Although earthquake after earthquake hit areas around where we chose to spend our long holiday this year, we were still convinced we had found “the most peaceful place on earth,” as I endearingly call Fiji. We must have been right, as the tsunami warnings came and past. Even under ‘high risk alert,’ our Fijian friends were playing their guitars and singing songs in unison. In a country abundant in natural resources, and nature’s beauty at their fingertips, it seems – at least from this tourists’ perspective – Fijians are at peace with each other and their surroundings. They are a welcoming people, who have grown to appreciate the added wealth tourism brings. Even in conditions of what we would call substandard living, they greeted us with warmth and tolerance.
Fijians are a mixed people, as generations of immigrant populations (indentured servants from India, for example) have integrated into their society. They have churches, mosques and temples – often all in one village. They have curry and kava. They are proud of the history and progress of their land, especially in education, the arts, and social welfare. Medical care and medications are free for all. Even as a foreigner. They rely on the family unit but also on the system. It gives them freedom when they want it. They usually get married at 19 or 20 and do so by falling in love. When I asked what the greatest problem is for them in their lives, one friend told us it was the interpersonal relationships between men and women (husband and wife). Well, that seems like it is universal! Women are gaining respect in society, becoming doctors and I even heard there was one female chief (not sure if it’s true). The children are barefoot and big rugby fans. They even play against Australian teams who come in for tournaments. In those cases, half the village is designated to cheer for the Aussies, so they also feel welcomed. What is it about humans that would still make them curious if there is something better in the West? Some leave to pursue that curiosity. They leave their paradise. We had to leave it too but hope to carry the spirit with us as life picks up the pace and we are no longer on Fiji time. Vinaka vaka levu (thank you very much), Fiji.