A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.
The woman who refused to take off her sandals in the Fijian village
Socks with sandals are alarming at the best of times. I've never questioned a socks-n-sandals proponent to their face and I'm all the worse for it. It would be a fascinating insight into a confused, possibly brilliant mind. And I'm sorry to say I recently missed another golden opportunity to learn about this mysterious species of human.
This is especially disappointing because this was a unique sub-species of the socks-n-sandals homo sapien: one who refuses to take them off while doing village tours in remote parts of the Pacific Islands.
I'd gone upriver on a jet-boating tour from the large regional town of Sigatoka in Fiji. This was an adventure inland to parts of the country most tourists don't see. The scenery was beautiful and we stopped at a village for a kava ceremony, lunch and a sing-along. It was during the ceremony that I first noticed the glow of bright white crossed with black lines. I nearly choked on my kava: socks-n-sandals!
Not only that, but socks-n-sandals inside a Fijian meeting house — a huge no-no. What was going through this person's mind? At a guess they would've been an Australian in their mid-30s with a mild-whiff of still living at home with their parents.
I couldn't look away, perplexed at how someone could see literally every single other person removing their shoes before entering the thatched building, but deciding,"no, not for me — I'm keeping these bad boys on".
From the kava ceremony we moved to the village's central hall for an on-the-floor feast. Our tour guide instructed the group — about 15 of us in total — to remove our shoes and to get ready for food, singing and dancing. Grace was said, I consumed my body weight in watermelon and papaya; guitars appeared and the locals began dancing with the group.
Given the tropical heat, people ducked outside to the porch to cool off in between dances, including our socky friend. While dabbing my brow with my John McEnroe sweatbands, I noticed the socks-n-sandals were still firmly in place with everybody else barefoot. Let's assume for a moment the lady had a foot phobia and can't stand to let anyone see her feet. Some people have ugly feet; I get it. But still remove the sandals and, by all means, keep the socks on if you must. The fashion crime is one thing, but the disrespect of a local custom is another. And yet I was still so intrigued by this specimen I wanted to interview them and find out what made her tick. Next time.
When I disappointed those Thai kids at the orphanage
Friends of mine visited an orphanage in Thailand the other day and I remembered for the first time in a long time my own experience at an orphanage right on the Thai/Myanmar border about 15 years ago. I let down the kids. Even though it was 2004 and even though these were desperately poor children in an economically deprived part of the country, I was still an almighty disappointment to them. It had nothing to do with money either. It was my camera. Yes indeed, even in 2004, I was evidently the first tourist these kids had encountered with a non-digital camera. Years before phones took pictures, the first decade of this century was all about digital cameras for travellers and the novelty of instantly seeing your photos.
However, I was still using film in those days and as our touring group snapped away at the children as they danced and did gymnastics for us, you're unlikely to have seen greater disillusionment in a child's eyes. As soon as each of them had finished their part in the performance, they'd rush up to us, grabbing our cameras to see themselves on screen. Excitedly flipping over my camera, hearts would sink one by one as all they saw was a smooth grey back and a small viewfinder. No picture. What? I was the worst tourist in the world.
The modern difficulties of sneaking into hotel swimming pools
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com