Busy busy week!
Things have really been picking up in our village- but I think that’s just how it feels. Our Trainee Assignments (homework basically) have gotten more involved and are asking us to do more within our communities. It’s actually a really great tool to utilize and is helping us get the real perspectives of different people on issues like solid and liquid waste management and where they see the potential for improvement. We have had to attend numerous meetings and collect information in informal settings as well, these assignments are helping us to recognize some potential future roadblocks now ,so that when we encounter them at our actual sites- we will recognize why things aren’t happening the way we had planned.
This week we also had our second interview for our site placements (which get announced next Thursday, I think). In my interview they asked me about my experience in invasive species research which is what I worked on for about a year and a half for my internship at Huxley, and about my experience with sustainable agriculture and gardening. The only questions other questions they asked were about how I would feel being far away from the next larger town (for grocery shopping etc), how I felt travelling my small boats, and how I would feel taking over another volunteers project. I know that in my head I’m constantly trying to figure out where they are sending me I mean let’s be honest, it’s the next 2 years of my life… but it’s so silly to try to pick out “clues” for all we know, they could totally be leading us in another direction and I could end up in an office in a city… Time will tell and just another week isn’t too bad.
On Monday all of the trainees in my village went to Aliti’s house (Atamas host mom) to make sasa’s (brooms). One of the kids climbed up the coconut tree outside their house and kicked off a bunch of coconuts so we could open them up, drink the water, and eat the flesh… so delicious. I can’t complain that I live in a country that has fresh coconuts that you can just crack open whenever you so desire. Basically to make a sasa you take the coconut branches and rip of the spines of the leaves individually. Then you take your knife and carefully strip away all the green leaf part-retaining some of the fibers on the end of each spine. Finally, after hours of stripping away leaves, you can gather up enough spines to braid together the ends and tie in the rest of the spines to create a pretty stiff and effective broom! Now we can all clean our rooms (sasamaki noqo rumu) without having to borrow anyone’s brooms! Pretty soon they are going to teach us how to make fans and baskets by weaving the coconut leaves. The Peace Corps gave us a checklist of things that we need to learn by the end of our stays with our host families which includes things like, listening to news and weather via radio, pulling and preparing dalo and tavioka, lighting a kerosene stove and lantern, and making a pot of rice (although at this stage in life, I’d have serious concerns about people who can’t make a batch of rice…). On the topic of rice, I went over to Aliki’s (Alex) house for breakfast on Monday and his host mom made the most delicious rice ever… it was raisi kei na lolo, rice with coconut milk. Basically instead of using water to cook the rice, you just substitute for freshly squeezed coconut milk, maybe adding a little water to thin it out a bit, and cook as usual… it was pretty amazing.
This week has been busy at home as well! My host dad is the Minister of the Methodist Church here in town. Methodists are the largest religious group here in Fiji, other groups include Assemblies of God, All Nations Christian Fellowship, and in smaller quantities Muslim, Hindu, Catholics, and Mormons. So this week, we are having students from the theological college come to our village to do practice preaching from 7-8pm every night. This has actually become a huge thing at my house, which I wasn’t really expecting but should have considering how hospitable and welcoming Fijians are. Every night we have had about 4-6 men (who eat first of course) come over around 6pm to meet the visiting minister at our home. They eat and drink tea and discuss the plan for the service while the women stay in the kitchen for the most part and prepare food, bring out more water and juice, and do a fair bit of gossiping and giggling as well. It has been a little awkward because my family has given me an immense amount of respect and undue honor by being able to eat with the men. Honestly I think I would rather wait in the kitchen with the women. After the men eat the women clean up a bit and wait in the kitchen until the third lali rings (the lali are the hollow wooden logs out by the church that get played every at :00, :30 and :00 until the hour of the service) and the men leave for the service. If my mom goes to church, she leaves a neighbor here to babysit me, if she doesn’t usually all the kitchen-women come out and have a grand ole time feasting on the remaining heap of food left over. Last night, I think there were 11 women here…
Tomorrow we are having a cooking competition between all the volunteers in all the villages, we got assigned making tuna burgers and nutrala (fake meat) tacos. Since our village contains the only 3 vegetarians out of the whole group, and all the other groups got veg recipes, we switched our tuna burger recipe to red lentil and rice burgers with a citrus soy sauce glaze and caramelized onions… I think it’s an improvement…. During the competition all the volunteers have to submit one roti that they made to be judged to be the roti king and queen. Last night we practiced at Te’s house, Buna (his host mom) showed us how to prepare the dough and cook them on a kerosene stove. I think they are judging the Roti King and Queen based off how circular and even we can make the roti, but I’m pretty sure our group is more interested in making them look like the islands of Fiji, PacMan, or other various semi circular objects.
I started reading Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions this week too- and am already on page 200… it feel s so good to be able to read for pleasure again! This book was kind of an ironic first choice as (so far) it has discussed a lot about American culture and how just a simple shift in perspective changes everything… the book is way better than that description and highly recommended (but I guess I should hold off on that until I actually finish it….)
Other than that things are going well! I have had a pretty gnarly cold since last Friday which is finally going away. I find it slightly funny that I moved from Washington to Fiji, and got a cold in Fiji… Batabata is the word for cold here (katakata is hot), and every morning my mom has asked me ‘Oooh weren’t you cold last night?’ I only hope that in time I find this place ‘cold’…