Fiji Isn't Always Paradise (Part 2)


In last week’s installment I talked about four reasons why I dislike living in Fiji. This week I’ll cover four more.

Healthy food is very expensive or unavailable

It’s an unfortunate reality that living on an island results in high food costs. Virtually everything has to be imported, and the cost of that is handed down to the shopper. Food in general is expensive here, but fruits and vegetables and meats are very expensive. And sometimes even when you are willing to pay the high prices, you are still out of luck because those items aren’t even always in stock.

Just today I was only able to find about half of the items I went to the store for. No broccoli (it’s rare that it’s here but sometimes it’s on the shelf for weeks on end) and no almond milk (there is one store in town that often carries it, which in and of itself is a miracle. But for the last few weeks it hasn’t been on the shelf. I hope this doesn’t mean it’s gone permanently). No green beans. No roti (Indian bread like tortillas). Instead I bought three mandarin oranges because they happened to be on the shelf (I’ve only seen them twice in the 8 months I’ve been here). They cost me $6.00. I almost put them back when I saw the price but decided to splurge instead since citrus is so rare here and I don’t want to die of scurvy. I really miss having a plethora of food choices. The fruits and vegetables here are so limited. I miss berries. I’ve never seen berries for sale here. I miss snap peas and snow peas. I miss zucchini. I miss fresh basil. I miss peaches and avocados.

Shopping here is not only expensive, it’s like a scavenger hunt! You ask yourself “which store will have the items I need today?” and then you run all over town trying to collect as many items as you can find on your list. If you find something you need, you might consider stocking up as that product might never again appear in any store within a hundred mile radius. I felt like stocking up the day that broccoli magically appeared in the store. Even with the exorbitant price tag. Too bad you can’t stock up on broccoli the way you can with canned goods.

People will harass you on the street

Another unfortunate reality of South Pacific island living is that if you are a white expat, you will stand out. And if you are a single white female you will stand out even more. You can kiss wanting to blend in goodbye. Some days it just amuses me when every driver that passes me on the street honks at me, or when the car’s occupants hang out the window to look back at me as they pass.

Sometimes it’s mildly amusing when people call out to me as they drive or walk by. But most days it just gets old after a while. Especially when I am walking alone and have to pass creepy old men who want to call me sexy or beautiful on the way by. It gets old when people approach me for money. When people touch me – intentionally – as they walk by. And it’s also annoying when people bump into you on purpose. Or when they come running up from behind only to slow down to a walk as they draw alongside you. And then they walk with you the entire rest of the way. Just last week I had a 15 or 16 year old boy approach me as I was walking home. He told me “you look nice, can I f@%# you?” What. On. Earth? I kept walking but just ahead were three more boys. Were they all together? I wasn’t sure. That brings me to the next point.

It’s not safe

The school I am with here won’t let any of us walk home at night. Even with other teachers. And the locals constantly tell me “oh it’s not safe for you to walk outside at night.” It’s frustrating to feel like a prisoner in your own home. And it’s taken me a while to get used to the idea of having to be home before dark. When I lived in Moscow there were many, many nights I made it home well after dark. In fact I think most nights I was walking home in the dark. I miss having that freedom. But truth be told, there really isn’t anything to go do here after dark. Which brings up another point:

It’s boring

Perhaps it’s because I’m from Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in Europe’s largest city, the true “city that never sleeps” – Moscow, but I find Fiji incredibly boring. Honestly there is not much to do here. No ice skating rinks. No amusement parks. No Broadway shows or big shopping malls or nice parks to stroll through. No big museums or exhibits. No professional sporting events to attend unless you like rugby.

The big event of the year is a small carnival in Suva where several odd Ferris Wheels pop up and everyone in town goes to ride a Ferris Wheel and wander around. That’s it. That’s the only ride they offer. At least they have about 5 or 6 Ferris Wheels to accommodate the crowds. But if you don’t like Ferris Wheels (and here they hurl around at breakneck speed) then you are out of luck.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nature in abundance once you get away from the congested, dirty city. And I love nature. I could spend all day marveling at all of God’s creation. But on a Friday night after work you can’t exactly go for a hike. You can’t really go anywhere. In the city where I live, population approximately 30,000, there isn’t even a good coffee shop to go relax in. And really, you can only go to the beach so much before you need a change of pace, a little culture.

I could go on and talk about the incredibly slow and unreliable internet, the oppressively hot and humid climate, the lack of hygiene, the mangy stray dogs that roam the streets because there is no place to take them, the burglaries and many, many more things that make Fiji a less-than-stellar place for expat living, but I think you get the idea. It’s just not really the paradise that everyone makes it out to be. Sure the resorts are paradise, but that is only a tiny glimpse of Fijian life and to be honest, it’s not even Fijian life, it’s tourist life. Most Fijians could never, ever afford to stay at a local resort. The national minimum wage is $1.15 USD an hour. Let that sink in for a minute.

Have you visited Fiji? Have you lived here? There is a definitely a big difference between the two.

Read Part 1 here