Monday, August 01, 2005

The poofter, the cabbie, the cop and me

all set out for Suva together. After my last post, I went to the bus station to get a ticket to Suva. The ticket cost $11.90, the guy in the office said, but I knew it should only be $6. On further reflection, maybe that was only the sunrise special. Anyway, there was a half hour till the next bus came, so I set out looking for a minibus (minivan) to see what they charge, because I knew it would be quicker.

Cab drivers kept bugging me for a fare, but I always said, "Suva, $20" and that kept them quiet. Finally one said he'd do it for $17. But it turned out that he wouldn't do it, his friend would, and he wanted four passengers. An older couple got in with me, and then when they got fed up, they left. So I sat around and chatted with the cabbie for a while waiting for them to "come back after they get money" as the cab driver claimed.

We made small talk, where are you from, etc. When he found out I was single, he asked I'd marry an Indian girl. I said maybe if she was the right girl for me. Turns out he has three daughters, and how much money do I make. Unemployed. Oh, nevermind then.

Half an hour passed and I missed my bus. I was getting tired of this cabbie, but then he said, okay, here comes one, now we go. Turned out to be the ugliest transvestite in the world. I mean, he'd've been prettier as a man. Not that he was really trying. He had about 2 days stubble, and looked like a very ugly man with a scarf and makeup, wearing mens clothes. After a couple minutes more waiting, I walked off to the bus ticket booth. Of course it was another hour till the next bus, and it was already 12:30 pm.

So the guy hollers at me that we leave now, and I give him one more chance. The poofter is gone, and another man is standing next to him. I thought he was another cab driver. They hang out in clans. But he claimed to be an undercover police officer (wearing a tshirt that has a police logo on it.) So we chat a while, and finally the cabbie says, we go.

Still skeptical, I follow him. He motions to get in the car, and the poofter is in the front seat. I get in one side, the cop in the other, and we're off!

Neh, it's time to stop at the grocery store. After 10 minutes the cop goes in after the cabbie. After 5 more minutes, I go in after the cop and joke, let's get one more fare and leave him. Just then the driver comes out and we're off!

Neh, it's to the gas station. Only the cabbie apparently isnt' very familiar with how the place works, going in the wrong way, etc. Finally, we get gas and we're off!

Neh, it's back to the bus stop to see if the cabbie's friends have found him another fare. They wave him off, and would you believe it? This time we're really off.

I say, "You know the bus has passed Sigatoka by now." I've been saying snide stuff like this for a while now. (Sigatoka, pronounced sing-a-toke-a is about 1/3 of the way to Suva, or about 1 hour of straight driving, at least 1 & 1/2 by bus.)

We pick up and drop off several short termers along the way, and finally we get to Sigatoka and stop for lunch. I didn't want anything, but decide to get a couple bananas even though the don't look good. Then the cop offers to buy me a coke. By now, he's shown me his badge (which looks like a laminated high school student ID) and I'm starting to believe he's a real cop. This was when I joked that detective must not be a very good job if he has to ride the cab.

The poofter has to stop at every roadside vendor and pick up some cucumbers, mostly green tomatoes, habaneros, and finally shrimp. The cop jokes with the cabbie that they must know each other. The cabbie swears this is the first time he's ever seen the poofter. The poofter smokes all the way, but asks politely if anyone minds before he lights up, until one lady we picked up in a village obvious does mind. I think the cold from me leaving down the window bothered her more.

When we get to Suva, it's everyone out, but now the cop is concerned about what I'm doing, where I'm staying, etc. Now I smell a rat. Friendly + curious = trying to sell you something == trying to con you.

I've decided the cop is okay, now that he seems to know everyone, incl. uniformed cops. He wants to know what I'm doing next. I say that I need to go to the bank because the ATM won't take my card. But the bank closed at three.

So I say I want to find a book shop to find a travel book. He follows me to two, and surpringinly the second shop not only has it, but accepts credit cards. Welcome to Suva, the modern third world! We're not in Nadi (or Libby) anymore.

After that, I say I'm going to see my friends in Tamavua village. He almost doesn't want to say goodbye when I get on the bus. I think the guy was scared about the poor tourist. Maybe I look like the biggest softed palangi out there and maybe I am, but at least knowing I look like it gives me a step up. I'm Columbo or Inspector Clouseau.

Turns out that Tamavua is a dangerous area. The bad part of the city.


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