I’ve only spent several quick days in Fiji, so my impressions are scattered and haphazard, almost as if I my view was restricted to only a few portions of a Gaugin painting instead of the whole. I was there working on a documentary for the BBC, wearing the multiple hats of the producer’s assistant in a crew of precisely three, plus our host talent.
I’ve worked in a number of tropical places, but it’s always the heat and the humid aroma that perpetually surprises me upon arrival. The scent of frangipani blossoms, the tang of the ocean, and the smell of mildew. The hotel that I stayed in was all heavy tile floors, lazily turning ceiling fans and tall windows draped in white curtains that continuously billowed with the sea breeze.
While filming in a village one day, we were invited into the headman’s hut for a chat and the chance to drink kava. I didn’t catch all the implications of it, but the kava ceremony is a regular part of Fijian life, an exchange of politeness and hospitality and, no doubt, much more that I am not aware of. The taste of the liquid was odd and sharp on my tongue. I would not choose to make a habit of it, but we all smiled, for the headman was a genuinely friendly and gracious host.
The mountains there reach right down into the sea, necklaced about at the juncture with white sand beaches as shining and as pure as pearl strands sparkling in the sun. Even after all these years, I can still feel the allure of island life. Some days I would like nothing more than to pack the family up, board a plane for the Marquesas or Fiji or Samoa and not come back for a couple years. Or maybe a decade.
Perhaps the current political season exacerbates that wanderlust urge.
There’s nothing quite like living on the water’s edge with nothing much at your back (an island really isn’t that much, is it?) and the ocean rolling away to the horizon. We humans are very good at lying to ourselves about the clarity and honesty of our point of view. However, a literal point of view like the ocean stretched out before us is an excellent way to put us in our place and remind us, “thus far you shall come, but no farther; here shall your pride be stopped.”
Ah, well. I’ll continue to dream of Fiji until I need it no longer.