The Intercon August 5th
Kristin and I were exhausted the day after our marathon dolphin watching-happy hour-bar hopping night. As an officer of her PTA, she was committed to working an hour at the school fund-raiser the next day, a flea market type of affair where local artisan’s buy table space to sell homemade items ranging from food to jewelry. She and the kids and I packed into the car around 8:45am and headed off to the school. The crafts were amazing; carved spoons and bowls, hand dyed scarves and sarongs, woven baskets of every size. I bought several gifts to bring back home in spite of the very limited space in my luggage.
The rest of Saturday was spent recuperating from the previous three days. I had no idea what she had in store for me tomorrow, only that it involved Kristin’s first overnight away from the kids since she’d been in Fiji and much preparation on her part was going on throughout the day.
We began our Sunday with brunch at Sangeeta’s, steak and eggs for the grown ups and waffles and French toast for Caroline and Will. The steak was like shredded pot roast meat, placed on the English muffin, topped by a perfectly poached egg and the most delicious, delicate Hollandaise sauce. I had three flat whites. One had too much foam and Sangeeta made the waitress do it over but I asked her to leave it. I was in coffee heaven.
We talked with Sangeeta for a while about her staffing woes. She was Indo-Fijian, a mix that in Fiji often meant store or restaurant owner, and the employees were mostly the all native Fijians, who operated on Fiji time for the most part. Sangeeta wanted her restaurant to have the island flavors but the western sense of speed and service. She worked very hard to train “her girls” as she called the young wait staff. She explained her complicated system of pooling all tips and dividing them up once a month between the entire restaurant crew, from busboys to chefs, based on hours worked. She also paid to have beauticians come in and do their hair and wax their lips, one of the perks of working at Eden.
Kristin and I took off along the coast towards Nadi and the surprise. I knew it involved an overnight stay, somewhere about 45 minutes from the airport. The drive took us through hilly, grassy country without many trees but peaceful, with grazing cows, goats and horses, many of them tethered to trees at the shoulder of the road. I told Kristin I wanted to get a picture of a beach where Fijians would go, as they don’t go to the tourist resorts. We pulled over at a little restaurant on a beach. I went immediately down to the sand, but she had seen someone she knew pull in right behind us so she went inside to say Hi. I finished my pictures and followed the voices onto the back deck of the restaurant, overlooking the ocean. Kristin was talking with a lovely, white haired woman sitting at a table, an Indian man, and a tall, friendly faced man, whom she introduced as Peter, from the New Zealand Embassy.
Peter said hello to me and then,”May I introduce Lady Hillary, Sir Edmund Hillary’s wife.” I was so shocked I just looked at Kristin and she shrugged her shoulders at me, with a big grin on her face.
“I’m so happy to meet you,” I think I blurted out, completely tongue tied, grinning like an idiot. I am the biggest dork fan whenever I meet someone I admire, someone famous, I just hope that my words came out right. While I do not know the story of Lady Hillary, I do know the story of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt. Everest, an adventurer extraordinaire, the first man to reach both the north and south poles and climb Mt. Everest, and a Kiwi. Any woman strong enough to be married to such a man had to be exceptional herself. She was so gracious and asked me about my trip to New Zealand and we all chatted for five minutes before Kristin and I moved on down the road. When we got in the car, we just sat for a second, then looked at each other, “Oh my God, oh my God, we just met Lady Hillary,” and giggled and laughed like schoolgirls. I loved that Kristin was just as much of a nerd fan as myself. What are the odds of running into a famous Kiwi in Fiji at some small restaurant in the middle of nowhere, a place we wouldn’t have even gone into if Kristin hadn’t seen Peter? Maybe the same or less as running into Marie twice in New Zealand?
After about three hours of driving, Kristin pulled into the most fancy, manicured, fountained, open aired hotel I had ever seen in person. Her surprise for me was a night at the Intercontinental, a resort on what is called the Coral Coast. She checked us in while I wandered around the ginormous lobby, all sides of which were completely open to the ocean breeze, looking over the impossibly blue ocean just beyond the end of the main building we were in. We were whisked off by golf cart to our bure, right on the edge of the sand. The room was beautiful of course but the best part was the wall of sliding glass doors that went out to our own private patio with access to the beach. There was a couch and table, candles, but best of all a giant bathtub. OUTSIDE, tucked in a corner but with a view of the ocean. I think I have an obsession with outside bathtubs. It has nothing to do with the stupid Cialis commercials so don’t even go there; those commercials have actually almost ruined outdoor tubs for me.
Kristin said I was in charge, we could do whatever the resort offered which included snorkeling, paddle boarding, swimming in ocean or pool, and a full spa, among dozens of other things. I chose snorkeling first, to be followed by a swim in the infinity pool. We went to the rental place and got some gear, which we were thrilled to see cleaned with disinfectant before being handed to us. Jesse, the snorkel rental agent, showed us the best place to get in and said to swim out past the waves, it was a little rough today. Kristin and I tried really hard to follow his directions. The tide was so strong we had a hard time getting our fins on, which Kristin said is normally easier to do in the water. We looked ridiculous trying to get everything on in waist deep water and we kept falling over. We were laughing so hard I actually inhaled a mouthful of water through my snorkel, which made me laugh harder once I stopped choking. We finally made it out to the reef, trying to get past the waves as Jesse had instructed but were getting pushed back towards shore. We were never in danger, the reef is right next to shore, but I was worried about the waves pushing us onto the coral. It was less than two feet under us, and I didn’t want to damage it, but really, my true fear was that some kind of eel or sea snake would pop out and scare the shit out of me. We swam around, over and next to the coral for about 45 minutes but the water was so rough it wasn’t nearly as clear as it had been at Takalana so we finally crawled onto shore and headed for the infinity pool.
This was a fantastic idea on our part. Not quite as warm as we would have liked but at least it was calm. We ordered Cosmopolitan’s, to be delivered poolside and just sipped our pink drinks, chilled in the water and watched the sun get closer to the horizon.
When we got back to our room, of course I wanted to take a bath outside. While I futzed around with the stereo system and opened the bottle of wine Sangeeta had given us as a gift when we left that morning, Kristin drew a bath for me, filled it with bath soap, lit candles and put a big fluffy towel and bathrobe out for me. It would have been so romantic if she had been a guy, but it was more like she was being a Mom and I haven’t had one of those in a while so I loved it.
I soaked in the tub, she sat on the couch and we chatted and watched the sun set over the ocean. We had reservations at the fancy restaurant right next to our bure but had plenty of time to primp and get ready. Kristin and Scott had been to the Intercon a couple of times, but always with the kids, so she had never been in the infinity pool, or to this restaurant, children aren’t allowed in either place.
We dressed up for dinner but she wanted to take me to a bar near the main building to have a cocktail first. They have giant couches outside and a very good live band so we plopped down on the lounge couch and ordered drinks and small appetizers. We had just gotten our drinks when a tall, pretty blond woman came up and said, “I’m alone, you look friendly, can I sit with you?” I said yes immediately because I wanted to see how this would work, since I will probably be doing this often in Europe. I can’t remember her name, but she was from Australia, a hairdresser that owned her own salon and was here for ten days. She was going to Suva for a surprise baby shower and she mentioned her friend’s name. Kristin said “Is it a shower for ____?” and the woman said “Yes,” in surprise. The shower was for a teacher that Kristin works with. Man this world is such a small place, it constantly amazes me. We hung out for a while and talked with our new, brave friend and tried to help her pick out the next couch loungers to approach. She knew what she was doing, she discounted everyone we had picked out for various reasons and then headed back to sit at the bar by herself as we left. She begged us to come back after dinner to dance but we didn’t commit. I don’t think I’ll do that last part in Europe.
The restaurant was so elegant, with marble floors and the entire wall facing the ocean open to the cool night air. There were water features in the floor, narrow little channels of gently running water and we saw frogs going back and forth from feature to feature although we never saw them jump into the water. We ordered whatever we wanted and dinner lasted three hours. Part of that was Fiji time, but it was also partly due to the quantity of food we had. Every single thing was a delight, and I definitely felt like a small python that had eaten a large goat by the time we rolled out of there.
The next morning, I took a walk along the beach alone and sprinkled the rest of Michael into the ocean. I hadn’t cried the other times but I cried this time. I had not brought all of the ashes with me, I was saving some for Europe, but this was the last I had for this trip, for this phase of my journey. I felt that I had accomplished something really big and I wanted him by my side, to hold my hand, to hug and kiss me and tell me how proud he was of me. I have my angel, I know, but sometimes you just need a big old furry bear to hug and to hug you back.