In 2005 I was working for one of the largest school districts in the nation. The work was never absent, and the need was always present. One of the benefits of working in this system was the ample days off (holiday, breaks, and of course the summer) and no one needed to tell me twice on how I should, or was going to spend my time away. This year in particular I had a trip planned, one that I knew would be just the right escape I was looking for. I was going to explore the Fijian Islands for a month during my summer break, just me, myself, and I. I had no real itinerary, that's the way I liked to travel, and had done so several times before on my own. A great way to experience the unexpected, while being immersed into a culture that would and could teach so much...
So, as the school year ended and I transitioned into my decompression zone, I prepared for my journey to meet my Fijian brothers and sisters. I use to say that a nine month school year is really like nine dog years literally! The trip was more than I could of asked for, but so much of what I was looking for. The culture, landscape, and the pace of time and space is comforting to say the least. Fiji is a pretty impoverished country with tourism obviously being a huge economic product. Most Fijians don't finish formal education, and the ones that do usually work in the tourism field, or venture off to the nearby countries for opportunities that are not present back home. They are hard working people, utilizing what they grow, catch, and create to live off and survive with. They are a kind culture who model the way of life that embraces the right way without thinking, while not desiring what they don't have or need. As my trip carried me through I was able to travel around from island to island, crossing paths with many, sleeping where I found that place to be home on any given day or night. I would have to say that this trip allowed me to breathe, while processing where I was, and where I may be headed.
Then towards the middle point of my trip I found this little island that allowed me to experience the way of life that put it all into perspective:
Caqalai Island ( say: thung-gulie ) is a 14 acres coral island south of Ovalau in a sea area known as Moturiki Passage. Caqalai Island is run by the Methodist Church of Fiji. Its off the main tourist track and its the perfect place for all those that want to get away from it all and experience real laid back Fiji island life.
It was here where I learned something that not only influenced my personal life, but my practice as a social worker, one who helped others change for the better. There was no electricity or running water on Caqalai. When it was time to eat the locals would blow from a conch shell. This sound represented that it was time to meet at the main house for a meal. It was here where I was shown that you don't need what you may think you do, what you have been accustomed and conditioned to feel as though your existence is dependent on. It was here where I heard the phrase "I See You Baby" as I was welcomed into a new culture and family system. It was here where I was taught that one could feel what was inside another man or woman's heart. Whether it was anger, pain, joy, suffering, or love, it could be seen. So, when my Fijian brothers and sisters called out to me and used this phrase I was right there with them. I was there because we spoke the same language, no matter what the distance was that separated our home, culture, and... We both were able to see someone for who they were, good or bad, challenged or not, we both knew that there was something good in there, and it could be brought out. When this happened there was possibility and opportunity to live a good life, no matter what. This journey taught me that know matter how different our lives were, we could still treat others with respect, kindness, and compassion, and most importantly we could each learn through each others eyes. As I do, I will leave you with this vicarious experience, one that I know helped shape and influence my lens in a great manner.
Until we meet again you be well out there, I See You Baby!