This will likely be an earnest, though potentially infrequently updated, account of my adventures, tribulations,
and everyday experiences as I spend two years working as an environmental Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji

Friday, August 19, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Sunrise over my island. This was when I was riding on the ferry back to the main land to go to an agricultural fair.

Taiyo! This is the dog that more or less belongs to my family. He comes to hang out sometimes and I managed to corner him the other day and give him a bath. I'm surprised he didn't do a back flip when I let him out of my shower, he was running around like a maniac. Sadly, he has a very short tail because the original owners cut it off when he was young. This is apparently common here but I have yet to understand why.

My luxurious full sized bed! That's right it's bigger than my bed back home. Although, what you can't see is that the springs inside have all sort of piled up on one end making this goofy rolling lump about two-thirds the way across and causing the end that I get in on to have no support whatsoever. It's quite deceiving and I seem to forget this fact every time I go to sit down on the end of it (actually it's kind of high so by sit down I clearly mean jump) and end up just sliding right off!

The other room in my house that is not the bedroom. Did I mention how much I love my house? The gas stove is awesome! That's it over there on the left, placed on top of the termite ridden old wooden stand. The blue bucket under the sink is for my food waste, which right now goes to the pigs until I get my compost set up. The sink leaks a little, hence the bin down below. The large silver thing on the counter is my official Peace Corps water filter. The posters on the door (I have 3 doors the main one being just out of view on the left) are of the most common food fish in Fiji. Frighteningly enough, many of the fish up there are the pacific relatives of many of the fish back home in the Giant Ocean Tank. The other day in fact, I ate a needlefish that was about the size of an Atlantic needlefish...
The other half of the room. My table is rarely sat at being that the thing to do is eat on the floor, although, unless I have a visitor over I usually sit in a chair and eat at the little pink table there facing out the door so I can yell at people as they walk by. I hang all non canned food to keep it away from ants and rats and mice and everything else...but sometimes it's a losing battle no matter what I do. The table is laden with all the spices I brought from home. I was originally very excited about this and about using them but as it turns out, spending 7 weeks within the same suitcase caused them all to taste the like a combination of garlic and cajun (regardless of how well they were individually wrapped).

My sitting area, complete with maps of Fiji, environmental posters, dead flowers on the shelf and my dear guitar. That would be door number three to the left and is directly opposite door number one. Those blue curtains are the entrances to my bedroom area. The thing I love most about my house is that there is always a lot of light!
There she is! That blue house in the background is my bathroom/shower.

The bathroom/shower. Flush toilet and a large shower with shelving and a tile floor. It's all really great, although no hot water, alas...

Can you spot my roommate? His name is Larry and he and his brothers tend to like that particular corner of my room including all of my hanging clothes. Larry will continue to be my roommate because I am too chicken to kill him. I don't know if you can actually tell but he is the length of my palm (longest leg to longest leg)! You try to kill that as it runs maniacally all over the place!!
One of my sisters crossing the Prince Williams Bridge. It is about 20 ft across, 4 ft high on the far end during low tide and 6 ft high on the near end. Shortly after this was taken the log she was walking on collapsed under the weight of two rather large gentlemen. So there is definitely no safety net anymore since the third log on the other end is too far from the center one. The other day I was crossing it with my sister to go training on the trails. I was a few steps behind her on the wobbling bridge when Taiyo ran up out of no where from behind and knocked me off! I managed to grab the log as I fell and did this graceful roll underneath it while managing to cling on having wrapped my legs and hands around it as best as I could. I then had to shimmy up to where there was land before I could dismount. I've never seen my sister laugh so hard.

Wailevu (ok actually that means big water, but it's only called that because of the river). This is my family's house for 6 months out of the year. In November, they'll move back down and a guy from Austria moves in for the winter. This is where my garden is located.

The view towards the ocean while standing on the bridge.

Sunset towards the main land! That island there is called Naigani.

The black sand beach in front of my village. I went running up the coast the other day to the next village over and nearly died on multiple occasions because once the beach ends it becomes slippery jagged rock. Won't be doing that again soon...

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Fiji PCV

Someone recently asked me what my typical day is like. Well then, let's see...

4:27 am - wake up to the rooster cockadoodledooing outside my window without even the hint of a sunrise on the horizon; after banging my tin walls enough he goes away and crows somewhere else. I fall back asleep.

6 am - wake up to the sound of my neighbor scraping coconuts, dogs fighting, and children yelling to each other

6:30 am - walk to the primary school where I do yoga/pilates with some volunteers from Australia before they go to school to teach

7:30 am - return home; try for the 5th time to make fluffy pancakes; end up with flat rubber disks (sometimes flat rubber disks with bananas) that I force down anyway out of pride (or spite?); invite everyone that walks by to join me for breakfast, as is custom, and wonder what I will actually do if someone decides to come in; give the rest of the rubber disks to the dogs outside my door

8:00 am - straighten up my bedroom area (open windows/curtains, clean up my bed/mosquito net, etc.); hear some pitter-pattering feet noises from my kitchen/sitting room, go into the kitchen/sitting room to investigate, find nothing and return to bedroom; notice that the chicken that strutted in during my absence has flapped its way onto my bed; proceed in vain to scare it off my bed only to terrify it into flying repeatedly into the window next to my bed whilst clucking madly and flinging its feathers everywhere; climb onto my bed and manage to corner it as it continues to attempt evasion; wrestle with it a little before managing to pin its wings down and getting a firm hold of it march it to my front door and hurl it into the open void where it flies (more or less) to the ground and continues its search for food, clearly flustered as to what just happened... yes, this happens almost everyday to some extent or another.

8:30 am - wash  my clothes by putting some in a bucket with water and detergent and pumping them up and down with a piece of pvc pipe; this actually works really well, though if there is a serious mud stain I will indeed bust out the scrub brush and board. I do my laundry about once a week, sometimes twice if I am washing my sheets.
             - clean the rest of my house; kill the hoards of ants that come piling in after the one crumb I missed; fight the absurdly large hornets (that try to nest everywhere) using an old badminton racquet; decide the grass going to my bathroom from my house is far too long and proceed in an attempt to cut it using a cane knife
             - work in my delightful garden (which I just started!) - pulling weeds and watering the beds using a leaky bucket that can hold about 1/20 the amount of water I will ultimately need to have watered it

12:00 pm -ish - lunch either at home or with my family at their house in "wai levu," which means big river (since their house is a bit separated from the village and is next to the big river, over which the Prince Williams Bridge spans)

1:00 pm -ish - go snorkeling on the reef or swimming in the waterfall or do a little work on possible projects/research, etc; possibly meet with some villagers or groups and participate in their activities (possibly a fundraiser event or sewing/dying fabric, etc.); last week the ministry of fisheries came to harvest the first ever fish ponds within the village, for which I took pictures.
    * Side story: When all of the fish had been harvested from the ponds and everyone was up at the big truck in the village waiting to buy some, I went back to the ponds to show another volunteer where they were and what they were about. En route, we ran into my "uncle," who so happens to be one of my favorite people in the village because he is particularly funny but also because he puts in a solid effort to help me with my Fijian and my settling in in general. He stopped us to ask where we were going and why we hadn't bought any fish. In the midst of our small conversation, I happened to glance down and notice that his pocket was bulging with fish tails! I saw it and just started laughing! I couldn't help it - the idea of this particular guy managing to shove some fish into his pockets while all the chaos of harvesting was happening, then, no one having noticed, try to surreptitiously make his way back to his own house without buying any of the fish, though managing to stop and harass me about it just struck me as hilarious. Of course he started laughing and we both had a good humored moment over it. I tried to take a picture of it but he valiantly did his best to hide it...

4:00 pm - train/go for a run with my sister or play volleyball with my cousins in the village; Fijians are incredibly good at volleyball. I've always prided myself on being a capable athlete - maybe not the best out there but at least capable; but man do they put me to shame! I continue to stick it out though and I'm getting better, or so it would seem - they are sending the ball to my direction more and more. It's the small victories...

5:30/6:00 pm -shower; watch the sunset over the ocean; proceed to cook dinner or walk up to wai levu for dinner with the fam

7:30 pm - share a movie with my family on my laptop or go off to drink grog in the village with my cousins or go play guitar with some really good players or just go home to read!

10:00-12:00am - sleep! Repeat!

So there's not too much going on here right yet. I am working on some pre-project ideas but we technically don't start our actual work until after our early service training in late sept. - mid oct. I'm mostly just settling in and integrating at the moment! It's been great so far!

 Next post will be pictures - I have them ready to go but the internet won't cooperate today. Maybe next week. :)