It’s been a while since I’ve been part of a research team or travelled with more than one other person (often I’m by myself or with my husband). And so far, on this trip to Fiji it’s been a delight to spend time with five other people who share many of my views on the world (and excitement about fish). We’ve been hanging out together in Fiji’s capital Suva and getting things ready for when the science begins – we’ve been racing around town, buying maps of the dive sites, sourcing formaldehyde (so we can bring back fish specimens for the museum in New York), and sorting out all the permits for us being here, doing research, and taking fish away with us.
Then there are all the non-science things to sort out, mostly importantly food. After many years of diving, I’ve learned just how crucial it is to eat well when diving and how having good food is one of the secrets for a happy team of divers. There’s no diver grumpier than one who doesn’t have a post-dive snack to stave off the nitrogen munchies (you know, that tired feeling you get after a dive?)
To stock up on fresh fruit and veg we headed over to Suva’s main market; a colourful shock to the senses (especially on a grey rainy day in Suva) and a real mix of the known and unknown. Pineapples and guava are in season, mangoes sadly are not. Alongside piles of aubergines, cauliflowers and carrots are all sorts of green leafy vegetable that I don’t recognise (and I’m excited to try).
Climbing the stairs to the upper floor we sniff in a heady waft of spices. Here’s where you can buy staples – rice, lentils, beans, onions, potatoes – and the all-important kava, which we’ll need to the traditional welcoming ceremony when we get to the village. The gnarly roots hang in tapered bundles from the ceiling or you can buy it ready-ground into a powder.
Now we’re all set for the field – all we need now is for the ferry to show up. We leave tomorrow at 4am. Wish us luck!