Ni Sa Moce, Fiji – Vinaka

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on June 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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After twelve days at the hotel where Eunie has been staying, eating every meal consisting of pretty much the same stir-frys and curries every day, she was ready for a gastronomic break. I told her yesterday, when I came back from the Nadi Temple, that there was a MacDonald’s somewhere back in the direction of town. So, at about noon, we started the long walk in the quest of the undisputed king of junk food.

It turned out to be a bit farther than I remembered, possibly a couple of miles. Eunie never slowed down or looked back. The call of the Big Mac was shrieking raucously in her ears:


When in North America we never eat so foolishly. Our idea of junk food in Indianapolis is to go to Arnie’s Bar and Restaurant and get a single order, which we share, of gigantic mushroom caps filled with a nice Italian tomato sauce and topped with Romano cheese. In Canada we call big, steaming bowls of onion soup junk food. Hmmm . . . stringy cheese . . .

If you’re wondering how MacDonald’s manifests its image of looming obesity in Fiji, wonder no more:
Right, it looks just like the one three blocks from your house.

And, as for the offensive object itself:

Yes, it is just as disgusting and offensively tasteless as anywhere on the face of Mother Earth.

I have to admit that Eunie and I have a sort of death pact between us. Everywhere we go in the world, and that list is ramping up quite nicely, we seek out a MacDonalds and force ourselves to eat a Big Mac. Eunie actually claims to like one once in a while. I can hardly choke it down.

It’s a little taste of home.

Ni Sa Moce, Fiji – Vinaka.  (Goodbye, Fiji – Thanks.)

It’s been nice.

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The Nadi Temple – A Feast for the Eyes

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 29th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have little text today, because I have a tonne of images to show to you. This morning I took a short bus ride to the Nadi Temple, as it is commonly called. My friend, Heather, suggested it to me, though her directions left something to be desired. Jump on a bus and you will probably be there in ten minutes:

Don’t dally at the Baby Face Nite Club, or they won’t let you in at the temple.

In fact, there are some things you should know before visiting. Prepare to leave your shoes at the gate. Do not eat any meat for breakfast. The man at the gate will ask you. Wear modest clothing, long trousers for men and a shirt that has at least short sleeves. I was dressed in my usual short-shorts and a tank top. This evoked a frown and a warning not to enter the temple itself, but, having paid the F$3.50 to enter the grounds and take pictures, I was otherwise treated politely. I’ll save my breath by showing you a little summary casually ripped from a travel web site:

In 1994 this Hindu temple moved from beside the flood-prone Nadi River to the southern end of town where an evocative three-tower complex was finely created over a ten-year period by eight specialist craftsmen brought from India.

The Dravidian temple is dedicated to the deity Murugan whose statue, specially carved in India, is housed within the twelve-metre-high main pyramidal vimanam with a rectangular roof. The two towers at the rear of the temple with colourful domed shaped roofs are dedicated to Ganesh and Shiva.

Since I was not allowed to enter the temple, I decided to do my best from outside. Fortunately, the opportunities are superb:

My goal, from the first moment, was to try to grab shots that others might miss.  If I have a “secret formula” this is it. These images have all been sent up to my server at 2,000 pixels, so if you click on any of them, you will get some good detail.

As I walk around I am constantly looking for amusing compositions:

The one above is crazy, but it works for me.

Another thing which I decided to do is to Photoshop without mercy. I wanted to get that “postcard” look which is just short of fake:

Fortunately, the light and sky were playing my game.

Even shadowed areas came through brilliantly:

The Canon G11 was strutting its stuff today. I have no complaints about any frame it gave me.

Walking around the temple, you can find plenty of treasure in the odd angles of the structure:

I could have stayed there all morning, but there were worshippers moving about and I was disgustingly under-dressed.

The details of the temple can keep you snapping until your battery runs down. Here’s an example:

And another:

And one more:

I have a dozen more in the folder, but you get the idea.

What I can’t show you properly, since I could not go in, are the astonishing paintings on the ceiling of the entire temple. Here is one that I could, with a little standing yoga, get a shot of:

It’s a bit distorted, but so was I while I was taking it. It took some fancy Photoshop tweaking to get it reasonably rectangular.

That’s about it for me. My shoulders are getting sore from using the laptop on the bar here. It’s the only place where I can get both a wireless connection and power. No beer for me until I figure out what’s come unwired in my head.

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Confused in Fiji

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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I had planned to go for a dive here in Nadi today, but I don’t think that it’s a good idea. When I woke up this morning, I felt very confused. I wasn’t sure what day it was. I had no clear memory of what happened yesterday or the day before. I now remember that we went for a cultural evening at another hotel on Saturday night and we saw fire-walking and other demonstrations. Last night we stayed in for a quiet evening to celebrate our 46th anniversary. I went around taking pictures this morning while trying to put my memories of the last few days in order.

I’m not sure what has happened to me. I guess that it’s not unusual to have memory lapses and confusion beginning in one’s 60’s and I have experienced both before. For me, it usually happens when I am in an unfamiliar environment. I have to admit that it is very scary. There are some very pleasant and comforting aspects of growing old, but this is definitely not one of them. It is frightening to be suddenly unable to remember clearly the events of the last few days. (See my Update at the end of the post.)

I haven’t been eating properly and I know that my mental state is very dependent on my blood sugar level. I’m relaxing in the hotel room now as I write this and try to get my mind back in order. This morning I went out to take some pictures in the garden. This is an activity which always calms me:

The colours in the one above are about as confused as I felt this morning.

This one is better – nice, curvy green shapes – very calming:

I’m certainly not going to bother to look up taxonomical names for any of these flowers. Since I am recovering from one of those “my brain has crashed and I can’t get it rebooted” moments, I’ll let interested readers fill in the Latin gaps:

I do know that these are bougainvillea:

As are these:

And these, which were growing out over the swimming pool:

There, I feel calmer already.

Here is the UPDATE: Eunie had the look of fear in her eyes this morning. It’s not surprising, because I can now remember how scary it must have been for her. I was definitely not myself. There is a nice doctor in the little shopping mall next to the hotel. I went over there, partly to calm my own fears and partly to be able to show Eunie that I had enough presence of mind to go and see him. He did the usual medical stuff and asked me a lot of questions. Three hours earlier, most of them would have given me trouble. However, as I sat at his desk, I could answer them satisfactorily. There are a number of contributing factors which I won’t explain because they are, uh . . . personal, but the doctor said that he thought it was very unlikely that I had had a stroke, but did say that I should have a compete work-up of (very expensive) scans and such as soon as possible.

“Soon as possible” will probably be in October, when we plan a trip to Australia for several weeks.

Four hours after the episode I am feeling calmer and ready to go down to the pool area to get on the Web and post this. Probably, most people would consider me a foolishly bold individual, if you know what I mean. “Live hard and leave a mangled corpse behind.” is my mantra. However, I am terrified of mental disease. That’s probably because I have lived most of my life suspecting that I am crazy. Possibly that is because I am often unable to explain my own actions. That seems crazy to me.

Or, maybe I’m just like everybody else.

I love the Seal song, Crazy.

A man decides after seventy years,
That what he goes there for, is to unlock the door.
While those around him criticize and sleep…
And through a fractal on a breaking wall,
I see you my friend, and touch your face again.
Miracles will happen as we trip.

But we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We get a little crazy
No we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We are a little…

Peace.

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Hot Footing It in Fiji

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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Things are going nicely here in Fiji. I’ve found a bit of time to relax and read – almost as if I were on holiday. I have more leisure time now that I have been reminded by the magazines for which I write that the airline magazine does not fly to Fiji and the water sports magazine is interested only in PNG waters. There goes the idea of financing my trip by writing. I’m poorer, but less stressed by work. What I can’t sell, I don’t write. I may try my hand in some Australian magazines. I have never had a rejection slip. That means that I’m really good or I’m not submitting broadly enough. I suspect that the latter is true.

To celebrate the day evening before our forty-sixth wedding anniversary, we took a cab over to the Westin Hotel for some fire walking. The Westin is a classy joint:

We were going to attend one of those “culture shows” which I generally dislike intensely. I don’t want to sit around with a bunch of tourists and be entertained by a fake display of what the promoters know that the audience wants to see. I usually get much more information by wandering around and poking my nose into the daily affairs of people such as myself – those simply trying to get through life in one piece.

However, I have to say that the Westin Hotel in Nadi puts on the best of the cultural programs which I have seen. The Fijian culture is very rich in fascinating features. This show, in about three hours including dinner, hits the highlights in a very entertaining and informative manner.

What I first noticed when we arrived seemed to me to look as if someone had been careless with matches:

I soon discovered that is was the place where the fire walking would take place. At that point I decided that I had better begin paying a bit more attention to what was going on. Fierce warriors soon appeared:

Of course, everybody wants to have a photo with one of them. This was, by far, the cutest:

I’ve seldom seen a braver little girl.

Soon the preparations for the fire walking began in earnest:

There was a great deal of yelling, singing, chanting and hot-footing around to avoid the sparks. It was at this point that I realised that Fijian fire walking is unlike any other that I’ve seen.

The fire walking that I have seen before seems mostly fakery to me. It usually involves a lot of pseudo-spiritual clap-trap about this or that followed by thirty seconds of actual instruction concerning the correct method (run like hell) which will insure that you receive no injury from the nearly dead coals. Impressed, I’m not.

This was a whole different thing. This is the Real Deal. These rocks were so hot that it was uncomfortable to stand near them. Techniques varied wildly. This guy was in a hurry and just wanted to get through it:

While this fellow showed his contempt for the heat:

I suspect that he is much more practiced in the art.

I enjoyed the evening much more than I thought that I would. The meal was excellent with the exception of a horribly undercooked roast pig.

If you’re in Fiji, you don’t want to miss this attraction. It costs only 75 Fijian dollars, not including drinks.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S NOTE: This is about as far as you can push the Canon G11 and still get usable web-sized images. I shot most of these at ISO 800 or 1600 with shutter speeds ranging from 1/6 to 1/15 second at f 2.8. I braced against trees, rocks or anything I could find to reduce motion blur from camera movement. The subject motion blur sometimes added to the interest. I could have done a lot better if I had my NoiseNinja Pro filter installed on this laptop. It is superb at cleaning up digital noise. I had to use the noise filter in Photoshop, which is not nearly as good. However is still proves that the G11 is a usable camera in these difficult situations. You could spend ten times as much and not get better images for use on the web.

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Nadi – Hotel City

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Nadi (pronounced [ˈnandʒi]) is the third-largest conurbation in Fiji. It is located on the western side of the main island of Viti Levu, and had a population of 42,284 at the most recent census, in 2007. Nadi is multiracial with many of its inhabitants Indian or Fijian, along with a large transient population of foreign tourists. Along with sugar cane production, tourism is a mainstay of the local economy.

Well, that is obviously ripped right out of Wikipedia, but that’s okay, because I’m on holiday and I’m lazy.

In previous posts I have been spelling the name of the city as Nandi, because that it how it is invariably pronounced. I have asked several local people to pronounce the name of the city (getting some strange looks by doing so) and they all pronounce it as Nandi. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. It is, however, named on maps as Nadi. So much for my knowledge of geography.

Let’s go for a bus ride to the market:

The buses run every few minutes and cost only one Fiji dollar. They do rattle vigorously, but seem safe enough.

This is a shot of the market we visited, called Namaket:

It was very clean and well organised. Everybody was very polite and there were no hard-sell tactics. People were happy to explain items that you might not recognise.

You would probably not find a market in Fiji where kava could not be purchased:

The kava drink, which is an icon of Fijian culture, is mildly intoxicating and tastes to me much the same as muddy water. I’ll have more on kava later.

Taro is a staple in the local diet. I have seldom seen any this large:

This young fellow was proud of his taro and wanted to be in the shot.

Another staple is cassava, of which there were tonnes in long lines stacked for easy purchase:

Unlike some places where I have been, nobody was fussed about someone walking around taking pictures. Nobody asked for money. That’s good, since I never pay to take a picture. If someone asks for money, I just thank them and say no. I don’t back off and try to sneak a long shot.

If you are looking for bright colours to feed your camera, you can’t beat a market. Namaket was no exception:

Tonight we are going to a touristy function at another hotel featuring a kava ceremony and some other cultural performances. I’ve had kava before in a private home with a Fijian friend. It didn’t do much for me. Anyway, I’ll report the tourist version later.

I can’t finish without a giggle:

Your answer to this question will depend on your culture and your language. Would you like a nice cup of Coffee Barfi?

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Guest Shooter – Alison Raynor – Gob Smacked

Posted in Guest Shots, Humor on June 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ve barely had time for a night’s sleep here in Nandi, Fiji since I arrived. So, I’m going to give my crazy friend Ali Raynor a guest shoot today. It would not be possible for me to think of anything funnier than this, let alone write it, so I’m going to give you Ali’s email to me along with some images which will either look very familiar to you or will blow you mind, according to where you live. – Enjoy!

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Hey Jan,

Look out . . . I’m back!

I am slowly sifting through the thousands of pictures I took in PNG. (No G11 quality here, but I like to imagine that I have some interesting mementos.) I thought you would probably be one of the few people who might appreciate the attached. They are something you no doubt see on a daily basis, but not something you are not likely to see on a PNG postcard.

These guys came up to me at a POM 2nd hand clothes market and asked very politely if I would take their photo, which of course I agreed to do. I got them together and told them that I would “snap” on the count of three. They nodded and posed normally, but on three, the following is what happened!
You can imagine my surprise followed by my gales of laughter, when the guy on the left gave me this “right royal red gob full” and followed up with “Welcome to PNG”


His mate was pretty taken back at first, (as you can see in the picture) but when he saw my laughter and reaction, he got over his embarrassment and decided to get in on the act “Numba 1 Buai Man” was really amazed by my complete amusement and he started to laugh hysterically as well. He was so happy that I thought he was “COOL” rather than rude (as he may or may not have initially intended to be????) He was also happy that I asked for another picture. We parted laughing and pointing (at each other) and it was quite a lovely moment. Laughter is such a leveler.

In all my travels through PNG , I have tried in vain to capture a good shot of someone with a really fantastic (bad) “buai mouth” and even tho my chosen subjects have had no idea that I am secretly interested in their outstanding GOB, rather than their “beautiful face” (ha ha ), I have always found them to be totally self-conscious of the way their mouth looks, and will always shut their traps tight as soon as they agree to have a picture. Very frustrating indeed! So this little episode was a real blast for me!

How’s their shock value? How’s the humour? How’s the reality? I loved these guys!

Am I boring you yet? Tell me to stop!

PS  – Bad news about the fire, but well done with photos by your Lois Lane . . . they are quite spectacular!

Laters…
Love Ali

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Well, I can’t compete with that. However, I can show you what Eunie is up to:

Eunie is in the middle – look for the platinum blonde hair. One thing which encouraged me was that women made up a very significant proportion of the attendees.

Sounds boring, but it’s not. I’ve been sitting here all morning listening in. These folks are discussing some amazingly complex and interesting issues.

There have also been a few good laughs.

I’ll have more about it later.

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A Postcard from Fiji

Posted in Mixed Nuts on June 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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This will probably be the shortest post you will ever see on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi until someone writes my obit for me.

As the image below suggests, I am safe in Nandi, Fiji now with my VIP woman who has been hob-nobbiing with many influential South Pacific Islands people while I made my torturous way to her:

I’m so proud of my woman that I am now going to retire to my room and just think about it for a while. I picked up a bottle of nice Glenmorangie aged in French sherry casks.

I’m certain that will claarify my thoughts wonderfully.

I am happy again.

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