Dear Fiji,

I’ve been here for 5 months now. I’ll be leaving in two weeks. Throughout it all, I am immensely grateful to have finally gotten to know my family here. Fijians are truly some of the most gracious people on the planet and I’m proud of my heritage.

The goal was never to ‘find my people,’ but to uncover parts of myself through understanding my heritage. Through this I have been in the presence of so many celebrations and witnessed the family ties that are woven so tight and intricately together, the connections both amaze and confuse me. I’ve been forgiven for the many ignorant faux pas, and taught so many customs, I’ve been shown the old ways. The past of my ancestors has been revealed to me like my people before me, spoken. Ive been surrounded by more children in the past few months than I probably have my entire life. I’ve bushwhacked up the mountains learning about my waring cannibal ancestors. I’ve climbed the foot worn paths to where the purest Kava grows. I’ve drank plenty of grog, and no, I don’t mind the taste at all. In fact, there’s something I quite enjoy about it’s earthiness, and it’s always gonna be a high tide bilo for me! I’ve sat in prayer many a time, my head bowed in masu. I’ve frequented the local buses, welcoming the fully open windows (or mostly nonexistent) with the drivers blasting reggae dance hits. I’ve walked the city streets well enough to know my way around, clutching my bag all the while. I’ve nearly gotten my phone stolen. I’ve gotten a tattoo (which I get stopped all the time about and I shamelessly love it). I’ve tasted more versions of curry than I thought possible (goat is my favorite…sorry goats!!). I’ve eaten the biggest, freshest tuna. I’ve shed some tears as a result of being too enthusiastic with chili peppers. I’ve gotten dengue fever at least 3 times and learned my lesson from drinking tap water. I’ve experienced koro or village life, how life runs so differently than in the urban areas. I’ve been a participant (sometimes unwillingly) of ‘Fiji time.’ I’ve swam in the clearest blues of waters on the quietest of empty beaches. Some things are still sacred.

Even as much as I’ve been so deeply embraced, there are days I feel I am a stranger. Which has nothing really to do with my family, as I feel similarly with my family in the states which I’ve known since I can remember. As I’ve always thought, I am a lone wolf running temporarily with a pack from time to time.

Still there are days when I’m overcome with loneliness. I sit on the bus, the warm sun on my shoulders, wind blowing, music loud, and I feel that knowing- I am a stranger. But then I go to the market, pick some apples, and the vendor asks where I’m from. How long have I been here? And just this little conversation brings me back to. Usually it’s followed by are you married, which always solicits this internal eye roll. But, I always find it funny, and always walk away smiling.

Continually I learn that I am never alone, and even in the moments when I’m feeling so fragile, there is someone, noticing me. Fiji, I have seen you, and I’ve tried my best to be open to you so that I can let you in. Thank you for all your lessons, all your embraces, your open waters and beaches. I will never forget you.