ELEVEN journalists from Fiji, Indonesia, PNG and the Solomon Islands are in Melbourne, Australia to attend the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre-organised fellowship. Our reporter TEVITA VUIBAU is attending the five-week fellowship that will provide skills and insights for reporting the mining and resources sector and related impacts on economic and social development. He will be providing weekly updates from Melbourne about his trips and treats.
WHILE the standard of meals is not what it once was on Air Pacific and now Fiji Airways, it is good to see that some things like the service has not changed.
So a massive thank you to the women on board FJ933 on Saturday night for ensuring authenticity in a time of great change for our national airline.
The weather in Melbourne is very cold, even though I was told to expect chilly weather, that still prepared me for the first blast of cold air I felt when walking out of the Melbourne airport terminal.
I may or may not have cursed very loudly and profusely in the two languages that I know but the adage "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it" should be applied here.
The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was, uh, interesting.
The driver looked iTaukei and so I greeted him with a bula! and showed him the address of the hotel to which he nodded his head and carried on like we completely understood each other.
Long story short, when we got to the hotel I asked him in iTaukei to wait while I call the hotel manager and arrange for a room key.
He looks at me with an absolutely blank look and says in the thickest Tamil-English accent I've ever heard: "Sir I have no idea what you are saying."
The organisation taking care of the 11 journalists on this course paired me with PNG journalist Gabriel Bego from the National Broadcasting Corporation of Papua New Guinea.
In typical islander fashion, every heater and air condition unit in our apartment is on 28 degrees to help us deal with the weather.
The city of Melbourne was just voted the most liveable city in the world for the third year in a row, and while I'm only a first time visitor to the city, there are a few things that immediately jump out at me.
The architecture first of all is crazy, in the absolute best kind of way, especially with the buildings of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology located in the CBD.
They are all unique and some would not look out of place in a Super Mario Bros game.
All colour and edges.
There are also other buildings that are older and victorian, all making for a very interesting view of the Melbourne City skyline.
Some of our regular tour guides even tell us that some of the stones on the footpaths and roads were originally hewn by the first convicts sent to Australia from Britain in the 1800s.
Melbourne like so many other Australian cities has become home to large numbers of different nationalities and they have brought their culinary culture with them.
The food might not be anything new to residents of Melbourne or to frequent travellers, but for someone surviving on a staple diet of tuna, noodles, and $4.50 fish and chips, I feel like I've just stumbled into culinary Eden.
So far, we've tried Malaysian food, their national dish, Nasi Lemak, is a mixture of coconut rice, beans, anchovies, prawns and a boiled egg as well as some Thai food.
For the journalists from PNG, the Solomon Islands and Fiji, the spiciness takes some getting used to but the novelty of trying something new never gets old.
And our new journalist friends from Indonesia are also helping us along with their culinary delights while we are doing our best to help them with English as it is a second language for them.
BACK TO SCHOOL
The courses so far have been excellent. All the journalists are here to improve their skills on reporting mining with the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre and have formed a very close-knit group.
The first week of classes at the APJC has been based mainly around leadership and communication and the fellows are all learning more about themselves as well as each other as we progress.
We have also had a meet and greet with Deborah Steele, the head of the ABC Asia Pacific News Centre and our recent visit to the Melbourne writers festival gave the APJC fellows fresh ideas and food for thought.
We have also unanimously decided that Thursday is our favourite day of the week because this is when we get our allowances from the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre. As the program continues, we will move on to Melbourne and Sydney where I'm sure there will be more to see and learn.
But until that time, Go Wallabies! Go South Sydney Rabbitohs! And because I'm writing this at 2am Fiji time — go to sleep!