The Rotuma – Canada Connection

Sefo - December 1986 - in the now defunct mining town of Cassiar, B.C. Rotuman sitting in a snow drift.

“One day I am going to thank you.  I don’t know for what right now, but I know it will be significant.”   I heard myself speak those words to a complete stranger.  Who was more shocked – the stranger or me?

I walked away feeling ridiculous.

“What did you say to that guy?” asked the employee who also lunched at the Cook House, the only dining room in Cassiar, a small, now defunct, mining town in Northern BC.  It was the summer of 1986.

“Omigod.  I just embarrassed myself and him, too.  His whole table will think I’m nuts.”

“Who is he?  He’s definitely not from around here.” Leslie said.

“Don’t ask me!  Let’s just drop it, okay?”   Employees need confidence that management consists of  trustworthy and rational individuals.

“Okay, but you certainly shocked the hell out him!  You shoulda seen the surprised look on his face.  Come on…what did you say?”

“Leslie, once in a while, I get an overwhelming sense of knowing.  Usually I put the lid on it.  But today, it just popped out.  I’d like to just forget it.  Let him think I’m some weirdo.  He won’t be around for long anyway – he obviously doesn’t work for the Mine.”

After months of avoiding the handsome stranger, a situation arose that needed some wise reshaping and direction.  The one person who had the information I needed was this same man, Sefo.  I had to put my pride in cold storage and approach him.

In our discussion as I gathered courage to ask for his assistance, I discovered Sefo had been raised in an culture of wisdom steeped with spiritual backbone.  Although he came to Canada from Rotuma, a tiny island 400 miles north of Fiji, the South-sea island environment did not prevent him from adapting comfortably to our Canadian customs, terrain and weather.  For example, his phenomenal sense of direction out-performed most men on the exploration crews penetrating wilderness areas in search of ore.

I knew this man had the leadership skills that would win and maintain my respect.

Though Sefo is reticent to mention he is the son of a Rotuman chief, it’s my opinion that his ancestry brings an innate  regal bearing.  His presence commands notice as he doles out respect and patience with easy leadership and authentic concern.

Sefo - July 2011 - during our rendezvous in Nanaimo, B.C.

Sefo and I bonded immediately.  Over the next four months we created our base that has carried through twenty five years of deep friendship in spite of consistently living in separate locations.  Our Canadian island homes are not far apart, but our visits in person have been sporadic.   Our work lives demanded travel, often in opposite directions, and any down time was given to the demands of our personal lives.  Weekly telephone chats, often containing hilarity, kept us up-to-date.

As a husband and father, Sefo has been devoted to his family continuing the traditions of the Rotuman culture.  His wife, Betty, has nursed at their local hospital since coming to Canada.  Two beautiful daughters and one handsome son have grown into young adults who Canada proudly holds as its own.  All three siblings, dire individuals, are intelligent, well-mannered and hard-working.  I am awed by the respect these three hold for their mom and dad.  Their son and oldest daughter have presented Sefo and Betty with two incredibly beautiful grandchildren.  Sefo says with a grin, “My people were left in the oven for the perfect length of time.”

For twenty five years, I have had the privilege of sharing life experiences with Sefo at a depth and to a degree that many don’t experience with family members.  Because I live alone, when people hear of Sefo’s impact on my life, they immediately concede that we are meant to be together.  That sort of comment could be a challenge to our friendship.  It suggests that our lives are not complete.  The best response I can give is that the love we share in friendship is exactly the way it is meant to be.  It is not fed by sexual desire.  It does not contain the pot holes of daily living.  Its freshness nourishes our souls.  Neither of us want to tamper with a richness that could be minimized by definition.

Has my embarrassing prediction come true?  Beyond a doubt.  Sefo said early on, “Call me.  I’ll be there.”   The nature of my calls have radically changed, yet he lives this radical commitment.

Duc le Chat's outdoor Chateau. He watched me leave home from his upper deck.

We’ve just had another couple of years of phone conversations.  We decided it was time again for a nose-to-nose chat.  We planned a visit in Nanaimo:

Ominous clouds held little promise of our visit being alfresco.

A glimpse of the Inner Harbour in Nanaimo where a boardwalk offers miles of walking.

Breaching Orca - by Carl McMahon - an artist who lives on my island! Great welcome to the Boardwalk.

This was titled "Love" It served to depict the continuous connection and flow between my best friend and me. Typically the figures are looking in opposite directions! 🙂

Titled "H2O" - by Yvonne Vander Kooi - This is the molecular configuration of water - fitting for our rainy walk along the harbour front.

Caught the Bicycle Brotherhood at play. They are probably hiding ice cream cones! This is the kind of expression every person deserves to see on the faces of their police force.

After a delicious lunch, a great afternoon walk, a rushed dinner and a "ferry's-leaving-right-now" goodbye, I headed back to my island. As usual, we took off in opposite directions!

Thank you, Sefo, for your friendship.

Please give me another 25 years to say ‘thanks’ properly. 

I’m so glad I was with you in Nanaimo on Wednesday. 

Who knew that the man who was always there for you

would have died as we visited? 

The news came.

I saw your tears.

It tore at your heart. 

It wrung mine

with gratitude

for you.

44 thoughts on “The Rotuma – Canada Connection

  1. A beautiful tribute to your friendship.
    (did you know that ‘sense of knowing’ is a term used in target market identification in marketing and advertising?)

    • Thank you, Victoria. I am not sure why my first response to you didn’t “take” – but as I am whizzing through life just now, I must have missed hitting the right key!

  2. Some friendships extend beyond what most peope even begin to understand because of the social tabbos…or myths associated with them…a most delightful post because of who it made me recall.

    • Yes, Charles, I consider myself very fortunate to have had the experience of this kind of friendship. I realize it is not simple or easy to find. Glad you “see”. I’m not surprised.

  3. “One day I am going to thank you. I don’t know for what right now, but I know it will be significant.”

    So that proves you’re a prophetess again Amy. Say hello to Sefo for me.

  4. What a wonderful and inspiring story! An old friend will be visiting my island in August and – due to some personal tensions that I’ve been experiencing lately – I wasn’t looking forward to it as much as I would like to. This post has reminded me why I count her as one of my truest friends, even though we rarely contact each other in between visits. So, thank you very much for that!

    • Hi WR – Good to hear from you. Oh, boy, it’s hard to be in your position. Hope you end up building more good memories with your friend. We can’t beat having people around who share our history.

    • Thanks, Mags. I have to give the lion’s share of credit to Sefo for our continuous contact. He’s been the more diligent phone buddy! Until Sefo, I avoided long phone conversations. Since he’s been more of a gypsy than me, he’s had numerous communication arrangements. There were even times he called on a radio phone from the wilds of the North. He still prefers the phone over email or skype.

  5. Wonderful story of connection and friendship. I could feel the smile spread across my face as I read your statement to him years ago. Those moments when something comes out and you have yet to discover why. Little do we know that a lifetime was defined within that statement. I sometimes wonder if that is some of what “soul” is. …and that it recognises so much more than we allow ourselves to believe in.

  6. Amy, Amy, my dear Amy…..the credit is yours for that gutsy move. Leslis was right, you shocked the Beejezus out of me and made my explanations to them surprised table-mates the more difficult. They did not believe a word I said about not knowing or spoken to you since that day.

    “Then how come she said that to you?” one questioned. “I have no idea, you go ask her why”, I replied. You see Amy, they were wondering if this Polynesian Immigrant placed a voodoo spell on their beautiful, single, School District Secretary Treasurer and if so they want some of that spell power.

    That second trip to our table months later did not make matters any better. They still believed I lied to them the first time.

    Thank you for all them years. The beautiful memories. To all your friends on your Blog and also to those before, during and the ones yet to join, a journey with Amy is worth every single step. I have learnt a lot from this gutsy, loving and compassionate woman. Looking forward to another 25 years.

    Faiaksea and Hanisiof….. Your Rotuman Gypsy…..Sefo

  7. Beautiful friendship, the sort that are the crown jewels in our lives.

    I had to look up Rotuman. Interesting. I wonder how he landed in Canada.

    Amy, thanks also for sharing the photographs.

  8. Geeze–I was tearful with the story and then he had to go and leave a comment and do it all over again……..

    Lucky youse guys.
    I’m glad you were willing to just say it when you did.
    It makes it all the more ‘real’, yaknow?

    Oy…… I need tissues now!


  9. Amy, you know this is beautiful. What else can I say?

    Perhaps this that you and Sefo have found and retained what most miss or lose with negligence.

    I wish you both 25 years more, and more beyond that.

    • Thank you, Priya for such a heartfelt comment. Yes, I agree – too many people can miss out on having a friendship at this level. It’s odd how both of us have taken turns being absorbed by some aspect of life, but during those times, the other sits patiently waiting. Reassuring.

    • Hello my romantic friend. I thought this would appeal to you. I, too, need to look up the first word (I’d like to find out without asking Sefo so I’ll go to the Rotuma website). Hanisiof means “love”. “Han-ee-see-off” If Sefo sees my pronunciation, I know he’ll have a correction. I’ve a substandard ear for the huge numbers of subtleties in his language.

  10. Hi Amy .. a lovely post about an obviously totally inspiring friendship – they are rare … that necessary complete understanding between two people … for no other reason that it is meant to be … a soul carer.

    I’m realising how lucky I am that I can visualise places because I’ve been there – and from visiting blogs I’m learning more and more about the cultures – only superficially … but that’s better than not at all .. and the stories I read or the places people refer to … take me back to my visit – to British Columbia and Nanaimo …

    So interesting the way life takes us … so pleased you met up and reconnected … yet as often happens someone goes too … with thoughts – Hilary

    • Blogging does bring out some of the most fascinating aspects of other countries because we see what “everyday” life holds in those locations. I am able to see the ordinary which is the essence of what I long to see when I visit. About goodbyes…I am beginning to understand how it is only as goodbye as we deem it to be.

  11. Amy, I’ve loved reading so many of your posts, but this is my newest favorite. I have just such a friendship with someone — a relationship that defies definition or category, but one that I know will endure for as long as I live. Had I tried to explain it in words, I could never have done it as well as you have. Thank you for writing this. I’m happy for you, and for Sefo, and for all of us who have found such a deep connection.

    • If I could turn this comment to a blushing pink, it would be that, Charles. Thank you for your kind words. I am not the least bit surprised you have a deep connection in friendship. Your integrous character pops up throughout your writing. I know, integrous is not a word. I’ve needed it so often that surely it is meant to be born. Besides, I’m sure you know exactly what it means.

    • Thanks for visiting, Ixy. I suspect we have this experience a few times in our lives and don’t express it. It comes with a very strong feeling that cannot be described.

      I swung by your post and loved your skunk story!

    • Turns out he’s a very poetic human being. He’ll read this and laugh, but it’s true. His heart, his expressions and his attitudes are poetic. Some people use charm – Sefo waxes poetic and gets far better results. Charm is manipulative whereas poetry is truth.

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  13. What a treat it was to read this! I understand those friendships that are so very intense that they surpass the intensity of a sexual relationship. No, that is not accurate … I don’t fully understand them. I know them.

    • It is such a treat to have you here, Old Raven. From all that I have read on your blog and the comments you leave on others, I easily understand that you “know them”. It’s easy to see you are a blessing to have as a friend.

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