.
All in all, Fiji was a surprising, diverse, and conflicted place, from my perspective. I’m very glad that we had the opportunity to see the country, and it certainly made me appreciate what I had in New Zealand more, and what I would return to in the United States.