Lalita Singh, Fiji
Interviewed by Sandeep Singh
I really miss Fiji’s tropical weather. It was so clear, and clean, and refreshing. I woke up to the sun every morning. It got so bright in my room that I just couldn’t keep my eyes closed.
I really miss Fiji’s tropical weather. It was so clear, and clean, and refreshing. I woke up to the sun every morning. It got so bright in my room that I just couldn’t keep my eyes closed. I would put on my uniform, braid my hair, and walk to school with my sisters. My favorite part about school was that I didn’t have to do any housework during the day. Once I got home, I would finish my homework right away and do my chores. My mom had a set of chores for each of us. After that we could finally sit down and eat dinner. My favorite was daal and roti (black-eyed pea soup and tortilla), and on special occasions we would get to eat meat. After dinner we’d go to bed, and the routine was the same every day except weekends. On weekends, we would hurry to finish our chores by midday and then my dad would give us some change and we’d take the bus into town and buy candy.
America was not what I though it would be. I first came to America when I was 15 years old. Having so many daughters was hard for my dad, especially since my mom had passed away and he had remarried. My uncle in America adopted us so the plan was set in motion for me and my big sister to live with them. I was nervous in the plane and the flight was terribly long. When I finally landed I was dismayed. There were no cities, no lights. Back in Fiji, everyone talked about how America was a rich country and very modern with lots of big cities and lights. There were just farms here. The city back in Fiji was much better and I missed it. I was supposed to go to high school in America, but my aunt and uncle told us we’d have to help bring in some money. My first job in America was to pick tomatoes for $2.35 an hour. We would start at sunrise and work till sunset; my back hurt so bad at the end of the day. But the worst part was that I wasn’t able to graduate high school.
When I was 18, I went back to Fiji and got married. My husband and I moved back to America, and this time life was a little different. We moved to a suburb which seemed more like a city. We had no one to support us so we worked hard to save money, but we did explore. I really liked McDonald’s fish-o-filet sandwiches; the fish reminded me of Fiji. I missed my family, but soon we began to sponsor our relations so they could also move to America. Now most of my family lives in California. My sisters’ kids have kids and our family has grown really big. But because family is so big we kind of lost touch. I don’t see them for months at a time now.
Life in America was harder than I imagined, but not in the ways I imagined. We were able to save up, buy houses and cars, and raise a family. But it seems like no one has any time for family or anyone else. There’s so much competition and things aren’t as easy as they were in Fiji. Raising kids has been difficult because back home all the kids respected the elders, but in America everyone wants to do things their own way; there seems to be no Indian traditions left.