This will be my last blog entry for the Fiji Diary. I actually left Fiji in September and its now November.
I never learnt to walk Fiji style: saunter, amble or meander. I never managed to eat as much bread or food as everyone else. I never got around to doing my photographic essays of Fiji taxi-drivers with their fancy, enlarged, decorated gearsticks, or of the bright pink, purple and orange houses, or the wheelbarrow boys working in the markets, or the Fijian ladies in their bula print dresses with the frills and piping, the Kiribati/Tuvaluan girls in their smocked gingham tibuta tops or the flowers of the ginger plants: red ginger, white ginger, pink ginger, butterfly ginger, crab’s claw, flaming ginger, shell ginger, pinecone ginger and all the others I don’t know the names of. I would also have liked to taken photos of the warriors: the wishful-thinking extremely oversized muscular bodies that you see printed on sulus, towels, t-shirts and photo albums and also the real flesh and blood ones that are used as display bodyguards during Hibiscus festival, the ones in traditional dress for the important kava ceremonies or sevusevus and perhaps even the rugby players who are the informal warriors of today. The formal warriors of the military forces I am less inclined to photograph but they do have great triangular-edged white sulus as part of their uniforms.
I brought back to Australia the eyebrow language that communicates ‘yes’, ‘I agree’ or ‘I completely understand’.
I brought back lots of coloured outfits that make me stand out in Sydney and Melbourne where the favoured colour is black with black and accessorised with black,
I brought back a reduced tolerance for cool, cold air and air conditioning. Give me a fan any day and temperatures above 29 degrees. I now take a good 15 minutes or so to lower myself into a pool or ocean. Give me back the lukewarm bathwater oceans anytime.
I brought back a reduced tolerance for shopping. The choice, arrays and spreads of goods are overwhelming.
I brought back less regard for the exclusivity of the nuclear family and more regard for the extended/communal family. I miss the community and ‘family’ that I had in Fiji which seemed to spring up around me without much effort on my part.
I also brought back more modesty than I had before. After wearing shirts and shorts to swim in like the locals, I’m not in the mood for bikinis anymore. After getting into the habit of longer, looser skirts so you can sit comfortably on the floor and respectfully cover your knees, I think I’ll keep the habit. I loved observing how your dress changes your behaviour and body language, particularly with the Fijian men. Wearing a sulu (the tailored ones they wear to work or church), means they often have to hold the flap down as they get into taxi’s or climb up stairs or walk in the wind. If they don’t they risk showing too much leg or even underpants. Preparing to sit on the floor also means having to hold the flap and gather the sulu around you. To me, watching it added a gentleness to the way the men moved, slightly bent over, hands on thighs or in front. Much harder to sit with your legs splayed with your crotch on clear display.
I came back to find it painful at times to breathe in the thin dry air. I got bad hayfever instantly. Had a few tummy rumbles as I adjusted to eating more rich food. I got one boil after the other, up my nose, under my arm and up my nose again. Anti-biotics again and again. I still have a ringworm-lookalike fungal thing around one elbow which is slowly fading. Tropical skin eruptions are impressive in their size, stubbornness and variety.
It’s hard to be back. To let go of everything. It has felt a bit like a bereavement. Letting go of my meaningful job, my nice roomy house, the garden I worked on for 2 years, my neighbours who looked after me, my boyfriend, my friends who were just getting to know me well and me them. I’ve had to let go of dreams too: hoping that I could stay in Fiji for longer, hoping my boyfriend could become my life partner and hoping I could find more significant meaningful work in Fiji.
I’m going to try and keep smiling. Keep that sunny disposition. You look up and make eye contact with someone and you smile. Could be exhausting in a place like Sydney with so many people here. But then again, not many people even make eye contact with you. I will keep wearing my bright colours and bula outfits, although I found myself wearing all black the other night at a party. The black keeps creeping up on me. Help! I’m going to try and not go to 7 social events a day and yes to everything so I fill up my life and feel good about myself just because I am busy. I’m going to try and walk slowly or at least calmly and enjoy the walk for the sake of it instead of just for getting from one place to the next.
So from one place to the next….