Had I really planned, I would have reserved a day room at the Mercure. Instead, I mistakenly assumed there would be no problem getting a room when we arrived back there, but nothing was available. One of the other people had reserved a room and was kind enough to put everything in the luggage storage for us (and allow me to shower in his room later on).
Several of us were on the same flight to Los Angeles that evening and filled in some time with a trip to downtown Nadi for souvenir shopping. My obligatory souvenir anywhere is a book of folk tales. I also purchased a barkcloth painting. That left me time for a quick trip to an internet cafe to verify that I had no really important email awaiting me. It was a good thing I did that, since using the internet from the Mercure proved to be problemmatic. Aside from the trip into town, we ate, drank, read, and basically killed time.
We got to the airport early and were still confronted with a long check-in line. (While I had bought my flight via Air New Zealand, it was actually a code share and was operated by Air Pacific.) The line for exit formalities was shorter, but we had to wait a while for it to open up. The Nadi airport has no shortage of shopping opportunities, but nothing I felt really worth buying.
The actual flight was okay and was, in fact, somewhat more comfortable than the flight over had been. Unfortunately, Air Pacific uses the Bradley International terminal at LAX, which was even more chaotic than I remembered it being. (United has immigration and customs at their own facility, which is far more efficient.) I was particularly annoyed at the man right in front of me in the line to get out through customs inspection who never learned that it is basic courtesy not to get in line until you have all your belongings. He started out with a cart with 2 bags, but his wife kept bringing over bag after bag after bag and piling them on. I didn't count, but there must have been at least 20 bags (on 2 carts) by the time they got up to the customs officer - and she was sill bringing things over. He got pulled aside and I found myself hoping that every single one of those was thoroughly gone over.
Because I don't trust international flights to be on time, I'd left myself an 8 hour layover at LAX. But I knew that there was an earlier flight to Dulles on United and figured I could try to get on it. It helps that I know that airport well (flying out of somewhere 2-3 times a month for 17 years will do that to you) so I was able to go right to the Premier line in Terminal 6, instead of having to go by Terminal 7 first. And, sure enough, not only was I able to get on the earlier flight, I didn't even get stuck with a center seat. There was an annoying wait for my bag at the other end, but that's par for the course at Dulles. At least the late hour meant the taxi ride home was quick. Once home, I more or less collapsed and, in fact, spent the next week or so sounding more or less like a Tempurpedic mattress ad.
In conclusion, I'll admit this wasn't exactly among the best vacations I've ever taken, largely due to getting sick. However, I'm glad I did it, anyway. My goal had been to get a better appreciation of archaeology and I certainly did that. While I don't have any particular desire to volunteer for a dig again, the experience will affect how I look at artifacts in museums. And, again despite discomforts, the experience of living in the village was a positive one, due to the friendliness and hospitality of the Fijian people. I came away feeling like I'd gotten to know another culture intimately and that's worth being inconvenienced for a couple of weeks out of my life.
I used pictures from two other people in the previous chapter, so let's start with their sites:
Jenn took hundreds of photos. She has serious camera gear and knows how to use it.
Don posted a much smaller collection, but captured a wide variety of subjects.
While I didn't use any of her photos, there's another comprehensive set from Ai Ling.
for more information about the actual archaeological research, the best place to start is probably Patrick Nunn's website at USP, which has links to various articles, as well as some pictures.
Finally, even though I linked to it up front, I might as well repeat the link to Earthwatch for more information about this expedition (if it will run again) or other "voluntourism" opportunities.
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last updated 24 February 2008