Fiji Travel Journal Part Three: Binkies, Babes and Bathtubs

(Psst, need to catch up? Here’s Part One: Donuts, Margaritas and Waistcoats, and here’s Part Two: Airports, Adoption and the Kindness of Strangers)

There are some women who travel very well. Their bags have little compartments in them. They carry spare pens. They have little bottles of water to spritz their faces. These women plan ahead. They would land on a tropical island wearing designer shorts and a shirt in breathable fabric, practical yet cute sandals showing off their pedicure.

I am not one of those women. I am standing in the Fijian airport in Farmers jeans. My clammy feet are stuffed into socks and sneakers. I’m feeling myself getting grouchy, like a toddler who needs their binky. I’m hot and sticky. Why can’t I be more like those proper women?

By 'proper woman' I basically just mean 'Diane Keaton'.

By ‘proper woman’ I basically just mean ‘Diane Keaton’.

I’m interrupted by the voice of reason, who shrewdly points out, can you not just be happy to be in Fiji? Jesus, woman, how much more do you need from the world?

I feel guilty for being irritable and then irritable at feeling guilty, Toddler-Kate getting more petulant by the minute. I wisely decide to keep my mouth shut and let this battle play out 100% internally.

We go to the Information Counter at the airport and a Fijian woman greets us with an easy smile and a friendly “bula!” From what the brochures tell you, this word—pronounced “booh-lah”—is the Fijian “hello”. From what the internet tells me, it also means “life” and “good health”, neither of which I’m feeling at the moment.

Thank goodness for Annie. She takes charge, asking questions about transfers and waving around pieces of paper. We’re pointed towards a group of men, who greet us with “bula” and then gesture towards a set of glass doors. Inside this air-conditioned room, a Fijian woman again greets us with “bula” and asks how she can help.

I start to feel very coddled. We’re being treated like little lambs, gently guided from checkpoint to checkpoint, never being asked any hard questions, never having do anything more strenuous than follow someone and bleat little phrases. Toddler-Kate loves it.

Yep. About this happy.

Yep. About this happy.

Annie hands the woman a sheet of paper and in return we are handed matching clay necklaces. It’s a friendly gesture, sure, but also cleverly brands us as being part of a specific flock, should we wander off. A Fijian man picks up our bags and asks us, sincerely, to please follow him, thank you. He loads our bags into a van then asks us again, sincerely, to please get inside, thank you. He’s earnestly grateful and it feels strange, like we’re doing him a favour by letting him lug our junk around and drive us places.

It’s a short twenty-minute drive to the resort. Placated by free jewellery, Toddler-Kate shuts up and I start to properly relax.

We’re greeted at check-in with “Bula! Welcome home!”, and then led to our room while another Fijian man ferries our bags. I’m starting to feel incredibly lazy and spoilt, and this feeling is heightened when we see our huge room, complete with balcony and bathtub. (It is probably at this point that I should mention that Annie won a competition to get us here. If this was coming out of my budget you’d be reading “then we walked to the backpackers where we ate noodles and wept over our life choices”.)

There is no way I could have actually paid for this.

There is no way I could have actually paid for this.

It takes half an hour to get to the pool, because we keep stopping to take photos of ourselves in front of things. The resort is enormous. There’s endless outdoor corridors connecting hundreds of rooms, numerous pools and more than one restaurant. The guests we pass seem to fall into one of two groups: honeymooning couples or families escaping reality. Before we left, we’d agreed to find some “babes” while on holiday, which suddenly seems like more of a challenge than expected.

We sit at the swim-up bar, sipping pina coladas out of plastic cups, covertly looking for the aforementioned babes. Well, one of us is being covert. Annie doesn’t really do subtle, and as a result, she’s leaning back on her stool, one eyebrow raised at a man on the other side of the pool, muttering “oh yeah, oh yeah, muscles, hello”.

I introduced myself to the pina coladas instead.

I introduced myself to the pina coladas instead.

Muscles puts his arm around a girl in a striped bikini, and we decide that the babe-search is a losing battle, at least for today. We end up in a spa tub in a more secluded area, chatting about life and love and babes, drinking Fiji Gold beer out of plastic cups. Obtaining beer is almost too easy. Just wave at a passing waiter, say “Two Fiji Golds please, room 343” and drinks appear. By the time happy hour is over, I’m feeling rather intoxicated, and have invented a game where I swing on the pool ladder upside down. As a result, I’ve ingested huge mouthfuls of the spa water and am animatedly explaining to Annie all the reasons why that’s disgusting (“people have probably had SEX in here”) when she suggests we book a table at the fancy restaurant for dinner.

Standing in dripping wet togs at reception, I find myself wondering if dinner out is going to be the best idea. The concierge is struggling to understand Annie, who is doing her best formal voice on top of her drunken slurring. This is one of my favourite things about Annie. When she’s drunk she can speak fine. It’s as soon as she tries to sound sober that she ends up inserting new syllables and removing the ones she deems superfluous. The effect is almost musical, but not strictly understandable.

He manages to get through her complex verbal layer cake and we scamper back to the room, giggling. With an hour to spare before dinner we decide to crack open the duty free, and because the only mixer we have is a can of coke from the minibar, we pour half & halfs.

**

I hear Annie pick up the phone.

“Peh-leeze, sir. We can-not come ow-out to eat any din-ner. Peh-leeze, sir. Yes. I am Ann-knee. Room nuy-yumber is the-ree four the-ree, peh-leeze sir, thank you sir”.

She says “Ok. Room service. What… what do you want?”

I register that she’s hung up the phone and is now talking to me. I am in bed. How did I get here? I remember eating an entire family-sized bag of pineapple lumps. I remember the Malibu, which tasted like lollies. I remember having a bath while Annie danced to Gangnam Style just wearing a towel.

I apparently also posed for almost twenty photographs. They were fun to discover later.

I apparently also posed for almost twenty photographs. They were fun to discover later.

“What… what is there?” I ask, without bothering to open my eyes.

“Look, ok. Look, I don’t know, but all I can tell you, is that, look, I am definitely going to have this chicken and prawn thing, let me tell you, I’m going to smash this chicken and prawn thing”.

I think about getting up to read the menu but decide against it.

“Fries and bread” I mumble at her.

“Just… just fries and bread?” she checks.

“Fries and bread” I confirm.

**

When it arrives, she puts the bowl of chips next to me on the pillow. The salty carbs are comforting, and I get an efficient hand-to-bowl-to-face system going, smearing my white sheets with tomato sauce in my haste to cram them in my mouth.

“I’m setting an alarm” Annie tells me. “We have that sailing trip in the morning”.

Half a day in Fiji, and we’ve already cracked open the minibar, possibly ingested strangers’ bodily fluids (depending how often that spa is cleaned) and burned through the emergency chocolate reserves. Have we peaked early? Or is the best yet to come?

Fiji Travel Journal Part Two: Airports, Adoption and the Kindness of Strangers

Catch up with ‘Part One: Donuts, Margaritas and Waistcoats’ here!

Thursday 20 September

I wake up. Head fuzzy. Where am I? It’s dark. Ohmygod. There’s a woman. Right there. She’s tall. Thin and tall. She’s staring at me. Watching me sleep.

Seriously, where am I?! Who is this stranger?! Is she going to kill me?! What should I say?! Do I clear my throat and say, like, good morning?! Do I just go back to sleep and pretend this never happened?!

Foolproof solution.

Foolproof solution.

Oh. Ok. Nevermind. There is no woman there. It’s just the bed post.

Ok. Go back to sleep.

**

When I wake up properly, hours later, I’m annoyed by my instincts. When you think a stranger is sitting on your bed watching you sleep, your gut reaction should not be to fret about how best to introduce yourself. I should have leapt out of bed to protect my loved ones. What if Annie had shaken me awake in the morning to announce we’d been robbed? What would I have said? “Oh, yeah, I saw her, but felt a bit awkward about saying hello, so I went back to sleep”.

This thought preoccupies me for most of the drive to the airport.

When we arrive at Auckland International, Annie is fine to make our way leisurely from food court to customs to departure lounge, but for some reason this casual approach panics me. I prefer to rush through as quickly as possible so I can sit in the departure lounge for hours, bored, finishing my book and draining my iPhone battery before we’re even on the plane.

We compromise: I check the departures screen every ten seconds and sit on my hands out of twitchiness and Annie pretends not to mind when I watch her like a hawk, waiting to say, “so, looks like you’re about done with that drink/book/toilet, shall we make a move?”

I’m disappointed that the international terminal doesn’t have a donut shop, but make do with McDonalds. Once again, the McMuffin is better in theory than in practice, looking like someone may have sat on it before handing it over. The hotcakes though, my goodness. Little knobs of melted butter and an entire packet of syrup (just ‘syrup’—no ‘maple’ or similar adjective to denote its origins) on warm fluffy wheels. I am thrilled.

No, not as thrilled as the day before. Memmmmmories... of my donut from Wens'day...

No, not as thrilled as the day before. Memmmmmories… of my donut from Wens’day…

After our breakfast, we decide to have a drink. It’s barely 9am and so the cafe is filled with customers picking at breakfast croissants and sipping flat whites. Annie bowls up to the bar and orders a Jamaican Dream cocktail. The waitress stares back at her for a moment, before asking, “a what?”

“A Jamaican Dream”, Annie repeats, gesturing towards the cocktail menu.

The waitress picks up the menu and looks at it, perhaps hoping that if the request is delivered through a different medium it will make more sense. I don’t think it works. She awkwardly fidgets with her necklace and looks around for help.

“Um, I just make the coffees?” she says, anxiety woven into her eyebrows. “And Linda’s on break. Um… I could go get her?”

Annie looks like she’s seriously considering this request. I think about how long it might take to go find Linda then bring Linda back then wait for Linda to figure out how to make a Jamaican Dream then for Linda to put it on a little coaster and bring it over. In my mind I hear bing bong, passengers Kate and Annie, your flight has left without you, bet that cocktail wasn’t worth it, sucks to be you guys, bing bong. I convince Annie she should just get a beer.

After our breakfast beers, we stand in duty free spritzing ourselves with perfumes, pretending to enjoy the feijoa vodka so we get a second free sample. I want a new camera but I don’t really want to spend any money, so we plod along the counters and I find arbitrary faults with everything, so I get to say well, at least I TRIED.

I’m still twitchy about missing our flight and only calm down when I’m actually in the plane, strapped into my seat, our bags stowed in the overhead cabin. Before we’ve even taken off, Annie turns to me and says, “wake me up when food comes” and then slides down in her chair to nap.

It takes three hours to fly from Auckland to Nadi, and I use this time to indulge in guilty pleasures, namely, watching What To Expect When You’re Expecting and drinking beer out of a plastic cup. One scene in the movie particularly bothers me. Jennifer Lopez picks up this little orphan kid, and looks at him devotedly, and I truly believe she wants him. It feels real, like Jenny herself is actually considering taking him back to her Block. It makes me wonder if I should adopt a kid too. This is disconcerting. If J Lo can tempt me into adoption, I really should be more careful around her L’Oreal ads. Sure, I might be worth it, but True Match foundation is definitely not in the budget.

Maybe I should just buy one little bottle, maybe just one...

Maybe I should just buy one little bottle, maybe just one…

We land and people impatiently fill the aisles again. I’m not bothered this time, because there are palm trees to look at, and the heavy humid heat has seemed to work its way into the plane, making me feel dopey. I stuff my winter coat into my bag, joking to Annie that I probably won’t need it. Moments later, I hear a man a few rows ahead say to his wife, “best put your jacket away love, won’t be needing that for a while!” I am so embarrassed. It makes me feel like the human race is really just a bunch of monkeys wandering around making the same jokes as each other, over and over, trying not to bump into things. I’m not sure if I find the thought comforting or depressing.

When we get inside the terminal we join an oppressively slow-moving queue to clear customs. The woman behind me is donating a box of second-hand books to local schools. I know this because I hear her announce it to two different people in the queue, both times in the form of an apology. They haven’t shown even vague interest in her or her parcel, yet she says sorry to them for carrying it. It reminds me of when I used to volunteer with the SPCA. Two days before a shift and two days after, everyone would know about it. “No, I’m so sorry, I’ll have to come to dinner late. I have my volunteeeeer work. With animals. Sick little abandoned animals. Which I look after, because I’m a volunteeeeeer.”

And yes, sometimes I DID use visual aids.

And yes, sometimes I DID use visual aids.

She is basically forcing me to feel guilty. Instead of books for children, I’m holding a bottle of duty free Malibu. Given that I see my own attention-seeking behaviour in this woman, I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to be irritated with her. This is sorted when this volunteeeeer “accidentally” smacks into me with her box of charity. I decide that maybe I’m allowed to hate her a little bit and I spend the rest of the queue hoping she drops her generosity on her stupid altruistic foot.

After finally getting through customs, getting through the bag check in Fiji turns out to be remarkably easy. In New Zealand they ask probing questions about your wood products and make you wonder if you ARE accidentally smuggling in cocaine, because why else would all of these people in uniforms they be this suspicious of you? In Fiji they lean back in their chair, welcome you to the country, and gesture casually to the exit.

Fiji! We’re finally here. We’re tipsy and sweaty and ready to go.

Fiji Travel Journal Part One: Donuts, Margaritas and Waistcoats

Wednesday 19 September

I wake up with that excited Christmas-morning feeling. We leave for Auckland today, then Fiji tomorrow! Unfortunately, my fervor is offset with a nagging feeling of anxiety, as I’m convinced that I’ve forgotten to pack something vital, and check that my passport is in my bag at least six times before I’ve even left the house.

Work is a write-off. Mentally I’m already on board that plane, and end up turning my Out of Office Assistant on hours before I have to leave, so I can choose to surprise people with a response or not. This doesn’t go over well with my sister. Before I even open her email I see her text message – “You’ve GONE? I drew you a DIAGRAM!”

Turns out she’s had problems finding a post office, and got no help from the stranger she asked for directions from. She’s so incensed about how unhelpful the woman was that she has drawn me a map of the area in MS Paint, indicating landmarks with helpful labels. Obviously, the Post Office is not “around the corner” from the pub. Yes, my sister could have just explained this in writing, but it’s clearly one of those situations where it’s not enough to just tell someone “she got the directions wrong”. She needed me to FEEL just how wrong they were.

Deciphering my sister’s map is about the most productive part of my day.

She even colour-coded it. I love my family.

She even colour-coded it. I love my family.

In the afternoon there’s a farewell party on for two people who are leaving, with food provided. I read somewhere once that dogs eat quickly as a survival mechanism – other predators might be hanging around that squirrel carcass, and if you are going to get your fair share, you have to be speedy. I reflect on evolution as I wolf down the nachos and chips and wedges before my workmates can get near the plates.

After work I meet my travel buddy on the airport bus. She’s full of energy and excitement, bouncing on seats and taking photos, whereas I’m working overtime to digest the volume of fried food I’ve just packed in. I don’t want her to think I’m not excited about our trip, so I try to keep my eyes as wide open as possible with a grin plastered on. I realise I probably look like someone who’s just been to a cheap plastic surgeon, so spend the next ten minutes concentrating on what my face is doing as well as taking in what she’s saying. It’s exhausting. When we arrive at the airport it’s almost a surprise.

There is a Donut King in Wellington airport. We are the last two people to go through to the departure lounge. These two things are connected.

Welcome home.

Welcome home.

My caramel donut has filled me with sugar and twitchy excitement. I watch the flight attendants make their way down the plane at an agonisingly slow speed. Two rows ahead of us I start hearing “we are all out of the cheese snack ma’am, would you like some chilli twists?”

This is bad news.

I mean, sure. This flight is only an hour. It was only thirty minutes ago that I was eating a donut. But there is nothing to do on this plane other than sit still and think about how good that cheese is going to be. And now they say we have to eat chips? Alarm bells ring. My travel buddy is not impressed. A raised eyebrow later, we are given a handful of Whittaker’s slabs and another round of drinks.

From this, you could take the lesson to be that one should always complain, as the squeaky wheel gets the grease. However, the lesson I learnt was to always scrunch one’s nose up at one’s noisy friend, as she will do the complaining, she will get a handful of grease, and you will get the leftovers.

When we land and the bing-bong noise lets us know that seatbelts are no longer mandatory, everyone springs out of their seats and crowds the aisle. They’re all almost on their tiptoes, desperate to pour of the plane, so they can go wait at baggage claim. Hey, I get it, if you’re flying in at midnight. There are limited cabs and you don’t want to be out in the cold. But at 7pm? Come on. Let’s not kid ourselves. You’re not getting home in time for Shortland Street. Just commit now to watching it On Demand.

I find this practice incredibly annoying and always make a point to stay in my seat until there’s space in the aisle to get up. I hope people will see how relaxed and comfortable I am and will follow my example, but more likely, they’ve noticed that I’m scowling at everyone, possibly also shaking my head, maybe even muttering about aisles and cabs and Shortland Street … hardly a good poster child for the stay-seated-club.

This will be our poster child. Logic be damned.

This will be our poster child. Logic be damned.

My travel buddy – who we’ll call Annie – has arranged for a friend of hers in Auckland to pick us up, take us out to dinner, let us crash at his place, then drop us at the airport the following day. This deal sounds too good to be true, and so I assume it also includes getting robbed or roofied … but she assures me he’s just a nice guy. She’s right, he even shouts us dinner, and I feel like I need to go find someone to pay it forward to.

We go to the Mexican Cafe for dinner. The margaritas and the food are amazing. Don’t take my word for it though, as I’m not a good judge of Mexican food. As soon as something has cheese and sour cream on it, I’m transported to heaven and lose all impartiality. I fear that I would eat a coaster if it were topped with mozzarella. After our meals I float the idea of visiting Sky City and get a burst of excitement when everyone agrees.

A casino! Like where grownups go!

I go all loopy like a toddler being let loose in a playpen, and my excitement is only heightened when the security guards tell us off for trying to take photos. Eyes wide, Annie conspiratorially asks why. They inform us that many people are ashamed of their gambling habit, and don’t want photos taken that show them in a casino. I wonder if “our customers are all depressed about how terrible their lives are, but do please come in” is a strange angle to take with the public, but nevertheless, we put the camera away and go inside.

Image nicked off Google, as I did not want to incur the wrath of security.

Image nicked off Google, as I did not want to incur the wrath of security.

The flashing lights and ringing noises from the slot machines have me all giddy. Annie and our host trail behind me as I race from table to table, trying to guess who is a prostitute and who is wearing an adult diaper. I stare at the people on the electronic blackjack machines, trying to work out why they’d use a computer when they have the opportunity to talk to a man in a shiny waistcoat, and decide it’s probably like the self-service checkout at the supermarket – sometimes you just want all the power in your own hands.

Annie decides to play roulette and gives me a chip so I can play too. I look at the numbers, hoping desperately that one will start to faintly glow around the edges. I will say, “did you see that?”, Annie will say “see what?” and I will place my chip on the magic number. Moments later I will hit the jackpot and will finally be able to afford a pony.

I’m riding a wave of anticipation about what I’m going to name my new equine friend. When Annie buys me a Bacardi and coke it’s gone before she’s had a chance to taste her wine.

After two spins, no numbers are glowing, no magic genies have appeared to whisper ‘Red 22’ at me, and the numbers all just look the same. I pick one at random and put my little plastic disc on the piece of green felt. Spin spin, rattle rattle … then the man in the shiny waistcoat takes my chip away and I’m left with nothing. I’m indignant at this state of affairs, and am happy when we decide to go home.

I’ve eaten too much, drank too much, and have filled five pages of my travel journal with unintelligible scrawl.

We haven’t even left for Fiji yet.

This holiday is going to be a good one.

The news feed of my homesick heart

Dear Facebook,

We need to say goodbye. No, not forever! Come back, don’t pout! I’m sorry. I should have worded this better. I’ve never been good at this sort of thing.

What I mean to say is, we need to take a little break. I’m going to Fiji in a few hours, and part of the whole holiday-on-an-island thing means that the internet has to stay at home.

I know, I know. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you either.

What if someone I went to high school with shares a picture of a cat doing something funny?

What if one of the chocolate bars I have subscribed to—yes, ‘one of’, and it’s a surprisingly high number—has something witty to say?

What if one of my overly dramatic acquaintances changes their relationship status from ‘It’s Complicated’ to ‘Single’, and I get to savour that delicious internal struggle of wondering whether I hit ‘Like’, send well wishes, or post a mildly offensive e-card?

With a little tongue-pokey emoticon, so they can't get mad.

With a little tongue-pokey emoticon, so they can’t get mad.

But it’s not just the emotional rollercoasters that I love you for, Facebook.

You lovingly reward me with a little globe, all lit up, so that I know that my newly single friend’s old workmate likes my link.

And if that isn’t enough, the numbers on my globe climb higher and higher, keeping me up to date on how my newly single friend knows an awful lot of people who cannot spell “condolences”. 

Doesn't it just make you giddy?

Doesn’t it just make you giddy?

Oh, Facebook. You know you’re the only one for me. I attempt to tweet but feel like I’m just yelling into a void of celebrity witticisms. I’m on Pinterest daily but am not sure how looking at pictures of caramel really counts as engaging with social media.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I will definitely enjoy the relaxation and the delicious pina coladas in Fiji.

But while I dig my toes into that white hot sand, squinting into the sun, there’ll be a little piece of my heart at home, wondering what Snickers is up to.

Love,

Kate

Preparing for international travel

Despite the fact that I’m leaving for Fiji tomorrow, I haven’t even started thinking about packing. You’d think that a child of divorce would have this stuff down pat, right? Every second weekend was spent at Dad’s house, so surely I’d be able to get the necessities into a bag with minimal fuss? No. My suitcases end up full of Just in Cases. I dunno, maybe I will want to do a makeover while I’m there. Maybe I’ll change everything about my personality and decide I really do need to read War and Peace.

So I should probably pack it.

Just in case.

Worst comes to worst, I'll use it as a doorstop.

Worst comes to worst, I’ll use it as a doorstop.

I think it’s because the idea of forgetting something fills me with dread. The problem isn’t forgetting something like a toothbrush (which we can all agree is a necessity, and so you’ll just have to buy one over there, price be damned). No, the problem is forgetting something like the blue shorts. You know the ones. You must have the equivalent in your wardrobe. They’re the pair that make your legs look the least-terrible, and they are the only thing you have that goes with that white top. Of course, if you forget the blue shorts, you can technically wear the brown ones, even though you hate them. You’ll spend the day feeling awkward, having to sit with your spine angled funny so you don’t look pregnant. When you look at the photos later you can immediately see which grandmother you’ve inherited your thighs from.

But to buy new shorts? Don’t be silly. Ridiculous waste of money, when those blue ones are at home.

When I went to Argentina a few years back, I packed incredibly well. Terrified of being mugged or shot or force-fed the tap water, I spent weeks writing endless lists and constantly checking websites for travel warnings. (Spoiler alert: my paranoia was completely unjustified, everyone was lovely, I should calm down). The thing I didn’t plan for was the shorter, trip-within-a-trip up to the Iguazu Falls. It was too hot for almost everything I’d hurriedly thrown in the backpack, so I spent the day in this monstrous fever dream of an outfit:

Don't worry, New Zealand, I told people I was Australian.

Don’t worry, New Zealand, I told people I was Australian.

Maybe it’s the memory of that ensemble that holds me back from packing until the very last minute. Planning didn’t help in that instance, so what’s the point? I mean, I’ve done some prep work, don’t get me wrong. Last week I flew into a panic thinking I had to renew my passport before leaving. New Zealand can turn this stuff around pretty quickly, but with a $300 price tag attached to an ‘urgent renewal’, it was not going to come cheap.

I then discovered I didn’t have to renew my passport after all, so I celebrated my money saving by spending $150 on a new pair of togs.

Since riding that rollercoaster of passport confusion, I’ve done nothing. The new togs still have the tags attached and are still in the bag. My suitcase is somewhere, I think maybe under the bed? I’m pretty sure that before international travel you’re supposed to get all sorts of things organised… registering with embassies and getting shots and things. I haven’t done any of that. I have written ‘blue shorts’ on a post-it note. And my travel buddy and I have worked out the optimal time to arrive at the airport, if we want to fit in a beer before boarding.

That’s basically the same thing as being prepared, right?

The morning after

Slowly, reality comes, seeping in the edges of the world. Ok. What’s going on? Who am I? Female. Kate. Yes. My mouth tastes like a sock. Do I want to open my eyes? Not really. Compromise, just one? Ok. Eyelid prised open. Is this my bed? Good. Am I alone? Thank god. Where is my phone? How do I make it show me – ok. I got it. It’s 9am. Looks light outside. Should I get up? Definitely not.

Five minutes pass. Memories fall back in. Oh god. Did I really say that? Hopefully not. Maybe that one specific part of the evening was just a dream. Yes. That sounds like it’s… possible? Good. Let’s stay wrapped in the cozy blanket of denial. And the literal blanket of my duvet.

Hungry. Ok, really hungry. The hungriest that any human being has ever been, ever. No. Come on Kate, you’re not like, proper starving. You ate six cupcakes and a bag of salt & vinegar chips only four hours ago, you can’t compare yourself to Ethiopian children.

Toast. Need toast. Need coffee. No, toast is too hard, and none of the mugs are clean. Need McDonalds. Shoes. Where are shoes? Should I wipe last night’s makeup off? Maybe just lick my finger and scrub at the smudge on my cheek? Ok. Fine. I guess it’s staying there.

**

“Yes, please can I please have the Kiwi Brekkie McMuffin? With a hash brown? And a caramel McFlurry? And also one of those iced coffee things with the whipped cream on it? I don’t know, just the biggest one you have. Thank you.”

The Kiwi Brekkie McMuffin: it looks how you feel.

The Kiwi Brekkie McMuffin: it looks how you feel.

**

Back at home. Couch. Fat pants. Jason Bourne. Geez, look at him running. He’s always running places, looking upset. I’m so glad I don’t have to be a spy. Is he a spy? I should pay more attention. I just need the energy to get my laptop. I should do something really productive today, like, I should write maybe ten blogs and queue them all up. And then figure out what to do with my life. Also, I should drink a whole lot of water, and eat lots of vegetables. If I do that it will make up for the McDonalds, and it would basically even out over the whole day to be nutritious.

I’ll just have a few glasses of vanilla coke first, then straight after that, I’ll definitely start on the water. I think by lunchtime I’m going to really feel like vegetables.

Laptop acquired. Scroll. Like. Retweet. Refresh. Like. Retweet. Refresh. Nothing happening. Open Spider Solitaire.

**

Bourne finished.

“Does anyone else want some Dominos?”

If people say yes, and you end up getting pizzas, it’s sort of their fault. It’s not like you’re the only one eating it. It’s peer pressure.

**

Wonder how it’s possible that you can eat an entire pizza and not really feel full. Probably just dehydrated. Maybe should just drink the coke out of the bottle instead of wasting time pouring it into a glass. Efficient.

Second Bourne movie. Not entirely sure what happened in the first one, because Spider Solitaire was too engrossing. He’s a spy? Amnesia?

Wait, do I still have that Snickers bar in my bag? Oh thank goodness. This is exactly what I need. I’m going to start eating healthily, straight after this Snickers bar.

“Are you making popcorn? Yeah, I’ll have some.”

“Oh, you have lollies? Yeah, I’ll have some.”

Figure if you just eat the yellow jelly ones no one else wants, it doesn’t count. If you’re not enjoying it, it can’t be bad for you.

**

Head starts feeling kind of wooshy. Like if you stood up too fast, you’d pass out. Consider going to sleep. Think sleep and water will be the best thing, right now. Decide instead to just sit very still instead and see if it goes away.

It goes away.

**

Second Bourne movie end credits. No idea what happened. Gave up trying to follow the plot. Too exhausting watching him run everywhere. Where is his energy coming from? Just sit down for a minute, Jason.

Unsure if he even LIKES sitting.

Unsure if he even LIKES sitting.

Still have not successfully completed a game of Spider Solitaire. However, have hit ‘like’ on everything that everyone has posted on Facebook in the past six hours. Now just hitting refresh waiting for last night’s pics to go up. F5 F5 F5. Jack goes on Queen goes on King. F5 F5 F5. No more available moves, start new game? F5 F5 F5.

**

Halfway through third Bourne movie. Wonder if peering up at it occasionally when there’s a loud noise counts as actually watching it.

Should probably have some honey toast. For the nutrition. Oh! Maybe some cereal! If I add some sugar it will feel like childhood, and it doesn’t even count if it’s only a teaspoon. Well, a teaspoon and a half. The fibre cancels it out, anyway.

Ugh. I feel rough. I’m definitely going to get an early night. Well, right after New Zealand’s Got Talent. Then maybe I’ll just watch a Community episode in bed. Just one? It counts as rest if you’re lying down, anyway. And I’ll just have one square of this swiss chocolate stuff. Just one square, as like, dessert.

Ok. I’m definitely having an early night and eating healthy. Definitely. Tomorrow.

Expanding one’s mind through travel

They say travel broadens the mind. They say that meeting new people and having new experiences can fundamentally change who you are. I’m not sure who ‘they’ are, but I imagine ‘they’ are intelligent, worldly types, who wear jewellery fashioned out of Nepalese tree bark, while they drink obscure teas and pepper conversations with stories of hiking treacherous trails.

They most definitely would NOT find my travel pictures amusing.

They most definitely would NOT find my travel pictures amusing.

The last time I was at the dentist, I had to hold my chops open wide for so long that my jaw started to throb and I drooled on the assistant’s hand. I consider travel to be the mind equivalent of this.

A stranger’s gloved hand, covered in my spit, is my inspiration.

My travel totem.

This time next week, I will be in Fiji. As I have been once before, I don’t want to waste valuable mind-broadening time re-learning all the stuff I figured out last time. So, to avoid this, I thought it best to reflect on the lessons I’ve learnt the first time round in Fiji.

Yes, in my spare time I am available for graphic design work.

Yes, in my spare time I am available for graphic design work.

Profoundly connect with other humans

Whether you’re drunkenly slurring at a German girl that you like her t-shirt, or letting a guy get to second base because he knows what an Oxford comma is, it’s important to find things you have in common with other human beings, and to celebrate these.

Enjoy some alone time

Of course, some time should also be spent in quiet reflection, enjoying the liberating sensation of your mind opening. Henry David Thoreau once said, “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men, than when we stay in our chambers.”

Reflect on this when you’re snorkelling, and when the really annoying Californian girl who just will NOT stop babbling starts complaining that she’s drifting too close to the coral. Perhaps, in this moment, you just stay in your “chamber”—ie. pretend you didn’t hear her, and leave it to the staff to deal with.

Understand that some experiences cannot be repeated

A bottle of Pimms purchased through duty free mixed with a can of coke from the resort bar can serve as a refreshing and unconventional cocktail. Of course, some holiday experiences are not meant to follow you home. If you order this at a real bar, the bartender will watch you uneasily as he prepares it, suspicion in his eyes, as if you have sinister motives. Clearly, he understands nothing of exotic libations, and the chasm between his unopened mind and yours will make you feel somewhat despondent.

You will be wistful for these simpler times.

You will be wistful for these simpler times.

Accept local food offerings

If a Fijian man wants to lop the top off a coconut, fill it with something pink that smells like nail polish remover, and serve it to you with a straw, it is good manners to take it and pay him. After you have slurped it down, filling the coconut up with leftover Pimms and coke is the best possible choice you can make. For, you know, the environment.

The planet will thank you.

The planet will thank you.

Get in touch with your spiritual side

It makes one feel most pious to get up at 10am to attend a religious service on a Fijian island. Of course, as the old saying goes, “the first ten minutes of church is the only bit that’s actually important”, so feel free to clumsily sneak out halfway through because you’re hungry. Etiquette tip: it is advised to hold back giggling until you are well clear of the front door, lest the preacher yell at you.

**

With all of those lessons learnt in just four short days, I can only hope my second trip is half as educational.

Childhood dreams and stripper snubs

When I was little, my first and greatest ambition was to grow up to be a mermaid. Maybe it was my deep love of splashing around in the ocean, ending up as wrinkly as everything in my t-shirt drawer. Maybe it was my deeper love of avoiding chores in favour of floating around. Or maybe it was one too many childhood viewings of Splash, with Mum on hand to order us to cover our eyes whenever Daryl Hannah got her bottom out.

… As an aside, I want to do a shout out to my mother’s parenting. She didn’t just plonk us in front of The Little Mermaid, she taped Splash off the TV onto a VHS, then stayed on hand to ‘edit out’ the naughty bits in real time. That woman put the effort in.

Anyway. When I worked out that mermaids probably weren’t real and thus not a viable career choice, I was heartbroken. (Yes, I did say ‘probably’ not real. I am a mermaid-agnostic and you won’t convince me otherwise.) Future career plans flip-flopped between writer, vet, film director, editor of Empire Magazine, stay at home mother, then just “ugh, I’ll just get a job, I guess”.

I still hold on to a little ball of melancholy in my belly about this. Living in the ocean with Tom Hanks, weaving in and out of seaweed forests – that would be LIVING! Clomping around on land, having to use my legs like some sort of chump? Humph.

If there's a heaven, it looks like this.

If there’s a heaven, it looks like this.

So maybe this is why I take it so personally that the girls outside Wellington’s strip bar The Mermaid don’t want anything to do with me.

I walk past every day on my way home. There’s always a solitary girl standing outside, legs bare up to her miniskirt, but with a Kathmandu puffer jacket on to keep the cold out. As men walk past she stalks their eye contact, batting her fake eyelashes and smiling coquettishly. In her hand she holds admit-two-free vouchers that she thrusts at the ones that don’t dodge her gaze.

Now, I am a compulsive hello-smiler. When I go to the supermarket I smile at the dog I walk past on the way in, the woman who reaches for the perfect broccoli I had my eye on, the man behind me in the queue buying nothing but condoms and heat-and-eat meals. These people don’t get a toothy grin, mind, but a closed-mouth-nod. I cannot help myself. My nose scrunches, my cheeks go up, and I’ve basically announced that I am not a threat, and please also be my friend?

Despite how I may feel on the inside, It doesn't look like this, I promise.

Despite how I may feel on the inside, It doesn’t look like this, I promise.

So, obviously, every day I smile at the girl outside The Mermaid, as she hops from foot to foot in ten-inch heels. Maybe it’s that I’m expressing some misplaced sentimentality about my mermaid dreams. Maybe it’s that I’m a child of divorce and am desperate for affection. Or maybe I’m just saying “Hello, fellow human being. I’m sorry you’re cold. I am in snantyhose. We all have our crosses to bear”. Despite this, every day, I am ignored. I don’t get a closed-mouth-smile back, but the side of her face as she turns her head away from me in indifference.

Sure, I have a wallet full of two-for-ones for Calendar Girls, the newest addition to Wellington’s strip bar family. “Do you want a voucher?!” the greeter girl excitedly exclaims when I give her my hello-smile on the way past. She’s chuffed that I take one and thrilled that I say ‘thank you’. I ride the wave of approval from Miss January, but not for long. The Ariel stand-in outside The Mermaid looks past me, I am unmercilessly dumped on the sand, and Tom Hanks? He seems just that little bit further away.

European women I met briefly that changed my life: part one

Part One: Ooma

During my illustrious career as a recorder player in the primary school orchestra, I had gone on many field trips to nursing homes to perform. As there wasn’t a lot of responsibility involved (the recorder a hollow tube that makes blasting honk noises, it is hardly like I was First Violin), I had plenty of time to stare blankly at our audience and come to conclusions. There was definitely a distinct smell and stance. Lavender and musk. Slump and hunch.

So, when I went with a friend to visit her grandmother at a nursing home, I expected a small feeble woman. She’d be swaddled in blankets, barely aware of her surroundings. No. This force of nature threw the door open wide when we arrived, barking a frustrated hello, as if our visit was just one item on an overstuffed schedule. She had a thick Dutch accent and looked like what I imagine Ian McKellen would look like if you asked him nicely to put on lipstick and a matching pantsuit.

She thrust her hand out at me, squinting at my awkward hairstyle. In that year I had attempted ‘The Rachel’ … but with naturally wavy hair and a haircare routine limited to “wash and let dry”, the only thing Rachel and I had in common was we didn’t really know if we had a crush on Ross or not.

Which one is me, which one is Jennifer Aniston? Pop your answer on a postcard to be in to win!

Which one is me, which one is Jennifer Aniston? Pop your answer on a postcard to be in to win!

I offered her my hand and she shook it. Frowning, she bellowed at me, “come on, girl. Your hand feels like a jellyfish. Try it again”. Terrified, I squeezed her hand harder with my sweaty palm, searching in her eyes for approval. She pursed her lips and nodded at me, satisfied, then roared, “what was your name again?”

Later that year, I had to go on stage at school to get an award from the principal. He went to shake my hand and I offered mine back to him, feeling Ooma’s grimace loom over me, like that giant head in The Wizard of Oz. As I shook his hand, he took a slight step back, raised his eyebrows, and said, “Wow. Nice handshake”.

Mr Farquhar’s approval still rates highly in my list of life accomplishments. And since then, I have remembered both his praise and Ooma’s scorn. My handshake is now a formidable threat. A chokehold on unsuspecting mitts everywhere.

Sadly, my newfound power came at a price. I have a superman handshake but it brought with it some kryptonite baggage … to this day, I can’t look at Ian McKellen without breaking out in a sweat.

An apology to people who found me through a Google search

I love WordPress. This isn’t a desperate attempt to get featured on Freshly Pressed (though seriously you guys, I’ll bribe whoever to get on that page, and I’m barely joking).

…now that I’ve squashed any chance I ever had to get Freshly Pressed by typing that sentence (though seriously you guys, I’ll delete the bit where I said that and will pretend it never happened, because really I was just joking) let’s get to my point.

I love that they use CamelCase in their title. I love how easy it was to set up my blog and faff with the layout settings. And I love, love, love the Stats page.

Automated graphs! Little tables! Even a map! I can see that I’ve had visitors from Bolivia, and Switzerland, and Canada, and Poland, and Japan, and everywhere!

Well, not EVERYWHERE. Come on, Russia. Pick it up. I like vodka. Be on my team.

Well, not EVERYWHERE. Come on, Russia. Pick it up. I like vodka. Be on my team.

I try not to get obsessive with it but I won’t lie, I check it a few times a day. Click click click, wondering who these new friends are that popping in to visit. Sometimes I come up with life stories for them in my head. Because I don’t know squat about geography, it ends up being like “Ok, a visitor from Nepal. Lovely! His name is probably… Derek. He lives in an… igloo. He has four… wives. He found my blog because he was searching for… ham?”

Speaking of, do I mention ham enough on this blog? I don’t think it is discussed enough, considering the frequency in my own personal-real-life that I talk about ham. Ham ham ham. Delicious! I put mine on toast then put eggs on top. My goodness it is amazing. I also like a good ham sandwich. Ham and cheese, bit of butter? Can’t be beat. And ham at Christmastime? Screw the presents, I look forward to the sweet holy merciful God of Ham.

(There you go Derek. That should help you out next time you’re searching for ham opinions while your wives tidy the igloo).

We have barely scratched the surface on how much I love ham.

We have barely scratched the surface on how much I love ham.

There’s also a feature that tells you what people have typed into a search engine to find your blog. This is the section of the stats page that that brings me the most delight and also the most guilt.

Two people searched for parakeets and ended up here, probably not looking for a story of me chasing a budgie down the road. Four people wanted to find information on Lana from Shortland Street, probably not angling for information about my friend flashing me her knickers. A surprisingly high number of people don’t seem to love morning television as much as I do, as my post about the gym has had visitors looking for various incantations on “hate Petra Bagust”.

Last week someone ended up here by searching “signs you didn’t get the internship”, and yesterday someone found me by searching “forcing raw egg into her mouth”. I feel like of all of my referrals, these two people would have felt the most bereft upon their arrival here. Derek in Nepal has his wives to keep him company as he clicks through page after page for my thoughts on pork. But what of that poor graduate, waiting to hear about her job application? And the serial killer who has very specific and particular egg fantasies?

To them: I am sorry that I didn’t provide you with what you wanted. And to make up for it:

You can stand under my salmonella, ella, hey hey.

You can stand under my salmonella, ella, hey hey.

…and I’m sorry, sweetpea, but if you still haven’t heard about the job, you probably didn’t get it.