A different kind of holiday memory…
Traveling means meeting new people, other travelers who gladly share their tips on the best restaurant or bar, or where to go for spectacular views. But every now and then you get to meet the locals. The people who live in the holiday paradise you’re visiting, and who each day do what they can to make backpackers like me feeling welcome. I met 26-year-old Lisa on one of many paradise resorts in Fiji, as we got to talk while she was making beds in the dorm where I slept.
We talked about my journey, the fact that I as a woman have been able to travel the world alone, and the everyday life in Fiji and Norway. Lisa wonders if I’m married, and well aware of that being gay in Fiji is prohibited, I don’t mention that there is (now was, edit.) a woman waiting for me at home in Norway. It feels a bit sad, not being honest about it, but I have learned that unfortunately, in some places, I still have to hide this part of me. Little do I know that Lisa is hiding too, but in a different way. Lisa continues, asking if I don’t want a husband and children, and she seems a bit confused when I tell her I don’t think that’s going to happen. Herself, Lisa has a daughter. Olivia is 4 years old and lives with Lisa’s mother while Lisa works at the resort. It’s easier like that, especially after the incident with her boyfriend. I understand that something more lies behind, but since Lisa doesn’t say much more I don’t want to ask, so I leave it. Our talk continues and I tell her a little bit about hookedonlife and what made me start this website. Lisa seems genuinely interested, so I ask her if she would do an interview with me, just a small one to talk about what it is like being Lisa from Fiji with a 4-year-old daughter. And Lisa wants to do it, as if there is something she wants to tell. So we agree on sitting down for a talk when she’s done with her duties for the day.
A few hours later, having spent the day in the hammock, Lisa and I are sitting talking at the beach. She seems a bit insecure, almost ashamed, and it hits me that 26 years is still so young, even if we’re supposed to be grownups. ”So what is it like, being Lisa 26 from Fiji?” I ask, and have to admit that I still wonder what the incident she talked about earlier is. It seems like Lisa is carrying a burden, and I can’t think other than it having to do with this incident. And I will soon learn that I am right.
Tony, Lisa’s boyfriend and Olivia’s dad is in prison, Lisa explains. He has been there for several years and isn’t getting out anytime soon, as he was arrested and convicted for rape on a young woman only 3 months after Olivia was born. And I suddenly understand why Lisa seems so serious.
Lisa was 7 months pregnant when Tony’s family threw her a baby shower, but before the party even got started Lisa’s mom showed up, begging Lisa to come home for the last months before giving birth. Partially, it was to have the daughter close at the end of the pregnancy, but Lisa’s mom also had heard all the rumors. That Tony was out almost every night, cheating on Lisa, leaving her alone with her belly growing. So Lisa went home, but even if her mom tried to deny her; she kept in contact with Tony. On the day Olivia was born, the girlfriend of one of Tony’s friends was working at the hospital, and even if Lisa’s mother never would have approved it he came to see his daughter. Holding her, crying and begging for forgiveness for having been such an asshole. Lisa went home from the hospital, back to her mothers. The days went by and only once she met Tony. It was in a park, and I imagine Lisa was hoping for a nice little family reunion. Instead, all Tony did was ask for money, and she couldn’t say no to him so he took the money and left. That was the last time Lisa saw him as a free man. About 3 months after Olivia was born, they went to see Lisa’s aunt, who happens to live next to Tony’s sister. No one ever told Lisa, but as Tony’s sister passed by the house and saw her, she asked if she knew. “Know what?” Lisa asked, terrified that something had happened to Tony, an accident or something. The next hour is unclear. Olivia was left with Lisa’s aunt, as Lisa sat down to talk to Tony’s sister. Apparently he had raped a young girl and now he was in prison…
It’s not just the fact that Lisa is raising a daughter without a man. On Fiji it’s preferable to live officially together before having children, something Lisa and Tony didn’t. But that part Lisa can live with. She can also live with working long days at the resort to make as much money as possible for Olivia’s school, and Olivia living with Lisa’s mother is also OK. But I see the broken heart, the sorrow in her eyes, the pain of having been let down so badly by the person she loved and thought was going to be her boyfriend, even husband. And she knows that eventually, she has to prepare herself for telling Olivia the truth, at least a version of it, about her dad. Before anyone else tell her.
I feel paralyzed. I recognize the sorrow, and not least the shame that Lisa carries. Not because I’ve been anyway close to what she has gone trough, but sorrow, fear and shame feels the same no matter the reason for it. And I am pissed off.
While Lisa tells me the whole story, about how she and Tony met when she was studying in Lautoka, how they were friends before they became a couple and until she got pregnant, I feel this anger inside. I feel a great anger towards this man, who hasn’t only cheated and been irresponsible, but he has also violated another young innocent girl, meanwhile his girlfriend was expecting his child. And when I am this angry, I can only imagine how mad and disappointed Lisa must be. But she doesn’t seem bitter.
Lisa has been calm the whole time while talking. She has admitted that she doesn’t exactly know what to tell her daughter yet, or if she wants to allow Tony into their lives again when he’s out. I want to scream to her ”No! He doesn’t disserve you” But I know I don’t understand, I am not from Fiji, and I have no idea what I’m talking about. I can only give advise as a human, not as a local. So I keep repeating to Lisa not to feel guilty or ashamed, because she didn’t do anything wrong. She just fell for the ”wrong guy” and was struck by being in love, as so many of us have done before too.
And Lisa listens, and says that’s why she decided to be so open while talking to me. Because she wants to get her version of the story out there, even if she might not be ready to share it with her friends in Fiji yet.
Looking back, having left Fiji, I realize how brave Lisa is. She is risking quite a few challenges by telling her story to me. Maybe not dangerous challenges, but things might be uncomfortable for her and her daughter. That is also why names and places are changed in this article. But Lisa chooses to talk about her story anyway, maybe to be able to talk without being judged, and I can see in her look that she is proud, and that warms my heart. Before we finish, I choose to tell Lisa about who is waiting for me back home, and maybe I should have known that despite the laws in Fiji, Lisa doesn’t judge at all. She sees the person in me, as I feel I se the person in her, and things are exactly the way they should be.
In the horizon the sun is about to set beautifully, and I watch it while feeling incredibly privileged. I am privileged and grateful for having met Lisa, and for having heard her story, a story that definitely puts so many things in perspective for me. How easy it is back home, but how fast it is for anyone to end up in a difficult situation,- no matter where you live or who you are. And I think Lisa’s story shows a lot of courage. Courage to allow yourself to think, ”It wasn’t my fault” and to put it into words, even if to a stranger from a country far, far away…
I hope Lisa’s story reaches a lot of people, and I just know that she and Olivia will be ok. Lisa tells met that last time they met, Olivia said that when she grows up she is going to university. If so happens, she will be the first in the family to do so, therefore Lisa has promised herself to do everything in her power to make it happen. And I do not have any doubts; she will do it… The same way she has made me a very different kind of holiday memory…