The Final week
It's been 2.5 weeks since we left Fiji and it still doesn't feel real. I feel like we are on home leave and will be returning to our Fiji home after vacay. Leaving is just too big and too real. I can't believe we are actually gone. In putting together the pictures for this blog entry, I had a huge pit in my stomach. This is it. This is real. Just looking at some of the photos below made me have to swallow hard and blink back tears.
That last week was brutal. It was beautiful too. We felt so much love and so much sadness all at once. I'm just so grateful we had something to be sad over..... I keep trying to remember that - how good it all was and how important it is to be happy we lived that way. Life is good.
We said soooo many goodbyes, packed up all of our belongings, and had many lasts... On Friday, we said goodbye to the Drydens at Matanuvusi and drove quickly home to change for Warren's final itautau (farewell ceremony at work). Whoa. It was a big one. It started off very traditionally with Warren's boss Dennis sharing with the group all that he appreciated about Warren. Some grog was drank then Warren spoke. Typically the guest of honour speaks for a few minutes then anyone else who wants to speak also shares with the group. Warren decided to say something about every single person in the room. He gave genuine thought out compliments to everyone there. He had to stop many times because he couldn't get through it all due to his strong emotions, but he persevered and it was so meaningful. Then, all of his colleagues spoke about him. While the girls were bored (a few hours into this....) I absolutely love that they got to hear that their Daddy is such a sincere and kind man who knows how to make everyone laugh and has achieved the perfect balance between pushing people to their best while supporting them all the while. I love the Fijian goodbye because it leaves nothing unsaid. It allows people to put it all out there and grieve openly. It's hard, but it's healthy. After some beautiful singing and yummy food, the girls and I went home to start the packing job - which turned out to be WAY more than we envisioned! This would be the last weekend in the house.
|Peace Corps Fiji Family|
|Warren stayed back to enjoy some grog and chill out time|
Saturday morning Sarah Jane and I went for a final 10k with the Suva Marathon group. As always, it was a lovely run and great to catch up with Sarah Jane. It was exactly what I needed before 12 hours of organizing/packing.
Like I said, most of the rest of the day was packing and organizing frantically. I quickly realized we had way more to do when we originally thought - the biggest challenge being figuring out how to organize clothing. When we just couldn't take it anymore we went to Liz and Andy's for a light meal and drinks. Luckily they also had Andie for the day/sleepover and other friends had Zoё so the kids could just play instead of getting caught up in organizing. (They did their own stuff prior to play dates).
|10k with SJ|
|The beginning of the chaos|
|Zoё had a sleepover at Lena's during most of the moving|
|And Andie got to hang with Milla|
We woke up early Sunday to push on through the packing. At one point I took a break to take a walk with Liz on the seawall. The whole time we walked I just kept thinking about how beautiful the sea wall is an how these walks were coming to an end. After, it was back to business- packing. The movers were coming on Monday so we had to finish everything that day. That night we all relaxed watching some TV for the last time in our place. Dave came by for a bit after taking the girls to a movie, which was a great distraction. The girls slept in their own beds that night for the last time and all of us went to bed feeling weird.... and a little anxious for the weeks ahead.
|I will miss these views on my walks/runs|
|so much growth in this home! (Andie 6 to 10 and Zoё 4 to 8)|
This was it. The movers came on Monday. When you move internationally with the Peace Corps, you get to fly a small amount of your stuff via plane, the UAB (Unaccompanied Air Baggage). This is what the movers pack first as you can go up to 700 pounds (I think). Everything else (up to a certain weight) goes on the boat or is left behind as part of the welcome kit for the new family moving in. Whatever is not for the new family is the amount you can carry in your suitcases. In our case, we need suitcases for the States (warm weather) and suitcases for Mada (cold weather) since the UAB (air bags) can take up to 3 months but usually more like 6-8 weeks and the boat shipment can take anywhere from 3-6 months. So..... currently in the States we are lugging around 8 suitcases with us full of summer and winter clothes. We will be living out of these suitcases until mid September- which is just simply crazy -- but we will do it.
It's a very bizarre feeling sitting in your house while movers pack everything away. I remember feeling the same in Atlanta. Of course, I'd rather movers do it than myself....but it's just weird to sit there while they pack away your life. There is a nervous energy with the whole family that has no where to go.... Luckily Jeli was at our house so she took the kids out and about for part of the time, but Warren and I just basically paced around. They left around 4 so we got the kids out for one of our final swims. Then we met Dave and Liz and Andy and kids for a final meal at Daikoku and Snowy House. That night we all four slept in our bed together for the final night in our home. We slept together out of necessity but I think we all appreciated being together for that last night.
|The packing begins!|
|The last coin diving in the pool|
This was supposed to be the final day of the movers but as it turned out they required one extra 1/2 day just to get the final touches. The kids both had play dates while Warren and I paced around the house with nervous energy. Thank goodness Tricia came over around noon with a bottle of wine and snacks and pulled me out to our patio. We sat there enjoying the view and the company - she helped distract me from the overwhelming emotions involved and just sit and appreciate friendship. After some miscommunication with play date mamas, we had to quickly rush over to the GPH - our home for the remaining three nights in Fiji and meet the girls there. Again, Tricia and I sat outside enjoying the view at GPH before heading over to the Holiday Inn with the whole crew for dinner. It was simply lovely. This was also the first night of many many nights of suitcase living.
|We will just finish that bottle of wine at the GPH, thank you!|
|such great views|
We had to go back to the house on Wednesday for the final moving out and to say goodbye to the house and neighbours. I think it was weird for all of us to be in the empty house while the movers packed away the last of our things. It was just SO empty. We escaped for a little bit so we could say goodbye to our kind neighbours. I had such a nice time talking to them and wished that we had put in more effort to build those friendships - because while they were lovely the potential was there for more. I am so thankful we lived next door to Mayuri and Khushi and their family. It was sad to say goodbye.
It was also sad to say goodbye to each room of the house, although it didnt' feel like ours anymore really, especially since Clayton (Warren's replacement) was coming by that day to take a look around. I was glad to be there for his tour to share all the little quirks of the house. By the time we left that afternoon it really did feel like we did a proper farewell of our home too.
We stopped by a work gathering at Dennis' house as another sort of farewell to Warren but more of a welcome to Clayton and his family. Then we had a casual goodbye at the GPH for whomever was still in town. People came as early as 4:30 and some stayed until 10:30 or so. The kids had friends there and we both had so many people stop by to say goodbye. The whole time it felt like a dream - like I was at a goodbye gathering for someone else. It was such a beautiful night - the weather was perfect and the views were amazing and the group of folks just felt like home - so comfortable and easy.
|starting to feel empty|
|Man, I already miss this view!|
|Jeli- the port in the storm!|
|goodbye empty playroom|
|lots of snuggles on Mommy and Daddy's bed to help get them through those big feelings|
|Goodbye sweet Khushi|
|and your beautiful family|
|goodbye pool and view|
|Clayton's welcome party|
|Twinsies at GPH farewell|
|SJ gave me this Suva Marathon tank :)|
|There's nothing like running buddies|
This was our final full day in Fiji. In the morning we ate the amazing breakfast buffet at GPH and Warren headed off to coffee with Clayton while I attended my last cross-fit session followed by coffee. Jeli came to the GPH to hang out with the girls. It all felt sort of normal but at the same time not at all normal. The girls and I ate lunch pool side and then Milla and Liz came over for a swim with all of us. At some point, the kids got transitioned to Tricia's house and the crew watched our final Fijian sunset on our porch at GPH. I just kept looking at my friends - feeling so completely grateful. We decided we'd see each other again France in 2019 and I truly believe it will happen. How lucky are we that we all have each other? We went to Nic and Tricia's for dinner and drinks. As Nic said, lots of tears were shed, songs were sung, some dancing happened, and the kids got to burn the midnight oil together for the last time (for a long while anyway). I don't think we could have had a better last night. I just can't get over how loved our friends made us feel. It was the end of an era.
|We heard this is the new look for selfies. Lol.|
Oh Jeli, you will be so missed!
|swimming at the GPH!|
|Mojitos for the parents while kids swim|
|Our Fiji 7's - life long friends|
|too much fun|
|Lots of singing- I don't think you can see video unless this link below works|
FRIDAY (the 13th)
I woke up feeling bad. We had stayed up too late and had too much fun and I was just DREADING this day. I didn't meet Sarah Jane for a run so I felt terrible about that too. In short, I was a complete mess. I quickly remedied my goodbye to SJ by catching a taxi into town to give her a quick final hug and in the meantime got my final Suva dim sum (comfort food) to help me feel better. It was a little rainy so we decided upon Holiday Inn again for lunch with the crew before heading to the airport. Some other school friends were there as well so that was nice. Jeli and her daughter, Teema, came by to say goodbye and boy- that was a brutal one. I am SO thankful to Jeli for loving my girls with her whole heart and for being there for us through it all. I will miss her incredibly. Next the kids had to say goodbye and the adults drove us to the airport. NOTHING felt real. I felt like I was in a dream watching my life take place. I was incredibly sad...but also sort of numb. It was amazing that our friends came to the airport with us. It was so awesome of them to sit there with us until the bitter end. The constant love and support helped me through the overwhelming massive emotions- the support helped all of us. I wanted to be there for the girls- knowing their emotions were huge, but also I felt like such a mess myself. I wasn't crying - just sad, and numb, and overwhelmed. The girls were a little teary but overall we all held it together.
In the end, I'll always be grateful that we made the move to Fiji. I think I'll look back upon that time as the best time of our lives. Fiji will always be a part of who we are as a family. Fiji is a huge part of the girls' childhood. The experience allowed us to grow as individuals and to further deepen our family relationships. We made life long friends and forever memories. Life will never be the same.
Vinaka Vaka Levu Fiji.
|Friends with us until the very end at the airport|
|Lolomas and Vinaka Fiji.|