Nov. 1, 1996 – Suva, Fiji
The latest issue of the Africa-Carribean-Pacific magazine, The Courier, had country profiles of Mali and Western Samoa. The photos of those buildings in Mali fascinated me, I can’t wait to see them in person – unearthly, built by another species. So many things transcend time and space.
And yet – I have no toilet paper. The ladies who tend the lodge left me without a supply for the weekend. Things in this unit disappear and reappear. Some days I have two dishcloths, some days none. Same with pillows. Or toilet paper.
I suddenly thought of my Chinese iron wok, how well-crafted it is, and I tried to visualize where it is now, sitting quite still, wrapped with newspaper among dishes in a box, in that huge wooden storage crate with my other stuff, in Southcenter quite a ways from the mall. And I can see this wok so very plainly. It has no meaning or emotion and yet I know it exists, quite apart from me.
I feel that I understand so little of this place, really. Even though I’ve learned a lot about the South Pacific, it’s a TV kind of knowledge, tuned in for a brief period, easily forgotten, not really in my bones.
The rain is hypnotic. It hits the great green leaves in the botanical garden and makes them even more beautiful. I went outside with the intention of frolicking in the rain, but when it hit my skin I pouted and frowned and felt I would cry, the way an infant does, because it felt unpleasant.
And there was nowhere to run. So I just stood there and shivered a little.
I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want time to move forward. I want it to be suspended, as it seems now when I’m alone in this apartment, surrounded by rain, so aware of the boundary that the roof sets, protecting me. As ceaseless as the roar of the ocean waves breaking; the rhythm changes but never goes away.
The rain encourages me to forget time and place. I think suddenly of the Syrian guy who bought a cola for me on the hot bus ride, two years ago, and wonder if he is OK. I guess that’s a prayer.
My work is done, the pressure is off, I’m free again. I am even done assessing myself.
When this is over, I flew nearly 35,000 miles. It’s amazing to imagine. Actually I can’t. The map is less reality than the dreaminess of flying.
Thus ends the journal of my fellowship in the South Pacific. Reading it makes me want to remember the colleagues I worked with and relive what we did together.
But I had to keep moving. I went on to Africa.
Today’s penny is a 1970, the year that the U.S. recognized Fiji’s independence.