Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fiji time

Bula! That's the one word that pretty much sums up our stay in Fiji, because it was the most oft-used word. It's a great word and the Fijians use it all the time as a greeting, acknowledgment, welcome, and attention-getter like "hey you." Basically, you don't walk by anyone without saying Bula, it would be rude not to.

I'm writing this missive from our little balcony at the wonderful Warwick Resort and Spa, overlooking a pool, a red hibiscus tree, and a very calm pocket of the Pacific Ocean. We've been here since late Saturday night after a rather long, hot day of travel that included a drunk dad in customs (Haydn and I wonder how that poor kid's vacation is going with drunk dad and loud uncle) and a somewhat dangerous hour and a half bus ride to the bucolic Warwick. We were greeted with a "Bula!" and a lovely fruity drink at check in. Vinaka (thanks).

From there, Haydn and I quickly settled into a little vacation routine that pretty much revolved around buffets (heretofore referred to as "Jimmy" because we're on a first name basis with our Buffet, according to Haydn), reading, Bloody Marys, and Gilmore Girls DVDs. Our three meals are inclusive with a Jimmy at breakfast and dinner and an Al (a la carte) in between for lunch. Jimmy and Al are here with us on our holiday, great companions those two!

Jimmy 1 is one of those amazing hot breakfasts that blends the best of Aussie, English, and American breakfasts. The bacon is decidedly American in style, but the beans are a great English touch, and the yogurt and muesli makes me think Aussie.

On our first day the sun was out and it was hot. We were poolside and enjoyed the inaugural holiday cocktail around noontime. Haydn excitedly started in on the final Harry Potter, which he has been saving for this very trip, and I started in on The Sisters, a great early 20th century non-fiction historical escape about the six vaguely aristocratic English sisters, the Mitfords, who got into all sorts of romantic and political trouble.

After a bit of sun, it was time for Al beachside -- the pool grill at the more "activities" based pool on the other side of the resort (read: more kids and organised games, bar in the pool, hot tub, etc). It can be light fare if you so choose.

Following Al is a good time for a siesta or in-room reading, then another swim at our more mature (read: quiet and couples vacationing on their own) pool, a check of the clock, a shower, a cocktail, and then back to see Jimmy. Each night Jimmy is a themed dinner -- Mediterranean, American BBQ, Italian, etc.

By then we're pretty tired from the day and retire to the room for a few episodes of the Gilmore Girls DVDs which arrived in the mail just prior to our departure. Perfect timing.

So, that's the general schedule we've followed for Sunday, Monday, and today, Wednesday. Unfortunately, the sun hasn't really come out since that Sunday, with various spells of showers. It hasn't stopped our Jimmy and Al schedule or really the swimming and pool schedule. We're on vacation, we've got our books, we just need a comfy spot to read.

But, Tuesday was our day away from the confines of the Warwick and we went on a tour to a Fijian village, the "Jewel of Fiji" tour. This included an hour or so ride near to the capital, Suva, on the main island's one highway. In one direction it is Prince's Highway and the other direction King's Highway. It was a hilly ride through villages made up of little shantys, shacks, and cinderblock homes, sprinkled in with the occasional more contemporary dwelling, like the rugby star Lotte's place in his home village.

It was a really interesting ride filled with waves to anyone we pass on the road and a Bula!

The tour was an all-day affair led by our guide William, who took 16 us in two little speedboats up to his village. It's a traditional, functioning village, seven generations old that started with an English fellow named Danford who came to Fiji in the early 1800s, visited a village and didn't get eaten, but ended up chief of his own village. Not bad.

We were welcomed with dances, kava, a song from the adorable school kids, a wonderful homemade lunch of curry and kovo-cooked food, and more dancing. While, it seems a bit odd to be tourists visiting what is essentially someone's normal way of life, it was enlightening and really wonderful to learn a little bit of the history and culture of Fiji. From the village we sped up the river to a series of waterfalls, passing grazing cows, little villages, and kids swimming in groups. Lots of Bulas on the ride. We adventured up the waterfalls and went swimming underneath a thundering falls about six or seven stories high. It was the vacation moment of being very far away from everyday life.

The day concluded with a short, peaceful ride down part of the river on a bamboo boat, very Fijian Huck Finn style.

It was a Bula of a day and required that we drink our happy hour bloody mary's in-room to have a bit of a relax before the Jimmy.

Speaking of Bloody Mary's, it's about that time on our final night in Fiji.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The inaugural listen

Almost 11pm on Tuesday, December 4, and I'm listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio for the first time of the yuletide season. It was one of the very first CDs I got when I signed up to the BMG record club back in the early 90s. I could probably listen to it year-round, but I hold off for the time it's truly intended for. The quiet beauty, expectation, and bit of melancholy that comes with Christmas is all there, like it is every year. "Christmas Time Is Here" could be a big, jubilant, sleigh-ride sing-a-long, but good ol' Vince channels Charlie to add that bit of sadness, thoughtfulness.

When I searched for it on iTunes to make sure I spelled "Guaraldi" correctly, I saw that that A Very Special Christmas is also in the top 10 of US iTunes...that's a classic in itself. And while the artists on that brilliant compilation were stars at the time of the album they could have easily become a bit relegated to that era, yet, they aren't. The Pretenders "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," U2's take on "Christmas (Please Come Home)," and of course "Christmas in Hollis" by Run DMC. Classics were still being made in the 80s! I'm not sure if they are these days in this genre.

In the meantime, I feel a splurge coming on of Christmas music..."Do They Know It's Christmastime?" Or maybe some King's College Choir carols, Wham's "Last Christmas," The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping." I could go on as nostalgia kicks in. So instead, here's a list to check out -- complete with the genius, somehow timeless pairing of David Bowie and Bing Crosby -- banter included.

merry xmas!