If you had told me as a young Fijian child growing up on the outskirts of Suva that I would one day be living in the UK and in addition to that travelled to more than half the world I would have most probably looked at you somewhat disparagingly and openly laughed in your face. My childhood travels was limited to travelling from our home in the capital city to my grandfathers home or my parent’s farm. It wasn’t that we lacked the means, my parents both had what would be considered as white collar jobs and could well afford to take us on trips abroad, it was just that my parents were of the generation that more emphasis was put on prioritising children’s education and family and/or cultural obligations rather than travel. Fast forward a decade or two later, now a single mom, working in a field I never thought I would fall inlove with – human resource & marketing. Being a parent made me reassess my own priorities and even though I did get to travel, the opportunities to do so were few and far inbetween because I now had another little human to care for. It was during these years that I met my husband. Him, a young soldier on his leave in Fiji, me a jaded single mom whose own self-imposed superiority made me turn my nose up at this soldier who was trying to charm his way into my life. It took him spouting off random trivia at the most inopportune times that made me realise I could actually spend the rest of my life with this man and the rest is as they say, history.
Moving across to the UK was a little surreal, leading up to that I had resigned from my job in Marketing at Post Fiji Limited and was caring for my late mother who had, had a major stroke. Nothing prepares you for providing care for a loved one, it’s a 24/7 job that involves the unbridled patience and love of a saint. I remember saying goodbye to my mother the morning of my flight and I’ll never forget what she told me, it was almost like she knew we weren’t going to see each other again. As she hugged me for the very last time my mother told me in no uncertain terms was I to waste this opportunity to see the world and to do it for her and I. The important undertones in those words never really dawned on me until a few years later after she passed.
I moved to Colchester, Essex in the summer of 2010. I found it a little difficult adjusting to the weather which was to be expected as I had never visited the Northern Hemisphere. My husband was also in the process of training for a 6 month operational tour to Afghanistan at that time so in addition to moving to a new country, I also hardly saw my newly wedded husband and felt quite displaced within the Fijian community itself. It was hard going trying to break into the cliques within this first camp as it seemed on first impression the powers that be echelon of the hierarchy in place were not too keen on how my free spirit refused to be compartmentalised into their categorisation of newcomers to the community. One thing I’ve learnt from this experience is that, for most part, Fijians that move abroad seem to cling almost desperately to anything that is familiar, that we tend to overcompensate and project this need to be as Fijian as we can be. It was mind boggling for me to be plonked into the midst of this and also having to navigate my way through the politics of it all whilst at the same time trying to integrate myself into the new culture and new country I had moved to. It was not a pleasant introduction for me personally into the new lease of life I was being accorded so to speak, but in hindsight I’m glad I did go through it because if it had not been for that, I would not have been so pushed to the edge that ended up with me finding solace in a job that had me move from England to the UAE.
In 2012, I made another career change, I hung up my superhero mom and wife cape temporarily and moved to Dubai. I worked for one of the major airlines and that is really where my journey of enlightenment more or less came to head. I travelled to countries that I had only read about or seen in adverts, never once thinking I was ever going to step foot in it physically. My husband and our 2 children stayed back in the UK whilst I lived and worked abroad. Our family time consisted of either me having to commute 7hrs by plane from Dubai to London and another 2hr train commute to our home in Essex or them doing the commute in reverse. How we managed to make this work for the length of time I was away is still a mystery to me. One thing I learnt from all this is, it’s so important to find a life partner that will respect the need for you to find yourself and to be confident enough in themselves that they are not made to feel emasculated by the choices you make. They need to be a friend first because when the infatuation and honeymoon love fades, you need to actually like the person otherwise all that you have planned will make a downward spiral south before you even have time to blink. In the duration of time I was out in Dubai, my family was posted to 2 camps, so even though they were moving to different parts of England I was still like tourist coming in sporadically to the country and just getting a superficial experience of it all.
It was the death of my mother that brought me to a standstill in my then finding myself journey and made me reassess my life choices and whether it was worth being so far away from them in it all. Yes, my family got to travel extensively, my children came out to Dubai and lived with me for a few months but because of the work schedule, it was not an ideal situation to have them there with me and so they returned to the UK once again. Grieving my mother came in waves for me, the first being the day I decided I wasn’t going to return to work, and that’s exactly what I did. I packed 3 suitcases and returned to my family in the UK, resignation emailed to my manager and never looked back. They say hindsight is a beautiful thing because it makes one see what could have been in a more positive light (or not), looking back now I can see that, that snap decision had a butterfly effect as it meant that my sister I was living with in Dubai had to deal with all the administrative hiccups my leaving caused her, my employers were not too impressed with my abrupt departure and then there were these 3 individuals that I was moving back to, who for the better part of 2 years had managed to carry on with life without me. It took a lot of adjusting to try and get into their routine, it was almost like learning how to walk again and again this would not have been possible without having the kind of character that my husband possesses. He is ultimately the hero in all of this, the way that he managed to soldier on (no pun intended) while I tried to figure out how I would fit into their lives again.
My success story I can honestly say is my family. Its taken me a good number of years to appreciate my role as a mom and wife and to not feel unworthy of the title of a stay at home mom; or the fact that I may not have any formal qualifications that I can hang up on the walls of our home; or a corporate job for my children to be able to speak about at show and tell. I was brought up with the notion that education is key to unlocking any door, but the education that was rallied as the ultimate key is one that is so singular. It focuses so much on only academia and in doing so leaving out the important lessons that our children deserve to learn in order to survive and grow up to be decent human beings. I’ve also come to this realisation on my home education journey with my own children. I’ve seen how my children thrive when exposed to situations where it not only expects them to undertake a task from an academic standpoint but also to think logically and use their own personal experiences to complete their tasks.
Life has dealt me a few unfair cards but I’ve come to appreciate them as life lessons I needed in order to grow. A favourite quote by famous American Poet, Edwin Markham comes to mind whenever I reflect back on the choices I have made in life - “Choices are the hinges of destiny", and I firmly believe our destiny is not defined by one experience, it is a culmination of all our experiences coming together. Starting a blog was a way for me to find an outlet to voice my thoughts and to write about my experience as a Fijian living in the UK. I'll be honest it began as a tongue-in-cheek take on life here as the unconventional English countryside tourist, but it has now evolved into also being my way of providing a platform for Fijian Women going above and beyond in whatever aspect of life they are currently in – be it due to cultural or societal barriers or even just personal circumstance. I have finally come full circle and realised my calling (amongst other things), and that is to be the voice of those who may not have the clout or the courage to speak out and speak up about their own experiences or even just to celebrate their achievements. It’s an ongoing journey but one I’m finally at peace with.