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Saturday, November 09, 2002
Saturday: yeah, sleeping long .... but we were good since we had a bunch of things on our list ... So after breakfast we took a cab to find the bookstore of the USP (University of South Pacific) which was said to have a nice selection of english books ... (unlike other places we have seen which have mainly books in hindu) and it turned out that this was actually a nice place, more books than we thought, many on fijian and south pacific culture (got myself a cookbook :) and even a bargain section and a somewhat extensive computer corner. We spend quite some time there ...
Then our next stop were 2 car dealers in Nambua. Too bad that we keep forgetting about opening times here ... when we arrived, the last people at the first car dealer (Asco) left ... we got some info on the car of choice, the Toyota Echo but could not do anything else ... the next place (Nivis) was open and had a variety of cars, including a Suzuki Vitara (which we kinda like) but most of the cars showed various signs of decay and so we left without any testdrives ... We then took a cab to a supermarket close to our hotel .. and it started raining like crazy that moment. As we arrived many people were eager to get that taxi from us.
Shopping was the usual .. though they still had no yoghurt, and i nearly missed the bottle shop opening times again ... they close at 1 on saturdays ... damnit ... but got some beers (so i can have one while I type away on the computer instead of having to go to the bar) and we took a cab back to the hotel.
Since we were pretty hungry and we wondered "which kind of food did we not have in a while", we came up with Pizza .. and Bad Dog Cafe has pizza .. so we went there .. where we ran into some of the guys again ... the world is so small :) The Pizza was pretty yummy ..... but not thin crust style and so much tomato sauce that one needed to use fork and knife.
After lunch we went back through the rain and decided to watch a movie: Magnolia. At a runtime of 3 hours 9 minutes the perfect movie for a rainy saturday afternoon. I liked quite some of it, but after 2 hours it started to drag and I somehow wished there had been a bigger pay off in terms of all those incidents ... like .. really weird incident and relations among the characters .. but no ... Tom Cruise sure had a fun character to play and seemed to enjoy the role a lot :)
We knew we had to wake up early next day so we had early dinner .. Kokoda :) it was just too rainy to go anywhere else and we felt like it. Shortly after that and some reading it was time for sweet dreams (about diving)
Last night (Friday) was pretty fun. It started with a little office drinking after work. (below a pic of "the guys" on the outside staircase, having a smoke). They introduced me to the local way of sharing beer: One glass for all ... pouring some beer into it, and when it is handed to you you are supposed to do 2 things: a) empty it in one gulp b) return the glass! do NOT hog it (that was my first mistake). I think they called it "Taki"
Around 7PM (and after several Taki rounds) I quickly went to the hotel (by taxi, after the guys scared me to death about the risks of walking in the dark with your laptop bag) and picked up Ritsu to go and have dinner. We tried the "Bad Dog Cafe", which has a variety of stuff, but right now some thai special week. We ended up having chicken wings, fish fingers (very nice) and thai pork ribs (which were tasty, but were 70% fat).
Then we went to "Traps Bar" where the guys were already doing the Taki-thing again (or still) .... Oh, I nearly did not get in because I was wearing 3/4 length pants .. ooops ... dress code in Fiji ... yeah ... anyways, we were all happily drinking and later moved on to the back bar ... a part of Traps where people were dancing (including some old, overweight guy, too funny) and we had a fun time ... The Taki had moved from beer now to a pitcher of something with whiskey in it. Ritsu felt the alcohol pretty quickly ... so we said good night early and returned to the hotel.
Today marked a mixed beginning of our search for a car. After looking around and scanning the newspapers, we set off to find the top 3 car dealers and their showrooms / display centers. We heard that every taxi driver will know those dealers, but still, we took the addresses out of the phone book and took a map with us ...
The first cab driver had his own idea about where that place "carpenters" should be, but he found us a smaller subsidiary / office where he then asked where the big place is (turned out it was right where we initially told him) ... he also offered to bring us to some other car places (probably his brother-in-law's :). Anyways, we did not see anything there .. but a place right next door, Niranjans had some more to offer and they had 3 cute Mazda 121, a car I liked many years ago when my mom had one like that.
But all 3 were quite old / old looking / smelly and the sales person was just way too fast in going down from 12,000 to 9,000 F$ (we have not even started negotiating yet).
We then too a cab to get to the next dealer .. but that cab driver was even worse ... hardly understood us and we did not understand him (the back seat had a nice big wet spot, great) and while I was following his route on the map, i figured that he was bringing some place very else !!! At least some place back close to our hotel ... so, I just told him to return us to the hotel, where we started to call the car places to get detailed addresses, to be a bit better prepared to deal with those cab drivers (clue less, yet profit oriented and a pain sometimes)
Lunch was curry at Old Mill Cafe again, very nice. We then both went through the rain to our offices.
Nothing too spectacular happening Thursday during the day. I later had some spicey lamb dish (for 2.90F$, very tasty and cheap) and went to the hotel to do some organizing work regarding house and car. It seems the house market is more demand drive than we had expected and I kept calling a bunch more brokers. The car search is interesting too. In the newspaper ads they never say how old the car is, but the license plate # which seems to give some idea how old it is.
I also found my "mug shot" from last night neatly pinned to the "Wall of Shame" (where all those have their picture who completed that beer-world tour) and here it is:
For dinner we decided to try one of the 2 japanese places here in Suva: Daikoku (it has been over 2 weeks that we had japanese food). And we took a cab since it rained, though it is just a 10 minute foot walk away.
That was the first restaurant in Suva where they actually checked if we had reservations and if they could fit us in. We were then surprised to find upstairs that it is mainly a tepan-yaki place, but we had some sushi as appetizer and it was pretty nice. Fresh in taste.
We then had chili-fish, spicey chicken and fried rice ... our chef was SO young looking that at times we feared that we would get in trouble with child labor laws. He concentrated very hard on the actual food preparation unlike his colleagues at the other tables who juggled eggs and pepper shakers and did the usual spatula and knife clank clank. I was surprised that we got our food dish by dish (first fish, then chicken, then rice) instead of having it all together ... but .. i really liked the stuff ...
We also ended up talking to the head hostess, who seemed to have been the only japanese person working there.
Oh, we also spotted 3 of the guys from our hotel (somewhat visible in above picture) and 2 of them just had tepan-yaki the day before :) Suva is so small.
We returned to the hotel, I had a last good night beer at the bar where I chatted with David, a local expat, and some other people there. But then it was time for bed.
Wednesday was a pretty rainy day, so I ended up buying my first umbrella during lunch break, after Ritsu and I had lunch with Edo and Marly.
Both shared again their house and car hunting experiences and we got some more ideas out of that. I had some afghan chicken dish and Ritsu had Fish'n Chips at a lunch place called "Corner" (it is part of 3 eating places, one was where we had that turkish stuff last week)
We then had passport pictures taken for lots of paperwork and our fijian driver's licenses. They will be ready soon. I bet I look like crap: rainy hair and a huge pimple ... great :)
Ritsu picked me up from the office and we walked to the hotel ... we then tried to get to the supermarket quickly, but I got sucked into a chat with some german guy (he was driving that kind of car we were looking for) who was doing a tour around the island and who was ranting about the street condition (wooden bridges over rivers, mud puddles the size of small lakes) and ants in his room. Thanks to that chat I missed the opening hours of the liquor section of the supermarket by 4 minutes ...
We stocked up on heavy stuff again, coke, juice, but they ran out of the nice yoghurt we found there before .... our cab driver on the way back had no idea where the Suva Motor Inn is (or how to drive a car .. ) so we were happy when we arrived in one piece.
I felt like a beer and some reading (hey, it seems I am finally getting through Lord of the Rings .. I have been trying so many times ... ) and Ritsu joined me later for dinner ... but before we had some unexpected entertainment ....
Obviously 4 people, including me, finished that "around the world" beer tour. So last night was the "big" ceremony where we got our metal mugs (called tankards) and our hats. As a little "game" we had to finish a full mug of some dark beer (yuk) .. i thought it was a contest .. but there was no additional price to win ...
We then had dinner: Kokoda (gotta love that stuff) and some spicy chicken ... interestingly, 7 people had pre-booked for Teppenyaki (that japanese style cooking at the table event ... in the US made popular by Beni-Hana). We have noticed the table before .. but thought it was out of order (it looks a bit out of shape .. the cooking surface is anything but plane ... got too hot too many times) or just never used ... but now we could see it in action ...
Fun thing was to see the chef trying to make it spectacular ... but mainly he just clanked his spatula very loudly and used the salt and pepper shakers to create some samba style rhythm. I missed asking the people who were eating how it was, but I think we will try it some time.
And once again, reading made me sleepy .. I guess I was out before 10 PM
Tuesday started relatively early and we both went to "work". We met again at 1 PM for a quick lunch and then to meet again with Reginald, the real estate broker who showed us around first. We wanted to take a look at 2 houses again, but we heard that one house (the first, really big one) was split now into a top and bottom apartment and that someone already put down the deposit for the top half.
We would probably have done that deal too, but it would have not really been a bargain and we do not feel like sharing a place at this point. So we went to house #2 again and inspected again, this time to more detail. We also found that the renovation was going quite nicely, i.e. they were breaking down the wall in the master bedroom to install bigger windows, how nice. This time I also took tons more pictures of the interior.
Our broker tried the usual "hurry up" tactics like "the NZ and chinese embassies are after that house too ... bring deposit when you talk to the landlord, call me as soon as you have a decision, like TONIGHT" :)
After that we spend time in long discussion at the hotel bar. The discussion already included "what furniture item goes where"
In the bar area the hotel employees got together to watch the melbourne cup, a pretty big sporting event here in the southern hemisphere, though the actual race takes less than 2 minutes I would estimate. Well, Media Puzzle won (who selects those weird names for the horses ... there was one called "Toast of the Coast") ... after some more discussion and writing a long list of things we want to make sure of before we sign any lease agreement, we called our broker and signaled that we would be interested to meet and negotiate with the land lord.
For dinner we felt like having steak again, so we walked through the light drizzling rain to aberdeen grill where the nice waiter from last time recognized us again (and even recalled partly what we had last time ... like "we are still out of sashimi" :)
The place was super empty (we were the only customers when we came, but later a party of 8 or so came in). Food was again very nice, though this time my steak had some fatty stuff which I did not have last time ... But this time I ordered sauted onions with it .. and that was just great. Interesting observation: even when we both order the very same beer, in many restaurants Ritsu gets a different glass for her beer. While I get a mug style glass, she gets a longish one ... we asked the waiter and he said it IS done on purpose (and not because they ran out of glasses)
Though we decided initially to take a cab back, we started walking and talking and were back at the hotel before we realized that we missed looking for one. Goodnight drink at the bar (I had a Fiji Bitter, while Ritsu tried a "Kiwi Margarita" ... no kiwi taste in it, but the Midori gives it a nice green color), some reading and then to bed.
Since we got a last minute phonecall on sunday evening (again), about the dive trip being cancelled (again) we were stuck in holiday-ghost-town Suva for Diwali Monday. Not too bad, we slept loooong and then combed the newspapers for car ads ... but we quickly realized that we have no idea about cars, so we took a stroll through the city just to look at car makes and models ... We kinda found that the recent Toyota Echo and Nissan March models were to our liking ... but honestly, i have never seen those before :) I fear that they are so new that they do not show up on the used car market yet.
Everything was closed .. well .. pretty much everything ... some MH markets were open till 2 PM ... and were usually the market is, local people were selling their produce just from the pavement (though a big sign forbids this in 3 languages).
The lunch choice was also somewhat restricted (KFC or McD) .. and since we had McDoofus the day before, we went to the chicken place ... and it was just as greasy as in the US.
Back at the hotel we did some more newspaper reading (hmmm .. not many ads on public holidays .. but hey, the frontpage is in color), book reading and basic "lazy day" activities ...
We flipped through our trusty "lonely planet" guide in search for a new restaurant and came across 2 places close by, one malaysian, one korean ...
On our way we came across many houses fully lit up (to celebrate diwali, festival of light) in addition many kids and bigger kids had fun potentially burning off their hands and arms by playing like fools with fire works. More then one time I saw kids throwing fire crackers after cars and people ... yippieh, how festive. Here is one example of such a house:
It turned out that the hotel which housed the malaysian place was undergoing major construction, so, no malaysian ... so we went to the "Seoul House" which is nicely located on the top (6th) floor of the southern cross hotel. It was quite empty, besides us just a group of very loud korean men. The food was very nice and tasty. A lot of the dishes on the menu are for "more than 2 people" only ... i still wonder if that means "2 or more" .... or if you actually have to be 3 people and up? hmmm ... Besides the loud guys we also had loud firecrackers on the street below us ... but from time to time we could see a nice rocket flying in the pitch black sky.
Back at the hotel bar a good night beer .. and around 9 PM i already was ready for bed.
Ok, so Saturday I woke up early thanks to the last neighbor who kept the alarm clock switched on to 6 AM ... and that kept beeping for 1.5 hours ... now Sunday morning, there was some party going on in that room .. at 6 AM. It seems some guests just arrived and were jet-lagged, or just in party mode. They seem to be fijian, so I am not sure about the jet lag part. I called reception, and it seems I was not the first caller ... I think i managed to get some more sleep after 8 AM.
It was pouring early in the morning, but it seemed to have stopped around 9. Once awake and after breakfast, I made some phone-calls and shortly after we took a cab to see the house we visited yesterday ... While it was set up pretty much as I envisioned (blue print wise), it looked pretty old and had some weird things, like a little sink in the corner of the dinning room area ... I heard later it was one of the first houses in that area .. and you could easily see it (I was wondering what the electric circuits would think about me plugging in 3 computers with screens and tons of A/V equipment .. ) ... It was nice though that a lot of the interior was done in beautiful wood ... it also had lots of room and the very common "maids quarters" downstairs.
We walked around after that and came across the Cost-U-Less supermarket which was quite interesting ... it is more like a wholesale place ... huge shelfs and tons of interesting stuff ... We behaved and bought just some essentials .. but once we have a kitchen and a car, we know where to get quite some of our future food stuff.
Afterwards we saw another occurrence of the only constant in the universe: McDonalds ... and we gave in to our fast food craving ... cute that the drive thru sign says "bula" (fijian for hello / welcome) ... the taste was -surprise surprise- the very same ... we read on some leaflet that we are eating australian cows ... and that food was even inspected by the muslim community and ok for muslims to eat.
We took a cab home and had a lazy afternoon watching a couple of "Friends" episodes and taking a nap. Later we tried to confirm again that we would dive on monday ... but we heard that again, not enough people were interested (low season it seems) and so it was cancelled .. we really hope we can go next weekend.
It rained a bit more (but very light) and we decided to stay at the hotel and have dinner there ... It was very quiet and empty ... We shared some kokoda and a tasty chicken dish we have not tried yet. The wait staff seemed to be quite eager to get home and started wrapping up things around us.