September 29, 2011

Traveling Not Holidaying

Maia and I were comfortably seated on the bus (the short bus not the long bus which goes through e.v.e.r.y. village between here and there, plus a few) headed to Nadi (pronounced Nandi) when a couple of disoriented and bickering tourists got on (“I told you I wanted a holiday, not to travel!”). They were trying to get back into town for souvenirs and weren’t sure how much to pay, where to get off, or even which way to walk when they got there. “I’m so glad we’re travelers, not tourists,” Maia whispered to me as the driver tried to make sense of their flurry of requests.

People that we encounter often think we’re on a holiday, “Wow! A two year long holiday”. And despite our efforts to explain—we work, we home school Maia, we’re on a budget the doesn’t include most tourist stuff, and our hotel room most definitely doesn’t come with maid service, or even hot water for that matter—the notion still holds.
We must be on holiday because we’re obviously not at home.

Maia and I were talking about the difference between tourists and travelers after getting off the bus, pointing the unhappy tourists in the right direction, and heading to the market to shop. Her initial thesis was travelers belong, tourists don’t. But I worked on refining that. Okay, tourists shop for souvenirs, she theorized, while we shop for milk.

Actually we search for milk. And cheese. And butter.

And because we’re travelers and not tourists we know why we’re likely searching in vain. A tourist might just think they were looking in the wrong store, or something, when they hunt for the (apparently missing) dairy section. But after being here for a bit we know that Fiji has a serious dairy shortfall. Of the 147 million litres of milk that are required each year, Fiji’s dairy herds produce around 11 million litres and the country imports a further 63 million litres –which clearly leaves a deficit.

The Government says it is taking steps to improve pasture and fodder, and improve infrastructure with the construction of more farm dairies and milk collection centres. But the fact that the dairy industry has rigid price controls (to keep milk affordable) means that every now and again dairy shows up in the stores, and a few days later the boxed milk (there is apparently no fresh to be had), two types of cheese (you can get ‘tasty’ or ‘pizza’ varieties) and butter are sold out. Not to be seen again for weeks.

So Maia and I wandered from store to store. In lieu of milk we bought new dish towels (ours were looking terrible), some great fabric (which is availabel and very affordable), and we were rather excited to see that a new crop of NZ potatoes had arrived (and were on sale!). Maia also got herself some fireworks (Diwali is in a month).

In the last store we visited we ran back into the tourists (who were in a much better mood after a successful souvenir shop) and discovered there was milk on the shelf (10 boxes!). We gathered up six took them to the checkout—where we discovered we could only buy two boxes (four if I sent Maia through the checkout on her own.) So we bought what we could and wished the tourists goodbye.
“Enjoy the rest of your holiday!” they told us.

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