Chapter 2 -overwhelmed
I followed Alofa on a narrow pathway through dense trees and tall grass. Ogatasi walked behind me, softly humming a beautiful tune. Her voice was soothing and now and then Alofa joined in, humming with her. There were three other people with us, who joined us on the beach. Alofa introduced them as Tali-Vave , a slender young man in his late twenties, with long black hair, and an impressive tattoo on his bare chest of a flowing river.
With him was Aofia-Ai, a guy who seemed a bit older than Tali. Aofia had this big smile, and he also had a tattoo on his chest of outstretched arms that made it look as if he always wanted to hug everyone around him. I thought it was weird but later came to understand it completely.
The third person was a young girl, probably about nineteen or twenty years old. Alofa introduced her as Manuia. Not only did she also greet me with a beautiful smile, but she had this giggle when she greeted me, that made me think she thought I was funny looking. She also hummed the tune with Ogatasi, while she kind of skipped along, every now and then leaving the pathway to go and touch a flower or have a closer look at a leaf on a branch. She would then smile, giggle and join us again. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the feeling of joy, calmness and peace that surrounded all of them, but I was thankful for them finding me, within my confusion of still not remembering who I was or how I came to be in this place.
We reached the small, beautiful village after about thirty minutes of walking along the narrow pathway. The village was at the foot of a hill, next to a river. The pathway leads to a bridge over the river. As we crossed the bridge, Manuia ran ahead towards a group of girls.
“This is Fusi. Our home.” Aofia said from behind me.
“It means ‘to embrace’, like a hug.”
“Like your tattoo,” I said without thinking. They all laughed.
“Yes, nearly like that,” he responded. “My tattoo is the same idea, but my tattoo is who I am, like my name. It shows that I accept, that I include” he said proudly. I looked back at him and saw his eyes shining.
“You are most welcome here in Fusi, a stranger no longer. You are our friend now” he said.
The others nodded and smiled in agreement. I felt that overwhelming feeling of acceptance inside me again. I never before felt this welcome, anywhere.
“Thank you,” I said sincerely.
As we entered the village a lot of small children were running around us, laughing loudly. There were about thirty or forty huts in the village, and what impressed me immediately was the abundance of colourful flowers in every garden that surrounded every hut.
At the centre of the village, we came to a small open space, surrounded by a hip-high line of neatly groomed green-leaved bushes and flowers. From one of the huts came a tall elderly gentleman, probably in his seventies or even eighties. He had grey hair with a white beard – he immediately reminded me of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. As we stood there, someone came to me with a bowl full of delicious-looking fruit… mangoes, bananas, peaches and apples. I realised that I was starving and gladly took a red apple from the bowl, thanking her with a smile. Many people joined us, talking excitedly. I put the apple in my pocket, as the white-bearded man was walking up to me.
“Welcome,” he said with a soft smile, taking my hand in his. “I am Uiga.”
“Please to meet you, sir. I’m sorry, I don’t remember my name…”
The people laughed in an accepting way that made me laugh with them. Uiga also laughed, squeezing my hand gently.
“Ah, you don’t know who you are… but you look older than a teenager, no? Still not knowing your name..." he responded with a big smile. Everyone laughed pleasantly, and I joined in, a little embarrassed.
"That’s fine. You are very welcome on Lagona and in Fusi. We do not get visitors often. This is a pleasure for us. I sense you are hungry and tired, so Aofia will take you to his home, and Manaoga will see that all your needs are met” he looked at the girl with the bowl of fruit, and she nodded with a smile.
“It is getting late, you go rest. Tomorrow we will talk much.” Uiga gave me a reassuring squeeze on my shoulder and turned back towards his hut.
“He will want to be alone to rest now, this is overwhelming to him,” said Alofa to everyone. I looked at her and frowned in amazement, as this is exactly how I felt.
The people started moving away in different directions, laughing and talking.
“Come with me” said Aofia, “my hut is this way”.
As we walked I took the apple from my pocket and took a bite. I cannot remember ever before tasting such a delicious apple. Aofia’s hut looked similar to the others, built with wood, with a neat grass roof. Like all the others, it was surrounded by flowers. The inside can only be described as “cosy and welcoming”.
As we entered, Manaoga joined us, with clean clothes under her one arm, and a pot of steaming stew in the other. "First, you go put on these clothes, then you come and have some hot stew.”
Aofia took me to a room and said: “This is your room for as long as you need to stay with us.” The room had a large, comfortable bed, made up neatly. There were a table and chair, and a deep soft couch next to the bed. As I entered with the clothes Manaoga gave me, Aofia closed the door behind me.
The clothes fit perfectly – brown pants with a deep green shirt. I only then realised that I had no shoes on. As I opened the door, a pair of boots was at the door. “Those should fit” said Manaoga, as she dished some stew into a deep plate.
“Thank you,” I said, smelling the stew and feeling the hunger.
Manaoga wished me a good night and left, while Aofia sat down with me at the table. He dished for himself, and said “May the food fill your soul”.
I finished the plate and asked if I may have more. “Absolutely,” said Aofia. “I will have some more also.”
When we finished, mostly in silence because I was so hungry and focused on eating the delicious stew, I saw through the window that it grew dark outside. I felt the tiredness in my body.
“If it is okay with you, I will go have an early night”.
“Of course yes,” he said with a smile. “You go right ahead. Tomorrow will be exciting for all of us!”
As I entered my room I saw comfortable looking pyjamas on my bed, put there by Manaoga. Uiga was right, she surely saw to my every need, without me needing to ask for a thing. The pyjamas were soft and warm on my body.
The last thing I remembered before I fell asleep, was the deep, wise eyes of Uiga, and the feeling of overwhelmed acceptance in my heart.