May 24, 2024
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On Fiji Islands – Nadi – Chapter 1.1

Chapter 1.1 – Nadi

After breakfast Derek went out to buy a newspaper; I began writing up my journal. The flight from Vancouver had begun with a stew­ardess’s memorable phrase:

The lifejacket has a mouthpiece for oral inflation.

You fly across the world’s emptiest hemisphere, keeping pace with the night. Five hours to Honolulu-nothing but blackness below; then the glare of an overlit American city, an orange sore on the dark skin of the Pacific. Six hours more darkness to Nadi, and a day of one’s life left in safekeeping with the inter­national date-line.

This longueur had been interrupted when dinner arrived: a ham slab with some tired alfalfa sprouts resembling a tuft of dog hair. Derek glanced up from his science fiction story and remarked:

Imagine what a hassle it would be if we were herbivores and they had to toss a bale of hay in front of each of us.

At this the stranger in the aisle seat became helpless with laughter and spilled a martini in his lap, the first of several such accidents. He introduced himself:

“Wendell Gorky. Doctor Wendell Gorky actually, of academia, not medicine.” He began to talk with the sudden intimacy of the habitual drinker. “From Kansas, which, you should know, is pro­nounced by natives like myself as Kayenzas. Go on, say it.”
No! Kay-enzas.
A linguist I presume?” said Derek. But Gorky continued una­bashed, identifying himself as an ethnobotanist, confessing an ob­session with aphrodisiacs and a terror of insects.  That’s why I work in the South Pacific. Not many bugs, you see. 

By the time the Fiji landing cards were distributed, Gorky was asleep.


  1. Fijian
  2. Indian
  3. European
  4. Chinese
  5. Rotuman
  6. Other Pacific Islands
  7. Part-European
  8. Others
“They mean it genetically,” Derek said. “All whites are called Europeans here.”

The same is true of the other categories. “Fijian” is not an ad­jective like “Canadian,” applicable to all citizens of the country. It refers only to those of indigenous descent. The Fiji Handbook makes the point: ‘

Taukei (owners) is the word in the Fijian language which the Fijians use when referring to themselves, so that Taukei and Fijian are, to them, synonymous. The ownership of the land is one subject which can ge~erate great heat in Fiji…. The non­Fijian who describes himself as a Fijian is, in the minds of many Fijians, laying claim to the land.

On Fiji Islands, was published in 1983 to critical acclaim. Ron has graciously allowed to serialize his work for your enjoyment. We welcome your comments.

©2011 Ronald Wright

Ronald Wright

Ronald Wright (born 1948, London, United Kingdom) is a Canadian author who has written books of travel, history and fiction. His nonfiction includes the bestseller Stolen Continents, winner of the Gordon Montador Award and chosen as a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times. His first novel, A Scientific Romance, won the 1997 David Higham Prize for Fiction and was chosen a book of the year by the Globe and Mail, the Sunday Times, and the New York Times.

Wright was selected to give the 2004 Massey Lectures. His contribution, A Short History of Progress, looks at the modern human predicament in light of the 10,000-year experiment with civilization. In it he concludes that human civilization, to survive, would need to become environmentally sustainable, with specific reference to global warming and climate change.

His next work What is America?: A Short History of the New World Order continues the thread begun in A Short History of Progress by examining what Wright calls "the Columbian Age" and consequently the nature and historical origins of modern American imperium.

His latest book The Gold Eaters, a novel set during the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire in the 1520s-1540s, was published in 2015.

Ronald Wright is also a frequent contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, and has written and presented documentaries for radio and television on both sides of the Atlantic. He studied archaeology at Cambridge University and later at the University of Calgary, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1996. He lives in British Columbia.

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