The Fiji Diaries: My Captured Heart

Ni Sa Bula to part two of my journey.

I wake up at the crack of dawn to the crowing of the Prasad family’s rooster, Laal Dupaata (red scarf), which I have named after the infamous Bollywood song. I get up, write my thoughts in a journal, make myself breakfast that usually consists of eggs, bread, and some form of juice, and then I read my novel.

After a couple of hours of reading, I start to write pages of the book I have been continuously working on for the past couple of months. If the girls, Lorain and Jasleen, are at school, then I wait for them to come back before we have an afternoon snack; if it is the weekend, we honestly feast all day on fruit, coconuts, and ice cream. We then decide what we want to do for the evening…sometimes we go into town and sometimes we watch back-to-back movies from Jasleen’s impressive collection. Later in the evening, Naz and Yash come back, I take a cold shower (which feels amazing by the way), and we catch up on how the day went. We then eat dinner together, watch the news, talk about life, current events, and sometimes philosophy before we go to bed. I sleep and wake at reasonable hours in Fiji, which is something I’m unable to accomplish in the states. It feels like I’m living at home without all the stress of being constantly criticized. It’s wonderful and it is how I spend a lot of my time here.

During my fourth week, Yash, the girls, and Kalawati aunty took me to the Tailevu side and I saw mountains, rivers and the Pacific coast. The greenery was so beautiful. We went to a couple of docks, stopped a lot for picture ops, and ate the most amazing pineapple I’ve ever had. It was near the Lodoni village. Later that week, Naz had told me a few places to visit in Suva. I went through the Thurston Gardens into the Fiji Museum and saw the history of Fiji, how the clothes and food evolved, and read about Girmit: the immigration of Indians onto the islands. After that, I went to the government building, the US Embassy, and the Grand Pacific Hotel. There I had a drink and a piece of cake. On the way home, I stopped by and got groceries so I could make aloo parathas (potato pancakes) for the family for dinner.

The weekend after I cooked, Naz’s whole family and I piled into a car and decided to drive around the entire island. Before going we stopped by Fazia’s house and ate this amazing chicken biriyani (a rice dish). That girl sure can cook! After celebrating Yash, Fazia, and her father, Masuk’s birthday, we decided it was time to head out. We started in Nausori and then went towards Tailevu, and from there we hit RakiRaki, Ba, Tavua, Lautoka, Nadi, Denarau, and then Sigatoka Town. We took a back road to the interior lands, an hour down a gravel road, and finally got into the area Naz’s family lives in. It’s in the middle of the mountains that I flew over on the way to Nausori. On the drive there we stopped at scenic places so I could take pictures and it was breathtaking. The mountains, rivers, and mist together with the palm trees gave me amazing landscape and waterscape images. In the village of interior Sigatoka, we ate pumpkin curry, kept our heads covered (old-town India), and only had electricity at night from the generator. If you thought Nausori was roughing it, Sigatoka was a whole new world.

After coming back from the weekend around the island, Fazia and I decided to have a sleepover. We bought a couple chick flicks, a scary movie called Asylum, all the materials for that amazing biriyani she makes, chocolate, chips, and various other forms of junk food. We watched all the movies after dinner late into the night and basically did what girls do best, which is talk. I felt like we really understood each other that day; it’s a night I won’t ever forget.

A few days later, after having lunch with Aunty Nim and getting a wonderful gift, I got on the bus to Nadi early in the morning. I was on my way to meet with Sheena for my last week in Fiji. I was so excited to see someone I knew after so many weeks. Getting into Nadi, I got off the bus and took a taxi to Wailoaloa road.

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Sheena and I

After checking in at Aquarius Fiji, Sheena and I cleaned up, got ready, had lunch, and chilled at the beach. The next day, a guy named Godfrey came to pick us up and take us to Natadola beach so we could get our surf on. With him was his colleague, Saviri, and his Saviri’s brother, Lario. We drove about an hour out to the beach, but in the water, I knew I didn’t have it in me to actually surf. I, instead, floated about, and had fun getting caught in the current and saved by my Fijian surfing heroes. I also practiced my photography skills by trying to catch Sheena in action, with her waterproofed camera, before the wave she was surfing hit me. On day 3, we took the bus into Nadi Town and went through the fruit market, a few stores for dresses, and the handicrafts market. I had learned enough Fiji Hindi and had quite a bit of local Suva knowledge to pass as a Fijian and attempt to get the local discounted pricing. I did well: most of them bought it! Later that night, we met with Godfrey, the surfing guy, for dinner and went to an amazing restaurant called Sitar. I highly recommend the vegetarian Indian food there.

That night, we packed for the Yasawas and went to bed since we had to be up early for the bus to the Denarau Marina. At the marina, we boarded the Yasawa Flyer II for our four-hour journey to island of Nacula. Getting off on the island we saw tan and white sand, the most amazing blue and light turquoise water, which was clear as glass, and bunches of fish and coral in the ocean. During the three-day stay, Sheena and I picked up shells, attended a bonfire on the beach, and went into the water a couple of the days. Both of us rented snorkels and swam out to the reef to see all the coral. It was tiring and fascinating at the same time. After snorkeling, Sheena had her own mini photo shoot, with me as her photographer, and she went to the Blue Lagoon Caves, while I had a very relaxing massage.

On our third day, we checked out and boarded the Yasawa Flyer II, which would take us to Denarau Marina. After the four-hour journey, we were finally back on Viti Levu near Nadi. I got on the yellow bus that took me to the Nadi bus station in Nadi Town. From there, I caught the mini van going into Suva, arrived at a quarter past ten, and then took another mini van into Nausori Town. Getting out of the mini van, I immediately got into a taxi and told  the driver to go to Vusiya road. It took me ten hours to get from the Yasawas back to Nausori.

The minute the mini van entered Suva, I felt a sense of relief.  I was so happy to be back, I couldn’t believe how attached I had become to staying in that city. Walking into Naz’s place, at a quarter past eleven, I had a huge smile on my darkened-from-sunburn face. I was delighted and ecstatic to see everyone. I made Fazia and Lorain wake up for a bit and took a quick cold shower, and finally slept better than I had that whole week. Why? Because I was home. Suva and Nausori had become home for me.

The next day, I woke up early, woke up the girls, and we all got ready. We boarded our busses and went into Suva one last time.

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Lorain, Me, Jasleen – Tappoo City

Fazia took us to the My SUVA Picnic Park after lunch. We walked around, played on the swings and the teeter-totter, and then took a bunch of pictures to capture my last day. It was only that week away from them, while I was at the resort, that I realized how much I cared about the people I was staying with and how much I would miss them. After that we made our way back home, I took another shower and did my final packing.

Getting to the airport, they told me my flight out of Nadi was going to be delayed and I would be put into a hotel for the night. This was fine by me; I just wish they had told me earlier. The American in me was coming out again because I was on my way back. I said my goodbyes, took farewell pictures, and hugged everyone telling them that I would eventually come back and see them all. Getting into Nadi, I was taken to the Best Western Hexagon International Hotel, given a thirty-dollar voucher for food, drink, dessert, and Internet, and a beautiful room all covered by Fiji Airways.

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Best Western Hexagon International – Nadi

There, I met a nice couple who kept me company and we decided to take the shuttle to the airport together at five AM. Finally taking the flight the next morning, I landed in Los Angeles ten hours later. I had not slept at all, but rather, had watched ten hours of movies. It might have been because it was a daytime flight. After a five-hour layover and another four-hour flight, which I most definitely fell asleep on, I landed at O’hare to see my friend, Kanwal’s, beautiful face. She had come to pick me up.

Everyday, Fiji runs through my mind: my time there, being free of stress, no pressure to be one way or another. There was no malicious intent, no aim to use, and no front to impress. The people were good, pure-hearted, giving, and trustworthy. The island and its people were truly beautiful. I wish I could go back there and live in Suva again for a few more months, or a year, or even ten years. I needed to be there longer, for in Fiji, I found my inner being, gained the ability to live in the moment, felt unconditional familial love, obtained freedom from societal expectations, and I learned to accept myself. The people of Fiji loved me as I was, I didn’t have to put on the act that I have to in the US to constantly fit in. The island let peace run through my body and my mind in a way that cannot be duplicated in any other country. I’ve left my heart in Fiji, in its aquamarine waters, emerald green forests, and in the happy faces of Suva’s metropolitan socialites. You stole my heart, Viti Levu, and I can’t wait to come back to the beauty of your mountains.

Ni Sa Moce (Goodbye)

Vinakavakalevu

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