I think I slept quite well but dogs barked incessantly until midnight and the first cockerel started crowing at around 3am! There must have been a whole coop full of them or else every household has one and they crow in chorus or in competition! Communion at 6am was a new experience for me and for the girls – not communion per se but the very formal format and the recital of psalms. Some of the girls went back to bed afterwards but most came for breakfast and demolished pancakes, toast, cereal, yoghurt, bananas, etc. Then they spent a couple of hours working with the children in the kindergarten. They were amazed by how affectionate but how demanding the children were and how they climbed all over them. The girls also sorted out the mound of stuff we had managed to cram into our luggage – clothes, puzzles, books, toys, toiletries – to give to the children here at the Home and also to the school and kindergarten in Bureta.
Jo is still feeling under the weather with a sore throat and an aching leg but she insists on coming along for the day’s activities. There was no sign of the Sisters and in the absence of any other instruction we decided to take the girls into SUVA for lunch on the bus, have a look around the market and then visit PureFiji. Riding the buses proved to be a highlight for us all. It is a great way to see “real” Fiji – the buses go all around the streets and residential areas where we could see how Fijians live. The open sided buses with roll up canvas “windows” provide a refreshing breeze and respite from the heat which is quite oppressive today. We also enjoyed the upbeat music that blares out and the continuous call of “Bula” as we pass people in the street. The girls do stand out with their fair hair and pale skin and seem to attract the attention of children with their mothers and, of course, the young men! The greenness that we noticed yesterday is remarkable and as we travelled into Suva we had views across the expanse of vegetation – tall pineapple trees, bright flashes of pink and red hibiscus and lots of other brightly coloured flowers, to the mountains and then also to the ocean.
The bus station is close to the port and main food market and once we had dodged the buses coming in and out of the bus station and made it safely to an island of relative calm we decided on a plan; head to the plaza where we could get food and toilets but not necessarily in that order! The plaza is a large shopping mall which we happily explored for half an hour or so, in which time I managed to buy Bula shirts for my boys. The girls seemed happy to have just half an hour and were remarkably reluctant to be given any more freedom to explore. Maybe it is good that they are a little nervous and respectful of the potential dangers but I find it unusual, nonetheless. It seems that they are not so streetwise as they first appeared! A tour of the market was next on the agenda and I suspect the girls were a little disappointed as it was predominantly a fruit and veg market. We too were surprised as we had expected a wider variety of stalls. I always find markets fascinating though – the way that people present their wares, the care they take to make them look attractive – I mean, how can taro and cassava look good? But they do! It was interesting to see that most things were sold by the “heap” and not by weight. We bought a “heap” of green beans for $3 and a “heap” (6) mini pineapples for $5. There were a few handicraft stalls at the far end of the hall – ladies selling sula, dresses, mats and bags made of pandana leaves.
The taxi ride to Purefiji was interesting – 13 is an awkward number to fit into taxis that carry four people – so Jill and Jo each went with 3 girls, the remaining 4 girls went in one taxi in convoy with the others and I followed on my own. My driver quickly fell behind and it soon became clear that he had little idea where he was going! I arrived a good 10 minutes after everyone else after several frantic text messages from Jo wondering where I was! My phone came in very useful for finding directions! We spent a happy hour or so trying out and buying beauty products before emerging laden with smelly stuff!
We have been struck by the friendliness of the Fijians and especially by the kindness of the bus passenger who having tried, in vain, to explain to us where we needed to be to get the bus to Nakasi, said to a young man who just happened to be walking by ” Bro, can you show them where to go?” (Well, I’m guessing that’s what he said, ‘cos it was in Fijian!) Said young man then led us for the next half a mile or so all the way to the bus stop. What a wonderful boy! I chatted to him as we walked and found out that he was a student at the maritime college and is aiming to be the captain of a container ship. That will give him the opportunity to travel and earn a better wage than he can in Fiji. He plays rugby – half back or 1st 5/8th and his uncle played for Fiji. He is hoping to visit NZ next year. I hope that he meets with the same kindness and generosity of spirit that he showed to us.
After dinner this evening the girls took the clothing that we had brought for the teenage girls at St Christopher’s and they enjoyed a pleasant evening chatting and sharing stories. The girls have learned a lot this evening – one of the comments from them when they came back was “They are just like us – they go on Facebook and like music and make-up”. I think some perceptions have been challenged! Sister Kalo and Sister Mary came and joined us for coffee and we had a good old natter which was lovely. It was interesting to hear about their lives here and find out more about the children and what happens to them when they leave the shelter of the Home. The boys leave to go to a boys home in Nandi at the age of 12 but all the children have to leave at the age of 18 when they are no longer under the auspices of the equivalent of Social Services care.
I have a huge bite on my bum! The geckos are clicking outside and there has just been a bit of a shower. Rain has been in the air since this afternoon – maybe a bigger downpour would clear the humidity a bit. The dogs are quiet for the moment and the cockerels have not yet started – maybe I will try to sleep.