Returning to Nakavika gave me a chance to see what developed without support from the outside, especially since a big income-generating business left the area. The students had the same lack of confidence in their English skills. The youth group was still in the planning stage of the same Internet center. Vita's daughter wasn't in school for nursing, as was the plan when I left, and was instead living in Suva with a family friend, working to earn money for her entire family.
These weren't just my silent observations but points many people pulled me aside to make. Read More
One little boy lifted the silver bowl of chicken heads to receive its next occupant, and I snapped out of my time-traveling thoughts. I stood up and returned to Vita's house to find that the iPad had locked away its contents from the curious kids indoors. When I unlocked the iPad, I found the following paragraph, scribed by Samu:
“This is for you, Lindsay.” Waisale stood at the top of one rock wall, arms folded, and stepped forward into the air. I photographed his rapid descent and felt my stomach uncurl of worry. Before, I feared that suddenly departing their lives without explanation would sever ties or permanently damage our connection to the kids. These fears dissolved by the time Waisale resurfaced from the bottom of the gorge.
Returning to my first lemon leaf tea in five years, I happily settled on the grass mat with a Christmas mug. I was nearly out of the emotional woods with this favorite, sweet elixir and a few cold pancakes. I sighed and scanned the room, finally noticing two photos taped to the wall, one of my mother in the snow and another of my grandmother holding my baby niece. I should have just accepted that a breakdown was inevitable.
I reacted in amazement before the information reached my brain: Siteri was standing in front of me...at the market in Suva...spotted me the moment I arrived with no other knowledge than my flight time. I guess I could have anticipated this crossing of paths in retrospect, because we had been connecting on Facebook, little blue lines coming onto my screen from a dream I once had. Regardless of the plausibility of the chance encounter, I was now face-to-face with tangible evidence of my long and confusing stint in Fiji, a time I still chew on in my mind for more clarity and takeaways. Her name is Siteri, and she is my umbilical cord to Nakavika.
Thanks for the tremendous work you have done to my village. Working as a community or Public Health Nurse for the last 17 years, I know all what you have gone through, and it is not easy to get things done. There are so many obstacles on the way before achieving the objectives. Just an advice, let the community get involved and be part of all the on-going process of the project from day 1 till the the very last day, delegate responsibiities to them, and then only you will see a huge change. Read More
I managed to do it. After six months of experiencing, scribing, and mulling over the occurrences of my winter in Fiji, I have finally documented in true form the adventures we had in that dreamlike state of displacement. Post-vacation in the Yasawas, I took my final shower, had my final (and best) meal, and flew home to writhe until I could put it all into words. For those of you who write or express, you know it's painful to have moments go unsaid, life-changing morsels of time without a timeless matter to back them up. I can finally sleep soundly knowing it is all down on "paper," not to mention the project molded into its final form. Read More
Gasping for relief and peace after leaving all of Nakavika in my wake, I finally turned to my taxi driver, a middle-aged, toothless Indo-Fijian with a cheeky grin ready to start some chit-chat. Once again, I had a conversation with a local that scored me points for America in their eyes, and knowing the consequences of getting too invested and connected, I refrained from supplying him with my phone number, which he requested. I remained kind but cold, occasionally hyperventilating from a hard cry long gone. It was a sunny day on the Coral Coast. I made my way to The Uprising and straight to the bar. Read More
Tears spewed out of everyone's eyes, some came twice to say heartfelt goodbyes, and Abel was left standing on the sidewalk crying, watching my taxi pull away. Our project represented a lot for him, but unfortunately the collaboration couldn't be as we all wanted it to be. Instead we implored him to do what he felt was right, to continue helping the children by leading by example. While I watched him in the side mirror growing smaller, it was evident he didn't believe he could be the man he wanted to be without a little help from those who expected his best. Read More
One side of the sky was navy blue and brilliant with stars and a succulent moon; the other side hinted at the curvature of the globe with shades of pink. The dew making my feet squeak in my flip-flops mirrored the moisture on my eyelids. There wasn't a wavering thought in our minds about returning to the village, so this morning absolutely marked an end. Knocking on a few doors at dawn, we came across the home where little Weiss was sleeping. It would have been impossible to take our final carrier ride without saying goodbye to our dear friend and favored student of 2.5 months. We hugged him and asked him to tell the other kids we say goodbye and will miss them. He nodded his heavy head, instantly taking the form of an older, mature being with wise eyes that see the realities of a world he can't change. Read More
I opened my eyes as if they'd been closed for only a few seconds. Stains decorated the holey mosquito net, which now ensnared a circling bunch of blood-filled bugs. Though I've never been physically beaten up, I imagine the next morning would have felt akin to how I felt there, in that bed, feeling the bed springs scratch my skin, every muscle upset and tense from a terrible day prior.
I don't feel good here anymore. Read More
Imagine the clamor of a crowded gym at a small town regional basketball tournament, thousands of feet stomping the bleachers causing the air to vibrate. Imagine Black Friday crowds shivering outside Walmart at 4:59am, eyeballing the unfortunate fellow about to rip open the doors for the stampede. Imagine wanting so badly for someone to hear your message, a message that would clarify a seemingly sketchy concept into that of a laudable and worthwhile endeavor. This was the energy of our fundraiser. Read More
Last I left the tales of this Fijian adventure, there was a major event that happened - one which led us to doubt the possibility of our project coming to be. After issues were resolved (in the eyes of the elders), we asked the Turaga ni Koro (village spokesman) to hook us up with a ride down to the coast for a few days. We needed some space to figure out what to do. Read More
We all shake our heads at the shoulder-patting, "aww gee"-inspiring cliches from the psychology world, but there's no doubt they come from a necessary concept. When the traumatic, the all-of-a-sudden, the shocking occurs, our heads are wired to be in denial but eventually come to terms with that which changes irrevocably, and death is certainly in that category of things in desperate need of processing. Read More
I tried to clear it and ended up falling dramatically, my tumble only to be halted by Abel's quick save. My pants ripped, my clothes muddied, and my second toe folded in half under the weight of my falling body. It grew incredibly numb. I cursed the dark skies, but Abel's concern and kind words made me think, "I don't have to get pissed right now if I don't want to." I hobbled the rest of the day, in utter pain, but continued to smile. Read More
I had never loved baked beans more than at breakfast that morning. Along with my scrambled eggs and tomatoes, everything tasted beyond satisfying. I was floating. I couldn't even eat the entire plate because my stomach had shrunk to the size of a guava. Ordering water, I received a sweating 1.5 liter of Fiji, no floaties, no mysterious colors, no hurricane residue. I sunk into the plush leather chair, admiring every smooth square inch, until we went for the beach. Read More
One of the biggest factors in this sensitive equation that makes me feel better is the fact that our intentions were solely and powerfully good. Though this isn't a "get out of shame free" card, it certainly validates much more when dealing with these culturally sensitive areas. Upon first stepping foot in Fiji, we taped ourselves expressing the concerns we had for our own project, stating, "We're not even sure they want us to do what we came to do."
After explaining our purpose and receiving acceptance, we felt we were in the clear. But it would have been in our best interests to examine the culture we were penetrating before getting there and constantly ask questions to the head people in order to perfect our footing. There was a whole anthropological lesson to be learned in preparation, although this is assuming perfect preparation would have given us perfect results. Read More
I anticipate this topic sparking some vocalization from my normally docile reading crowd, but I want to bring it up as it bothered me during my last week in Fiji. Freshly departed from all Nakavika affiliations, I sat atop a barstool for seven hours at Uprising, telling friends and barmen my stories from the Highlands and my frustrations with the final portion of the experience. My eyes sat at half-mast from a rough morning of goodbyes. Read More
There aren't many things I regularly do on a trip. I don't always buy keychains or t-shirts to mark a new country or experience, and I'm hardly a superstitious person, with an arsenal of therapeutic exercises at the ready before each plane, train or automobile ride. I don't send postcards from every city, nor do I celebrate the end of a trip with a fancy dinner out. I don't do any of these things because I have a horrible memory and because one of the things I love about traveling is the weakened sense of obligation to do things that don't come natural.
However, there's one thing that happens at the culmination of every trip, and it happens as naturally as my leg hairs sprout.
I take a final shower, perfectly timed for cleanliness in transit, in sync with the rest of the last day's logistics, and completely akin to some sort of spiritual cleansing or washing of the slate clean. Each final shower marks a moment in my life no one else witnesses, but it holds some of the most intense feelings of the entire trip, all felt in a couple of steam-infused minutes. Read More