“Masaki,” Friend, Mar. 1981, 42


    Masaki was listening for the sounds of a boat motor. Ever since he had first awakened, he had listened. Now it was almost noon and still no boat.

    “Masaki!” called his mother from the kitchen hut. “Aren’t you ever going to get that firewood for me? How can I cook your dinner with no firewood? Why do you keep standing there, looking toward the sea?”

    “I’m going now, Mother,” said Masaki.

    She doesn’t understand, Masaki thought, why it is so important to hear the boat coming.

    Of course, Masaki’s mother knew that the white man from America was bringing his family today—everyone in the village knew that. But it was especially important to Masaki and his brothers, sisters, and cousins. They had never seen a white child before. The white children’s father had told the chief of Masaki’s village, that three white children would be on the boat today—one girl, ten years old like Masaki, and two boys, twelve and six. Today they would all move into the house that the white man had built for them on the land next to Masaki’s village.

    Masaki began chopping halfheartedly at a dead branch behind his father’s grass hut. Suddenly he saw his cousin, Samesa, running down the great stone hill that overlooked the bay. Samesa was waving his hands and shouting something. Masaki dropped his knife and ran to meet him.

    “They’re here! They’re here!” Samesa was shouting. “I saw the boat turning into the bay and they’re all in it! A man, a woman, and three children. Quick, come and see!”

    Samesa turned and ran back up the hill, followed by the rest of the village children. By the time they had reached the crest of the hill, the boat motor had stopped. Below them they saw the white man pulling his boat up on the white sandy shore, directly in front of the new house. He saw the village children and waved at them.

    But the shy children ran away when the man waved. They hid behind some of the bushes that grew on top of the hill. From there they could watch without being seen.

    “Look!” exclaimed Samesa. “They all have golden hair.”

    “My father says that it is because they come from the North Country. Everyone there has white skin and golden hair,” said Mary, Masaki’s cousin.

    “And see the mother!” Masaki’s older sister cried out. “She wears trousers just like the man!”

    They all looked at the mother, who was wearing a pair of bright red slacks. This seemed very strange to the children. They had never seen a woman wearing anything except a sulu (long, wraparound skirt).

    “The small girl wears trousers too,” observed Masaki. “I’m going to a bush nearer to the new house so that I can see them better.” And with that, Masaki jumped up and ran down the great stone hill, followed by the rest of the excited children. Everyone wanted to see more of these people from America.

    As Masaki and Samesa ran through the forest toward the big house, Masaki thought about his new neighbors. How strange that they should come here to Fiji, so far away from the home of their ancestors. And why do they want to farm the land here in this place where only Fijians live? How very different the children are from my own brothers and sisters!

    The white children neither laughed nor shouted; nor did they splash in the water when they got out of the boat as he would have done. Staying close to their mother, the children looked around with wide, frightened eyes. How odd that they should be afraid of this place, Masaki pondered.

    The children reached the edge of the clearing where they saw the beautiful new house of the white man. Masaki and Samesa crept closer to the house and hid behind some banana stalks. The other children stayed farther away, hiding in the forest bushes. With their dark skins, it was difficult to see them in the shadow of the trees. But just then, Masaki saw the little golden-haired girl looking through the window straight at him.

    “Hey, Masaki!” whispered Samesa. “See that girl. I think she sees you.”

    “She’s looking right at me,” agreed Masaki.

    “What are you going to do?” teased Samesa. “Maybe her father will come out and give you a strapping! Or maybe her mother will cook you for dinner.”

    The children who were close enough to hear Samesa’s teasing were laughing and snickering at Masaki. Then Masaki did the only thing he could do to prove that he was not afraid. He got up from his hiding place and walked straight over to the front door.

    “Hello!” he called. As Masaki knew nothing of the American custom of knocking, this was all that he could do.

    The father heard Masaki and came to the door. When he saw the frightened Fijian boy, he called to his own children to come. Then the father put out his hand and took Masaki’s trembling hand into his own.

    “Come in, son,” he welcomed Masaki. “Come in and meet my children. They have no friends in this new place. We are having our lunch. Come eat with us, and then you can play with them.”

    Masaki was taught English in school and could understand most of the words. But it was the warm, friendly smiles of the family surrounding him that induced Masaki to go inside.

    Once inside the house, Masaki was glad that he had done the manly thing and had not run away like a frightened pigeon. These strangers weren’t so different after all. The little girl—her name was Alice—even knew how to play marbles! And they ate fish, just like the people of Masaki’s village, and something called potato that tasted just like the kawai that Masaki’s father planted in the garden at home.

    Then, as Masaki was preparing to return to his village (for he had suddenly remembered his mother’s firewood), he saw a beautiful picture lying on an unopened box. It was of the Savior with a lamb in His arms. Masaki stood admiring the portrait as the family quietly gathered around him.

    Masaki looked up at his new friends standing silently beside him. Suddenly he realized that they would never seem like strangers to him again. For they, just like him, were children of God.

    It was with a full heart that Masaki raced back to the village that afternoon with his mother’s firewood. There he was met by a mob of brothers, sisters, and cousins. He had so much to tell them!

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch