How I Got Swindled by a Street Hustler in Suva

In my last post, shared the experience of getting mistaken for a native from the islands of Fiji, and toward the end I mentioned getting swindled by a street hustler in Suva – well, here it is.

It was the first day after we had arrived and as a team we decided to explore Suva. There was myself, Crystal, Nigel, Quinton and Sensei Luke – all except me were either full or part Bouganvillian.

Sensei Luke, Nigel and Quinton were Bougainvillian and Crystal’s mother is from there as well. As you can imagine, our group stood out like a sore thumb when strolling along Victoria parade. So it was no surprise that as soon as we got people’s attention. However, I believe it was Sensei Luke’s open nature that gave the swindler courage to approach us.

quinton-luke-and-nigel-nadi
Quinton, Sensei Luke and Nigel at Nadi International Airport. We are waiting for the coach/bus which leaves for Suva at around 5am. 

Sensei Luke has a very open personality that he tends to try and mingle with people wherever he goes. At Brisbane airport while waiting for our flight to Suva, he even made friends with a Pakistani working as a janitor at the there. Unfortunately for us, it was like a beacon summoning the hustler to us.

So we are walking along the street and Sensei Luke keeps greeting everyone with ‘hey, wantok’ and nobody really seems interested until this guy comes out of the blue smiling from ear to ear. He had a missing took that looked like something out of a Grassroots comic.

“Hey, wantoks!” he shouts and we all stop to greet him. He shakes everyone’s hand and then asks where we are from. On hearing that we are from PNG, he associates us with Handy Finance. Apparently the company has a strong and growing presence in Fiji.

He then tells us his name is Levi and that he was in the army but was discharged and now selling his wares on the street. He also told us he did not have a license and would be arrested by the authorities if they caught him.

We, of course, told him that it was our first time in the country and we were there to compete at the tournament. He then tells us that he would give us a gift and took out a piece of stick and started carving our names on it.

So like idiots, we all gather around and watch as he carves our names on that piece of stick; Bernard, Crystal, Nigel, Quinton and Luke. He smiles and hands it over to me – and thinking it is a gift take it. However, he then asks us for a small donation for the stick so I ask him how much does he want for it and he goes FJ$30.

None of us had any money. We had just arrived and all our money was still in either US$ or Kina. I had a FJ$20 which I had removed from an ATM at Nadi using my BSP Visa debit card. However, I felt uneasy giving him the money because I had a very different definition of what a gift is.

In my definition, a gift is anything given without expecting something in return especially monetary. His definition was the opposite so Sensei Luke tried to haggle and he slowly came down.

To Sensei Luke’s credit, he actually got the guy to drop his request for a donation down to FJ$15. Unfortunately, all we had was a 20, and the guy had actually made us feel guilty about accepting his gift, so I offered him the 20 just to get rid of him.

Anyway, he left and we walked a few more blocks and turned at the craft market. The experience had left a sour taste and no one spoke until we reached the front of the hotel when all of a sudden everyone exploded into laughter.

It took us a while but we realized that four gullible Papua New Guineans in Fiji had just been swindled by a Suva hustler.

crystal-bsp-arcade-suva
BSP Arcade, one of the few places we visited that day.

Needless to say, that experience became an inside joke for us and everyone would burst out laughing when someone said ‘hey, wantok’.

The experience was the first time had been swindled ever. Growing up in Port Moresby and other parts of PNG I had assumed that I knew it all – but I didn’t.

I had initially planned to bring that piece of FJ$20 stick with me and have it framed, but forgot about at Nadi Resort when we were returning. However, that is an experience that I, nor my friends, will ever forget.

The Time I was Mistaken for a Fijian (in Suva)

Have you ever had that incident where you are mistaken for someone else? Or people think you are from somewhere when you are really not? I’ve had a couple of those kinds of incidents. However, my most memorable one would be when I was mistaken for a Fijian native – in Suva.

It was 2012 and I was in Fiji to compete in the Fiji Karate International tournament. I had gone there as part of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) team which consisted of Crystal Mari, Nigel Bana, Quinton Bougan and Sensei Luke Goa as coach. We had arrived a couple of days before the tournament and our training schedule allowed free time during the evenings.

In was then that I decided to do a little sightseeing of Suva alone on foot.

victoria-parade-suva

We stayed at the Holiday Inn so I walked along Victoria parade and soon arrive at a traffic light. The lights were red at the crossing and in front of me were three Chinese men. I know they were Chinese because I could hear them speaking Mandarin.

Now, I’m not an expert in Mandarin but I do understand a few phrases and words, and hearing one say ‘mayo’ was an obvious giveaway.

Anyway, these three, instead of waiting for the lights to go green actually tried to stop traffic in order to cross. It was hilarious!

The most courageous (or foolish – whichever way you look at it) puts his hand out to stop coming vehicles, but you know how impatient drivers can be, especially when you’ve been waiting for the last few minutes for your turn to go.

Every time the man tries to cross, vehicles just swoosh by – and his friends, a couple of feet behind, are trying to play catch.

Eventually, after four vehicles a bus comes by and the driver having seen the men’s attempt to cross decides to stop and let them pass. As he drives by he looks at me, and I’m grinning ear to ear at the Chinese men – and he blurts out something at me in the local vernacular and laughs.

I didn’t understand a word he says but I laughed too. I can only guess what he was saying but at that moment language was not a barrier for me to understand the context of his words. He was talking about the men who had tried to cross earlier. He was probably making some kind of joke on their behest.

My guess is he was going along the lines of ‘crazy Chinese’ or something like that, but it was fact that he thought I was a local that kind of stayed with me.

Ironically, I would be mistaken again the next year along the same area; this time by the crew of a PMV bus.

Being mistaken for a Fijian, at the time was double funny for me, especially after witnessing the trio trying to halt traffic so they could cross.

Anyway, I have to stop here, but I have a few more adventures to share about Suva including one where we get swindled by a street hustler but that will be for a later date.

Governor Parkop takes swipe at Sir Mekere

NCD Governor, Powes Parkop
NCD Governor, Powes Parkop

National Capital District (NCD) Governor Powes Parkop has taken a swipe at Sir Mekere Morauta after news of his intentions to re-enter politics.

Governor Parkop published a statement on his Facebook account calling the voters in the nation’s capital not to be misled by Mekere’s rhetoric about why he intends to contest the coming election.

He said Sir Mekere’s move is purely for personal gain and is a desperate attempt for the former Prime Minister to protect his position in the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program Ltd (PNGSDP) which has become his [Mekere’s] personal cash cow.

Coming back into politics is his desperate attempt to protect his position in the PNG Sustainable Development Ltd that has become his personal cash cow. This is also to level out his personal feud with the Prime Minister, after PM O’Neill took him to court to put an end to Sir Mekere’s corrupt operation of PNG Sustainable Development Ltd.

Parkop further said that Sir Mekere, during his 15 years in office, failed the people of NCD and the country.

His failures are staggering and almost unbelievable. During his time in Government, he passed a law that gave immunity from prosecution to BHP so they do not have to comply with the Court Orders that landowners of OK Tedi and Fly River had taken out against BHP and Ok Tedi Mining to dredge the two rivers of sedimentation from the mine.

This is the same man, during his time as Prime Minister, students at UPNG were shot dead by police following the protest against the land mobilisation program.

Sir Mekere made his intentions known recently and said that people from all walks of life have been urging him to contest the forthcoming elections. He said they were worried about the country’s state of affairs and the future.

Sir Mekere’s full statement can be read at the Namorong Report blog.