It is said that one can spend an entire lifetime searching for home and never find it. If that is true, I am very fortunate for I have known many places I have called home. From a two person tent traveling the world to my Green House in Fiji where Kula once lived. I believed my true home is this body which houses my soul but the homes which housed this body have always been in transition. Yes, I have lived in larger, more spacious, and luxurious homes than this small structure but home is more than the physical features of a building. This time I have a home full of people with whom I share something more. It is not a heritage or culture and to be totally honest I am not sure what name to call this common bond I experience with the people here in Fiji.
When I walk the main street in town I feel a kinship with the Fijian men I see sitting on the curb sharing time with their friends. I listen to them talk and although I don’t understand the language, I understand the camaraderie we all share. I understand their frustrations with life and trying to make ends meet. I share their consternation with the foreigners who come to their homeland with their SUV’s and yachts and buy homes the Fijians could never afford in this lifetime to use for vacation retreats. Yet, that is how I am here. My empathy is shared with Dhara. The Indian woman running both a restaurant and a internet cafe trying to make a better life for her children. She deals with the impatience of foreign travelers who are always in a hurry and an internet server which is spotty at best. I share compassion with Kamal the taxi driver who works seven day a week to support his wife and children and now has to pay an additional 15% VAT (value added tax) to a military government that promises a democratic election but has not yet delivered.
The children here look at me with their wide, dark eyes and wonder who is this man who looks like me but is not from here? They laugh at the strip of hair on the back of my head and then slide across the seat of the bus to offer me a place to sit down next to them. The young woman who served me coffee this morning greets me on the street with a Bula smile. I share a lifetime with a stranger who joins me on the grass in front of my home. We sit and wait for a bus, taxi, or just a ride into town. He tells me how to cook breadfruit and taro root. “Cut them up and boil them for a long time,” he says. His clothes are tattered, his sandals worn to almost nothing, his teeth mostly missing. He carries a bouquet of ginger and bird of paradise flowers he picked from the roadside. He waves down a ride for both of us to share.
Years ago in college I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It was during the Black cultural revolution of the sixties and I identified with his sense of alienation living as a Black man in America. A new world where people came to escape the persecution of their own homelands but built upon the backs of slaves. Even after we were granted our freedom by an amendment to the Constitution. Even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act supposedly gave us equal rights and opportunity. Even after the country elected a Black man to be its president. We are still looked upon as second class citizens because of the color of our skin. I am still a stranger in my own homeland.
I am not a stranger here.