It’s not a cockroach on the $100 bill, it’s a cicada. Everyone told me that it was a roach, starting with three women in a grocery store and ending with someone from biosecurity. I don’t know if we were lost in translation or if everyone in Savusavu was lying to me like a flat fish. I will tell you that I have yet to hear a cicada in Fiji, but have seen many cockroaches, some so big that you could strap a saddle on them and ride ‘em like a horse.
Upon further inspection, the creature on the bill looks very little like a roach. Beliefs are a powerful thing. Believe enough and the world will bend into the shape you believe it’s in, just like that cicada bent itself into a cockroach for me.
Anyways, another thing I was wrong about is that Tongan island that I thought was named Wooded. Remember, I was next to Wooded when I was without wind for three days and my mind turned into a jellyfish? On the charts, a lot of islands and atolls around here are marked “wooded” or “densely wooded.” Perhaps there are even some islands marked as “wishing for wood” or “was once wooded, but is now boneheaded.”
Now that I’ve fessed up to all my mistakes, I can move on, in peace.
Savusavu is a slow town with a fast pace.
Bakeries, restaurants, banks, bars. The smell of an Indian influence rises into the air through spices and incense. It rains frogs and fish too, and I watch as people of all faiths walk by with umbrellas shading them from rain, then sun, then rain. But nobody dare touches the cane toads, they’re poisonous ya know.
There’s an outdoor market close to the marina and it’s thick with kava root, pure coconut oil, octopuses, organic vegetables, and men with flying saucer eyes. Everything grows bigger in Fiji, you can taste how fertile this place is.
What you won’t find much of here is cheese. But have you ever really focused on your dreams after eating cheese? Cheese dreams are all goblins and cobwebs and kidnappings. Mine are like feature-length thrillers and I wake up screaming. So, who cares about the lack of cheese anyway?
The people of Fiji are honeyed gems, even the ones high on the grog. They have so little, but all they want is for you to walk on air, so they’d give you their only pair of wings off their feet if you needed them.
When Sami, the mechanic, came back to Juniper, he brought a roti lunch that his wife made for me, complete with a sugar ball desert. Sami was wearing another denim jumpsuit. I imagine that his entire closet is just different shades of denim.
You never really know what’s in a persons closet.
Sami puts my geothermal-hot-spring-cleaned heat exchanger back on, and a new alternator belt. Then we change the oil to grade 40, because it’s all I can find, but my manual says it’s fine.
As soon as I fire up the engine, we get the red oil light special. Sami says he’s at a loss. That I need an electrician. So I call this guy Pillai.
I’m told to ask Pillai about the snake temple. I don’t fully understand it all yet, but the snakes are stones and they don’t look like snakes. These snake stones have somehow grown bigger throughout time, and are believed to represent a Hindu deity, so Hindu’s have built temples around them throughout Vanua Levu.
I find that a religion maintains it’s mystical powers if I don’t try to understand the intricacies and nuances of it, and rather just allow myself to roll around in it’s wonder, like one rolls around in the surf along the shore. For example, I once went to a Buddhist theme park in Singapore and there was a statue of an old women who was squeezing her left breast, and milk was shooting out of it, and some creature was beneath her drinking her breastmilk. I don’t even know where to begin to explain the magic of that.
I would like to see a snake stone grow in Fiji. I’ve only known shrinking stones. Doesn’t everything eventually shrink in time? How many years have these snake stones been growing? What makes them grow? Maybe if I feed the snake stones they will grow more and then they can talk to the serpent currents for me, and I’ll never have a current against me at sea again. That would be groovy.
Pillai sorts out that the cable to the oil pressure light is shorting out and in fact is not even connected to the oil pressure sensor! Somewhere along the way my system was rewired to skip the light and go straight to my oil pressure gauge. The silly part is that I bought that oil pressure gauge in Hawaii and vaguely remember this rewiring occurring.
I plumb forget a lot of things. How can one possibly remember all of the things? My brain can only move in so many directions before it fizzles. It fizzles and fries and falls flat as soon as it sees a machine.
So, nobody knows what that oil pressure light is actually meant to indicate when it comes on, nor why my panel fogs up, and they certainly can’t explain the several times that I saw smoke! So the questions are; Was something wrong with the engine? Is it still wrong? Or did we fix it with all the things that we did and didn’t do?
I ask Pillai to forget about the engine for a minute, it’s too perplexing. I need to know what in the heck is draining my batteries and why my solar charge controller is bringing 13 volts to the panel, but the batteries aren’t going above 12.4. He does a load test. Cleans cables. Scratches his head. Says he needs more time.
All I want is the ocean, so I’m scratching too. I’m itching to go sailing, but my boat is in pieces, and I’ve got this other kind of itch to create, but my boat is in pieces.
I’m thinking a lot. I’m trying to sort the next moves of my life out. Wondering what I’m supposed to do about cyclone season, and where I’m supposed to go next, and if I’m supposed to go by boat. My non-mechanical brain thinks that I need to see Fiji and then I need to relax for a minute. That I need a winter. That I need to sit down and create. That I need some sort of an artist residency where I can edit and write and hibernate from everything and everyone so that my focus holds no distractions.
But where is this place?
I decide to get a massage so that my thoughts are more translucenct. Let’s be real, I always want a massage. Sometimes I wish I was a cat or some other furry animal, so people would pet my head all day and all I’d have to do in return is meow or purr.
I go to this Fijian woman for the massage. She comes from a long line of healers, and within minutes of meeting her, I fall in love with her spirit and the love is contagious so she falls in love with my spirit too. The next thing I know, we’re having a midday dance party without any music. When the dancing subsides and she begins to massage me, the first the she says is, “You are supposed to sail to Australia next, God has gift for you there.“
I don’t know why she says it, but she is the third stranger in the past two months, who has told me that I‘m supposed to go to Australia. God always speaks to me through strangers when I don’t listen.
I have been seeing kangaroos in my mediations lately, but I don’t have any desire to go to Australia. I’m certain that Australia is a lovely place, but I lived in Earl’s Court in London, which is pretty much Australia without the kangaroos, or the crocodiles, or the outback. Plus I get way more excited by the words “Papau New Guinea” or “Indonesia” or “Sailing past the pirates of the Red Sea.”
I look at her and say, “I don’t want to go there. I just got here, and anyway the world beyond here is closed, including Australia. So if God wants me to go to Australia, he’s really gonna have to part the sea and shoot me through a rainbow accompanied by whales.”
The next morning I end up on a 58 ft. sailboat heading for the Lao group with a New Zealand captain, Don, and his Australian crew, Lucy. That’s where I am right now. I will write you more tomorrow.