When Paradise Is No Longer Affordable

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAWhat does one do when the home you love is no longer affordable or when you realize your time in paradise is running out?

* Get a job so you can afford to live in “Paradise?”

* Max out your credit cards to extend “Paradise” a bit longer?

* Search for a new “Paradise?”

On my return home from one of the required every four months exit of the island, the Immigration Officer said, “You know, you can’t do this forever.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about but I pretended to be uninformed. “What is that, sir?” I answered in a non apologetic voice. My passport pages were filled with entry and exit stamps from Fiji. I had lived on the island now for over three years using only my Tourist Visa.

“You can’t stay here forever on a Tourist Visa. You need to find another way to be here if you plan on staying any longer.” He stamped my passport and handed it back to me.

“Thank you sir.” I took my passport and continued to the luggage trolly. I thought it was somewhat ironic that whenever I reenter the Unites States, the Immigration Officer almost always says, “Welcome home!” In Fiji, a place I consider home, I am told the day will come when I will no longer be permitted entry into the country on a Tourist Visa. I did’t tell him that my application for residency had been rejected because I had not invested at least two hundred thousand Fijian dollars into the economy through the purchase of land, housing, or as a business investment, nor did I have fifty thousand dollars in a US bank to qualify for residency. My income from my pension and Social Security otherwise qualified me under their guidelines.

It was not an official warning. Those, I understand, are sent by post to inform the recipient that he/she has thirty days to leave the country and must remain out for at least one year. I glanced back to the Immigration Officer as he typed something into the computer before calling for the next traveler.

Everything is a sign for something I suppose. Maybe this was my sign to start creating another home or to figure out how to stay in this one. I had managed to pay for my required exists in advance up until now, but my meager savings have run out. It is expensive having to leave the country three times a year. A two month extension is available but it can only be utilized for emergency reasons and not merely to extend my Tourist Visa. No matter where you go from an island, it costs money, and having to leave three times per year amounted to one third of my income.

So how do I stay here? Or is it time to leave? I didn’t actually come here with a plan or time frame, but there is so much I love about Fiji. The sounds of the ocean, the millions of stars in the unpolluted skies, plucking a ripe papaya from a tree in the front yard, and quenching my thirst after working in the garden with the sweet juice from a coconut. It is a simple life I live here, but the required exits have made it unaffordable.

I could marry a local and gain residence, but that option is not one I would consider. I am still an old romantic, so being in love would have to be a huge part of any decision to marry. I could extend my time using my credit cards, but that option would always keep me in debt. I thought I had the issue resolved a few months ago when Jeanette offered me a work permit, but it fell through. “Too much government paperwork,” she said. Besides, I didn’t come to Fiji to work. I came here to live my life the way I dream of my life.

Or, I can take Thoreau’s position, “that I have several more lives to live, and cannot spare any more time to this one.” I thought, for whatever reason, my major life changes and moves were over, but it seems I still have more castles to build in the sky somewhere if not here.

Letting Go

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAI am taking the words of my meditation on my sixty-third birthday to the letter.

“Be sure not to leave anything behind which will cause you to have to come back.”

I am not leaving anything in storage this time. I am leaving the friends who have become my family, the family of my blood and offspring, and the material things whose only value is what price someone is willing to pay. I am leaving a city that some call “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but that too is relative to where you are standing. A city I have left trice before and returned to as often. I am leaving a life which is no longer mine. This time, I believe I won’t be coming back here to live.

My soul is floating over the Fiji Islands exploring our new home and sometimes gently swaying in the hammock that this physical body is left to purchase along with all the other requirements of a new adventure. The packing of a lifetime into 50 pounds. What is sold, what is given away, and what is tossed aside is determined by need or importance. A shedding of skins, a chrysalis! Although my body is paying the physical price of moving with aching muscles and weary bones, the weight and burden of stuff is being relieved.

It is funny, how my choices are made. The rock of a man’s face, I found on the beach after a storm will go to the friend who was with me that day but also because of its weight. Yet my favorite cast iron skillet will be safely packed. I find my decisions are based on the usefulness of an item more than an emotional attachment. That, however, is not always a reliable indicator. An afghan my mother knitted me as a fortieth birthday present will have no practical use in Fiji but will make the journey wrapped around the skillet, insuring the safe arrival of each. My books, my books. They always suffer the most when I travel because of their weight and this time is no exception. Fifteen books. I made a numerical limitation as an emotional one would have had me over the weight limit for air baggage. They will be shipped along with a few other favorite useful items from this world.

I have the collected memories, photographs, postcards, etc., of travels, people, and experiences of my life. Yearbooks, diplomas, certificates. These have no real value and are yet priceless in many ways. These keepsakes are stored in what I call my Rainy Day box. In the past if I needed a little boost, an emotional pick me up, I would get down my Rainy Day box and randomly pick a letter to tell me I am loved, a photograph to remember a person, place or time, some words to inspire. There were times during this life when I took my Rainy Day box down often. Now, I no longer need the physical evidence of my past to travel with me and I have arranged for these keepsakes to remain here to be available for family and friends to reflect upon if they desire. I am making new memories now. They will only be retained until they are forgotten and no longer keepsakes in storage for a rainy day. My boost is waking up each morning, my inspiration is life, and my memories will no longer take me to where it is I want to be.

Although the selection of what will go and what will not is sometimes taxing, I am very aware I don’t want to take too much of this world along. I don’t want my friends to send care packages of American goods because the parts of life I want will make the journey with me. I am already a part of the islands. I will make do with and eat the fruits of availability rather than of habit and of consciousness rather than accumulation.

I am counting down the days to the landing in my new world when this body will join its soul for another great adventure in being alive. I so love this life I live.