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
We’re at reception waiting to check out, moving like we’re in quicksand. Annie’s fighting through layers of bubbles and Malibu to get words out, and my brain is marinated in lard and sugar. Attempting to sound formal and sober, Annie ends up complimenting the quality of the resort maybe twelve times, describing in detail the “lov-ee-lee pin-napples” in the garden. The woman behind the counter, whose passion is reading, nods politely and counts out our change.
Our shuttle isn’t due to pick us up for another five hours, so we can store our bags at reception and wander out to the pool area. Annie scans the scene and declares that the men are fails and that we’re going to another resort. We go to the desk to get clean towels branded with our resort’s colours. All the resorts have this, a shack with hundreds of balled-up matching towels for guests. It saves you the effort of bringing your own while also ensuring a certain level of uniformity. We head along the path, Annie slugging from the bottle of Malibu.
By the time we get to the next resort Annie has finished the bottle. She’s looking dopey. We find some loungers, she declares that naps are definitely, actually, definitely a thing, and she goes to sleep.
I sit and read, enjoying the silence. It lasts for maybe fifteen minutes before we are politely asked to leave, from a man who deals with conflict as well as I do. “Ma’am, and hello, and I do hope you’re enjoying your holiday, and there is a procedure, and it means we look at the towels, and the towels here are brown, and management, and blue towels, and it is procedure, and…”. He continues stringing together words, misery in his eyes at having to talk to me at all, and I’m worried he might actually cry. I apologise as much as I can, managing to fit ‘sorry’ into a single sentence three times, and wake Annie up.
“Yep, let’s go” she says. “Are bubbles a thing?” she asks, following up with “WOW, I am hot! Is sunblock a thing?”
I worry she might ask if a thing is a thing and faint from the circular argument.
We head out, deciding to walk to the end of Denerau to visit the Hilton. We pad down onto the beach and look at the white buildings in the distance. We look at the buildings, and at the sand, and at each other, and we sigh, and turn around to trudge back to where we started.
We get some loungers with an ocean view, and soon, Alan joins us. Annie peers over her sunglasses at two men playing ping pong. “Oh, hello muscles” she mutters, and she’s gone.
She’s back a minute later. “I challenged this like, father of 50, and said the winner can come get me, and I’ll be over there. Here, I mean. Oh. They better not come get me. I will vomit all over the table. Is that a thing?”
Without pausing she announces that she could smaaash a glass of bubbles. Right on cue, Alan sorts it out for us, two glasses of chilled fizziness arriving. Then two more. Then two more. Muscles appears to tell her that she can play his dad at ping pong, and she leaps out of her lounger to do it. She’s had seventeen glasses of bubbles today, with no food, and I’m flabbergasted that she’s managed to stand up, let alone play a competitive sport.
I go back to my book. Despite the fact that the ping pong table is on the other side of the pool, I can hear Annie’s “WOW, oh WOW” echoing all around me. When I turn around I see her scurrying after the ping pong ball, hands outstretched, grasping at air as the ball rolls away.
It appears that the bubbles have put her at a slight competitive disadvantage.
Alan, meanwhile, strikes up a conversation with the woman on the other side of us, who’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey. He opens with, “Oh, that’s that, um, chick porn is it?”, giving her no option but to admit to a stranger that she’s reading pornography or to try to defend herself. She picks the latter, struggling to make the case that there’s a plot. Now, I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, and there’s no plot. She knows it, and I’m sure she knows I know it, and she soon gives up and abandons the conversation.
Annie shuffles back over. I asked how it went, and she is oddly surprised that she was defeated. She tries to read but apparently her book is a fail. She puts it down and announces that we need to take some more photos. We have maybe fifty images of ourselves smiling in front of a Fijian background, but Annie’s suddenly panicked that we won’t have enough to fill the required Facebook album.
She hangs off me and we pose. We remember that for optimal results, I stand on the right and she stands on the left, that we angle our faces in, that we don’t put arms on shoulders, and that our chins go out, not in. Getting all of that right is a lot to manage, so it probably shouldn’t be surprising that we accidentally take all of the photos with the sun directly behind us, and that Annie has her eyes closed in most of them.
Our shuttle is due to pick us up at 5pm, and at 4.30pm, I tell her we have to go have a shower. It should only take ten minutes, but I remember back to what happened when we tried to pack, and I figure we can’t risk it.
It turns out this was a good plan, as it takes her fifteen minutes alone to negotiate her limbs out of the lounger and for us to reach the lobby bathroom. It’s only after she emerges from the shower that she realises she hasn’t brought any underwear with her, leaving her the option of wearing a wet bikini or going commando in see-through cotton pants.
She hikes the pants up and down, attempting to keep her modesty protected, declaring that she definitely doesn’t need all of Fiji seeing her freaking gyne.
“You can’t even tell” I assure her, which is technically true. Of course, we’re in a dimly lit bathroom, and I imagine it’ll be a different story in the light of day, but I don’t want to miss our shuttle.
When we get back to the lobby she declares the situation “just, unacceptable”, and rummages in her suitcase for knickers, scampering off to the ladies to put them on. “I’m just, just going to say bye to Alan, too” she yells, as the shuttle pulls up. I have a vision of us stranded in Fiji for another week, but our driver is clearly used to such delays, and doesn’t mind waiting, thrilled to hear that we’re from New Zealand and we’ve enjoyed Fiji and bula bula vinaka.
“Tearful? Emotional?” I ask when she arrives back and clambers into the van. She mutters “couldn’t find him” and pulls a bag of salt and vinegar chips from her handbag, managing to get half the contents on her lap and half into her face.
She wrenches open the little window and squeezes her face out, looking like a cat emerging from its tiny door. I’m worried she’s going to be sick, but no, she just wants to shout “bula!” at other cars, giggling when they honk back.
Our van crosses a bridge from Denerau into Nadi, and it’s like stepping into another world. We shuttle past colourful houses with brightly patterned clothes hanging from haphazard lines. Chickens roam about with no fences between them and the road. We pass a horse, tied to nothing, lazily chewing from a tree. The van manoeuvres around potholes and children in school uniforms, dodging groups of laughing women in floral dresses. It’s dusty and messy and I want to be out in it.
Meanwhile, Annie has decided that leaning her head on the window, to sleep? It is definitely a thing.
To be continued…