What I could only remember was the aching. I was fairly new in a country for a job that didn’t agree with my insatiable thirst for creativity. I was with “friends” who didn’t speak my brand of poetry. It would have been okay if I didn’t have much choice. But no. Back in Cebu, I had found my niche: cosmic friends, a hot (long-haired and skinny) boyfriend and a job that paid me to travel and write. Then again, there were matters of consequences, and in the end, I had to do what I did.
A year after my move to NZ, when all the unhappiness had piled up, I booked flights to an island country I barely knew.
My interest was originally on Taveuni, the setting of Jostein Gaarder’s book, Maya, which I have once read on a plane to Auckland. But the island was secluded and given the time-constraint, I had to skip going there in the end.
My plane landed in Nadi, where I was met, to my utter joy, by Fijian folk singers. It was a very nice welcome for a spirit as broken as mine was. One thing that I had to point out though, was the fact that they took particular notice of my Philippine passport and asked for evidence of travel funds. My exact words to them was an eyebrow raising, “I beg your pardon?!?”
I only had cash cards with me (trivia: I very seldom carry cash.) so I had to rummage through my bag for any stray bank statements. I didn’t find any. But I did found a payslip, which, I guess, did wonders, because they let me go with VIP-ish kindness after that.
From Nadi, I had a quick stroll to the resort beaches of Lautoka and hired a car to Suva, Fiji’s capital city.
Suva is a busy little coastal capital with a rural feel. Native Fijians and Fijian Indians coexist harmoniously, the latter being more prominent in business establishments akin to Filipino Chinese in the Philippines. I particularly liked Village 6, a cinema complex showcasing both Hollywood and Bollywood movies at $5(!) each (in NZ, we pay $12-15 a movie).
The main mode of transportation in Suva is the mini bus (non-aircon), which I enjoyed thoroughly because of its vintage feel. The minimum fare was 60(!) cents (minimum fare in NZ: $1.70). Because of the cheap fare, I modified a hop-on, hop-off tour of Suva on my own, waving to amused locals like a celebrity. (I now know how it feels. I was once an amused local to Foreign tourists in the Philippines too! :P)
One Saturday, I hiked through a national park and was met by a group of young boys on their way home from a Fijian wedding. Not only was I invited to the wedding (and had free lunch!), the boys accompanied me to a spring for swimming, too. 🙂
The universe conspired. That sojourn was overwhelming with kindness, it made me open my eyes to the essentials of life. The ability to afford happiness even in the most trying times, for instance. The Fijians taught me exactly that.