October danced a strange and exotic combination that moved quickly. I’m just now catching my breath.

Two birthday cakes

My friend Sophie and I share a birthday. It was one big cheerful party with, naturally, two cakes.

On Oct. 1st I celebrated what may be the best birthday party on record. There were tacos, glitter and lots of heart connections made through movement, singing and playing. I’m still in awe of the gracious, hilarious and warm community in which I find myself.

The next morning I flew to Australia with my mother for an 18-day trip exploring Sydney and Fiji. We do this, mom and I, around big birthdays. For my 30th, we went Hawaii. Next up, maybe Africa? Since she started working for Delta the world has become our oyster.

I had the grandest intentions to blog from the road, to share the sites and foods of a new land in real time, but my computer had other intentions. Inexplicably about 3 days into our adventure it stopped turning on. In truth I was only mildly devastated since what could really be done? After a few hours of panicked trouble shooting, I simply had to put away these notions of writing on vacation and be completely unencumbered. Bummer.

We started in Sydney, then Fiji, then back to Sydney before going home.

Sydney reminded me of San Diego sunny, blonde and clean. I ate the best dim sum I’ve ever experienced, took one of those double decker bus tours, stumbled upon a vibrant street fair, bought amazing earrings and met a koala.

The rest of this post is about Fiji, which really did feel as far away from home as it is. There really is more to say about this experience than I believe anyone would care to read, so rather than painting a long sequential picture, I’ll offer vignettes.

To save on cell phone charges, I was completely without technology. During these 8 days I synced to the pace of the sun and clouds. Many mornings we were up not long after sunrise. As soon as the light crept through the morning blinds, I’d eagerly rush to the patio and look up for the weather forecast. Would it rain? What was the sunbathing potential? Bedtime came not long after sunset when the world became quiet, dark and unfamiliar.

 

I was struck by many things in Fiji.

First, Fijians are Black. I’m embarrassed to admit this was a surprise. Women dress conservatively and brightly, and many wear their hair short and curly.  I imagine this is for practical reasons — short hair is cooler and given the humidity straitening would be futile and expensive.  But it was incredible to be with so many women rockin’ natural hair.  Given my current hair style, I fit right in, and for the first time in a long time, felt  beautiful in my short dark curls.  How I wish for this experience for other Black women and girls.

On three separate occasions I was first addressed in Fijian. This was  a delight!  Looking somewhat native, I think, allowed me entrance to off-the-beaten-path experiences.  When our snorkeling excursion was cancelled, through friendly conversation I made a new friend, who “had a brother with a boat.” There were many moments of going with the flow, but we ended up securing a snorkeling trip at a fraction of the price it would have cost to hire a charter. And, I think we had more fun.

Since I was traveling with my White mother, the Fijians wanted to get to the bottom of why we looked so differently. Where was my father? Did he live in Fiji? What did he look like? Why was he not with us? I found this bluntness refreshing.

Mom and Me

Mom and Me

Historically, Fiji was one of the last places to accept Christianity due to missionaries’ fearful avoidance of traveling there. Ritualistic cannibalism happened — a lot. The Fijians don’t really like talking about it, and I get it. There’s so many other great cultural things to mention: Fire walking, Kava, The Lovo. But that warrior energy has been channeled (I think) into a fierce love of rugby. The Fijians play rugby downpour or shine, and the Fijian team won gold against England in the last summer Olympics. The score was 43 to 7. That’s a slaughter. The Fijians are proud, and evidence of this victory is everywhere — even on the airplane safety video en route to the island.

As we drove around the island (on the left-hand side of the road), I got window glimpses into the villages. These were places where brightly colored skirts and shirts hung on lines to dry. An absence of wires made me realize that many of the homes did not have electricity. Young and old sat outside talking, preparing foods and sometimes waving as we drove by. I did not see headphones or cell phones. People were simply being together. What a marvel. I was embarrassed by my jealousy. I didn’t take pictures of these villages because I didn’t want to be that tourist. Now I wish I had.

I immediately felt the benefits of such unhurried socialization. My first day on the island, I met William who worked on the grounds where we were staying. During this first encounter there were many moments of simply standing together without words sussing each other out. He asked my marital status and the race of my last boyfriend. I obliged, and a friendship was formed. In the evenings after his shift ended, we walked the beach and talked. He told me of his most recent heartbreak. I shared my confusion around a reemerging love. We took turns singing to each other. He, Ricky Martin; Me, Annie Lennox. He asked me questions about living in the States: What our school system was like, what holidays we get off, the structure of the school year. I thought these endearing and curious first inquires. I asked about his ability to leave Fiji (not without a sponsor), where he would live if he could choose anywhere (New Zealand) and how he enjoys his free-time (Rugby, naturally). We were two curious creatures to each other.

There’s more to say: the challenging rain, the warmth of the Fijians, the amazing fish and chips, the best papaya I’ve ever experienced … It was incredible, beautiful, completely relaxing and, yet after 8 days I couldn’t wait to re-sync to the buzz and hum of home.