-Where were you born?
-In which country and city are you living now?
I live on the island of Koro in the Fiji Islands. Koro is eight hours away by ferry from Suva, the capital city. We bought a piece of land in an area near a small resort, where about 20 other houses have been built by Australians, New Zealanders, North and South Americans, and Europeans.
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my husband Thom and two Fijian cats.
-How long have you been living in Fiji?
We moved here 3 and 1/2 years ago.
-What is your age?
Over 50, but not retired.
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Fiji?
Our work seemed to come to a dead end all at once. When we started looking at options, the idea of moving to the South Pacific came to the forefront and we knew it was what we would do. Neither of us had been here before. We felt we had received a "call" to come here to do our work, which was writing a spiritual book and leading spiritual retreats.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
We applied for and obtained permanent residency, which was a fairly easy process. You must file a medical report and a police report from your home country, and pay a bond, which the Fijian government will use to pay your travel expenses to leave the country, should you become a nuisance in any way!
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
We decided not to purchase medical insurance because my husband is a gifted healer who has assisted me and many others to restore and maintain health. What is available is evacuation insurance, so that one can be airlifted out of the country to New Zealand if necessary.
-How do you make your living in Fiji? Do you have any type of income generated?
We lead spiritual retreats, teaching people how to experience inner peace. We also finished a book -- The Isle of Is: A Guide to Awakening -- and had it published here. In addition, I was hired as soon as we arrived in-country to assist the Fijian government in policy, strategic planning, training staff, and other tasks for which I was trained professionally. I have a PhD in Educational Policy and was told when I arrived that no one in Fiji knew anything about policy! Hence, I was hired immediately.
-Do you speak Fijian and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I speak Fijian only a little, although I have taken several months of lessons. I find the language somewhat difficult because it is very different from English. I think it's important to be able to hold simple conversations in Fijian, even though most Fijians we meet speak English.
I think it is very important to respect local customs such as manner of dress and how to behave in a village, as well as to respect the customary wages of local villagers. Once one foreigner pays someone more than others get paid for the same work, a landslide of problems is set off.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
I do miss my family and friends, and sometimes I miss particular types of food or experiences such as going to the movies. Here in Fiji, I love to work in my vegetable and fruit tree garden, swim in the ocean, and take walks in the rainforest.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
My husband and I will likely go to the U.S. in the near future to promote our book.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We have had a home built on property we own. We chose to build small, as upkeep in a tropical rainforest is a bit daunting. Our house is 500 square feet and 10-sided. It's charming, colorful, and fun. It rarely feels too small, as we spend a lot of time outdoors. We paid about $25,000 US, but timber and building prices have gone up and would likely cost over $75,000 today.
-What is the cost of living in Fiji?
Certain things are very low cost, such as food, if you eat local produce and grow much of your own. Other items such as Internet and transportation on-and-off the island are quite expensive.
-What do you think about the locals?
Local villagers are friendly, kind, and interested in foreigners. In general, they treat foreigners well if they are treated well by the specific foreigners.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Fiji?
Our experience is unique because we live on a remote island, which entails difficulties with obtaining supplies, transportation to other islands, and getting things done in an efficient (in western terms) manner. However, if one can be flexible, enjoy their time here, and consider it a grand adventure, it is a beautiful and peaceful place to live.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Fiji?
Learn what you can about Fiji before you come. It will make your experience richer and more enjoyable. This is true even if you will be living in the capital or other city or town.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Fiji?
Our favorite site, of course, is our own: www.thecenterwithin.com, which offers information about our work, our book, and Koro Island. You can read about our Koro Island experience in my essay that recently won an international travel award.
You can also read about our beautiful book on Amazon.com. Type in "The Isle of Is" for a link to the book's description and customer reviews. On Amazon, you can also search inside the book.