September 6, 2014

One week into my travels and beginning to relax, recovering from the busyness of the months preparing for this trip as well as from the overload of impressions in my first week here in Fiji. After 2 days at the Beach House spending time with other travellers, expats working for NGO’s here in Fiji on their weekend off, a Rotary architect from Australia, working on housing projects in villages with Scouts from home and catching up with my cousin Remy from France, moved on to Suva – the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the South Pacific.

Still battling with myself over the idea that it is okay to take time to just be in a place without feeling a need to be productive. North Americans are so indoctrinated with the belief that we should constantly be busy in order to prove in some way that our lives have value. But what about the value of taking time to slow down and to allow oneself to be surprised by life and all it has to offer when we don’t try to control every minute?

In the past week I’ve chatted with fishmongers, Indian sellers, women patiently tossing a fishing line to catch dinner – one proudly showing me her catch of the day; a 3-inch-long silver fellow we would never ever consider enough for a one-bite snack. This treasure would provide the woman’s family a tiny amount of protein in a diet largely based on cassava or taro root – both similar to potatoes – or rice.

So many of these extremely poor people have shared excitedly with me that a family member of theirs is living and working in Canada – Cold Lake, Toronto, Vancouver, even Medicine Hat! The few bits of information they know about Canada is widely more than what most of us would know about their life and culture.

My romantic image that the “real” Fiji is only to be found in the villages and 300 tiny islands has quickly evaporated. Although Island-life is certainly an essential aspect of life here, life in the cities or towns is equally important. Everywhere I go, I run into masses of young people eagerly on their way to and from school. Sitting in the gardens of the University of the South Pacific, beside a huge open-walled lecture hall, the wide garden area is filled with students (Fijian, Tongan, Indian, Asian and a very few Caucasian) sitting, sleeping, laughing, discussing, studying, working on laptops. Even while waiting for the boat to ferry me across to the idyllic island of Leleuvia, I watched a boat pull up filled with a class of young kids taking their boat ride home at the end of their school day.

In essence these young people, full of life and immense potential are no different from any young people in North America or Europe, living, learning and curious and exploring pathways to fulfill their hopes and dreams.
School children on boat (2)

And what about those dreams of all these students both here and everywhere in the world – this beautiful world which offers us so much plenty and provides for all of our needs – which we have raped to an extent that is so clearly not sustainable? What kind of a place have we made for them?

7 days into my odyssey and my heart tells me already that I will have few answers but endlessly more unanswered and unanswerable questions at the end of it! The biggest challenge for now is to still my mind and stop asking questions at least for awhile and simply enjoy the beauty of this country, the warmth of the people and the full extent of the flora and fauna that pervades this paradise.

Turquoise fish in purple coral

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