Back in Nadi to buy some fresh produce before heading back out to the islands. I still haven't made it out to Musket Cove. I will get to it. Maybe. In the meantime I have been hanging out with Fijian islanders. They are much easier to meet than the mostly Australian tourists up here on holiday. I am convinced that suburban white people from first world countries have about the worst social skills imaginable. They pay hundreds of dollars a day to sit on a beach, and as one Fijian laughingly told me, "to sit and read books". It is like being in a cafe back in California. Nobody talks to each other. "Don't bother me, can't you see I am busy reading." Crap books too. A lot of pulp thriller type stuff you see waiting in line in those suburban supermarkets.
Fijians are about the friendliest people I have met out of the nearly forty countries I have visited on this cruise. If eye contact lasts for more than a glance, the arm moves up for a handshake without skipping a beat. You learn the basics of each other's stories. "You on the yacht?" "You by yourself?" "You want some cassava to take with you to eat tonight?" I admit that being a yachtie does have its advantages. I will crash the grounds of some resort, meet the staff (all Fijians from the nearby village) and once it has been established I am from the yacht and not a guest, I am in. I have had the cook at a posh resort offer me some food that he cooked for the guests and when I hesitate explaining I didn't pay the expensive meal price, "Don't worry, take it to the staff area and eat there". Most of the Fijians at these resorts are getting paid a dollar and a half per hour US. At this price, labor is cheap and there are loads of staff at these resorts. They look like extras on a movie set. Friendly and authentic island village faces selected to create a certain ambiance. The pay starts to sound especially bad when you see the price charged at some of these places. Cocktails are between ten to fifteen dollars US. The bures (cabins) range from about 130 US to 400 US per night! This isn't lost on the local islanders at all. They all complained to me since once again, I am the on the yacht and not a guest. To keep things interesting, I will tie the hair back, talk like a serious and rational white man, and mention that "I am on the yacht anchored out front". Do this and suddenly I am chatting amicably with the older Australian owners at the swank bar. Just to stir the pot, I will ask in a voice of concern, "Did you know that your staff is openly complaining to the yachts about low pay? I had one tell me "I am a slave."" They aren't surprised. One owner mimicked the staff, gesturing with his hand out "We aren't getting paid enough!" implying that they were trying to gain some sympathy and of course, money from me. "These people were living in grass shacks before we got here!" "Instead of hiring one barman who actually moves, I have to hire three" "Our labor costs are about the same as anywhere else". "We do have people getting paid a real salary but they have credentials and experience from abroad". The owners were quick to mention all the extra benefits they provide for the village including paying for every one's education all the way up to university whether they work at the resort or not. When I asked how many actually take advantage of this the owner did mention that they recently changed the rules on how the resort pays. Now, the family has to front the money and the student must finish and only after they finish will the resort reimburse the costs. Clever indeed... The owners also mentioned that they were buying laptops and getting an Internet signal installed in the village! Grass shacks to Facebook in less than a generation.... Globalization proceeds faster than ever. Well, what can you do...
There were a few other French boats anchored off and they were getting the same perspective as I was. After the bigger picture had sunk in, we all stared at the tourists. One French crew person said, "These tourists are in a completely different world, do you think they know what is going on?" The verdict amongst the cruisers, except for the one who asked, was yes, they know... How does the Cohen song go again?
"Everybody knows the deal is rotten,
old black Joe is still picking cotton
for your ribbons and bows
and everybody knows"