The trip over was fairly uneventful....except for the fact we almost missed our connection to Nadi (and the next flight wasn't till the next day). We boarded the plane in Charlotte....and then sat and sat. Captain came on, said maintenance is on their way to do a repair (always reassuring before getting airborne), sat some more, then there was banging and drilling for a good 30 minutes, quiet for 10 minutes or so, Captain comes on again says they are going trying shutting the plane completely down and starting it back up (IT must of said 'reboot'...lol....sorry honey), sat some more, finally we are leaving....2 hours late.....great we only had a 2.5 hour layover to get from domestic to international terminals at LAX......eek. We landed at 7:30, our boarding passes say boarding began at 8:00. The flight attendants announce if LAX is your final destination stay seated let the people with connections get off. They also said there will be a gate agent to help you once you get off...there was one, working very, very slowly.....no signs....we waited a couple minutes and then winged it. We got down some stairs asked a man with the people mover cart how to get to the international terminal he pointed to the right out a door, but then said hop on....woo hoo!!! He drove us a good bit of the way, we then hustled outside for the rest of the way (which according to my fitness tracker was about a 1/2 mile). We re-checked in at the Fijian Airways counter, had all our hand luggage weighed (has to be under 7kg...or 15 lbs!), then headed upstairs to security. Unfortunately, there is no TSA pre-check for the international terminal, but we did luck out in that an agent offered to let people into a shorter line if a member of their party was subjected to a full body cavity search....j/j just a residue swab...Richard volunteered, passed, and we made it into the shorter line. The TSA agent checking passports informed us that her grandson has the same first AND last name as Mason.....that was kind of interesting....her grandson is 3....therefore our Mason is the original! We got our shoes back on, electronics re-stowed, and scurried off to our gate....boarding was now set to begin at 8:50....we arrived at 8:40.....plenty of time.....lesson learned plan a stopover in LA!
So we flew across the equator (a whole lot of turbulence there....not sure if it was a coincidence but scientist me was thinking it is caused by the convergence of wind directions at the equator as shown on the map here) and then we flew across the international date line (it jets out to the east a bit in the South Pacific so some of the island nations remain in all one time zone/day). Clarissa was able to curl up nicely and sleep most of the flight. Mason has discovered that while being able to slowly make a list of grown-ups you are taller than is cool, the draw back is you can not comfortably sleep in the steerage section of an airplane anymore.
When we stepped off the plane and we were welcomed by the humidity and a lovely band playing to welcome us to the islands. We made it through customs. We only had to open one suitcase for possible prohibited biological item. It was a suitcase full of clothes but the x-ray agent was sure we had honey in our bag (which none of us eat and I had checked the list of prohibited things throughly to make sure we didn't bring anything close to questionable). The culprit item....Mason's new tennis shoes have "shock absorbers" that apparently look like little bottle caps on an x-ray machine. The searching agent was so confused as to why he had to search our suitcase full of clothes.
We then completely exited the international terminal, walked past all the taxis, walked past all the "departure" signs (felt a bit like a fish swimming upstream) towards the domestic terminal....aka a small white warehouse/hanger like building (I give this all future visitors as directions, if we don't plan to pick you up in Nadi for some reason). We were warned that potentially all our luggage wouldn't make it on our last flight as it was a small commuter jet. Each piece was weighed and the weight was written on the luggage tag (we were lucky.....all our luggage arrived....had I not pre-planned and put swimsuits and a change of clothes in our carry on you know that wouldn't have happened). We then went through a small security screening and waited for our flight to begin boarding. When it was time, we boarded our puddle jumper for the 30 minute flight to Suva (note the beautiful sunrise lighting).
When we landed in Suva it was raining. A co-worker of Richard's met us at the airport and took us to our hotel (our house is not ready for move in yet). We all showered to remove many hours of travel funk and then having been up since ~5:00 am when breakfast service started we all headed downstairs for lunch.....and were surprised they were still serving breakfast until we realized it was only 10:15 am.....so we ate what was still out from the breakfast buffet, waited for the rain to pass, and headed for the pool.
Richard started work the next day. I picked up the kids school uniforms (Talk about adorable! They still complain though because it is a uniform). We got into the usual work/school/living in a hotel groove. Making a school lunch is hard from a hotel (especially when peanut butter is banned and you don't have freezer to freeze icepacks to send things with cheese).
Hotel dining with an ice cream dessert option and room service after a long swim in the pool are nice perks.
We stayed at the Grand Pacific Hotel. If you look at their website, part of the design of the hotel was to make you feel as if you were still at sea when you were staying there. The view from our room wasn't too shabby and I think their goal was accomplished (complete with tween attitude).
Every night at sunset, there is a torch light ceremony. Two men are involved. They wear traditional Fijian dress, one plays the Lali drum while the other runs and lights the torches around the pool and waterfront dining area. Enjoy the video.....the novelty obviously wore off for the kids....lol.
Our second weekend at the hotel, once we had gotten over jet lag (and the bonus end of daylight savings the first weekend). We opted to venture out of Suva and get our toes wet. Since most tourists are in Nadi, it was hard to find something out of Suva. I did find a beach trip with this company! They picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Pacific Harbour, telling us a lot of information about the area along the way, answering our questions about the different types of trees, pointing out the village where the Anaconda 3 movie was filmed, etc. Once we arrived, we went to one of the resorts the boat company operates out of. The resort had all these tiny frogs hopping around and the kids had to pick them up....seriously these frogs were the size of crickets!
We then boarded the boat and took the short ride out to the reef (we could see the reef from the beach it was that close, it is the white breakers before you get to the Beqa Island across the way)! The kids loved the boat ride.....and of course the water is all those shade of blue that you see in pictures!
We donned our rental snorkel gear and jumped in once we got to the reef. We saw coral, anemones, a giant clam, christmas tree worms, a sea turtle (everyone but me....I was in the water and they all saw it from the boat, sigh), and lots and lots of fishes (clownfish, parrotfish, butterfish, triggerfish, and lots of others with spots or stripes that I need a fish guide to identify.....).
Mason really enjoyed his first ocean snorkel adventure (he snorkeled with manatees in a Florida spring back when he was 4ish but he doesn't really remember it). We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our dry snorkels that would make snorkeling with swells much easier. Clarissa didn't do so well for her first snorkel attempt, I think she got a little frightened that she couldn't touch the bottom (which with her life jacket she didn't have to worry about that) and it was a bit chilly when you first jumped in. She did stick her face in the water and look around for a couple minutes. When we were later comparing what fishes we all saw, she would pipe in and announce she saw all of them too. Most of the time though, she sat on the boat enjoying multiple cups of a local drink called "I love my Juicy", she likes the mango flavor! (I would compare it to Sunny-D.....).
The boat company mentioned they have an all day trip that takes you to another island that has reef very close to the beach that you can walk out and snorkel to. Once our own gear and the prius arrives so we can drive up ourselves, we plan to try out that trip. I think Clarissa will do much better easing into snorkeling. On the upside, Richard and I had a lot of fun (taking turns).
After the snorkel trip we had lunch and then spent time at the beach. We found out in Fiji a flower behind your right ear means you are taken and behind your left ear means you are available (opposite of other places like Hawaii, but in my research to confirm the old wives tale, it is just that an old wives tale). You can't see Clarissa's flower, but apparently she is trying her hand at the ole kissy lips to get the boys....don't tell daddy.
On Sunday, we nursed some pink cheeks (refer back to above picture, note close location to equator....even with frequent sunscreen application some pink occurs, it normally fades within a day or so). We started another work/school week. I got all our things packed back up. We enjoyed a few more poolside dinners and sunsets.
On Thursday, we moved out of the hotel and into some temporary housing.....we still have one more move before we can completely unpack and feel settled but there is something to be said for really feeling like you are living some place when you are in a house with a kitchen and washer/dryer versus a hotel.
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Welcome to our adventures in Fiji! The fun has just begun!