I was born on a rock. I was brought up on a rock. I am a proud island woman who is happy and proud of my experiences, roots, culture, family, and friends.

I was in born the late 70s. My rock in Fiji was mostly made up of dusty roads and towns back in those days. My mother would tell me stories of riding the bus to town where women would have to cover their big afros with scarves because of all the dust. Those who forgot their scarves would arrive into town with a thick layer of dust on their eyebrows, face, and hair. Going to town was a big deal back then and people would wear their best clothes before they would stand by the road side and wait for the bus or open carrier or any moving vessel to take them to town. Having a car was only for the white folks or those few locals who worked for government and were given the privilege to drive a government vehicle.

I went to school in the late 80s. I started my education on a bigger rock known as Australia. My father had been sent to study at Gympie in Queensland for more than two years. My mother and I went and lived with my father abroad while my father studied. By the time we returned home, I had an Australian accent which children in my new school back in Fiji found interesting. Lucky for me, I quickly grew out of my Australian accent and quickly settled into the Fijian way of school and teaching. I remember a bully in school who would always ask for my lunch. I would always hide from her in the toilets. I would wait for the bell to ring for classes to resume before I would go running back to my classroom. School was many things. It was fun because of all the friends you make in school. It was sad when someone close died like a teacher or a classmate. It was interesting because there was always a competition about who was smartest, prettiest, fastest, richest, and the list went on. I suppose this aspect of school is the same everywhere in the world. I was a bookworm, so I would usually burrow myself in books. I would read about Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I still enjoy reading mystery novels involving detectives and the uncovering of a crime. I guess this is one of the reasons I ended up where I am today in law enforcement in Fiji.

I completed university in Australia. This was in the late 90s, closer to the new millennium. Getting thrown into a totally different environment was something I had to get over as a nineteen year old. Being an islander in a city which is predominating filled with white Australians had its share of challenges. First was the accent and the way they talked. One of us newbies was being asked once, “Hey there mate… How you going?” To which my friend responded, “Oh, I am going by bus.” The Aussie guy roared in laughter and said, “No mate. I was asking how are you not how you’re traveling.” Yes, there were a lot of differences. But slowly me and my friends adapted and all completed our studies and returned to our homes on our rock.

 

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Moving back to my island home after 5 years required more adapting to the changes that had occurred while I was away. My island rock was now being developed. There were mobile phones, internet was slowly gaining popularity, and the nightlife was happening. Being in your twenties on a rock as big as mine in the early 2000s meant your life was never short of adventure. Everyday there was something interesting going on somewhere with someone you knew. I thoroughly enjoyed my twenties. Sure, I made some questionable decisions, but all in all, it’s been one hell of a ride. All that I went through was definitely a learning curve and has made me stronger and more determined to take on life with more enthusiasm.

Now its 2018 and as I think back to all that I have been through with this island. All I can say is thank goodness for family and friends. For all my low points, I am thankful to my friends and family who have always lifted me up and encouraged me to keep on keeping on. And that is one thing every island woman should have – a strong network to rely on. If you do not have family and friends to fall back on, you will be very alone on your rock and life will be even more difficult to go through.

So as you go about your daily rituals in your own corner of your rock, remember to appreciate your family and friends who have always been there to pick you up and encourage you on as you move forward in this one life we have.

 

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Did you grow up on an island too? How has your rock changed since you were young? Do you still live there today?

Miliana Cokanavula

Current Rock of Residence:

Fiji Islands, South Pacific

Island Girl Since:

Born and Raised

Originally Hails From:

Fiji Islands, South Pacific

Miliana was born and raised on different parts of the rock she currently lives on. She studied in Australia for about 5 years back in 1998 until 2002 when she returned home.

She is a mother of five with a demanding job and a supportive husband. She also has a small group of friends that she tends to have de-stress sessions with.

Miliana enjoys writing as a part-time hobby and would like to share some of her experiences from her side of the rock.

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