Another Sunday morning in Fiji. As I write I sit here at my kitchen table, watching the waves of high tide roll in and the breeze blow breadfruit leaves from the trees. Steam is rising from my breakfast to my happy nose: oatmeal with fresh bananas and a strong cup of coffee. Both topped with quite a bit more than the CDC’s recommended daily intake of coconut milk 😉 Just another reason to love Fiji; I woke up wanting coconut milk (this is becoming an every Sunday thing), and it took all of about 20 seconds to spot a neighbor and kerekere a coconut. Fifteen minutes of scraping later I had fresh squeezed coconut milk. There are few things that can’t be improved with coconut milk, from soup to coffee! And there is nothing that can replace neighbors to share with.
It’s barely half past nine, and I have already said good morning to most of my neighbors, greeting them and the new day as they mozy past my windows. Generally the church lali should have played several times this morning already, but not today. After having requested my breakfast coconut I was informed that one of the village elders, Tukai Sau, passed away in the night. Isa, Tukai! He was a funny old man. One of the last memories I have of him was at the nursing station before a health talk. (In Fijian:) “You know if you want me to listen you’re going to have to speak Fijian.” Yessir!
Though Tukai Sau will be missed, I’m happy to say that he lived a pretty long life (I believe he was around 70) and was mobile and happy until the end. In America the old are often so sickly and immobile before they pass; we can usually expect that the time is near. Though Tukai Sau was an old asthmatic, I had no inclination that he might pass any time soon. The Fijians I have known seem to keep on living full lives until the moment they go! I can only hope that is how my life will turn out.
Once again I’m astounded by the attitude surrounding death. The village this morning is filled with the usual sounds of children laughing, old men story-telling, women cooking. No air of sadness, no tears. Today we say farewell to one kind soul, and tomorrow we may welcome another new soul. That is the circle of life to which we are not immune!
Following the funeral today I plan to take a walk out to Waisali, the “village” where some foreigners currently live. I have made friends with a kind young couple from CO who are building a small hill-top home there for themselves and their three precocious children. The first time I met Denise she appeared at the nursing station, throwing open her arms for a hug and a warm greeting. “Hi! I was hoping you were here, how are you?!” she greeted me, as if we were old high school friends. She’d heard that there was an American PCV in Nabasovi and had taken the long walk from her property, small children in tow, to meet me. Needless to say, their presence has been a total blessing to my life here. It’s been so good to have like-minded peers around. Plus, they are super down to earth, wanting to be a part of (rather than “above”) the Koro Island community. In contrast to many kaivalaqi out here, Niel (Denise’s husband) works every day alongside his Fijian work crew. Their eldest child is even attending Fijian school. It can be rather isolating on this tiny island, so having friends from the same culture, people who understand my humor, struggles and stories, has been good for the soul and spirit! I’m also super grateful for the baby SCOBY that Denise recently gave me–pretty soon all of Nabasovi will be drinking kombucha! Or mushroom tea, as my incredulous neighbors call it.
Well my thoughts have not quite run their course, but my computer battery has. I’m also out of hot coffee and coconut milk (did I really drink it all?!). Village activity has picked up: women in sulujaba bustling by with pots of root crops, men carrying shovels to lay their brother to rest. Funeral time must be approaching. I’ll head out now into the day to see where I can be of help, cooking knife and hymn book in hand.