Day 67, Grand Asia 2018
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, Suva, Fiji:
After the South Pacific beaches and resorts of our last few ports, we are back in a city. Suva is the capital of Fiji, and our berth is on an industrial pier where giant forklifts move containers all day long. Buses continually come and go through the major transportation center just beyond the dock.
The jewel of the city as far as I am concerned is next to the bus depot. It’s a large covered marketplace, mainly full of stalls where vendors sell produce of all kinds. It is a feast for the eyes.
Last year in Suva I passed through the market taking pictures before heading out to the city streets, where I looked unsuccessfully for Fijian shirts for my nephews that wouldn’t require ironing. Many of the shops feature Indian saris and other clothing, catering to the large Indian population of the island. A century or more ago plantation owners brought workers from India to work the sugar fields, and many of their descendents still live here.
This year I didn’t make it much further than the market. I took some time to visit with the vendors, asking them to explain some of the produce I didn’t recognize. Taro leaves are popular wraps for cooking, much like banana leaves. Stalls feature large bundles of long green beans, plates of eggplant, turmeric and peppers and heaping piles of pineapples. Individuals sell mangos all along the sidewalks.
It’s easy to convert the Fijian currency to U.S. dollars – just divide the Fijian amount in half. I almost regretted not needing to cook during the cruise, thinking about how much I would enjoy shopping for these inexpensive fruits and vegetables.
Colorful flowers fill buckets just outside the doors of the market, and I spent some time sketching the blossoms of many of the tropical plants. About the time I was finishing, the skies opened to a fierce rainfall. It didn’t last too long, but the sprinkles continued and talked me out of walking several blocks to the local museum. I think that cruise malaise has set in.
Along the market’s back wall is the “women’s center,” where women make clothes and small crafts in small booths. I stopped to chat briefly with a couple of the women. Just like all the vendors, they were friendly and welcoming.
I had a cup of coffee while waiting for the worst of the storm to pass and then crossed the street to a small bridge. Last year I painted a watercolor from a photograph of small boats in the foreground and the Amsterdam behind at this very spot. During the past year the city has built a new bridge, so it’s good I have an artistic reminder of the scene – the watercolor was one of my favorites.
As usual I headed to the Crow’s Nest for sail away. A U.S. Coat Guard ship seemed out of place anchored nearby. A quick Google search said that our two countries are doing some joint training. Other times Coast Guard ships leaving Antarctica stop in the South Pacific for some warmer weather.
Back on board, I took some time to paint the flowers and food. I think I will have just enough pages in my journal to finish the cruise.