Trip Reports

A Little White Lau (03-Aug-2001-06-30):
6:30 PM local time Friday, August 3rd. (0630 August 3rd UTC) 18 07 S 178 25 E. Temp. 81, Humidity 82%, cloud cover 100%. At anchor at the Royal Suva Yacht Club, Suva, Fiji.

As luck would have it, soon after your correspondent sent the last post, Ship's Street Guide Terry Shrode and I were strolling down the lane in Suva and were approached by a friendly gentleman who volunteered rather proudly that he himself was from the fabled Lau Group. So your busybody Captain, in the very politest tone he could summon, asked him why it was that we cruisers were not permitted to visit what must be one of the most wonderful places in the world, and here the reader will note a bit of exaggeration by way of flattery to soften the cheeky nature of the question. Mr. "I'm proud to be from Lau" acted as though I had suddenly begun speaking Swedish, and muttered something like, "It's one hundred miles east of here." This man was on holiday in the big city, dressed in modern clothes, spoke good English (not the native tongue- where did he learn it?), and could not possibly have mistaken us for anything other than what we were, yachties from elsewhere or beyond. I bet he's seen a few Britney Spears videos, too, not to mention Get Smart. Why did he even seek us out for conversation and tell us without prompting where he lived? Didn't he realize the prohibition might be a source of, at the very least, curiosity on our part? He probably thought we'd never be impolite enough to ask; but no. So I asked again, thinking perhaps he didn't hear me. Same response. Can their culture really be that fragile? Is it like Bolinas? The Amish live right in the belly of the beast with no fear.

Musical notes: Mr. Shrode and the Captain have seen far less Polynesian or Melanesian (we're technically in Melanesia now) music than we would have liked. One reason is that because we tend to vaguely adhere to our watch schedules even when in harbor so that we don't fall asleep when we get underway, Mr. Shrode retires early. The Captain, who stays up, generally does not take the dinghy into town at late hours by himself to observe the local culture as he might have twenty-five years ago. But the other night we actually went out after dinner to a club that had a band. Two guitars, bass, drums, keyboard, and a chick singer. They sang modern Fijian pop music, which was very palatable indeed, to an empty house and the Captain felt right at home. Every song featured astounding four part harmonies, based on traditional singing, that they performed effortlessly. I asked them if they had a CD out and they seemed surprised, since they considered themselves just an ordinary cover band. And in fact it appears that all the bands in this area are capable of the same kind of impressive singing, so it's tres ordinaire. Further: How does the style of having the bass turned up really loud in your car stereo so that it's muddy and distorted, the way the kids under 35 do back in the US, become a fad in the South Pacific with a completely different kind of music? Or, maybe not that different. The pop hits of America are ubiquitous, but even slightly more interesting, you be the judge, is that native music here and in other parts of the South Pacific is now routinely recorded using sequencers so that it sounds ever so modern. You can in Fiji hear these records, as well as equally modern East Indian recordings, on the FM stations which are, like American stations, formatted for different demographic units. Unfortunately, this means that the Fijians listen to their stations and the Indians listen to theirs. Some of our readers will remember when, in the fifties, there was no formatting, and you would hear Little Richard right before Patti Page and right after Buck Owens. The Captain believes that that catholic arrangement was in the long run really better for all concerned, however many awkward times there may have been when Mitch Miller had his moment.

Here in Fiji, the political problems seem to boil down to the fact that there are two main groups, each of which believes the other has too much power. Quite original. Otherwise the crew of Maverick is a bit out of touch with world affairs, getting as we do our updates from casual remarks other folks may make. We heard that there was some really entertaining and, one supposes, comical cowboy stuff with Bush and the Chinese, and that the Senate went Democratic. Despite our lack of awareness of these and other matters we request that our readers resist the temptation to take this opportunity to tell us about some news story of supposed universal interest, unless it involves Howard Tate appearing in our vicinity or the recurrence of the black plague. It's really not that we seek to escape the alleged real world, although on the other hand, we're not really in it at the moment; but space and time are limited. Or are they?

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