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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Now?

Just how terribly in suspense are you that you continue to read this blog? My consistency is least I'm consistent about that. Since coming back to Fiji a lot of stressful things happened to me to the point where I feared I was about to be told to turn around and board the next plane headed states side. Calm down - I didn't do anything wrong and thankfully nothing bad has happened to me or my person. It was job related, site placement related, a bit political, and every bit ridiculous.

In the end though, things ended up working out better than I could have hoped! I have a fun little house in a mixed Fijian/Indian neighborhood and have been very busy working at my new job - conservation officer for the Cakaudrove provincial council. See some pictures below on the waste management competition I organized for our local district - I was so impressed!

So, I'm sitting at home on the eave of leaving for a three week trip back to the states to celebrate a New England Christmas with my family for the first time in three years. I will be bringing my significant other on this trip and am greatly anticipating both the fun and challenge of taking a native Fijian and thrusting him knee deep into some good old powder. I haven't mentioned him before but with his permission, I'll be sharing some of our undoubtedly crazy experiences with you all upon our return to the tropics.

Before I post my next story about some life threatening dangers experienced on rough waters comparable to those of Capt. Bligh (well, without the mutiny), I'm throwing a few pictures up here first so you can see a bit of what my new neighborhood is like and what it's like getting a little exposure to the Indian culture here in Fiji.
On the overnight ferry to Suva - alas, the regular boat was out so they had this tiny little thing that nearly sunk on the starboard side every time it dropped the loading ramp. Indeed because it was so small there was not even sort of enough room for all of the people they sold tickets to, so we slept outside on the top "illegal" area on those giant hard red "life rafts." At least it didn't rain...much.

Participating in climate change workshop being given to all of the provincial officers in Fiji - explaining about climate change and introducing the Fijian government's initiative to assist village communities adapt to its effects and mitigate its causes

Fresh spring drinking water!

This village extends like a lollipop out into the ocean/mangroves with only this bridge to connect it. As cool as it is to have an awesome mote, this village is facing the effects of climate change - rising sea levels - and soil erosion. Soon enough this whole unique settlement will be underwater and its inhabitants relocated.
My climate change workshop group - they were a ton of fun and very enthusiastic and motivated to participate.

A few pics of the new digs:

The new house! It's really lovely :)
My house on our stay in dinner date.
My Happy Thanksgiving french apple cake :P

The Savusavu Waste Management Competition!

This is more or less what I've been working hard on for the past 2-3 months. I conducted a series of workshops in each of the nine villages in the Savusavu district on waste, its harmful effects on people and the environment, ways to manage it properly and then I kicked off the competition challenge: members of the women and youth groups from each village were to form a team that would work together to design a doable project that could properly manage some form of waste.

They could be as broad or specific as they wanted focusing on all of the litter found in Savusavu town or just on dealing with scrap fishing net that plagues their village. It was up to them to decide and then create their management plan. They then all came together last Friday for the final event where they would compete against each other by presenting their designs the best way they knew how. We considered creativity and enthusiasm in our scoring and I was blown away by what people brought forth! There were skits, poems, speeches, props and modeling! Not to mention the impressive design ideas being presented. They all did an amazing job spreading education and awareness about waste issues and came up with some interesting ways to manage it better.

I worked with the Ministry of Health to come up with an awards system that includes providing entire villages with trash bins, workshops on how to set up a composting system, tools to compost, hosting village clean ups, and providing supplies for the clean ups. All in all it was a great day!

A few of many spectators and supporters who came to cheer on their village team!

One village getting ready to perform a skit involving the harmful effects of chemical waste from spraying farms.

Judges deliberating
The first place team and their many creative uses for plastic trash!
Bags made from old potato sacks, rugs from scrap cloth, and decorative flowers from soda cans and chip bags - all for the waste management competition

A bit of the local Indian culture that I've had the pleasure of experiencing. The first few photos were from the second night of a neighbor's wedding. After that I put in some pictures of celebrating Diwali.

Indian men doing a crazy dance performance at a neighbor's wedding
Some excellent and definitely interesting music being played at ear splitting volume. The Indian woman next to me kept cracking up at the faces the singer was making!

The interluding drumming/singing band

The alter for the wedding - this is the second night at the groom's family's residence; the first night was at his fiance's family's house and the third night is the actual wedding ceremony
Mancheeka, my neighbor's daughter, giving me a bowl of sweets on Diwali.
The shrine my Hindu neighbors set up to praise the gods during Diwali - the festival of lights
On Diwali, everyone is constantly lighting off fireworks for hours into the night in celebration. Young children are running around with mortars; entire families are battling with roman candles; it's really chaotic and exceptionally loud. Meanwhile, everyone walks around to each others' houses and partake in sharing sweets. At some point our power went out and all you could see were candles and fireworks.
At one house we stopped at, these women had spent hours dying rice different colors and arranging these designs.

Well, now it's very late at night and it seems that I've contracted the I can go home sick. Again. The adventure story might have to wait until I return...

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