It’s Fiji Time

Believe in hunches, not opinion polls. You are not your name or your telephone number. At boarding time don’t miss the boat that has your name on it. It sails only once. Head for the deep. Hold your course, even if your vision shipwrecks you. — James Broughton

My arrival in Fiji will be exactly two months to the day  I saw the photograph of a house a hundred yards from the South Pacific and instantly knew I would soon be living there. Just in time for the full moon. The process has led to a total upheaval of my life  but has smoothly moved from insight to takeoff without a single hitch in destiny’s plan. I truthfully had no say in the circumstances leading up to this adventure. Oh, I could have said, “No,” but that would have meant staying put and rearranging furniture in the room I have already lived in.  I clearly remember the words in a dream echoing from the mouth of a sage when I asked  what I should do after reaching the top of the mountain.

“Jump,” he said, “some make it, some don’t.”

I believe I am now the object of a different type of dream. I am not dreaming it, someone else is. I never had a dream to live in Fiji and yet everything I have experienced these last two months is taking me there. I am an active and very willing participant in a dream not my own. A step like this only requires the courage to trust the unseen forces acting upon our lives and to surrender to that trust. Consciousness is an unseen energy and it has worked to make destiny’s dream my own.

The ocean and its creatures are planning a celebration for my first baptism in the South Pacific. I can already hear the rain triumphantly sounding my arrival  upon the corrugated steel roof of my new home. I can feel the sun’s heat beaming joy through the coconut trees in the front yard. The beach patiently awaits the first of my many impermanent footprints. The hammock hangs in anxious anticipation of my body’s lingering in its open comfort for hours on end. The geckoes chirp in unison to the bright, full face moon.

This is not a dream, I tell myself. This is my life!

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin! It’s Fiji Time!

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.

Room With A View

I woke up early this morning because a procession of church school students were carrying a cross down the road singing hymns in Fijian. I have no idea what the words are but the voices are beautiful island gospel. They are carrying a large cross to their village church seven miles away. It is Good Friday.

There may be other places in the world where citizens sing while walking down the road but in Fiji the practice is very common. There is a joy of being alive here. The ocean is loud this morning because of the approaching full moon but beautifully chimes in with the choirs’ hymns.

This is the place I love waking up to each day. I love the experiences and the people. I love being alive. Here I experience the realness of simple everyday life without the complexities of want, desires, or choices unfulfilling to my soul. I often see life through the framed picture of my everyday world from the window in front of my desk. Life comes into and passes through the frame as the shadows in Plato’s cave except this life is real and not reflected. I am a participant not chained to a wall watching shadows of life pass before me.

I have not written for a while because I wanted to have the experiences of being here without putting those experiences into words. I wanted to see if my experiences were the same if I didn’t think about recording them. The experiences without the thought process of interpretation. My life experience simply for the direct experience itself and not for a photo, poem or essay of the moment. I wanted to see if my experiences were the same if I didn’t think about recording them. In truth, they are better. I am 100% into the experience of being here in each moment and trust if it is to be recorded later, I will remember and find the necessary words.

I am often asked, “What do you do each day?” Well, I do not do very much in Fiji. I live with joy, the ocean, the people, the critters. I read, I write, I think and I dream. I have friends here but I prefer to share most of my time with solitude.

In these chronicles I wanted to share with you the joy of being alive without scaring you off. I am not a prophet. I believe I am everything and nothing. I am a part of the cycle of life and death. The words I sometimes use to describe me: poet, philosopher, writer, reader, and dreamer are confined to this physical being and life is so much richer than the definition of words. All we have to do is let it happen and trust ourselves.

Out of fear we try to control things, the events, and the happenings of our lives. We create a visual picture of how we want things to be before they happen, hoping to reduce the fear of the unknown. So, when things don’t happen the way we envision, we stuff another “thing” into what Robert Bly refers to as “the Little Back Bag” and carry its burden until the bag becomes too long and too heavy. If things happen exactly the way we dreamed, we thank an invisible God and not our own ability to manifest our reality.

“Our Things”, material or otherwise, don’t define us. They merely establish some status line between those who have and believe they need more to those who have very little and believe they have everything they need. The latter group is getting smaller and smaller. Our world is changing more rapidly. Technology expands our recorded factual knowledge every day but it does not record the loss of cultures, languages, ancient wisdoms, and beliefs.

I came to this island over twelve months ago and I feel as if I have lived here all my life. This small house has always had my presence. The South Pacific has washed away my footsteps from the sands for centuries. The night sky of the Southern Hemisphere has shined upon me throughout all of time even though I am unable to recognize the patterns in its darkness.

I am more alive than I have ever been. The physical confines of this body no longer hold all of who I am. I have outgrown its physical limitations. I keep thinking this must mean I am about to die but I go on living, expanding, and being alive. Does anything ever have to be resolved?

I know it is easy for me. I am retired, single, living on a pension, and in Fiji but I have also had moments much different from this one. I have lived high on the hog for some parts of my life but today I have nothing to show for that existence. The material things are now in landfills, sold, or given away. The everyday experiences, the people, and the places occasionally pop into memory but only in the telling of the story and because I don’t want to forget. I have not done anything in my life which could not be duplicated but I don’t want you to follow me. I want you to follow your heart. It is an ageless instinct that guides you through this existence. Take the gifts life presents you without fear. And when you get to the mountain top – jump! There is always another mountain to learn from and to love.

I spoke this message before. It feels important to share with you again.

Live your life the way you want to live it. It is yours. It is a gift you will only receive once. Don’t miss the boat…the price of the ticket is Your life.

How Did I Get Here?

When my Passport expired two years ago, I decided not to renew the costly item as I had no intention of traveling after my retirement. I did all my traveling during my youth and early adulthood because I didn’t want to travel with an old body. The parts of the world I wanted to see were mostly seen from the seat of a loaded touring bike and as a four year tour guide for Backroads Bicycle Touring. My traveling days were over. There was no place I wanted to travel to or visit. I no longer cared to experience the airport lines, the baggage hassles, and flight delays.  My expired passport had matched my lack of desire to see any more of the world. I was content to live out my life without travel of any kind.

So how is it now I am getting rid of everything I own? A new Vespa 300 Super I purchased only three weeks ago as a birthday present for myself is sold and I am moving to a place I never thought of visiting or moving to? Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “We live life forward but understand it backwards.” Looking back I see how all the events of the last month (April 2011) led to my current situation. A dream, a meeting, photographs, new found cousins, and a new home in Fiji.

I could share with you the facts and details but it would read like any short story string of events. What I want to talk about is life and how sometimes it moves with a soft gentleness and other times it takes a slap to the head to get my attention. It is important to be aware as life happens around you and to learn to completely surrender in its arms. “Opportunity only knocks once.” If it takes the slap to the head, it means you are fighting your life’s flow, your chi. Your resistance is due to fear and fear freezes your flow of life energy.

So what are you afraid of? I know, everything, but more than likely it is change. The unknown frightens us and locks us in indecision. My rational mind tries to talk me out of this leaving. After all, I live a comfortable life and there is no reason to upset the apple cart. Sometimes a choice must be made and I believe the only free will we have is the choice of allowing our fears to rule us or not. So my choice is to choose between loving the life I live, which is safe and requires no change, or living the life I am drawn to, still an imagined unknown requiring a number of changes.

During a morning meditation on my birthday last Sunday I asked if I should go to Fiji. I did not receive the usual yes or no reply. Instead the message was, “Be sure not to leave anything behind which will cause you to have to come back.”  It was clear and direct. I am supposed to be in Fiji. Everything is working toward the beginning of a new adventure for me. I just had to get me onboard with life again. Although the slap to the head was not needed, that afternoon my landlord told me my home for the last five years had sold and is in a 45 day escrow. It had been on the market for three years without so much as a nibble.

Bula is the greeting used in Fiji. Bula means life and life happens for us in a way which continues to make me realize over and over that I am not in charge. As much as I like to believe in free will, I know from every experience in my life the influence and undercurrents of forces over which I exercise no control whatsoever. Whenever these forces come into play, my life is completely and totally transformed.

Bula, Bula. I’m going to Fiji to continue living this life I love.

Home Coming

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.

A Cup Of Tea

Some time ago while standing at the bus stop, I watched two Fijian men walking toward me on each side of the road. The were painting the milage markers. A rather thankless job not filled with much enrichment, I thought, as they moved from one marker to the next almost in perfect unison. When the one on my side of the road approached me, we exchanged greetings and he reached out his hand. I had noticed before when Fijians shake your hand they usually hold it for a while and look into the eyes of the person with whom they are engaged. He studied my face and started to say something in Fijian but soon realized I did not understand him. His English was not that great but better than my Fijian and he said, “Good morning.” He was still holding my hand and his face appeared very weary but somehow wise. I returned his greeting and mentioned something about the cloudy day being good for painting the markers. He looked up at the sky and said, “Clouds are good, yes.” He released my hand and moved on to the next sign. I watched them until the bus came and thought nothing more of our encounter.

I have become accustomed to people walking into the yard to pick flowers and the leaves of the medicinal plants or ask for a drink of water. They are always friendly and polite and very eager to engage in conversation. Most of the homes in this community are up on the hill but mine is across the road at sea level and therefore more accessible. This morning as I sat at my desk five men wearing reflective vests walked into my front yard. I could tell they were part of the road crew. They were seeking shelter from the wind in order to have lunch. They sat down behind the hedge separating the yard from the road and started to open their lunches. When they saw me coming out of the door, I think they thought I was going to chase them away because a couple started to get up. Then I saw the man from the bus stop who seemed to reassure them that it was okay to stay because he knew me. He approached me and extended his hand. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Okay we eat here? You make tea?”

My mind must have instantly gone through at least ten scenarios ranging from. “Who was your slave last week?” to “This is my home not a tea house!” but all I said was “Tea?”

“Yes,” he said, “for all of us.”

I looked into the man’s eyes and realized that although his request was not worded as a request, his humility was real and honest. “Yes, I will make you tea.” I told him.

I went into the house, filled the tea pot and paused. I remembered that I am a guest in their homeland and the boiling of water and the serving of tea is a small return for the pleasures and joy I have received since my arrival. I only have three cups so I reached for two saki cups, placed a tea bag in each, used my cutting board for a tray and grabbed the honey. I know they drink their tea ‘sweet’ in Fiji. I watched the men sitting crossed legged on the ground eating from their containers of food and thought how perfect this is to be able to give back in someway. I took the tea out to the group of men. They all thanked me much more than was required.

A bit later one of the men brought the cutting board, cups, spoons, and honey up to the house and again thanked me. I noticed the used teabags were all gone but I just assumed they threw them away. I chalked the whole thing up to just another wonderful experience of humanity.

A week later. I hailed down a taxi while waiting for the bus. In Fiji when you hire a taxi it is yours and you have to give your permission for the driver to pick up others on the roadway into town. Whenever I see others waiting for a taxi, I always tell the driver it is okay to pick them up. So today the driver picked up a woman and her granddaughter and we all exchanged greetings.

“I know you,” she said, “you live in the Dallas house.” Dallas was the previous owner of the property for a long time and because there are no house numbers people know the houses by who lives there.

“I do. My friends brought the property and I live in the lower house. But how do you know me?” I asked.

“When my son came home last week, he asked me to make him a cup of tea,” she said. “Then he pulls a tea bag from his pocket and tells me to use this bag he got from the man who lives in the green house and served them tea this morning.”

Now I know where the tea bags went.

In the Midst Of Amazement

I don’t remember amazement being a large part of my early life. I do remember certain events which I deemed amazing. The Northern Lights, a lunar eclipse, my first earthquake, and those Amazing Mets of 1969. Now my life is one of constant amazement or perhaps my perspective has changed so that I see/witness the everyday through different eyes. I see the amazing in everything. The blooming of the flower, the sight of a walking stick hiding among the branches, and being inside a rainbow. The amazing happens all the time but I just failed to see it as such. It is as if my eyesight had been fixed in seeing a particular way and now it has opened for a wider view of the world.

With the ocean less than 100 yards from my front door, I am able to walk its shore almost everyday. When the tide is out, I can walk up to the Barrier Reef to watch and listen to the majesty of the grand South Pacific. Today as I sat and soaked in these warm waters it started to rain. The sky darkened to the horizon, the waves became a bit stronger and the water began to feel cooler. I am already wet so there is no need to run to the house so I continued to sit and watch. Soon a school of small fish come up to my feet and start nibbling the dead skin cells from my toes. I remain perfectly still so as not to frighten them. They have no idea what or who I am other than a source of food. I begin to experience a cleansing of sorts. What my body naturally discards becomes food for their bodies. The flow and cycle of life all become one.

The amazing is not limited to nature, it also happens between people and events in life. Yesterday on the taxi ride home I ask Michael, the driver, about catching the ferry to Suva, a twelve hour overnight voyage on a packed ship. I need to go there to work out my immigration situation and was trying to figure the best way of travel but I had not at this point told him why I needed to make the journey. A few minutes later our conversation was interrupted by a phone call he had to answer. It was the head of immigration asking Michael to pick her up at the ferry dock in Savusavu next Tuesday. She is one of his regular passengers when she comes to this island. He is going to arrange for me to meet her to discuss my issues and questions or to at least arrange a future meeting. This is living in amazement. I’m planning a trip and the person I need to see is coming here and I will have the opportunity to meet with her. “Be still and let the world come to you.”

I love this life I live. This is everywhere I have ever wanted to be. This is the fulfillment of dreams I never had the imagination or faith to dream. I am ‘In The Midst of Amazement’. I am alive! I am here!