With all rain they had earlier in the day, Nadi airport was without water. This is quite different from my relative's places in New Zealand, where they tend to run low on water during droughts rather than storms.
This had an unpleasant effect on the sanitary facilities at the airport, which did not improve people's mood. The shops had bottled water for drinking, but I was glad to get on the plane.
Being heavy with passengers and souvenirs, we had to wait for the wind to come from the right direction before taking off. It seemed to take forever to lift off as we trundled along the ground, and I was glad Nadi has a very long runway.
Flights over the Pacific in hurricane season are often bumpy in the tropics, but this time was quite smooth. A tropical storm had passed just South of Fiji, and so was in the other direction.
I stopped in the City of Angels just long enough to send a few postcards. The United States has dropped the concept of transit passengers, and requires everyone to get off the plane, find their luggage, go through customs with it filling out the appropriate forms, and check it back in to be put on the plane.
There is a one-way system to ensure that if you miss out what you need to do at any stage that you can forget about seeing your luggage again; this is quite common and happened to at least one person within earshot of me (a young Scandanavian tourist).
In the terminal I was surprised to see a branch of WH Smiths. They started out years ago as a concession at a British Rail station, and grew into the dominant magazine retailer in the United Kingdom. Clearly they have international aspirations. The effect was spoiled by the ads blaring out of the sound system extolling the virtues of products at the shop in a smarmy American accent.
Also the available chocolate was Hershey's instead of nice ones. Apparently the American "flavour" is created by (1) souring the milk, and (2) quick roasting the cocoa beans instead of slowly bringing out the flavour. I rather doubt they use Criollo beans either, but then who would with milk chocolate? :-) I had a bite anyway.
Rather more delicious was the 21yo surfer from Melbourne by the name of Shane. He had had a great time in Los Angeles and was going home. The weather was pleasant there, not hot, and obviously just right for long hours surfing.
We talked a bit about Melbourne, which I didn't get a chance to visit on this nostalgia trip, despite it holding many pleasant memories for me. It would have been nice to see how it has changed. For starters Swanston street (the main drag in the city) has been pedestrianised, so I probably would have noticed more changes than in Sydney.
Now I think of it, Melbourne always had more of a strong Mediterranean (Italian and Greek) flavour to it, while its NSW rival has weaker Thai and Vietnamese influences. I guess the cafe culture had a better chance to take hold in Australia than street vendor or floating market influences, for reasons of street layout and climate if nothing else. It sounds like I should stop at the other place next time round to check on things. I hope it's not just a mall of clothing shops! When I lived there I was in a Turkish area (Brunswick) - I wonder what it is like now.
Return to London
The flight back was fairly uneventful. I didn't get the chance to take pictures of "the white bit" (Canada) because it was soon dark. Otherwise I could have just taken a random picture and said "Can you see your house? I think it has snow on the roof" :-) Thank goodness for the Gulf Stream, which makes the difference between the temperatures in Winnipeg and London.
Still, once back in Blighty I soon felt the cold, and saw people earnestly looking like they were working or studying and certainly not enjoying themselves. The clothes seemed so drab and the weather miserable, but it felt like home and I was glad to be back. Of course, in the weeks following I changed my mind and thought "I should still be there in the warm!", but that's life. :-)
Overall it was a great trip - revisiting the past; seeing how things had evolved and what was the same. I was overwhelmed by how pleased everyone was to see me, especially my family, but was disappointed to be running short of time and very short of planning to see many of my old friends. I just missed out on seeing people in Wellington and Suva, and could have seen more in Palmerston North and Wanganui given more time.
Some of the places (Thailand, Fiji) were more fun travelling to with more money than I used to have, but this also led to more worrying over what I was spending it on. At least with organised tours you usually get a brief guide on the quality of the local merchandise, but I did not have this.
Some places reminded me of happy days, but also how I have changed with my exposure to London. I'm glad to see some places have moved on, like the waterfronts at Onaero, Auckland and Wellington, but other places seemed so backwards, like Sydney and Nadi. I had wanted them to have grown up like I had grown up, and basically be a combination of safety, convenience, controlled diversity and hedonism. I.e. exotic 24 hour cafes but with modern hygiene regulations, racey nightclubs that don't overcharge, bookshops with a great selection of titles, fascinating architecture and fast clean public transport. I have to accept that not every city in the world is like that - after all, we need boring dull places so that we can appreciate the interesting ones. I wonder if this means I must stop at Minnesota before moving to Seattle :-)
So I say to you people who have been living far from the places you grew up in - go visit them! Allow yourself a small dose of nostalgia and accept how you've changed. Just remember that the past is a nice place to visit, but you may not want to live there.
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