climate different, the transport different, driving cars different, hours of awake and sleep different, friends different, money different, school different, hours of work different, clothes different, recreation different, language different, variety of cultures and people different. Mind you, those expatriates that worked for the commercial banks or other large foreign concerns usually managed to insulate themselves from all the differences and maintain their foreign lifestyle.
To say that the food was different, fails to give the situation the impact it deserves. Over the first week, Jean tried about five times to cook taro to be part of our meal, but the result the first five times represented wallpaper paste. With advice from Rose Rahim, Jean learnt that there were particular types of taro to cook specific ways. So she learnt to select, buy, prepare, cook and present taro, and we learnt to eat it.
At the Suva Youth Centre, I met Balram the caretaker cleaner who had been there for a few years. Balram could speak Hindi, Fijian and English. He was not sure how old he was nor too clear about his real name as he didn’t have a Birth Certificate. We employed him at about $10 a week. He and his wife and three kids rented a squatters shack in the middle of a swamp for which they paid $10 a month. Balram and I cleaned out a cupboard usually used for storing boxing gloves which I used as an office.
My Job Description charged me to identify the issues that the YMCA could use on which to build its programme and in consultation with local community leaders, write a Development Plan for the first three years of the YMCA of Fiji. I visited the Technical College, The Probation Office, the Raiwaqa Housing estate, Peace Corp and read numerous government reports. I found, for example, that there were 11,000 school leavers each year and 450 new job openings a year.
The Suva Youth Centre building comprised a couple of meeting rooms, toilet with urinal, the smelliest urinal in the West, a changing room, a sort of cafeteria and a gymnasium approximately 22 meters by 8 meters with a reasonably high ceiling. The main feature of the gym was that its main cladding for the outside walls was wooden louvre slats spaced at about ten centimeters apart. This kept the gym relatively cool and provided scores of places to spit in between the louvers. The evidence was that for several months previous, hundreds of spits had not made it cleanly through the gaps. Nearly, but not quite. Another way of saying this was that when I arrived the place was absolutely, shockingly, disgustingly, tremendously completely filthy.