Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

B-Grade Hotel

Narewa Road, Nadi, Viti Levu, Fiji

June 25, 2013

This essay, B-Grade Hotel, is the third in a group of five written in New Zealand / Fiji, June 2013:
  1. Godzone
  2. You'll Hear The Rumble
  3. B-Grade Hotel
  4. The Rain Is Coming, Mr Laurence
  5. Is Fiji Paradise?
in that order.

This group of five written in New Zealand / Fiji, June 2013 is the sequel to Christian Rocks!.

The taxi with the defective shock absorbers (or no shocks at all - I can't tell which) winds its way along rutted, unpaved roads through sugar cane fields and palm tree plantations, eventually coming to a stop in the middle of nowhere in front of a hotel straight out of a B-grade  ghost town movie. A flashing purple neon sign with missing letters announces a vacancy. We park in front of the reception area which is outside in the open. A couple of pool tables stand off to one side. The concierge desk doubles as a bar with icy bottles of Fiji Bitter, the local brewski, on display. The hotel staff are happy to see us. It's clear they take pride in this place and in their job. The taxi driver told me he earns the equivalent of seven US dollars a day - with which he supports himself, his wife, and their three children. The hotel staff, even of this B-grade hotel, probably earn megabucks in comparison. Two of them run up to help us take our bags to our room.

It's exactly the kind of place I want Christian to experience. Away from the comparative luxury of the United States, this is how most of the world lives. The room is actually in pretty good shape for a third world hotel. The bathroom is clean. The shower works and has plenty of hot water. Still, we've brought our own bottled water for brushing our teeth, and I've already counseled Christian to keep his mouth closed in the shower. It's good advice. Just in case. The air conditioning provides cool air as it's supposed to, and isn't noisy. I like this place already, I think to myself. The beds are firm as I sit on them to test them. It's good to be here after a long flight.

After unpacking we head downstairs to get something to eat. The sun is setting. The sounds of crickets chirping and frogs croaking punctuate our humid walk. The man at the concierge desk shows us a hand-written menu with both Fijian and Indian (a third of the population here) items on it. We make our selections. He opens a couple of beers for Christian and me, then disappears into the kitchen. When he hasn't returned in over three quarters of an hour, Christian and I realize a) he's probably making everything we ordered from scratch, and / or b) it's us  who are impatient, not he who's slow, because we aren't yet on Fijian time (I mean the pace, not the time zone adjustment). So we relax and start talking, enjoying the icicle encrusted bottles of Fiji Bitter. Then a woman walks over to us and, uninvited, pulls up a chair, sits down, and starts talking.

I kind of wish she'd go away because she's interfering in my precious time with Christian. But she doesn't. So, almost begrudgingly, I include her. At first I peg her as a maid who works for the hotel who's just finished her shift. I'm wrong. So  wrong. I couldn't be more wrong in fact. She owns  the hotel. She has a doctorate degree. Her husband is a professor at the University of Fiji. He's currently away, flying to an outer island to one of the far flung Fiji university's campuses there to lecture. Just as I start to notice how judgemental I am by pegging her as a hotel menial worker when she's actually a doctoral graduate married to a university professor and owns the hotel, I notice the couple now playing pool is getting a bit rowdy, having clearly had one drink too many.

But as I said, this is the set of a B-grade movie replete with a motley cast, and I'm glad Christian can experience this. Suddenly the woman half of the drunk couple playing pool puts down her cue and walks towards us. And I find myself thinking "No, please don't come here. We're having a great conversation ...". Still, she comes anyway, and asks (ie slurs) our host "Who are your good looking guests?". Oh gawd ...

Clearly this is my night to discover how judgemental I am. This time I find out the drunk woman pool player works for the United Nations. She's here with their micro-economics program first conceived by Muhammad Yunus, a citizen of Bangladesh, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The program makes loans available in small amounts (twenty dollars for example) to impoverished individuals to start businesses. Buy a hen. Sell the eggs. Pay back the loan. Then, with the new trust and credit accrued, take out a larger loan - say twenty five  dollars. Buy more hens etc. Mr Yunus discovered impoverished people, when given a god-sent chance like this, rarely if ever default on these loans. Micro-loans are more certain to be repaid (and sooner) than mortgages and other loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is who she is. And I had her pegged as the overly loud pool playing drunk. Clearly I've got the judgemental thing down cold. And the irony of it all is Christian, an economics student, is having the most marvelous conversation  with her and the doctorate university professor's wife hotel owner maid.

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