People often ask me where my favorite place on earth is. I motorbiked through Nepal during the fall of the Maoist revolution, and drank ayahuasca in the jungles of the Amazon, and danced inside secret night clubs carved into the caves of Cuba. I communed with the slave-rebelling spirits in the waterfalls of Haiti, and attended weddings in Ethiopia where men ran naked across rows of bulls, and swam with the toenail-loving-sea-Gods of Thailand. I slept on sheets of ice above the arctic circle, and shook feathers in the falling castles of France, and spent several days screaming my heart into the temples of Angkor Wat. But I could never answer that question until now. I think Fiji might be the place at the end of every rainbow. So far, it’s my favorite gem of gems.
The day I left Vulaga, there was a farewell breakfast party inside of a traditional hut. All the women wore lipstick and pearls, 10 a.m. be damned. We drank lemongrass tea and ate rock monsters followed by cinnamon buns. Flower necklace gifts were given. Sad songs that people sing when someone’s leaving, were sung and strummed with tears. Songs about holes left in hearts, and about how deep the blue of that hole is, and about how good that hole aches.
My friend who hosted the breakfast isn’t from that village, but her husband is. Her voice is like the rising sun, and her husband plays the guitar like it’s made of liquid. They were professional musicians once. Performing in Sheraton hotels all across China. After four years, they gave it up and moved to Vulaga. Traded the limelight for the pearl of the Milky Way. Traded four-star hotel rooms for a one-room hut with a straw roof. Traded a life of individualism for a village life of unison.
Could you do that? Would you do that, if you could?
We sailed back to Savusavu on a smooth sea. We caught a fish so big that the boat was moving backwards and the rod bent down like the branch of a weeping willow. Never did see what kind of fish it was. Ripped itself right off the hook after fighting us for an hour. I bet that fish was the biggest fish that ever did live.
By the time I arrived back to Juniper, she was no longer broken, but her door was and I had to break into her with a crowbar. It’s a long story involving a busted hinge and a welding job gone wrong in my absence. Once I cracked her open, it felt divine to be back home.
Juniper is my floating sanctuary. My little temple where incense burns, and flower petals fall. She is blessed by all the saints and sages, even the forgotten ones.
My temple is sometimes blessed by undesirable things too. I discovered a colony of white worms bubbling up out of my bathroom sink. There were so many living and multiplying and dividing inside of the sink hose, that the sink couldn’t drain and more worms just kept floating up. I spent a long while plunging and hosing and plunging and pouring a fizzing mixture of baking powder and white vinegar down the drain.
It was still divine to be home. Maybe Juniper is a Utopia with some invisible force pulling even the creepy crawlies towards her. It must be a force so strong, that once they get near her, they can’t help but climb aboard and start reproducing.
I did all the things I like to do in Savusavu. Like dancing at The Planter’s Club and eating at a restaurant called Grace Road.
Every joint in Fiji with “Grace” in the title is owned by a Korean doomsday cult. The leader of it, Shin Ok-ju, a.ka. Reverend Esther, convinced her followers to move to Fiji, the “promised land,” after a famine prophecy she foretold. Fear of famine lead hundreds to follow her here.
When they arrived, she stole their passports and used the followers as slave labor to build an empire in Fiji- farms, restaurants, gas stations, etc. Cult members were sometimes beaten by Shin in an act she calls “threshing floors.” She claims that slapping, hair pulling, and throwing people to the ground, drives the evil demons out of them. Shin is now behind bars for her brutal rituals.
I eat at Grace Road despite all of this. I eat there even though they accidentally fed me chicken once, which led me to have a total melt down. The women behind the counter stood there laughing at me with streaks of lunacy in their eyes, like they did it on purpose. I sort of regret eating there, but I can’t help it. It’s the only spot in Savusavu where I can get organic food and damn their juices are good. Plus I find cults fascinating. I like to look at them from the inside out. I mean, can you imagine working, without pay, for a leader who is in prison for beating you?
Cults have a strange kind of potent power. For a hot second my family thought that I was one. It all started when I took a family member with me to pray at Yogananda’s Self-Realization Lakeside Shrine in California.
Some of Ghandi’s ashes are there and it is where Tom Petty and George Harrison’s funerals where held. Yogananda’s face is even one of the faces on the cover of the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Yogananda’s book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” was supposedly the one book that Steve Jobs had downloaded on his iPad and it’s the book that he gifted to each person who attended his funeral.
I started going to Self-Realization services before I knew any of this. It’s the only church I’ve found that tolerates “All religions,” which I adore it for. I like the teachings too. That God is not some separate being in the sky, but that “Every grain of food you eat, every breath you take, is God.”
Anyway, my family member took one look at the lotus flowers and luminaries on the wall, went back to Arkansas, and told everybody that I was in the cult featured in the “Wild Wild Country,” Netflix documentary, which is anything but true. That documentary is about another man from India named Osho. And his cult was painted as a “sex cult” and if I was in one of them it would probably be evident in the gush of my words. Don’t you reckon?
Oh well, if every family has a black sheep, let me be the one in mine. I only recently started to embrace the fact that I’m a total misfit even in the sailing community. I stopped trying to fit in where I don’t fit in, and since then, I found that I fit in more. Or at least I feel like I do, or is it just that now I don’t care if I do?
For example, there was a triple birthday celebration for some cruisers that I just met. I didn’t think twice when I suggested that we all dress like fish for the party, and nobody rolled their eyes when I did suggest it. All of them, ages thirty to 60, dressed up like a fish. We even went scuba diving together at Rainbow Reef to inspire our outfits.
I have so much more to tell you. But I’m working full time and sailing and exploring. I’ll write you again soon. I’ll tell you about Paradise. That’s where Juniper and I are now. It’s on the “Garden Island.”