Life lesson #1 from Fiji to me
When I started this blog website, I never imagined I would reach 100 readers. Two days ago, 12,000+ readers ticked over on the stat counter. To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement.
It feels kind of strange that my personal feelings have been read by so many people, and yes I know how ridiculous that sounds given I write a blog (the very purpose of which is for people to find on the internet and read).
Anyway, I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to read.
I also need to thank Fiji - Vinaka Viti! For without the experiences I’ve encountered living in Suva, and without the people I’ve met from Fiji, I would have no stories to tell.
WHY ME AND FIJI?
I decided to write this blog for two reasons:
1) I love Fiji and her people. Simple.
We have been an expat family working and living in Fiji. My intention was to share my experiences of life in Fiji, in an effort to help expats who hadn’t experienced it understand that if they wanted to move to Fiji, embracing the rich culture of the Fijian people would be the very best way to enjoy life in Fiji; and
2) I love writing - it's my happy place. I especially enjoy it when I'm feeling the ‘subject’.
Fiji is an easy topic for me because the amount of love I have for the people of Fiji is unlimited. In fact, I get emotional when I think about it. Given I’m an Australian, ‘friends’ have questioned this about me, and I won’t lie – I have struggled with it often asking myself why I have these feelings deep in my heart for Fiji.
It would be much easier if I was born in Fiji, or one of my parents or grandparents were Fijian, perhaps if my Husband was Fijian – but alas none of these are the case. I am a genuine ring-in to Fiji. And perhaps in moments of self-indulgence, writing about it on this website has been my way to relive each experience again.
LIFE LESSONS FROM FIJI
I’m 39 years old currently, and shudder realising I only have limited months left before turning the Big 4-0. Growing up, I always thought that once you turned 30, you were old, wise and knew everything you needed to know about life.
When I reached 30, I realised that was not accurate. Maybe when I reached 35? Again, I didn’t wake up any wiser.
I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, sometimes I wish there was a giant eraser that I could rub out those things I’ve said or done which were not great, and start afresh. I had thought growing older would mean less mistakes..
At 39 years old, I still haven’t reached that old and wise pinnacle, but what I can say with certainty is that discovering and loving Fiji has not been one of those mistakes.
Why? Well, I believe that I’ve learnt big life lessons from Fiji, and it’s people. The type of lessons that I have been able to pass on to my children already. Faith is one that I’ve already written about, so today I wanted to write about the others. However, I can’t seem to write briefly no matter how hard I try, so to avoid the longest posting in history, today’s instalment is the first lesson Fiji taught me. Lessons two and three to follow soon.
My daughter in Sigatoka around 2014
LIFE LESSON ONE - DON'T HOLD A GRUDGE
This lesson was served to me three times in Suva, but two of them pop up in my mind quite often.
The first one started on the counter of a pharmacy.
I saw a basket of little snap lock bags filled with really vile looking tablets. Intrigued I asked the shop assistant what they were. Apparently, they were vitamins that were past their used-by-date, being sold in this manner to be more affordable to people.
They looked revolting – I’m not exaggerating. I expressed my concern with this concept, she didn’t care, shrugging her shoulders. This annoyed me to no-end so I asked to see the Pharmacist. He confirmed that it was not for customers ‘like me’ (yes, he actually said that!) but for people who could not afford vitamins. (I know this story is taking it’s time, but I am getting wrapped up in this moment all over again – I can feel anger boiling in my veins.)
I asked if off-date vitamins would have the desired effect on the people taking them. His reply was that it was unlikely they would work. Yet, he was still selling them to unsuspecting people.
I told him that he should be ashamed of himself taking advantage like that.
And now I’m ashamed to admit to you that I wasn’t very nice about it either. I left my purchase on the counter, walked out, telling him I would never step foot in his shop again. I could have shown more grace.
When I got home, I questioned my behaviour (as seems to be my modus-operandi - it’s a real brain drain, trust me, I wish I didn’t!).
I should have handled that better, I thought. I shouldn’t have spoken to him in such a rude manner, I thought. I will never be able to show my face in the mall again for fear of seeing him, I thought. I was really quite rude, I thought.
Too rude, I thought.
Next day in town, who was the first person I saw?
Yes, you’re right. The Pharmacist.
And what did he do when he saw me?
He smiled, waved at me, and called out across a crowd “Hello Ma’Am!”.
I tentatively smiled back and waved hello. On the outside I was a friendly normal person who absolutely didn't have an argument with this same guy yesterday, but on the inside, I was screaming “what the????”
He wasn’t upset, rude or even trying to hide from me to avoid any embarrassment between the both of us. He held no grudge with me. It was yesterday’s news, and today was a brand new day.
It was obviously “happy days” with the Pharmacist, and life lesson one from Fiji was promptly served to me.
The second incident was at my daughter’s kindy. When she wasn’t permitted to graduate for reasons I didn’t understand, terse words were exchanged between myself and the Head Teacher. I won’t go into detail here because with hindsight I can see it was a clear case of miscommunication on both sides.
However, as had been my experience in life prior to this occurrence, whenever terse words had been exchanged, like with the Pharmacist – I expected a certain level of awkwardness and tension to ensue.
The next day as I dropped my daughter off to the kindy, I was expecting #Awkward and #HideMeQuick and as I walked in the Kindy door, the Head Teacher called out to me from across the room. I heard my name being called, and I won’t lie, the thoughts racing through my mind were something like “oh no, here we go again”, “quick get in and get out”, and the loudest one ringing in my head was “oh man, I should have sent my Husband today”.
As I looked at her, thinking the worst and preparing mentally for the aforementioned #Awkward moment, she waved at me and happily said “Good Morning Dear”.
What? What had just happened?
She had moved on from yesterday. Like literally, moved on. At that point in my life, “moving on” was a concept I didn’t understand.
Happy days with the Head Teacher and life lesson one from Fiji was re-confirmed to me. Yesterday is in the past, and today is a brand new day. Don’t hold grudges.
Somehow through 35 years of life, my experiences had shaped my perception that should you dare to speak up, or have tension with someone, you should expect that relationship to be destroyed, or at the least, tarnished. I suppose I just expected that if you had drama with someone there was no point in trying to salvage any relationship because it had been my past experience that it wouldn’t happen.
Experiencing the complete opposite of what I was used to, by the Pharmacist and by the Kindy Head Teacher, I realised the result of tension between people could actually end in a different way. In an “okay way”.
The divine timing of these moments in quick succession of each other, and the fact that I was surrounded by so much ‘faith’ talk (remember Fijians are loud and proud about their faith) was, I believe, God’s way of waking me up.
As I walked out of the Kindy that day, something in me just clicked.
Like switching a light bulb on.
It was one of those moments when we can see life in the beautiful way it is meant to be, and I can remember the exact location I was. Crossing the road on the corner of Deveoux and Knolly Streets in Suva.
I thought to myself “I actually don’t need to hold on to issues. Life should be more than worrying what was said or done yesterday”.
And boom, Fiji had delivered a life lesson to me.
BUT HERE IS THE REAL LIFE LESSON:
DOES 'FIJI TIME' HAVE MORE TO DO WITH A WAY OF LIVING LIFE,
THAN HOW LATE YOU WILL BE FOR WORK?
What I love about the faith Fijians hold, is that they seem to know how to ride the seasons of life. They know that good times and bad times will come and go, there's a time for everything under the sun - and man, they've experienced them, and come out the other side.
Because of this faith, a sense of ease about everyday life ensues. Fijians go with the flow, roll with the punches, wait it out. They have patience because of their faith.
Is this apparent ease about life and it's challenges, actually already known to the rest of the world under the guise of "Fiji Time"?
Is "Fiji Time" more than looking at your watch and realising you're late for an appointment?
Whilst "Fiji Time" to a visitor or tourist in Fiji is the actual time on your watch, to me it encapsulates a bigger way of thinking about life in general. The 'no-worries' attitude goes hand-in-hand with their faith, because their faith has taught them that for everything under the sun there is a time.
If you can undertake life this way (on 'Fiji-time') why would you need to bother with yesterday's terse words?
In daily life in Australia now, I try to live ‘like a Fijian’ in this respect. When there are ‘issues’ with someone (as there always will be in life) I still have my ‘say’ and I listen to what they have to ‘say’ as well, but the big difference in me now, compared to me pre-Fiji that I don’t hold on to any of it. I don’t hold grudges. Well, I really try not to (I’m still a work in progress!). I can see now there are more important things in life. I realise Fiji Time is calling my heart to behave in more kind manner.
Recently I called a meeting with my Daughter’s school to discuss an incident I wasn’t happy with. I was really upset and let it be known to them – Mumma Bear at her best.
The next day, I bumped into the same person at the shops. I made a decision in that moment to let it all go. It is a source of joy for my daughter and I when we think about the person that day. They had no idea how to handle me, I was all smiles and beaming of friendliness, as though the day before hadn’t occurred. Her confusion obvious, she didn’t even smile back at me. Clearly, she hasn’t been served life lesson one from Fiji, lol.
I really wanted to say “Bula Lewa! Sega na leqa!” to her, but I refrained knowing she would have no idea what I was saying. Yesterday was yesterday, and I was giving my own private nod to the Pharmacist and the Kindy Head Teacher, thanking them for teaching me how to see things differently.
As we walked off my Daughter nudged me under her breath saying “Mum, you’re turning Fijian”.
Haha, if only I could.
Until next time, much love and many moments of "Fiji Time" to you, SJ xo
Bula! It's SJ here - thank you for reading this blog post.
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Vinaka, thank you, and I hope to chat to you really soon, SJ XX
Other Posts you may enjoy:
It's All In The Eyes (A Guide To Saying Yes and No in Fiji) - a light-hearted post about communication in Fiji (Click Here)