As time flies by, I am faced by the heartbreaking reality that I am really leaving my Yalobi family in less than three weeks. I have had a hard time processing the fact that I have to let go; therefore, I have been in denial. However, unfortunately, now that the school year is rapidly coming to a close, my replacement volunteer has arrived (she’s a wonderful woman!), and the village continually begs me to stay and/or asks when I am coming back, I have no choice but to face this reality. As I slowly try to accept and process what moving on will mean, I am realizing the extent of my integration into the community, understanding just how important my relationships within my community are, and recognizing that I am just NOT ready to leave.
Although I am not wanting to let go of my community, my relationships, my work, or my way of life in Yalobi, I recognize that I will never feel “ready.” For about a month, I was seriously considering extending my service for another year, but I choose to go home realizing that no matter how long I stay, I will never be ready to leave. And chances are, the longer I stay, the harder it will be to say goodbye. When I say I am not ready, I must admit that this is a reflection of thoughts from the community. They are not ready for me to leave either, which will make saying goodbye even harder. Daily, I am asked to stay, marry one boy from the village, why I am leaving, and/or when I am coming back. I was told the other day that I should run away in the middle of the night so we can avoid the painful goodbye.
In addition, I believe in the phrase, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, so I need to let go and give adjusting back to life in America my best shot. This will help me truly appreciate and understand the importance of my experience here in Yalobi. Also, a huge part of me fears that if I don’t go back now, I will never go back because I will not know how to adjust, socialize, or life in the western world. This may sound like an over exaggerated, silly concern, but I tell you it’s genuine and realistic.
So, I am really leaving Fiji. I have made this choice and know it is time, but it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. There will be a lot of tears and a huge piece of my heart will remain in Yalobi. Words cannot describe the importance of the relationships I have formed and community I have been a part of for the past two years. I have made life-long friends with the most kind-hearted, caring people I have ever met, and I will value this experience for the rest of my life. In an addition to missing the people of my community, I will greatly miss the lifestyle. The simple way of island life is a truly special and beautiful thing. You eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired, and can always finish your task I qwata, or tomorrow. I will miss going to the sea or the plantation to look for food. I will miss not wearing shoes. The combination of a subsistence lifestyle, the simplicity of life without electricity and running water, and the isolation of a small island builds an incredibly strong community which relies on relationships and the support from others, and this is what will make saying goodbye one of the hardest things I will ever do! When thinking of saying goodbye, I am having a hard time finding comfort in anything.
In the next three weeks, I will be leaving a community of genuine love, inclusiveness, and acceptance and going home to my country, a leader in the world, that fails to condemn hatred. But, I feel an obligation to my country and fellow Americans to return home in order join the protests and movements that are vocalizing support for minority groups, immigrants, LGBTQ friends, women and the environment. I have realized that my country needs strong women like myself who will speak out, be active, and strive to make a change. Look out Trump, I am coming home!! BUT I have reassured and promised my community that I will be back, I just don’t know when. I will keep my word. I refuse to let student loans, and the grind and pressure of western life consume my time, heart and money.