Hot……and humid…Visit to the village to meet with customs officer…Busy productive day!

The main street in Savusavu is always a flurry of activity with more locals shopping than tourists. 

When packing the box in Australia to be shipped to Fiji, we couldn’t help but be concerned that we’d have trouble getting it through customs when there are many restrictions on food items that may be brought into this country.

With no known venomous insects, snakes, and flies in Fiji, certain types of food may potentially be carriers of eggs and larvae. Of course, we carefully perused the list of prohibited items not noticing any specific comments regarding any restrictions on anything that could be construed as nut flours, coconut, extracts, and ground flax meal.

We included several non-food items in the box: the camera tripod, a measuring cup and spoons, a spatula, and one bottle each of shampoo and conditioner, none of which were restricted.

This is the market where the local people shop. It doesn’t work for us when it mostly includes packaged food whereby we purchase most fresh items. However, I’ve checked it a few times for specific ingredients with little luck.

With a maximum value of FJD $1000, US $463 allowable to avoid customs fees for a single box entering the country, we didn’t expect there to be much in the way of fees. But, having experienced custom inspections and resulting fees on previously shipped supplies to other countries, it was the roll of the dice.

Our new neighbors, the lovely couple we met a few days ago from the US, Judy and Chris, asked if they could share the ride with us to the village since they, too, had to go to the post office. Ratnesh was waiting for all of us shortly before 11 am.

We didn’t mind sharing the taxi, especially when we all agreed during the ride that once we parted at the post office, we were on our own having Ratnesh return us home separately at our leisure. Well, not entirely leisurely.  It was one hot and busy day. With the humidity at 100% and temps at a peak for Fiji, the air was thick with our clothes sticking to us.

It’s hard to believe that Western Union store still exists.

On the way to the post office, Tom jumped out at ATM to ensure we’d have plenty of cash for the post office, should we be charged a customs fee. A few blocks further down the main road in the village, we arrived at the post office. 

Expecting a tiny post office and photo op, we were surprised to find a good-sized facility, not necessarily photo-worthy. There were lines for purchasing stamps, mailing packages, and reloading phone SIM cards with a separate area for receiving international packages.

The customs guy is only available on weekdays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. We arrived at 11:30 to a fairly long slow line. With the packaging weighing 22 kilos, 49 pounds, and with food shopping on the agenda, we asked Ratnesh to wait for us so we could put the box in the trunk of his vehicle leaving it there while we took care of other shopping.

Next door to the bottle shop is another clothing store and a restaurant.

Unsure as to how long it would take to pick up the package, we planned to get it first to avoid having the groceries waiting in the car in the heat.  A to-do list for the day included another trip to the Vodafone store when I’d accidentally used all the credit by leaving the phone on after hanging up from Ratnesh on a prior call. Lesson learned.

As we waited in line for 25 minutes, Ratnesh explained we could buy data at the other window, avoiding another long line and wait at the outdoor Vodafone kiosk near the Farmer’s Market. With me having to do the “sell job” to the customs guy that we weren’t resellers and had shipped the products for our own personal use, Tom waited in the SIM card line to reload the phone card.  One more item ticked off the “to do” list.

Finally, it was my turn. The receipt Mario had dropped off in the morning stated they needed our tax ID number, there again assuming the multiple bags of food products were for resale. 

Tom has yet to purchase a bottle of alcohol in these past months since arriving in the South Pacific. He says he doesn’t have a taste for it now. In January, back onboard a ship, he’ll fire it up again, when the drink package is included in the price of the fare. Tom’s always been a lightweight drinker.

Having brought along passports and the doctor’s list of the foods I can consume which included many of the products in the box, I easily explained to the two customs officers that we weren’t a business selling food and that the products would go directly into our kitchen as prescribed in the attached “doctor’s list.” 

They opened the huge box, rifling through its contents looking for contraband or other non-allowable items.  This wasn’t easy to do as tightly as we’d packed it. After several minutes and a few questions, they taped up the box, stamped a form, and charged us the standard post office package pickup fee of FJD $4.50, USD $2.09. 

Within minutes, we were back on the road again to be dropped off at the Farmer’s Market to purchase produce, walk to the New World grocer, where Ratnesh would pick us up when we were done.

There’s a variety of clothing stores in the village, mostly to appeal to tourists.

Wandering around the huge Farmer’s Market we had a little trouble finding everything on our list but managed to find everything except celery which we later found at the grocery store; limp and a few days old. After a good wash and a soak in ice water, it revived nicely. We were never able to find celery in Belize or Kenya. 

We were surprised by the price of red bell peppers at FDJ $25, USD $11.59 per kilo at the Farmer’s Market, appearing to be the most expensive item in the market. Since a kilo is 2.2 pounds, it doesn’t seem to be quite as expensive by the pound. We paid FDJ $10, USD $4.63 for one large pepper, referred to as capsicum in Fiji, as well as in Australia where they were considerably less expensive.

Each week, I’ve been cooking a pan of diced roasted vegetables including red bell pepper, eggplant (aubergine), carrot, and onion, all well seasoned with whatever we have on hand, cooked in healthy ghee. Reheating a portion each night, goes well with any meal. Tom won’t eat this dish.

Another clothing store appealing more upscale based on its nice signage. However, once inside there more typical tourist type wear, tee shirts, shorts, dresses, and swimwear.

It’s not easy finding items at the three-row grocery store but, it was air-conditioned, making the task easier. With no fresh meat department, a tiny produce department and a single refrigerated dairy section the pickings are slim.

The only hard cheeses available are chunks of a local “Tasty” brand and “pizza cheese,” no specific mozzarella, cheddar, or Parmesan. There’s no grated cheese although they carry Crème Fraiche and Marscapone which is squeezed from small tinfoil packs. We purchased both of these as alternatives to cream cheese which we use in preparing some dishes.

For several recipes, we use homemade ketchup which I’m making today. The low carb recipe calls for onion and garlic powder. After searching four markets, these items were nowhere to be found. I wish I’d thought of this before we shipped the box. I’ll improvise using fresh garlic and onion, straining the ketchup when it’s done cooking using a small strainer I found in the cupboard.

It was impossible to avoid stepping inside the Hot Bread Kitchen when the smells wafting through the air as we walked by brought back memories of bread baking days.

What else do I have to do when there’s no housework required, other than clean up after cooking, hand washing kitchen towels, and my limited supply of underwear? I don’t mind these types of tasks which keep me busy for most afternoons on rainy days, such as today.

When the shopping at New World was completed, we called Ratnesh.  He’d taken another customer to the airport and would arrive in about 12 minutes. With no “trolleys” allowed outside the market, we stood outside in the heat with all of our produce and grocery items.

As we stood waiting, we couldn’t help but observe the hustle and bustle on a Monday in the little village of Savusavu. The storefronts, worn with unrestricted signage cluttering the exteriors, reminded us of many villages we’ve visited in our travels. 

It’s fun to look, not touch.

And yet, Savusavu is unique in its own special way. The colorful clothes of the locals, the friendly smiles and greetings of “bula!” by passersby and the general feeling of safety in this tiny community reminds us of how lucky we are to be traveling the world, experiencing even the simplest aspects of life in other lands.

As we become familiar faces to the locals in the markets, we begin to feel as if we’re fitting in and somehow belong here, at least for now. When I dashed across the street to another market in search of a few items, while Tom waited outside, I ran into Salote in the other market, used mostly by the locals. Giving her a warm hug when she spotted me, further added to a sense of belonging.

On the way home, we stopped at Fiji Meats purchasing enough meats to last for a week. Helen, the store owner, recognized and welcomed us while we asked her about her recent vacation/holiday when Louisa had handled our purchases while she was away for a week.

We walked up a steep flight of stairs to check out a few shops above lower-level shops. 

When we arrived home by 2 pm, Ratnesh carried the heavy box down the long walkway from the road to the house. We paid him well for the extra waiting time, FDJ $40, USD $18.54.  He said it was “too much.” We insisted. 

Back at home in the heat, we cranked up the fan in the living area, poured ourselves fresh glasses of iced tea and I busied myself for the remainder of the afternoon; putting away the groceries, washing and cutting veggies, making a big salad for dinner, and unpacking the big box. 

Only one package of coconut flour was damaged when the shampoo leaked and the coconut flour spilled mixed with shampoo over the exterior of most of the packages. It took an hour to wipe off each of the individual bags ensuring none of the shampoo had leaked inside. We only lost one bag of coconut flour.

Its not that hard to find a parking spot on the street even on busy days. Many locals travel on foot and by bus with the bus station in the center of town.

When done unpacking everything, I baked 20 low carbs (2 grams each) coconut macaroons to be savored at two cookies each in the evening after dinner as a treat. Placing four cookies in small bags to be frozen I take out one bag each afternoon to defrost. In five nights we’ll have consumed all 20 cookies. 

It’s no wonder we included 18 bags of unsweetened shredded organic coconut in the parcel.  One batch of 20 cookies uses one entire bag of unsweetened shredded coconut. As a result, the 18 bags we shipped will last the entire time we’re here. We’d done all of these silly calculations when we purchased the products in Australia.

With heavy rains again today, we’re staying put, the content we have almost everything we need for now including the necessity of a few “workarounds.” This, dear readers, in essence, is a part of what makes our lives of travel interesting to us and hopefully to some of YOU! 

                                            Photo from one year ago today, September 22, 2014:

View over the bay in Vancouver from the high rise condo.  In a matter of days, we’d board the ship to Hawaii.  For details, please click here.

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