Vinaka vaka levu
We left Kaibu today, having had two trips out there in our two weeks in Fiji. It has been such a privilege to visit this special place and to get some small insight into life on the island. Vinaka vaka levu to Rob, Lynda and Logan for all of their help and hospitality, and for welcoming me to Kaibu under Colin's wing.
Today, one of the kitchen staff Rusila asked me if I had enjoyed visiting Fiji. I said YES! For many reasons: because I like to travel and experience new places. Because I like to meet new people. Because this is such a beautiful place. And because I love to learn. This trip has involved a lot of learning: new foods, tastes, skills, language and always, learning through the lens.
Whilst on the island, Colin and I have worked from the kitchen. We would arrive in the morning and set up our computers, make coffee and settle into the day's cooking. There are a team of Fijian staff who work in the kitchen, so we have spent each day with them: working together to create the meals for the day, the dishes that Colin and I have been creating, and on some of the foods that the kitchen staff produce. As well as taking photographs and learning about food from Colin, I have been able to help in the kitchen by sharing my baking and preserving skills. In turn, I have been able to talk with the staff about their lives, learning from them what local life in Fiji and on the island is like.
In many ways, their lives are very different to mine. But I always figure, as people, no matter our differences, we're more alike than we are different.
Today while we made chocolate cake, Rusila and I discussed our families. I told her about my family and she told me she is one of ten children. She said that she is a twin, and then told me the story of her twin sister.
Her sister never married and when she got ovarian cancer, her doctor told her this can happen to women who aren't married or don't have children. I asked Rusila if she and her twin had the 'twin thing' where they were very close to each other. She said yes, and that when her sister was dying, Rusila was the only person she wanted to have by her side. Rusila told me that she wasn't able to have much time with her sister in the hospital, because she couldn't afford to leave her job (this was before she came to live and work on Kaibu).
On the night her sister passed, Rusila knew it would be the night and that she had to be at the hospital. Her sister had said to her, "You need to let me go. You are the only one holding me here. I need to go. You need to let me go."
Rusila looked at me with her big eyes and said, "But how could I let her go? She is my sister, my twin sister and I love her. Later that night, she couldn't talk any more. I kissed her cheek, and then, she was gone."
By this point, I was crying - not quite into the chocolate cake - but close. I mopped myself up and we carried on working.
The guts of life and human experience. We all live and love. More alike than different.