13. Fit for Purpose

  1. 01. Fiji…Again?
  2. 02. Fun & Games
  3. 03. Growing Indigenation
  4. 04. Coup de Grâce?
  5. 05. Friends Go Away
  6. 06. Mercy by Coup, Merci Beaucoup
  7. 07. It’s Nice to be Needed
  8. 08. Walk Like A Man
  9. 09. Extreme Retirement
  10. 10. Get a Grip
  11. 11. Dangerous Cargo
  12. 12. Drinking in the Holiday Season
  13. 13. Fit for Purpose
  14. 14. Emotion Sickness
  15. 15. New Fiji’s Eve
  16. 16. One Helluva Christmas
  17. 17. Enough is Enough

We had just sat down for breakfast. I began my morning hand-waving exercises, trying to get the attention of any coffee-bearing person. Shirley arrived and pulled her chair in close, leaning over the table as if she had some state secret to share.

“Just after you left last night, this guy…” Her eyeballs rolled into their left corners as if to gesture at the man at a distant table, as far away as he could be and still be in the restaurant. He was white and woozy, slumped over an empty plate. His female companion sat across from him, unable to attract his gaze, regarding him as if she wished he were a bit farther away.

“This guy…” Shirley continued, “…walked into our cabin asking ‘Where’s the party?’ I told him ‘No party here!’, but it didn’t seem to register. Lucy got up, I could tell it was a fight or flight response and she was not about to fly, you know? She said something like ‘You’d best be getting along’, but he ignored her, too. Lucy doesn’t take well to feeling threatened or ignored. So, like, all hell is about to break loose when Aydell pokes his head around the divider. I guess he heard the commotion from next door. ‘Is there a problem here?’ he asks. The guy just says ‘Where’s the party?’ again, but this time he leaves.”

Lucy arrived, an eyebrow raised in puzzlement at the sight of the three of us huddled and giggling and pointing like eight-year-olds in a sex ed class. “Coffee’s on its way…” she announced, having harnessed the coffee server —good ol’ Lucy. “But you three are up to no good…” She sat down.

“Had some excitement last night?” Frank laughed loudly, all four of us now turning our heads to look at the perpetrator with such obviousness that his lady friend put a hand in front of her face and looked away, in good humour but embarrassed just the same.

Meanwhile another resort guest traversed the restaurant to engage the culprit, still slumped and faceless. He put his hand on his shoulder, asking “Feeling better this morning?”

The woman sighed audibly, then smiled and dropped her napkin into her unfinished breakfast. She touched her partner’s hand while whispering something to him, then arose and left via the back stairs. Her party man followed. I never saw either of them again.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning with a stiff wind, so I determined that it was time to get my stunt kite in the air. A “stunt kite” is a kite with two strings attached rather than one, enabling the flyer to better control its direction. If one knows what one is doing, one can make it perform stunts. I was under the impression I knew what I was doing.

My father was a naval architect and aeronautical engineer, vocations which dovetailed nicely with his avocation of sailing. His overwhelming love of sailing was perhaps most clearly demonstrated by raising eight children who developed a lifelong aversion to the sport, myself included. Dad’s technical pursuit of perfection and fatherly fear of inadvertently killing his children combined to turn him into something of a Captain Bligh, micro-managing his indentured crew. Everything but everything had to be done just so, “or people died.” Not surprisingly, his offspring took him at his word, becoming experts on boating safety. At one point or another we each realised that the safest place to be was elsewhere than on a boat. Moreover, there were certainly more pleasant places to be than on a boat with Dad.

It must be a yet-to-be-discovered genetic defect that attracts me to mucking around on boats when every such experience leaves me yearning for its end. As the old saying goes, sailing strikes me “like standing fully-clothed under a cold shower, tearing up one-hundred dollar bills.”

Nevertheless, I inherited the salt water in my veins and the wind of my breath. I am a sea-level kind of guy, most comfortable on the coastal plain or an ocean beach. I get altitude sickness at 8,000 feet, so it is no coincidence that low-lying Australia is my favourite continent. While I have no fear of heights, I consider anything above the fortieth floor to be the outer suburbs, too far from the street level action. Places like Lhasa and La Paz, capital cities 12,000 feet above sea level, are not high on my “must visit” list.

The wind fascinates me without ambiguity. I love the wind, from cool summer breezes to warm winter chinooks, from biting artic gales to tropical cyclones. I marvel at a well-designed paper airplane soaring off a skyscraper’s eddies. I find the graceful swirl of a thirty-story electricity-producing wind turbine a wonder to behold. The brutal destruction of a hurricane is a humbling reminder of my mortality and insignificance.

My inability to sit still on a beach for more than ten minutes has caused a lifelong love affair with kites. You see, with kites, I can pursue technical excellence, yet mediocrity will do. Even if everything isn’t “just so”, nobody dies.

Usually.

As I mentioned earlier, I had purchased my stunt kite for seven bucks, a mark-down in the centre aisle at Aldi. I am something of an Aldi fan for packaged groceries. It seems their strategy is to offer just one brand, sometimes two, of each packaged good. Usually I’d characterise their offering as a good-quality imitation of the leading brand – and sometimes it is the actual leading brand. But I don’t buy a whole lot of packaged groceries, preferring to buy fresh from the green grocers at the local public market. I certainly shouldn’t comment on Aldi’s fresh meats, fruits or vegetables, which I rarely purchase – rarely because I am leery, perhaps irrationally so.

On the other hand, things I’ve purchased from Aldi’s centre aisle – hard goods, merchandise, “stuff” – has pretty consistently left me disappointed. There always seems to be something, well, not quite right about it. Not defective, mind you, but then not entirely “fit for purpose” either.

This probably should have occurred to me when I grabbed that seven dollar stunt kite. The mark-down price might have tipped me off. That it was heavy enough to rip through the bag on the way home could have tipped me off. That I had failed to get it in the air the previous Christmas despite a nice breeze should have made me the wiser. That the people at the airport considered it dangerous cargo ought to have rung some bells. But, no, my unambiguous love of the wind sent me scurrying to beach to send it aloft, Frank dutifully assisting.

20141222 Stunt KitingWe let out about fifty meters of string and pulled it taut, Frank with the kite and me at the helm. A sudden gale ripped the kite from Frank’s hands, shooting it upwards. The wings flapped with a rocket-like roar, alarming several guests who emerged from their bures to see what was going on. It was glorious. For about three seconds.

20141222 KiteAs I mentioned before, I was under the misapprehension that I knew what I was doing. It quickly came to my attention that I did not. To the contrary, I was soon aware that I had something of a tiger by the tail. This was a heavy kite with a sharp nose, and it was coming down, fast and right at Frank, who watched with increasing concern.

Shooook-WHAM!!20141222 Kite dive bombing

The plummeting kite brushed within an inch of Frank’s head, embedding itself nearby, deep in the hardened sand flat, giving some indication as to what it might have done to Frank’s head. Maybe Dad was right, I thought.

“Hey!” Frank protested, astonished and just a bit angry. “Do you know what you’re doing?”

“Um, well, ya, ‘course.” I assured him. “Let’s try that again, only this time, after you let go, RUN AWAY!”

“No shit.” Frank agreed.

We got another half dozen flights in, a few lasting several minutes, none decapitating Frank. In the end, I decided the kite was not entirely fit for purpose. I will probably give it to someone I don’t like.

 

Later that afternoon Shirley stopped by our bure, rousting us from a nap. “Coming up for the cooking lesson?”

“Ooh, ooh, I forgot!” I was looking forward to learning about Fijian cooking. I scrambled to get dressed, kicking Frank. “C’mon, you, after I’m dead you’re going to have to cook something other than scrambled eggs. And its free!” Frank was less enthusiastic, but obliged.

The three of us trod off to the restaurant, which was just closing up after lunch. “Where’s the cooking lesson?” we chirped eagerly. The staff didn’t look too happy to see us. “Wait over there” a woman clearing tables told us, pointing at the platform which held the band and the salad bar.

After about ten minutes – I think they figured out that we weren’t going anywhere until we got a cooking lesson – the head of a businesslike young woman popped out from a hidden door in the wall behind us. We jumped in unison, startled, when the disembodied head on the wall asked “Cooking lesson?” in a tone suggesting the words “You three? Really?” and “Don’t be wasting my time.” Gathering a minimum of composure, we all nodded like bobble-heads. She broke out in a wry smile of the sort a chemistry teacher gets before having students perform an experiment that smells really, really bad. “Just a minute!”

Her head receded and the wall closed. On the other side we could hear that orders were being issued while plates clattered and ferocious chopping ensued. As advertised, a minute later, the entirety of the businesslike young woman emerged from the kitchen, dressed in pristine chef’s whites. “I am Litia, Head Chef.”

“Aha!” I said to myself. “We ARE wasting her time.”

A cook brought out a tray containing a dozen small bowls, each with a different finely chopped ingredient, and one large empty bowl. Litia flourished her hand over the platter, announcing “Today you will learn how to make traditional Fijian kokoda!”

“First, put the cubed fish in the lime juice. This cooks it. We did this for you earlier.”  She dumped the fishy-looking finely chopped ingredient into the large bowl.

“Then you add the other ingredients.” She dumped the finely chopped shallots, red peppers, green peppers, cucumber, chili pepper, red onion, coriander, and tomato into the large bowl.

“Then, you add the coconut cream and stir.” After five quick swipes, she scooped some of the concoction into bowls, and handed it to us. “Traditional Fijian kokoda! Any questions?”

“Um, does it matter what kind of fish you use?” I asked.

“No, not really. Firm white fish is best.”

That was that. We wouldn’t be wasting much of her time after all. I have to admit, it was delicious. And I did learn something about Fijian cooking, which is that from all appearances it is remarkably efficient.

The evening of Day Two at the Wananavu Beach Resort passed much as the first had, only without the late night visitor. I was enjoying a “do-not-much-of-anything” resort stay for the first time in my life. I guess it helps, or helps me, anyway, to go such places with people I like. It’s a shame there aren’t more of them.

SK

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