Memories have a way of holding us, like an invisible string, between where we currently are, and where we once were. Sometimes its a fragrance or a song, when heard or smelt we are instantly transported back to that moment in time. Like the smell of over-fire outside-cooking when you get off the plane in Nadi.
The heat, the smell, the familiar bula smiles. Hits you hard - like the feeling of home.
It's great when those memories are good ones, and we can get lost in those day-dreamy thoughts for hours. Not so much when the memory is a traumatic or sad one, those thoughts can torment us (me - for days!).
Lately my mind randomly rushes back to the days when my kids were younger. I miss those days a lot. Perhaps it's because my youngest daughter is now graduating primary school, and my eldest is about to embark on her final year of high school. It could be because the time of my life I really loved were my Fiji days - and my kids were little then.
I'm in a weird state of limbo - in my mind, in my life - a place where I'm stuck between those adventurous days of life as an expat in Fiji (so much fun!), and the reality that life is only what we make it. The gnawing feeling that perhaps I'm not making enough of my own life, living in the Gold Coast.
Everything in Fiji is an adventure!
Finding the elusive last ingredient for dinner meant a day-trip to four supermarkets and at the end of they day, unsuccessful, and disappointed that your dinner wasn't going to be what you were expecting - just like that, a Fiji miracle happens.
Down-trodden and waiting for a taxi to pull up, and buying a bribe in the form of a cream bun for your lovely little girl - you end up finding it in a bakery, which doubled as a goldfish shop, but also sold rare hard-to-find ingredients, like seaweed.
Yes, you read that correctly.
A bakery selling bread, but also selling aquariums and gold fish. I'm sure the Suva locals reading this will know exactly where I mean. What a shop! I wonder if the owner started off thinking I'm going to sell goldfish, but too many people came in asking for bread, so he shoved an oven in the back, and boom - a bakery with an aquarium?! I'd love to read that business plan. I digress..
These adventures were made even more fun dragging a 4-year old around, and catching endless buses and taxis, to each new supermarket. The promise of a 75 cent ice-cream like Jelly Tip or a Tuckers Cup, was the only thing keeping that little sweet hand in mine as I traipsed across Suva. And the thought of a yummy home-town-like dinner (if you could just find that ingredient!), the only thing keeping me traipsing that little sweet hand across Suva.
Most days of the week we ate like locals, and especially enjoyed the roadside BBQ's on a Saturday afternoon. A delicious treat after a day at Pacific Harbour enjoying the beach.
The roadside BBQ at Flagstaff - yum! When we first started going it was a tiny set-up, the last time we went it was a full operation with flashing lights beckoning the traffic to stop. I wonder if its still there?
These places and people are the random things that memories are made of.
The coconuts that I would get delivered by the flour-bag full, and the guy that would catch the bus with said flour-bag full of coconuts to deliver them to my door. We've stayed firm friends going on 8 years now. He's also the one that helped me investigate and chase down the pick-pocketing thieves of my iPhone. "Serrup!" he'd say if he knew I was writing about him. A real Raiwaqa fella, from a genuine Raiwaqa Bu Gang. Don't believe everything you hear about them. But hey, that's a story for another blog post.
One of my fondest memories though is that of the security guard at our apartment. His desk and chair was stationed right outside my Daughters' shared bedroom. We were on the ground floor as you entered the building, on the top of Pratt Street heading into town.
His name was Moses. But he told us to call him Moe.
He worked every day from 4pm and into the night keeping the complex safe.
I had a sneak peek at his security logbook one day (he didn't know, but I dare say he would now!). I was shocked at the preciseness of it.
[ Mrs SJ arrived 6.07pm; Mr SJ left 9.12pm taxi no. LH776; Mr SJ arrived 10.49pm ]
You couldn't get away with anything. Not that I was trying to!
Anyway, as I was saying, he used to sit right outside the bedroom window. We couldn't see in or out of that odd window, so we didn't know if Moe was there or not.
Every night, without fail, Moe would be sitting at his station when it was the girls' time to go to bed. Which when I think back was incredibly well-timed because he often did rounds of the building, and my 'nightly routine' was not exactly a routine.
As the lights went out and the sheets pulled up (come on, Fiji is too hot for blankies!) we'd call out "Goodnight Moe!" and like a voice from above, the response "Goodnight C, Goodnight J, Moce Mada" and then a little bit of Fijian which I think was a blessing for the night.
It was comforting. I remember this with such fondness.
When I had finished cleaning up from dinner, and ready to settle in and watch Shortland Street on the tele, I'd make Moe a coffee with a little treat on the side, and leave it on his desk. Most nights he was on his security rounds, so we didn't even see each other.
The washed plate and mug was placed through my kitchen window and on the bench by morning. I did it most nights, nothing fancy by any stretch - some breakfast crackers with honey or jam; a piece of banana cake I'd made during the day; sometimes a bowl of ice-cream.
The kids always bought him our left overs from dinner out too. Sounds terrible when I write it, doesn't it. We'd arrive to the front gate.
["7:43pm - Family SJ arrive from taxi no.LH784 carrying a bag of takeaway"]
He'd see the bag and smile from ear to ear. Clap Clap Clap "Vinaka Vinaka Vinaka" he'd say. Take note friends, the serving sizes in MHCC are huge!
From first meeting, he was one of the good guys. He'd see me struggling with shopping, and meet me at the front to carry my bags. He'd wave to me as I rode past in the bus. Early on, he noticed I was buying a lot of produce from the supermarket each day, so he encouraged me to go to the Suva Market instead - cheaper and fresher he'd say. One Saturday morning he waited to hear noise in our apartment (sure sign I was awake with 2 young kids chatting away - remember where his desk was) and offered to take me to the Market.
We walked down the hill and into town, and he showed me how marketing in Suva was done. He carried my bags, laughing "wow, maaann how does one small family eat so much" - we love food Moe, I replied. Then he'd pile me and the bags into a taxi and send me on my way. He did this for many Saturday's until I felt confident enough to do it myself.
One day, he nervously asked me to bake him a banana cake to take to a church function. Of course, I replied. I think he loved my cooking. I don't even love my cooking.
The memories of Fiji Moe are attached to me like the invisible string I mentioned before. Memories like this is what makes my desire to leave Gold Coast and permanently live in Fiji again, stronger by the day.
Last Christmas Day, we were driving to Brisbane from our home in the Gold Coast - about an hour's drive away - to my Mum's place for family lunch (it was yum by the way!) - and calling all our Fijian friends on the way, to wish them a Merry Christmas. We would ring one person, chat for while, hang up and say "whose next?" .
We called number after number saved in my phone under Fiji. A lot of numbers were diverted - if you know Fiji, you know how frustrating this is. We got to Moe's number. Before anyone could say anything I yelled into the phone "GOODNIGHT MOE!" copying his tell-tale tone and accent.
He didn't answer so I yelled it louder again "GOODNIGHT MOE!".
Then we looked at each other in the car thinking I must have dialed the wrong number. How embarrassing!
More reserved now I asked "Bula, is this Moe? It's SJ. Moe, BULAAAA".
"I'm sorry madam, yes this is Moe's phone"
Excited I had the correct number, I shouted "Oh BULAAAA we are calling from Australia. Happy Christmas to you! Is Moe there?"
"I'm Moe's nephew"
"BULAAA Moe's nephew - Merry Christmas!!"
"Merry Christmas madam. I don't know what to say to you madam, I'm so sorry but Moe passed away last month"
We were pretty silent the rest of the drive. Shocked and sad that we didn't get to say goodbye to a good man like Moe.
Moe was one of those rare genuine people who cared about others, and not about who they were, what they looked like or what they could get out of them. He was my Fiji miracle. In the short time I knew Moe, he got to know me better than my own Father knows me. In some ways, I wish Moe was my Father. (If you know me personally, you know I've had a rough relationship with him and despite him still being alive, he doesn't want anything to do with me).
I've been lucky enough to meet a handful of Fijians like this. The good eggs of the world. And these people make the best type of memories. The laughter and the chats. Even through the bad days (of which there were many - lets not be disillusioned), they were always there to cheer us up, or share a cup of tea and just sit in silence with us. The odd shops, the loud music blaring from the buses, the frustrating lack of ingredients I needed - these are great memories sure, and make me laugh every day. But my best memories are reserved for people like Moe.
Which brings me to the here and now. Living in the Gold Coast.
I've been growing increasingly restless on the Coast, especially over the past year. I've been truer to myself this year, than any year previously - questioning myself about what I want out of life, and questioning the type of people I want to be around.
Because of the not-so-nice 2019 we've had, I have wondered whether my memories are serving me in the best way. It's quite possible that they're holding me back, like an invisible string, from living my life as vibrantly as I did when in Fiji. Maybe I'm not giving the place where I am now enough of a chance to provide those vibrant experiences that create memories. Or maybe, just maybe, the people here are not my tribe. Could it be that we aren't making connections here because we aren't meant to be here?
Christmas for me has always been a time of reflection, and a time of promise - new beginnings for the new year, fresh starts and a hope of whats to come.
My time living on the Gold Coast is ending. I can feel it. I am longing for the hope of a fresh new year. This Christmas will be our 5th year that we've lived in the same apartment complex.
That's way to stable for my free spirit.
Sure, we've been back and forth to Fiji in the meantime, but the routine of where we are now and what we are doing day in and day out, seems wasteful of life. The life we've been given to enjoy.
I hope Moe enjoyed his life. I know one thing for sure, he definitely made mine brighter back in my Suva days.
I wish I could ask Moe if I should take the leap of faith and head back to Suva. I think he'd just smile his big Bula Smile at me.
Good Night Moe.