Free To Be Me

If we were to take the Tao symbol, put a pin at its center and spin it. We would have neither yin nor yang, but a whole, a new image as a result of the blending of the two. When you blend the good and the bad you learn to dance and flow with both expressions…No event is all black or white. — David Paladin

Since my arrival in Fiji, I have kept pretty much to myself, choosing my solitude to the company of others. I remember the words of Henry Miller during the years he lived in Big Sur. “Be still and let the world come to you.” And the world has come to me in the guise of many wonderful and beautiful people and extraordinary experiences.

I have, however, purposely avoided joining any groups and particularly the  expatriates who live in the complex where my home is situated but who consistently drive by me as I wait for the bus. A Fijian or Indian will almost always give me a lift if they have room in their car or truck. One kavavālagi, as the white expats are referred to by the Fijians, told me he puts on blinders when going past the bus stops so he doesn’t even see them. I know this to be true because he drove past me one day until his wife noticed me and they turned around and gave me a lift into town. Members of this community have assisted me with immigration issues and other Fiji related matters for which I am very grateful but I am still an outsider with them. I am still Black and even though the kavavālagi are greatly in the minority, living in someone else’s homeland, most still see the world here as ‘us and them.’ They fail to see the Fijians as neighbors, brothers, or equals.

There exists here an opportunity to overcome the old fears, prejudices and ambivalence and to interact with the inhabitants on a different level. We can leave the old ways of thinking in the countries we left in order to be here. Yes, there is a definite financial imbalance between the kavavālagi and the Fijians but we do not have to bring the social and racial differences of our old worlds here. On this island paradise we have an opportunity  to create change regarding the social and racial divides of our world.

On Friday evenings, I usually go into town and treat myself to dinner at the Copra Shed. I have become friends with the waiter staff there as I once patronized their establishment almost daily to use the internet before having service at my home. To their credit, the expats have asked me to join them but I prefer to just hang out at the bar, eat my dinner, share time with the staff or tourists and go home.

It is a small community where I live so everyone knows I am here but they are curious as to other matters. Did you buy property? Are you renting? How long do you plan on staying? What do you do? Do you know what the property sold for? There is no real interest in knowing who I am, only in gaining the facts to share with the other group members I suppose. I am somewhat of a mystery to them and if the truth be known, I prefer it that way. I am always amazed at the stories I hear going around about me but I have also learned to accept the human nature of western society for what it is.

No Fijian, on the other hand, has ever asked me how I am here or what do I do. Those issues are of no importance to them. They are perhaps curious as to how a Black man is living in the kavavālagi concave of Oneva but they do not ask. They are more concerned with my being single as Fijian life is very family oriented. Who cooks for you? Who cleans your house? They are very proud of their homeland and will almost always ask if I like it here. When I tell them, “I love it here. This is now my home.” They beam with great joy and welcome me.

So, I find myself once again on that bridge between worlds, a now familiar place for me. Although I am welcomed and feel accepted by the Fijians, I am not Fijian, nor do I see myself as part of the white expatriates community and I am no longer a tourist or visitor. I am  the pumpkin growing in a papaya tree far removed from his native soil, learning to live in a new and different environment. And like the pumpkin, I am happy where I am but most of all I am free to be me.