Monday, 13 April 2015

Circumnavigation (or Ending up exactly where you started)

Emotionally, I felt ready to leave Fiji. Logistically, however, it was very difficult. The process for exporting locally acquired pets is long and tedious and shipping companies will show no shame in their efforts to rip you off by charging you for all sorts of mysteriously vague line-items. Then there are the endless trips to the vets, one of which referred to the cats as mongrels and the other said that they looked healthy, yet pretentious. We now call them our pretentious mongrels, though the correct term for them is Fiji Specials. I’m thinking of making them all little biker jackets. You think I’m joking, I’m thinking YouTube sensation.

And of course there was the worry – the cats' trip door to door from Suva to Northumberland took 56 hours. When I complained about the ground crews being nonchalant in their attitude towards my concern for the cats’ well-being to husband while I was en route, he send me the following email:

Desk man: ‘Are the three cats ok’?

Man in hold: ‘What f..ing cats?’

Desk man: ‘Ma'am, he says they are doing fine’

You: ‘Can you ask if their water is full’

Desk man: ‘Is their water full?’

Man in hold: ‘You’re kidding right?’

Desk man: ‘Ma'am he says they are purr fect!! And the water has been replenished with pure Fiji water to suit their pretensions’

You: ‘Oh that’s wonderful! Thank You’

Desk man: ‘The lady says thanks mate!’

Man in hold: ‘F… off’

Adjusting to a temperate climate in a house with all the mod cons isn't easy
Of course I was overweight at the airport and my cute carry on didn't fit in the Fiji Airways cabin bag checker no matter how I massaged (squashed) it. Now I’m not the most stylish person in the world, but I have certain fashion requirements when I travel. First, I wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of tennis shoes in an airport. Never. No way. The only time any sort of sporty footwear is okay on planes is if you’re travelling to a mountainous destination when it’s acceptable to wear hiking boots to save space and weight in your luggage. And my carry on must be cute. So it was with great reluctance that my vital travelling items were transferred from my cute cabin bag to my loud stripy beach bag that has been embellished with rust stains and a fine peppering of mildew spots during our time in Fiji.

The flight to Sydney from Nadi was a breeze – I was reading a good book and the few hours flew by (literally). But the Sydney to Dubai leg…. Even using my sensory deprivation kit (neck pillow, ear plugs + noise cancelling headset, and eye shades) which, when used properly, has the uncanny ability to squeeze time by a factor of at least four, the 14 hours seemed like a lifetime. I made a last minute, expensive, decision to check into the Dubai airport hotel for the seven hour layover. At least half of the time that I should have been sleeping I spent trying to figure out how to work the shower and turn off all of the lights using the myriad of switches dotted throughout the room. It was like some sort of episode out of the Candid Camera. But it wasn't funny. It was more like the Twilight Zone. I may have even shouted “why are you mocking me?” to no one in particular when I was standing, freezing in the shower. In the middle of the desert.

So far I have a worryingly lack of culture shock symptoms, besides binge eating everything that I've missed within the first couple of weeks of being home. Walker Sweet Chilli Crisps, shepherd’s pie made with Bisto instant onion gravy, a wedge of Stilton, jam roly poly with custard and a Tunnock’s caramel wafer? Don’t mind if I do!

The only time I've felt out of my depth was when I chose to ride in the front seat of a double-decker bus in Newcastle. I love the view of the city from up there. Or at least I did. This time it felt like I was on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride without a seat belt. The upper stories of the shop fronts whizzed by at unnatural speeds. It was mesermising – in a bad way. It took around ten minutes for me to get the nerve up to stand up and move (actually sort of crawl) to a seat away from the front window.

Time is a funny thing. When I was in Fiji I felt like I’d been gone from the UK forever. As soon as I walked in the door of our home in England, I felt like I’d never left. It’s like I've come home from the longest holiday of my life and it’s taking a really, really long time to unpack. The first three things to come out of the last box from storage that I opened were a wooden model of the Cutty Sark, a black leather jacket and my potato ricer. Evidence, if it was required, of the chaos of moving half way around the world. However, it’s starting to feel like the pain of childbirth – it might just seem like a good idea to do it all again in a couple of years…

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