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

Monday, July 16, 2012

This is why it's taken me so long to post a new blog


Have you ever been really, really bored? Would you like to see what that’s like? Well, allow me…

No, I’m not really going to bore you to death, least I hope not, but I’ve been dying to write about this for a long time, because I want you to know the truth.

In order to do this properly I’ve sought help from my fellow pcvs to get as much supporting evidence (I mean stories) as possible.

Boredom - none of you know what this is until you have been stranded in a remote little village for month long stretches with shoddy phone service, no computer, no i-pod, a radio that only broadcasts urgent announcements regarding the fall of the third reich, no electricity, and a cat. Sure, we’ve all become expert cooks and stove-top bakers; we’ve read roughly 57 books (last week); and know six different ways to kill a cockroach, but you can only partake in such activities for so many hours in a day.

Now, there definitely are days when crazy and exciting and unexpected things happen and plenty of days when we manage to do work or at least feel like we’re doing something that can be categorized somehow as work. But there’s definitely an absurd amount of down time and sometimes it’s just too cyclony, or the entire village is off at their farms, or your fingers are bleeding from playing the guitar so much and you resort to, well, other things.

This is a list of how we adventurous, world traveling, philanthropizing good-samaritans spend such hours. So if you’re ever faced with a day or month of sheer boredom here’s a helpful suggestion guide - in order from normal to send help asap:

  1. Sleep – all day. Move your mattress to the floor to make it more exciting.
  1. Secretly drink alcohol out of coffee mugs in your house and then pretend you’re drinking tea when a villager comes by (I will qualify this by saying it’s more a situation of sneaking a drink in a place where booze is not allowed and not about getting drunk by yourself).
  1. Try to fix your pair of $3 flip flops (your last pair of shoes) by any means possible including – stapling, sewing, gluing, nailing or a combination of all these. Fail on all accounts and just use duct tape.
  1. Do a 750 piece (minimum) puzzle in one sitting.

  1. Try to write your name as an ambigram. Repeat for the members of your immediate family; continue on to friends until you run out…then use their middle names.
  1. Make a cross-stitch pattern for every person in your village.
  1. Paint chalk board paint on your walls (or inherit a house where the last volunteer did this for you) and doodle incessantly. Write things in a language other than English or whatever the local language is so that you can feel like you’re not as much of a child as everyone would have you believe when you try to speak to them in their tongue. Je suis un pamplemousse.
  1. Practice lighting matches one handed – for showing off at grog or in the event that your arm is broken.
  1. Make origami out of toilet paper squares – feel free to multi-task during this activity.
  1. Wage war against all manner of giant creatures fighting to inhabit your house (this is more a happy chance event rather than the typical monotony, such as giant centipedes, giant rats, or giant spiders eating giant cockroaches). 

  1. Figure out how easy it is to add the numbers 1 through 100 in your head in less than 30 seconds. Realize that there are tricks to dividing or multiplying anything by 5 and get excited when you can do it with any number in less than 10 seconds. Did you know that 12,713/5=2542.6?
  1. Make two different types of bread and bagels and then proceed to eat them all.
  1. Sit and stare off into space without moving… for hours.
  1. Play with the fish eye setting on your camera. Set it to the moderately distorted setting and take a picture of your hand and make it look like you have elephantitis. Or just take several hundred self-portraits, only moving a little bit each time so that when you review them quickly in your playback setting it looks like a stop-motion film.

  1. Sit like a ninja on your mat and destroy each fly as it lands. Continue ad infinitum.
  1. Watch the geckos on your ceiling stalk giant moths (two-thirds their body size); watch a gecko pounce one and manage to catch the moth head in its mouth. Then watch as it slowly digests the moth bits inside the gecko’s mouth, little by little eating the whole thing. (Sometimes when I find one of these giant moths bashing its head against my ceiling I call my cat in and make sure she notices it; then I take my woven hand fan and smack it so its flight path dips down to about a foot or so above the ground at which point my cat launches into the air after it; we continue to tag team it until my cat manages to eat her tasty late night snack).
  1. Listen to the bats fight over the breadfruit in the tree next to your bedroom window. Wonder what happens to the one that loses.
  1. If it’s dark out, surreptitiously sneak out your back door and embark on a stealth mission to eliminate the left over fish heads cooked in lolo that a villager kindly brought over to you but who didn’t realize that you are the only one staying in your 12 ft2 house and that you’re not housing 11 others and that you cannot possibly eat that many fish heads in a week and a half let alone in the amount of time it takes them to go bad. Manage to chuck them into some seemingly inconspicuous bush and creep back into your house hoping no one sees you only to find the 25 pieces of boiled dalo root that you were supposed to eat in combination with your fish heads. Go back outside.
  1. Watch little jumping spiders chase each other around your bookshelf. Never cease to be amused when one jumps behind a book and the other one jumps left and right in place trying to figure out where the first one went.
  1. Watch the same little spiders sneak up on ants and then get terrified when the ant happens to be walking toward it.
  1. Find a trail of such ants. Watch their route for a few seconds, then when there’s a break in the march swipe your finger across their path and let your skin oil erase the trace of their pheromone trail. Enjoy the ensuing terror and consequent pile up and ultimate success at rerouting by the one brave independent thinker…then do it again.
  1. Or sit in front of a trail of ants with various food items at your disposal. Toss a few crumbs along the line – observe how long it takes for one of the ants to actually realize that it’s food and not just an obstacle to go around. Continue to watch as he tells the others and they begin excavation. Wait until they finally decide to just pick it up and carry it back to their nest instead of just nibbling off bits and as soon as they start marching away with it, snatch it away and put it back to where it was originally.
  1. Gather together a bunch of plastic bags. Meticulously slice them by spiraling down the bag in one continuous piece. Braid them together into a rope that breaks during the first test; try again with a different style of plastic bag.
  1. Determine the exact amount of protein, calories, carbohydrates, calcium, and iron in 1 Tbsp of crushed Natrala soy protein supplement; repeat using whole chunks.
No, I did not take this picture.

  1. Walk to the ocean and fill up a pitcher with sea water; carry it back to the house and pour it into a pot. Find another pot and fill it with fresh water from the tap. Place the two pots on a table in front of you. Then put your left hand in one pot and your right hand in the other. Maintain this position for at least one hour. Remove both hands and compare the differences in their wrinkling. (Ha, I feel the need to defend myself on this one – I got the idea when I noticed that after spending 11 hours out at sea kayaking and spear fishing, my hands were thoroughly wrinkled but my Fijian friend still had hands as smooth as baby’s bottom; for some awesome evolutionary reason, they don’t dehydrate the same way as we do, so then I wanted to see how differently we wrinkle in salt water vs fresh water. Oddly, the results were the opposite of my scientific postulating and I am going to have to attempt this endeavor again…).
  1. Make lists of things to do in the painful boredom you feel for much of most days.

Though there are doubtlessly thousands of other things that I could potentially place on this list, I can’t think of any more and I can’t remember any other ones from the other volunteers, without whom this blog post would sadly still have been entirely possible, but whose contributions were greatly appreciated none-the-less.

Perhaps look out for a part two…sometime in the far future.

1 comment:

  1. WOW!! I got to admit, I've had to do some boring things, but I think you take the cake on this. Why is free diving or swimming or running or hiking not on the list? or are those things old now? Oh btw, the ant thing is awesome!

    -Alex

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