I first met Mary on an extended visit to Suva in 2013. Every morning we'd walk our kids down the schoolbus and we'd come back to a cup of coffee. At the time she was relatively new to Fiji, but she was already a font of information!
A year and change passed in a blur and soon my husband and I were deciding to make our time in the Pacific permanent. Not a week went by that I wasn't tweeting or emailing or facebooking Mary and asking for advice before my move from the Big Apple.
Now I've been here 5 months and everyone comments on how well I've settled in. Mary, Thank you.
So, in a nutshell, here's the highlights of the things I remember asking Mary how to do -- and also things she told me not to do! This is going to be a very incomplete list, but I promise to come back and add to it as a pearl of her wisdom bubbles out of the wrinkles in this blob of gray matter of mine.
- to take every skin puncture, burn, and abrasion seriously. Clean it well, preferably with an antiseptic disinfectant like Dettol, Fiji is in the tropics, things get infected and can go septic faster than you ever imagined.
- if something is weird with your skin, it's fungus. Get some Selsun Gold.
- to use insect repellent religiously. Not religious? Use it the way you use your phone - from the minute you get up to the minute you go to sleep.
- to take care of your feet. You probably won't wear closed toe shoes as often (or ever!) here, your chances of cutting, puncturing, twisting, blistering and just plain wearing out your feet are higher here. Also pedicures are awesome, get them frequently. Mary loves Beauty Mantra, but I haven't found a favorite place here.
- regardless of what your alcoholic drink of choice is, when you go to an event, especially one for work, drink beer. It's hot here, you're sweating more than you realize, and wine or mixed drinks will hit you harder than you expect. Drink beer so your thirst is at least partially quenched and you don't end up dancing on the bar.
- that if there's something you absolutely can't live without in the States then you'd better bring a year's supply with you when you move because there's no guarantee that you'll be able to get it here.
- when you see something that you used in the states/UK that you haven't seen before in the store, buy it. You never know when it will show up in the store again.
- Stumped? Search the Suva Expats facebook group. If still no answer, post your question.
- that when you go to resort, regardless of how many stars it has, you still want some essentials: Line for anchoring kayaks, Snacks, Mosquito coils, Matches, Bug repellent, Bug killer, Bite salve, Antihistimines, Sun screen, Shampoo, Hairbrush, Snorkel stuff, First aid kit including antiseptic, Water/cups, Games, Torch, Earplugs, Camera/cable, Phone charger, Mask demister
- that even if you don't know somebody, go to an expats group meeting. Chances are you do know somebody, and even if you don't one month expat time is like one year of knowing a person anywhere else (I think the expat time quote might actually be from another expat)
- International Women's Association First Monday of the month
- University Expat Partners and Spouses Second Tuesday of the month (HR has the contact info)
- Corona Fiji Third Wednesday of the month
- Asian Ladies Group Third Thursday of the month
- American Women's Association Last Thursday of the month
I'll update this as I get a chance, but I have to go now. I've already had my wifi completely quit and two video calls that I had to take on my phone. At least the water didn't go out as it did yesterday. Or the electricity... that happened way too frequently this past month.