The Martian

I read this book over the weekend, and I’m excited for the movie.

martian-tifrss0009frnleft-1001rrgbNow, I should admit that (before I read the book) I was disappointed that Matt Damon was playing the lead role — a NASA scientist who got stranded on a planet — just a year after the movie Interstellar … where he played a NASA scientist who got stranded on a planet.

No matter how different you might think the two movies are from each other, the fact remains that the character’s circumstances (and wardrobe) are nearly identical in both movies.

So why not get another actor? I mean, avoiding him for The Martian, in the wake of Interstellar, seems very logical.

However, just after reading one chapter of the book, I could easily see how Matt Damon was the perfect choice for this movie.

As for the book, wonderfully scientific in an almost MacGyver kind of way. My only criticism is the swearing. There’s a fair amount of it, and all pointless. This would be the perfect book for a science-loving kid if it weren’t for the darn language.

So there you have it — Good Will Hunting meets Apollo 13.

Seattle has hotter weather than Phoenix … I’ll explain

I’m an Arizona native and talking about Arizona’s weather is inevitable with anyone who lives somewhere else. “Oh, I couldn’t live in that kind of heat,” they’d say. If I’m honest, I always thought it was a little fun to take on the roll of someone who regularly survives an extreme climate. The truth is, though, I never understood how people were so quick to scoff at summers in Arizona, but would spend all winter hating the fact that they had to shovel snow. I don’t see the difference. I mean, whether it be heat, snow, rain, or volcanic ash from┬áMount St Helens or Mount Rainier (any day now), you’re going to stay indoors a few months out of the year no matter where you live.

However, I recently discovered that I had been missing something.

It wasn’t until I spent several days in Olympia, Washington in early July that I realized that I wasn’t seeing things from their point of view. If you took people, houses, restaurants, and shops from the Pacific Northwest and put them in the Phoenix area, they’d all die. It wouldn’t even take very long, they’d be meet their demise on day one, guaranteed.

So, when I was in Olympia, it was warm outside. Nothing crazy, low 90s — maybe 95 at the most. And the people there were miserably hot — overheated, sweating, suffering heat exhaustion. But, and this is the thing, people kept telling me, “Well, it’s hotter in Phoenix right now.” And it was then that I realized: No, it isn’t. Sure, it’s 110 degrees outside in Phoenix when it’s 90 in Olympia, but everyone in Phoenix knows when to stay indoors, has tinted car windows, drinks plenty of water, and — wait for it — has air conditioning. No one has air conditioning in Washington or Oregon — homes don’t, stores don’t, restaurants don’t. And of the ones who do, it’s only a single-box unit that cools one room. Houses there don’t even have vents or ducts in the ceiling.

Now when people from the Pacific Northwest tell me that they couldn’t live in such heat, I see things from their point of view. And I tell them, “Would you be surprised to learn that the daily high in Phoenix is actually 74 degrees all year round? … It’s true.”


IMG_0060In this photo I have third cousins, second cousins once removed, third cousins once removed (the little kids), and an aunt.

Being third cousins mean we share a great-great grandfather. Being second cousins once removed mean that we share the same great-great grandfather, only they would call him a great grandfather. So, “once removed” describes a generational layer difference.

Layer may not be a genealogical term, but you get the idea.

In Fiji, if you’re a respected older person, you’re called uncle. I call both my actual aunt aunty, and my second cousins once removed aunty. My third cousins once removed (which are the children of my third cousins) call me uncle. Or at least that’s what their moms tried to get them to call me; the best we could do was get them to wave at me.

I also refer to close family friends of my aunty and father as aunty and uncle. Their children are my cousins. Sitting next to me in the above photo is my Uncle Cegu — no blood relation, but he’s very close to our family (and a wonderfully nice guy). :-)

My children have fourth cousins, which are the closest relatives they have (of their generational layer) on my dad’s side.

On my wife’s side of the family, she being someone who has siblings, they have first cousins. They also have second cousins through my mom’s side of the family, if you were wondering.

What’s nice about Fiji is I was received like the long-lost son who finally returned to the motherland (or literally, the father’s land in this case). Anyway, everyone there made me feel overwhelmingly welcome. And after a few weeks of being back, I still miss them all very much. :-)

Stupid Tourists

17805_10152700876485007_1280855545_nTourism contributes a lot to the Fijian economy, so I don’t want speak badly of tourists.

But then again, tourists have a lot of faults.

I realize that I’m somewhat of a hypocrite in that I’m pretending like I’m not partially a tourist myself or at least that I didn’t start out as one (like someone who just lost a lot of weight that then started making fun of other fat people).

Anyway, on my last day in Fiji (which had many awesome events that I’ll post about later), I ran across a group of Australian tourists at the Bau Boat Landing ready to head out to their resort destination. And I also sat next to a group of American tourists on the plane back to the U.S.

Without going into detail, I resented a lot of the conversations that I overheard.

Tourists don’t really take time to experience the culture. Instead, they go straight to their hotel or resort, and expect that things are up to their standards. They see shows in order to experience the culture much like men watch Army movies to experience military life.

What a wasted trip for them.

The hotel they’re in is maybe slightly different from the one they were in last year when they went to the Caribbean or Hawaii or whatever. But what they don’t see is that beyond the resort walls is a whole country that is nothing like the life they’re used to. Fiji is a wonderful place that has stayed strong in its traditions and has a fascinating history.

And the difference for me, I think, is that when I left Fiji, I didn’t leave behind a vacation; instead, I left behind people that I care about in a place that I now feel truly connected to.

Counting Down

IMG_0387My flight to LAX leaves 48 hours from now.

I’m both sad and happy.

This was never a vacation trip. Instead, there have been a lot of meetings, projects, and lots of learning.

When it comes to experiencing a new culture, it’s the little things that stand out the most. The small differences in language, in manners, and in day-to-day living.

One thing I discovered (that the guide books didn’t tell me about) is that I’ve needed Americans to help reconnect and reflect. I met a Peace Corps worker here (Reagan!) who was tremendously helpful in helping me understand the small things.

I suppose my situation is unique — I’m traveling alone, away from my wife and kids, for a long time, in a place where I have deep roots and family that I’ve never known. I’m glad to have connected here, though. Don’t misunderstand me there. And everyone here has been so helpful and kind.

I’ll be honest, these people are the nicest people I’ve ever met.

If you asked me if I had a good trip, I’d say, “Yes.”

If you asked me what the hardest part has been, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

I will say that I feel like I’m leaving too soon. As though the things I need to do here are unfinished. But in my fast-paced life Fiji will remain running as it always has — on “Fiji time.”

And it’ll be here when I get back.


People of Bau Island

I walked around a bit and took photos of the people living on Bau Island.

IMG_0530 IMG_0528 IMG_0526 IMG_0517 IMG_0512 IMG_0505 IMG_0492 IMG_0431 IMG_0396

Repairing the Roof

Just a few pictures of the repairs. :-)

IMG_0428 IMG_0434 IMG_0439 IMG_0441

Quick Update

Things are going great. The new roof is on, and the kitchen and bathroom have come a long way.

The last two nights I’ve been hanging out with the village elders drinking kava.

There weather has been great. And the fish have been tasty.

Today I walked around the island with the father of the host family I’m with. I should explain that they look after my aunt, and so we go over there for meals and they’ve been taking care of me while I’m here.

Anyway, we walked around the island together and it was great to see the other side of Bau.

I’m on the east side, if you’re wondering; I hadn’t been to the west side yet.

Now, in the center of the island there is this tall hill and on top of the hill is a mausoleum. You can see it from almost anywhere on the island, and it’s incredible and ominous. It’s like something out of the TV show LOST.

I’ll post pictures later.

Oh, and I found out today that every house in Fiji has a name. My house’s name is Warucu. :-)


swimming in the Ocean … and not drawning

IMG_0115 This is the island of Bau, and to the left of it you can barely see a palm tree just off the island a bit. That tree is on it’s own tiny island. Any by tiny, I mean it’s like the surface area of a living room floor, but with a palm tree.

Anyway, the tree island is directly out from our family property about 200 yards, and my dad told me a story about how he used to swim to that island. So I thought I’d give it a go.

For this trip I was going to take it easy. I used a snorkel so all I had to do was float face down and swim slowly forward.

As I was swimming I started thinking about how I didn’t really tell anyone that I was going swimming, and even if I did I was still all by myself.

It was going very well, and then about half way I started breathing a little faster (as one does while exerting oneself). And the poorly designed flap on the tip of my snorkel start to close on me when I breathed in. Now, you may not be family with snorkels and their anti-splash devices, but you’re probably familiar with breathing. And breathing in is fairly important.

I’m not one to panic, and I quickly realized that I need to slow down my breathing and stay afloat. The snorkel kept failing me, and thus my system for easy swimming. So I stopped using the snorkel and just tried to take easy strokes back to the shore. After stoic determination (and okay, a bit of panic). I made it to a point where I could stand. Thank goodness.

I was exhausted, though. My whole upper body felt like it just spent an hour in the gym.

What was supposed to be an easy swim turned into a very difficult swim, but I’m still alive. :-)

Working on the roof

IMG_0159We’re starting on the roof today.

Here you can see where the tree hit the roof, which then made it leak, which then damaged the walls. It’s been nearly ten years since the cyclone came through here and did this damage.

This is the only bad side, though, the other side of the house is in really good condition.

It’s a clear day, which is good for repairing a roof. Well, replacing in its entirety is the more accurate description of what we’re doing. Anyway, no rain today, but that makes it very hot (on top of the already high humidity).

It’s been quit the project to get this all fixed. Aside from the damage to the roof, the subsequent water damage to the floor and walls, and the bee hive, getting materials here is a project unto itself. Only 20-foot and 30-foot boats go between the main island and Bau Island. So, the materials have to be picked up, driven to the landing, and shipped over (hopefully in one trip). Luckily the boat can go right up to near the house.