Packing up and moving countries is always a stressful time, no matter how often I have gone through the process or how organized in advance I plan to be. I am a check- lists-and-plans kind of girl but there are always last minute papers to sign, accounts to close, documents to save and various sequencing events to make sure one is not done before the other.
It was the eve of our final full day in Fiji when felt I could start to relax after all the farewells, taking in the “lasts” of everything- the last view, the last sunset, the last tropical flowers from the market, the last waves of the Pacific Ocean over my toes, the last happy hour at the Holiday Inn with friends, the last coffee overlooking the ocean, the last….you get the picture! When a phone call came presenting a last-minute, kink-in-the-ol-plans moment. We had an offer on our vehicle, just as the moving company was ready to load it into the container. This hadn’t been the plan and even though I tried to be positive and adaptable, it nearly broke my stride!
After agreeing to the sale and making a list of what was needed to finalize it, I went to bed knowing the next day would take me to the Bank, the Revenue and Customs offices(FRCA), Land and Transport Authority(LTA) and Sun Insurance. Not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily only one visit to each office required as some documents needed to be signed first by the bank, then FRCA, then back to the bank…but not before getting some document from the insurance company, which they couldn’t release until I had the other document from FRCA. Sigh. Oh yes, I was going to attempt this all in one day…not very Fiji- time at all!
As I set out the next day, at least in my own vehicle which wasn’t in a container on a ship (small mercy!), I offered up a small prayer in hope that all went smoothly, that I had all the right documentation, all the required signatures, in all the right sequence, with patience and serenity to last me the day.
Here are a few stories detailing the most amazing, interesting and positive Fiji morning, (YES done in one morning!) full of good connections and vibes…
Story #1: FRCA- Girl Power
Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority was my first visit. Although pleasant greetings awaited me, I was quickly informed that I did not have all the required documentation with me, despite my previous visit to ascertain what was all needed. Deep breath and smile wavering, I explained our situation that we were sadly departing Fiji and that I really needed to get this done today. I didn’t expect much, but I had to try.
The ladies assisting me looked at each other with knowing looks and said, let’s see what we can do to help this lady. And they delivered! They went to colleagues and made requests, bearing the documentation I did have and making phone calls to get the information that was missing. I was in awe and so pleasantly surprised at their efficiency, kindness and professionalism. It almost made me burst into tears. Oh Fiji!
Story #2: LTA- Baby talk
The Land Transport Authority queues are long and I have made a few visits in the past for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. I entered the office buoyed by the efficiency from FRCA and felt the good luck resting lightly on my shoulders. After a mere 45 minutes of waiting for my number to be called, I approached the counter. The same feeling of anxiety washed over me…do I have all the papers, signed documents, the right sequence, the signatures, the money, etc. etc. I have been turned away in the past for not having done the paperwork in the right sequence. Again I was greeting with a warm Bula and a big smile and assured that everything was in order. The process was handled quickly and efficiently, all the while chatting about the lovely Fiji Islands, what I would miss, how sad I would be to leave, and whether or not any new babies were born to me during my time there! Oh Fiji!
Story #3: Also in the LTA- Kung-fu Fighting
While waiting for my number to be called, another story was brewing. The security officer selected a movie to play on the waiting room TV. I thought, wow, how awesome to be able to watch a movie while I wait! On occasion I would look up from my phone (yes FB!) to see what was going on in the movie and found that it was an Action movie and was quite violent. There was shooting and fighting and swearing (subtitled with the sound off!). I found that was a bit odd but went back to my FB feed to watch goats jump around and cute kitten videos. I looked up again at the TV and a scantily- clad ninja-like fighter had joined the good guys and was high- kicking the villain rather ferociously. This now started to feel very odd indeed and I looked around the room to see if anyone else was watching and thinking this was quite inappropriate. Besides myself and one other lady with her young daughter, the room was full of men and most were watching TV. No looks of dismay were registering on their faces. I looked back at the TV just in time to catch 5 topless women in bed with a man! You’ve got to be kidding me?! Ok, I could no longer stay quiet and called across the room to the security guard, “I am very surprised that this kind of movie is allowed to be played in a government office!”. Yes, the crazy, blonde foreigner was making a scene. The guard blushed profusely, jumped up and removed his flash drive from the TV and put the regular programming on. No back-talk, no telling me to mind my own business. He apologized to me and quickly looked to see if any officials had heard what I had said. Obviously they were unaware or didn’t care what was playing in their waiting room. Everyone else in the waiting room remained quiet and avoided my gaze with great intensity. Oh Fiji!
Story #4: McDonald’s tradition
Oh yes, after 3 1/2 years of living in Suva, I thought it was time to visit McDonald’s and have a vanilla shake and fries. It seemed fitting to me to have McDonald’s while packing up our home as it reminded me of my childhood. Moving food! While proceeding though the Drive Thru, I watched the car in front of me receive their drinks and order on the driver’s side at the Pick Up window. On the passenger side of the car, they were receiving freshly opened coconuts from a man with a machete! The juxtaposition of traditional and modern colliding in one car just made me smile and tear up a little! It also made me want coconut water instead of the sticky, sweet milkshake and I quickly regretted my order. Oh Fiji!