Work and Play in the Happy Isles – Fiji

15/11/2013

Working in a tropical paradise can have its drawbacks. For one, many of the people flying anywhere in and around Fiji (and the Pacific at large) are doing so for leisure. So while I’m bustling about on the plane trying to find space for my cumbersome laptop, they’re patting their handbags double-checking their sunscreen bottle is still in there. While I’m madly thinking over what needs to be done to get the most out of my time on the ground, they’re planning which little island to day trip to. You get my drift.

There’s also the time I flew in to Fiji for work a few years ago on Valentine’s Day, fresh from a devastating relationship breakup. The flight from Brisbane was replete with honeymooning couples (as it often is, I’ve come to notice), all shiny-eyed and lovingly ensconced in glorious bubbles of romance. When we landed, I bundled myself in to my taxi ride to Suva faster than you can say, ‘would you like a complimentary welcome cocktail, sir, ma’am?’.

So, yes. It is an idyllic place to work, but coupled with the fact that there is often precious little time to actually enjoy the beautiful surrounds, it’s much like any work trip – exhausting, tending towards manic, and a bit all-consuming. Having said that, I love what I do so I’m more than happy to dive deeply in to my work while I’m there, and possibly dip my toes in the sand after a long day’s work (that is, if I’m anywhere near a beach, if I’m in Suva then I can nix that idea).

During my most recent trip I was so happy to be out and about in a number of rural areas and some pretty stunning beachside locales including the beautiful island of Taveuni. And I even got a bit of time off, which was a treat and a half.

Work

As I mentioned a little bit about in a post I wrote before I went away, we were in Fiji primarily doing scoping in communities for an approach to building entrepreneurs and enterprises that works with the current strengths and assets of communities, aiming to build resilience and ensure long term sustainability of any activity that’s undertaken.

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Our local partners on the ground are fantastic, the communities we went to were amazingly interesting, varied, complex, and I think I drank enough ceremonial kava to sink a naval fleet. It was such a treat to connect with, listen to and speak with so many different people – each with a unique story or perspective on what was going on in their village or community.

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I absolutely LOVE field work, can’t you tell? It’s a time when I truly light up and my heart sings with glee at the veritable glut of stimuli coming at me, to process, reflect on and get rolling with.

Insightful, fun, fulfilling, rewarding, amazing people – it was all this and more. I felt like I’d been away for months when I got back, and it was only upon returning that my colleague and I realised how deep we’d gone while we were in Fiji, we had significant culture shock coming back home and to the office.

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Play

I managed to contract a bug just before my first day off, so that Sunday was literally a day of rest while I lay prostrate praying for the virus to move quickly through me. Thankfully it was gone in about 48 hours, but sheesh, yucksville. During this trip I’m happy to report I was able to take a couple of days off for rest and recuperation, on the island of Taveuni. Which of course I spent racing around not resting and instead trying to see everything I could in a very short period of time. This *may* or may not have anything to do with me feeling utterly spent at the end of our trip.

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So while I was on Taveuni I choofed myself off to see the International Dateline (180 degrees longitude, the Greenwich equivalent on our side of the world), the rock pool slides, and Rainbow Reef.

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Oh. Em. Gee. Rainbow Reef is absolutely amazing. I’ve dived in a few amazing spots but absolutely nothing compares to the colour and clarity I saw there. It was literally like I was swimming in an aquarium. While I didn’t scuba dive this time (flying out the next day I didn’t want to risk the bends) I had a great time free diving (without a tank) and snorkelling.

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I could see so much in every direction I didn’t even feel like I was missing out. I kept on wanting to take photos with my non-existent underwater camera. So instead, here’s a photo I found which captures a little sliver of the magnificence that lies beneath those crystalline greeny-blue waves in the Somosomo passage off Taveuni, pasted above. Pretty, huh?

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Dive

What more is there to say other than the place is stunning and you have to put it on your to-do list if you’re keen on diving and immersing yourself in a nature-lover’s paradise? There was SO much more to do and see than what I had time for, so I’m not quite ready to put it on my ‘done’ list just yet. I will definitely be back.

Maybe even for a holiday? In this tropical paradise I think I could manage that just fine.

Someone pass me that complimentary cocktail.

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Have you had any work or play adventures in Fiji? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Taveuni underwater photo source

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