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I once went to Fiji...

It's Saturday. I'm on my fourth day at a beach resort in Fiji. In the last three days, I've been working within the rows and columns of spreadsheets but swimming with the low and high tides of the sea at certain points. Today, I'm looking for something 'Fiji' to download and read as I contemplate life on a hammock hanging between two coconut trees.

I go to Internet Archive. I see an album titled 'I once went to Fiji' by a group called Quintessential Penguins. One wonders how such an album title and name of a band are expressed in the three items in the album. So I listen to Midnight Spin, Athena and Stars Over Sicily. Electronic music. Except for the distinctly clear starry nights that I looked up to in the past three nights, I couldn't connect the songs to Fiji.

Maybe that is how we remember places we've been. We only can say 'I once went to Fiji', the experience mixed into the grooves and funks of unique, personal lives.

I move on to a text titled 'A Princess of Fiji' by a William Churchill. Published in 1892, 18 years after the islands became a British colony. But author is no Brit, surely no discernible relation to Winston. In fact the author was an American who became a Polynesian ethnologist. With old text like this, I wanted to know more about the person who wrote it. Aha. Someone actually wrote something about him: William Churchill: A fractured life.  Interesting life but ended in sad, dire circumstances. Served in Samoa as American Consul but can't tell whether he visited or lived in Fiji. Maybe 'A princess of Fiji' sounds better than 'A princess of Samoa' as a title for a romantic novel.

Anyway, so we read this novel. Okay, the novel starts with an old man thinking back to his younger years, particularly about a sea trading journey to the South Pacific Islands. Uncouth white men trading with friendly natives. White man commits a treachery, natives feast on white flesh. Narrator of novel escapes. He was different from the rest of the white seamen and was loved by the children of the village particularly the pubescent daughter of the chief. The 'princess' saves him by making him her slave. And so the story continues...

My thought goes back to the author and to other authors who told stories in texts or music with references to places they've visited. I don't know what story I will tell beyond data in rows and columns of spreadsheets and beyond sensory experiences of sun, sea and sand. I once went to Fiji...

An Easter Walk in Suva, Fiji

Childhood memories of Easter sunrise services made me get up early today and set out at 6 am on a walk along Queen Elizabeth Drive all the way to the University of South Pacific (USP) campus. I planned to complete a loop back to my hotel via Laucala Bay Rd. but got lost in the USP campus and couldn't get out of the university's gate on Muanikau Rd. I double-backed and caught a taxi on Laucala Bay Rd. back to my hotel.

I will not say I reflected much on Christ's resurrection. I just walked, thinking nothing, just taking in the sea, the mangroves, my fellow walkers, families on early Easter morning picnics, the institutions lining the Drive...

Just walking, breathing, propelling my body through this space I'm in.

Yet I frame what I take in. I point my iPhone camera and capture the sea, the mangrove, the boats and the rainbow. I dismiss the rubbish lining the beach. Such is the memory we want to keep.

Halloween in Portland

Wet. Rained all day. Downpour for some hours. But here we go, Jack-O-Lantern lit, witch's costume on, candies ready, time for Trick-or-Treat!    

[Credits: Jack-O-Lanterns by Mark Claborne]

Deaths at many levels

Yesterday, here in Iraq, more than a hundred people died in a massive suicide bombing at a marketplace crowded with shoppers preparing for the Eid festival. A day of celebration turned into a day of unfathomable loss for many families. Something in me rages but I have no words for events like these.

Today, the top U.S. news staring at me is Bill Cosby's deposition 10 years ago. A different kind of suicide bombing - a man self-destructs and kills his and many other's reputations and legacies. Many have words for such an ignoble end. Just look at the 1,000 and growing comments to the New York Times article. I couldn't help but weigh in.

Existential angst

It is the second day of Eid. Here in Erbil, Iraq. Outside, the air is heating up to 45 C. Inside, I can keep it comfortably at 23.

A four-day weekend. Five if you consider Thursday, declared a holiday because of the heat.

An expat holed up in her comfortable space while trying to produce work that's supposed to help millions of Iraqis displaced in must be oven-like tents and other shelters.

An incongruence of life for sure. Not just physically but virtually.

I'm lucky I can expand my physical and mental spaces, infinitely, it seems, through the internet, even if my use of it can be considered conservative compared to the many channels of interaction it offers.

Through Skype, I can see and talk to my husband who is half a world away. YouTube offers a stream of music to go with my work and physical exercise. Amazon allows me to shop and have stuff delivered to people I care for. And so on.

But in the stillness of my expat space and within the infinity of the Internet, restlessness sets in and old existential questions percolate. What does life mean with the life I'm living?

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