03 August 2017
East Meets West
So, after four weeks in a "Barefoot" economy we were suddenly thrust back into the full throttle, "Trainer" economy of Savusavu with its bustling shops, cars and boats and planes.
Savusavu, pop, < 5,000, is the smaller of the two main towns on the island and today we visited Labasa, clearly a "Corfam" economy. 24,000 folk live here. Mostly school kids from what I can see.
In the absence of any other economic indicators I've developed this theory, wot I have composed, wot is mine and mine alone (for full text refer my dear brother or, was it Monty Python?). My theory is that footwear, or indeed absence of, is a pretty good indicator of an area's economic status.
I've developed five levels:-
- Flip-flop (Thong for Australian readers)
- Corfam (remember "living, breathing (all plastic) Corfam shoes?)
- Gucci Loafer
A little bit like the British Working Class, Middle Class and just like that, while fundamentally in one "class" individuals can accessorize, perhaps with a Manchester United, an All-Blacks T-shirt or perhaps a Smart Phone, to indicate that while, yes, they may be a Flii-Flopper, but, personally, they are an upper level Flip- Flopper.
The Lau Group is clearly a barefoot economy where the population live off the land and some income from trading coconuts and fish, while Savusavu is definitely more, "Flip-Flop".
Flip-Flippers are more service oriented providing a non mall shopping experience, diving, taxi tours and bars.
Today we're in Trainer territory, Labasa, but here the model is distorted by an over representation of Corfam as it seems such footwear is mandatory school wear.
A two and a half hour trip across the mountains in a rickety bus took us through the cane fields and copra plantations to the main town of Fiji's northern island Vanua Levi pop. 120,000
Chaos seems to be the modus operandi, perhaps showing some traits from the local populations Asian roots. Way back on the late 1800's to early 1900's, when the good ol' Upper Class Twi-- sorry Brits needed cheap, or better, free labour to cut the sugar cane and as slavery was abolished, they cunningly developed a new "class", the "Indentured Servant" and shipped some 60,000 Indians over from "the Colony" to get cutting.
Consequently Fiji today is very much an island of two cultures living what's appears happy but separate lives, although the PR says everyone's Fijian.
The Indo Fijians seem to own and run all the enterprises in town. The native Fijians seem happy in their roots; fruit and veg trading in the open market.
One Group is is Barefoot or Flip-flopped, the other, Trainer or Corfam. You guess.