Before you read this post, check out Part Four: Love.
My friend Ricky (and many others) said leaving Naboutini, Fiji was bittersweet, and I completely agreed. All the people in the village and their visitors during the holidays–extended family members, friends, neighbors–helped us usher in the new year in an unforgettable way. The atmosphere that last night was so sweet and I wanted more of those nights. I was not really ready to leave the next morning, but after a few deep breaths, I accepted the bitter taste of goodbye.
Ironically, Shauna Niequist said it best in her book “Bittersweet” describing her own story about a vacation in Fiji. I cried while listening to her describe the islands, but this was wht resonated with me the most.
“Sometimes we have to leave home in order to find out what we
left there, and why it matters so much.”
Through conversation with friends from this trip, I am able to travel 5,000 miles to the vanua (the land) and the South Pacific Ocean. The bond is a strange and as authentic as the bread fruit we ate with many of our meals.
We can never really go back. I learned this in a conversation with Jes Therkelsen, a multimedia professor at Fresno State. Any of us can return to the village, but we won’t be the same person when we return and we won’t experience Fiji in the same way.
Prior experience provides context, but it does not guarantee a repeat.
Thank you to all who prayed for me during this trip, and to my family and friends who supported financially. I don’t know how to repay you, but I at least can give you my report of what happened.
This recent series of blog posts cannot fully convey the amazing time I had in Fiji, but I have tried my best. It is less of a highlight reel, and more of a flashback sequence.
The construction of a kitchen, medical outreach, and a documentary were the main projects we set out to accomplish there in the village. Even if our service there didn’t feel complete, we at least set the foundation and we built relationships with the people–from near and far.
I would have posted these a long time ago, but school, work, and the many other things I do pushed the blogs to the end of my to-do list. It seems like this time of the semester isn’t the most convenient time to write, but when you need to write, you just do it.
A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
While in Fiji, I expected to immediately stumble upon something meaningful and transforming, but that didn’t happen until much later. It didn’t occur during the talk with Navmit, or in while talking to Evelyn in Nadi, and or even in the airport before departing to Los Angeles.
My thoughts were caught in a long flight delay.
I have so many other stories colored by the Fijian people and their culture. I could have just shared directly from my journal, but those entries–records of what I did and how I felt–are private (for now at least).
Because this was my first international travel experience, I believe I have permission to be a bit more introspective than normal. It provided a fresh world-lens on who I was, who I am, and who I will become. I have been more motivated to serve in my church and at school, and to set a new foundation for the next generation of leaders to build upon.
Fiji didn’t change me as much as it helped me uncover my true self, the one who feels deeply, and encourages others with a gentle smile to remind them that someone sees them.
I learned that if I could just cast my worries aside, then I would begin to see life as full and vibrant.
I returned home to Fresno three months ago, but every now and then, I find myself at the waterfall with someone asking me to dive in or at the bench crying out to God searching for answers beyond the superficial.
Some things require a risk while others are a call to be still. Tension comes with both, but no decision is ever final.
Except maybe one.
I am returning to Fiji next winter as a student-leader with a friend from this last trip and two new professors. My goals: to be determined.