Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Night Out
By Michael

The thing looked off-kilter to CB and I.
Nobody in our party rode the wheel
that night.
“People shouldn’t be screaming on a Ferris wheel.” I said to my friend CB of Palarran. Along with Windy, Tawn, and the girls, we had swung by the opening festivities of the Savusavu (pop. 4,000) fair. The Ferris wheel was the star attraction and its rotating lights were visible from boats moored a mile up the creek.

“It’s turning about 10 RPM; that looks pretty fast for a Ferris wheel.”

“Yeah, look how the baskets of people are nearly flipping as they swing off the apex. I’m going to go check it out.”

It wasn’t an OSHA-approved amusement ride. It was a small gasoline motor connected to the differential of the axle of a Ford F-150 and turning both wheels. One wheel was superfluous and the other was connected to belts that wrapped around the entire circumference of the Ferris wheel, flapping and loose as they turned the giant homemade contraption.

“You know, anyone who sticks their arm out to the side is going to lose it on those supports—and those side braces don’t seem broad enough to offer much lateral stability.”

Explosions turned our attention as fireworks burst 200 feet above our heads. They were launched 20 feet from a rope barrier and some errant rockets shot off sideways into the crowd pushed up against it. People scattered and shrieked in puffs of smoke and bright flashes, but otherwise took it in stride. We tiny group of cruiser bystanders glanced at each other wide-eyed.

Cotton candy and popcorn vendors hawked from the perimeter of the rugby-field-turned-into-fairgrounds.

“It’s the most developed nation in the South Pacific, but they don’t yet have deep-fried Snicker bars.”

The fair came on the heels of Fiji Day, a national holiday that marks two dates nearly 100 years apart: October 10, 1874, when King Seru Epenisa Cakobau ceded Fiji to the United Kingdom, and October 10, 1970, when Fiji regained its independence.

For a full week, the focus in Fiji is celebrating its diversity. Unlike every other South Pacific nation we’ve spent time in thus far, Fiji has a diverse population, comprised primarily of indigenous Melanesian Fijians, Indian Fijians, and some ex-pats from New Zealand and Australia. These populations are comprised of Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. Nobody seems threatened by anyone else. When I hear “As-salaam-alaikum” exchanged in greeting between people in a shop, nobody around me calls the police fearing a terrorist act.

Last night, on the fair’s main stage (okay, only stage), an emcee introduced young women vying for a crown (“One of these Savusavu girls might be the next Miss Fiji!”). In turn, a half dozen women aged 18-30 introduced themselves before walking the catwalk in a sarong while the emcee announced the symbolism of their garment. The beauty of Fiji and the value of its diversity were reoccurring themes. The following video is of one of the contestants, a young woman sponsored by the Public Service Commission.


Like stealing candy from a baby.

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