Part One: Donuts, Margaritas and Waistcoats
Part Two: Airports, Adoption and the Kindness of Strangers
Part Three: Binkies, Babes and Bathtubs
Part Four: Carbs, Catamarans and Cast Away
Part Five: Baronesses, Orations and Foreign Gems
Part Six: Mushroom Brains, Front Naps and Tuna Smashing
Part Seven: Entree, Main Course and Dessert
Part Eight: Periodicals, Pool Hops and Australian Units
Part Nine: Prostitutes, Punking and Proposals
Part Ten: Balloons, Perverts and Tequila
Part Eleven: Bottoms, Bubbles and Definite Things
Part Twelve: The Wrong Towels, Sporting Challenges and Definite Things
We arrive at the airport and I shake Annie awake. She’s covered in potato chip crumbs, her bright green underwear visible through her see-through pants, one shoulder of her singlet top hanging down by her elbow. Her hat is crumpled from where she’s slept on it and her eyes are almost shut.
“Ok. I cannot check in without a bra. Hold on” she declares, and dumps her suitcase on the ground to unpack it. She tips out sneakers and books and sarongs onto the airport floor, and eventually locates a bra. I push her towards the ladies room. “Do you need help?” I ask, and she looks at the floor for a while before mumbling “no don’t think so” and stumbling towards the loos.
When she gets back, we join a queue of lazy tourists. Everyone’s on island time, with bare legs, braided hair and sloppy smiles. We stand in stark contrast to the check-in staff, who are all clearly sick of having to balance strict international law with drunk lethargic tourists. They want to call us ma’am and follow procedure, and we want to shout BULA! I am from WELLINGTON! Yes, that IS interesting! THANK you!
Reality is also waiting for us as the x-ray queue. Annie beeps on the way through, making her leap in the air with exaggerated horror. Meanwhile, her handbag is flagged for further checking, and ma’am is asked to step aside. Saw-rey, she says, over and over, as the woman behind the counter pulls out multiple cans of tuna and tubes and tubes of lipsticks and glosses and mascaras. “Do you have a ziploc bag, ma’am?” she is asked, but no, neither of us do. Annie shuffles back to the airport terminal to find one, leaving me to watch our stuff.
Next to me, there’s a woman who looks like she’s come straight from the pool, with a thin black dress on over her coral bikini. An array of bottles is piled up on the counter in front of her, and she is in despair about forgetting about the 100ml limit on liquids. The Fijian women behind the machine help her decide to what gets to stay, collectively deciding that the Kerastase is more important than the half-full hotel samples. They tip them into a bin so she can refill the bottles with her own French stuff, making the room smell like a hair salon.
I stand and watch them squirt the chemical beautifiers down the drain for what seems like ten minutes before I hear, “saw-rey, I’m the worst kind of trav-lah” behind me. Annie emerges with an ‘oops’ expression and a ziploc in her hand.
She dumps her lipsticks into the bag and we’re allowed through to the international departures lounge. After we eat some expensive but disgusting pies, Annie plonks down on a squishy chair and promptly falls asleep. I wander around duty free, trying to spend every last Fijian cent with the perfect combination of bad chocolates and tacky souvenirs.
Alongside the ‘BULA’ and ‘FIJI’ printed on everything, a surprisingly high number of items in the gift shop bear the words, ‘Forgive Me’. The little figurines are incredibly ugly, and I wonder if the plea for forgiveness is supposed to go with the gift itself. Sort of a combo deal. Here is a doll, which I am sorry for giving you. I remember Mr Murphy teaching us in third form maths that a positive and a negative cancel each other out. Is this doll the equivalent of the number zero?
Does it cancel itself out?
Is the doll even really there?!
The other option seems to be that someone is actually requesting forgiveness, via this doll, for some other slight. Surely, we can consider this a good service that Fiji is providing. If your boyfriend comes home and says he blew all the savings on strippers, but here’s this doll to say he’s sorry … it’s no longer a grey area. No. Flag. Get a new one. You can do better, sweetheart.
On the plane, Annie announces that she’s going to watch ten minutes of Captain America then go to sleep. The plane is half-empty and she manages to negotiate a free row of seats from the “air hostess, the man one” and leaves me to my diet coke, old episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and my travel journal.
Forty minutes later I’m startled out of my concentration when Annie appears at my elbow. “So. My life is amazing. I have had two glasses of bubbles, which is probs not a good idea, but whatevs. Can you SMELL that? I want two dinners. Are you the hungriest you’ve ever been?!”
Without giving me time to respond, she’s gone again.
Half an hour later she’s at my elbow again, with flushed cheeks and a bottle of bubbles. She’s thrilled that the attendant gave it to her instead of just pouring her a glass. She’s also aware that this marks the second time today that someone has told her to just take the rest of the bottle. The second time, in just one day, that a service worker has given up. She wonders again about her life choices then stops the air hostess, the man one, to ask for food, any food that’s free, chips or bread or lamb casserole, just free? Puh-lease? She speaks in a hushed tone and he takes in the sight before him before patting her on the shoulder and asking where she’s sitting.
“Oh, BNE, I’m back in 23, I’m going now” she says, and again, she disappears.
I consider taking a nap, but feel like that would be wasting the free entertainment and services. I sit through episodes of Parks and Recreation I’ve already seen, while sipping almost undrinkable coffee.
Annie’s back again. Twenty seven and a half glasses, she tells me, as she requests that I take a photo of her with her second bottle. She’s thrilled that the attendant gave her two bread rolls, two! And with BUTTER! Is butter a thing?!
Annie is most definitely drunk, and getting her through customs is like trying to wrangle a puppy. We scan our passports then queue at the smartgates. I’m lost in thought about how great my bed is going to be, but Annie’s got other priorities, as I hear her say behind me, “Where’s your girlfriend gone?”
A man responds, “her passport’s too old, she can’t use this”, and Annie laughs, “oh, you should just leave her here! Where do you live, anyway?”
We’re home. I’m carrying what I can only assume is at least ten kilos of new fat cells. Annie’s hauling impressive statistics on how much alcohol she can consume without vomming. We’ve come back poorer and sleepier and redder than when we left, but it was all worth it. We climb into a taxi, shouting “bula!” at our alarmed driver, before Annie says, “We should drive through Maccas, that’d be the BNE. I could smash some chicken right now, let me tell you”.
Our next holiday? It better be a thing.