Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

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WEEKEND READING. Scroll down to  ♦ Scott MacWilliam reviews Michael Field's Swimming with Sharks ♦ Thakur Ranjit Singh on Brij Lal's book about Jai Ram Reddy ♦ Subramani on Misconceptions about the Media Decree ♦ Marist Spirit Leaves Mark.  

See also Friday's postings. The decision to remove CoupFourPointFive from my 'moderate' blog list produced some interesting and revealing comments.

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.
Scenic Route

It's amazing what you see and experience on a drive from Lautoka to Nadi. For me the drive is scenic all along the 25 kilometer or so drive.

On this particular trip just outside Lautoka the other day, LTA was there and we were stopped and a lady officer got on and asked us to show our tickets. There were eight of us on the bus. One elderly passenger said that she had thrown hers away and the young lady (LTA rep) told her to keep it next time she got on the bus. I wondered if this check is really worth it. Surely there must be other easier ways to check. But it’s funny that this regulation was brought into force. Is it to check on passengers or the driver? If the driver doesn’t give the passenger his ticket and an LTA officer stops the bus, the passenger may have to pay another fare. Why is it the fault of the passenger? Why put the pressure on the passenger?  

Anyway, why was the regulation put in place? Was it because passengers were not asking for tickets? I have been told that a lot of revenue is not accounted for by way of bus fares. May I suggest that passengers buy season tickets say for a month, especially people who traveler regularly by bus? When you get on the bus the driver would punches it for each trip. Another suggestion is for bus owners to install transparent boxes that are secured safely to the bus where passengers drop their fare into after showing the driver the amount.  In this case all passengers have to bring the correct amount. A few years ago I was in Singapore and this was how busses operated. Seven of us went on the trip and we learnt to get the correct fare. However one of us hadn’t been told of this and when he dropped his $SG10 into the box and put out his hand for the change. The driver pointed to a sign that said, “Tender correct fare!” He had to take the ride all the way to the bus depot to get his change.  I’m sure we in Fiji can learn from the brilliant Singaporeans. 

But back to Fiji, not too long ago when you drove through Queens Road to Nadi all you would see was cane growing majestically all the way and on both sides of the road. Then cane started to give way to cassava and vegetables and now we see tobacco and other cash crop taking over. There are many places where buildings have been being erected where once cane stood. On one stretch I saw a banana plantation. And as we drove further we came across a huge a plot of land where grass is growing. Nice succulent grass. I saw cattle nearby and maybe they are growing food for them. Mmmmmm. Progress? 

But throughout this scenic drive we go past beautiful homes next to shacks and ordinary homes. The prosperous were living  next door to the poor and not so prosperous. I was surprised when I got to the Vuda bypass I saw a huge sign that said ATM. Wow. The bank has come to out of the way places. Thank you BSP. 

With Fiji’s exotic population you will drive pass mosques, temples and churches. And mind you this is many miles away from the main cities. Religion is thriving in the rural areas. Some of these holy places are really beautiful and it must a joy for the congregation to look after their place of worship.  Moving along, we see cane ready for harvesting, some being replanted and some land that had just been harvested. All along the way advertisements tell us  that a shop sells Fiji Bitter, Fiji Gas, Blue Gas, flour, tinned meat, tinned fish and much more.  Life goes on in the cane belt. 

All eight  passengers were treated to a scenic drive. The driver probably had all the time in the world and we chugged along merrily as I scribbled on paper what I saw. But moving on along the way, a waste disposal truck overtook us.  Phew, the stench. I saw the other passengers cringe and one lady spat out the window. I held my breath for a few seconds and the driver slowed down to let the truck speed on. Shouldn’t these waste disposal trucks be hermetically sealed? Are they dripping waste on the road? We have been warned about our health and how we must wash our hands after returning from the toilets and here is a truck smelling like a sewerage tank gone wrong. I doubt the driver can smell it because he's immune to the smell, ndifferent or because he is up wind. 

But moving on again I see a farmer on his “qasita” or harrow, if you like. It’s so nice to see modern technology intertwined with the old. It was an old wooden qasita. Then somewhere near Waimalika near Nadi Airport I spot a quaint little humped bridge, in an out of the way place. It brought memories of humped bridges that dot the moors in scenic Scotland or gardens in Japan set amongst the Cherry Blossoms. 

One of the things about Fiji is the friendliness of bus drivers. If you pull the bell, the driver looks up and you signal and he will stop where you want even in the middle of the road or where there is no bus stop. And he will stop for passengers who flag him even if there is no bus stop. Only in Fiji. Then we approach Nadi Airport and I see a Korean Airlines plane on the runway about to go to where ever it was going. Thoughts of tourist and Fiji citizens leaving Fiji for different places. Tourist going back home with satisfied looks and our people going for training or holidays. 

On the drive from Lautoka to Nadi we pass many international classed hotels, an international airport and two universities. We  pass logging and cane trucks.
On the way back to Lautoka we  get a second look at all this and as the bus speeds me back home I take in all the scenery a second time. Many people take all this for granted. Not me. This is my home.  It's beautiful. And yes life goes on.


Just wonderful said…
Another wonderful post Allen. You really capture the countryside and the whole atmosphere of the journey so well. I used to do this trip in the 1960s and when I read your piece, realised that not much has changed. The road was narrower and you went through Viseisei village instead of over the top of the hill. And they had all those lovely wooden shops on the corner as you went towards Saweni. Oh, and you'd drive right down the middle of that lovely Baka tree- lined avenue on the way to Natabua that you can still see off to one side today. The drivers in those days also used to drop you off right outside where you wanted to go. We'd sit up the back chewing our Bellboy bubble gum with our elbows out the window, the wind blowing through our hair. And depending on the time of year, you could smell the rotting mangoes through the stench of the diesel fumes streaming out the back. It was also the days before tapes and CDs so we didn't have to sit there like people do now, rolling their eyes when the driver turns up his favourite Bollywood song. Just the sound of the Leyland bus, a blast of acceleration and long pauses as the driver did his double shuffles to pick up speed. Isa noqu Viti totoka! The glory days when you'd shop at Beepees or Emaitches, when you could "Bank on the Wales" and when Crown cigarettes were "fit for a king" Allen, I really look forward to reading your stuff on Saturday. And I hope you don't mind me saying that as a writer, you're getting better all the time. Vinaka vakalevu bro.
Allen said…
Bula Just Wonderful...
Thank you, appreciate the kind words.

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