14 August, 2006

George Iatoo's trip to Suva

By Fred Wesley. George Iatoo is an unassuming man. He's around 5 ft 8 inches tall and probably weights anything between 70 kg to 80 kg. I first met this gentleman about four weeks ago. It was a Sunday. One thing led to another and he ended up having lunch with the family at home. He had come around looking for my old man. They'd worked together a year ago in the Solomon Islands while my old man was there working under RAMSI, the regional assistance mission. While he could pass off for a Fijian, George is from Anokwasi Village on the island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands. What probably stands out from this little meeting which eventually developed into a friendship over three weeks, was George's observations and thoughts about Fiji. It was his first trip overseas. He's been a police officer for the last 14 years stationed on Auki, the provincial capital of Malaita Province which is on the northern end of the Langalanga Lagoon on the north-west coast of Malaita island. Malaita is one of the 347 inhabited islands of the vast archipelago of 922 islands that make up the Solomons, stretching from Papua New Guinea to Fiji along the northeastern edge of Melanesia. But nothing prepared George for what he describes as an eye-opener. Suva, with a population of 77,366 at the 1996 census, which ballooned to 167,975 when the independent suburbs were included, was beyond anything he'd ever seen. "I arrived at 10pm on 7 July at Nadi Airport. The trip by road from Nadi to Suva was one of the longest I'd ever taken in my life but it was also the most comfortable one. As we got to Suva, my first impression was there were so many people, and it was big and advanced. I didn't get to see much of Suva because we'd passed through the city at night. But I did see the city the very next day. I was lost. I felt so small. I'd never seen so many tall buildings in my life. The tallest one I'd seen was about five storeys high back home. But these ones ....... man they're so big and all over the place," George said. He didn't have the courage to explore Suva on his own then. "I feel people are better off here. At least everyone I did see was well dressed and presentable compared to what I normally see back home. The roads are good. But there are too many of them here in the capital. It leaves people like me confused. There are people of many races who seem to be living well together. That's something that has impressed me. You have the Fijians, the Indians, the Rotumans, and the other races, and they all seem to be happy. I was also impressed with how public property was respected. Things like streetlights were well kept and people seemed to respect each other", George said. I was amused when he asked, "and what about people in the highlands, are they like this?" He couldn't seem to get over the fact that most people around the country had roads to travel on, electricity, education, television sets, newspapers, and radios. "I'd only heard about Fiji. I never dreamt I'd get to visit this country one day," he remarked as we stood at The Triangle in downtown Suva. George has since returned home to the Solomons after a three-week course under the Pacific Regional Policing Initiative at the Fiji Police Academy at Nasova in Suva. Note from GV: Book a two bedroom furnished home with seaviews early for December 2006 and January 2007 and enjoy a 10% discount on the rate per night. Check out photos and details on amenities on links at the right hand side of this blog and earlier posts. E-mail enquiries/bookings to gilbert@connect.com.fj or call direct +679 3396427.

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