And from clarity, more chaos. As goes life in Fiji.
Yesterday and today have been kind of a whirlwind of emotions for me. I think reality is setting in that Christine has left and that my comrade is gone, our weekly sessions in town will cease to exist, and it is a really stressful time in the village!
Things are ridiculously busy lately. My calendar is a scribble of dates, times, lines, rescheduling, meetings, events, and grog sessions and is constantly being scribbled out and rescheduled because of the oh so wonderful concept here called, “Fiji Time”.
Yesterday I went up to Nubu, the settlement about 2 miles away after going to the Catholic Church in the next village over. We spent the day talking and enjoying the scenery and cool breezes up in that area before starting our grog session.
One of my best friends, Ben (Peni), lives up there and was running around doing little errands so I was sitting on the porch with about 15 other people listening to music, drinking grog and just enjoying my time. Eventually I went out to the back porch to use the toilet and Peni was coming back from the next village up so I sat down on the porch and was talking to him for a while. I don’t know what happened by emotional word vomit came out. I just started explaining how frustrating it was to be lonely in a room full of people (which happens all the time when you only understand the dictionary meanings of words and not the hidden innuendos associated with them), how I was frustrated with people always talking about me and not to me, how I was frustrated with work progressing slowly and feeling unsupported by the committees because even though I am a member of all of them, they don’t tell me when the meetings are, etc. Chaos. Well after about 20 minutes I went back to the grog session on the front porch and was told to sit with the 4 women in the back so I sat down. Peni came up and sat down next to me after about 10 more minutes of women talking over me and across me to each other to talanoa (tell stories) with me. Well one of the women literally stood up, picked him up by his shirt and walked him away towards the men so that he wouldn’t talk to me. I got so frustrated that I said, “Kua! Au via talanoa kei Peni” (Don’t! I want to tell stories with Peni) and stood up to walk over to where he was sitting. He explained in better Fijian that it’s not fun for me to sit while no one talks to me, that its boring and lonely and that they should understand and help me. Well Peni got teased the rest of the night for protecting me because naturally that means we are dating (of course) and so he was given a totally full bilo of grog every time they were passed around.
We started drinking at 4pm and around 10-11 I got super tired and pretty dope and just wanted to go to sleep. Well since Nubu is 2 miles away, I can’t really just walk home on my own, so I had to wait for someone else to leave (which could have taken until 3 am) so I just leaned over and fell asleep on Peni’s arm. Around midnight a truck came down the road going back to Levuka so they stopped it and about 6 of us got in to head home. That was last night.
This morning I went diving at the tabu area (Marine Protected Area) with Peni on his Uncle’s bilibili (bamboo raft) it was really fun to just go swimming and be outside of the village and all the talking that happens there. I could wear shorts and a baseball cap and just relax. Clarity. Well as we were pushing our way out to the tabu area, the a group of people walked by on the road heading up to their plantations and called out to us asking when we would be back… because they wanted to talk with me so I said around noon.
Well we got back and I had my bath and stated to do some work, noon came and went and no one came by (go figure) the Turaga ni Koro came by at 5:30 saying that we were going to go to Visoto to do a workshop on village development, and that we were going to catch the transport at 6pm… really? 30 minutes to prepare for a meeting about village development in a village I have been to all of 3 times? Chaos. So I got all my paperwork together and went out to the bus stop to wait for the carrier, at around 5:50 the TK walks up and says, oh the village has cancelled the meeting because the men are working and haven’t returned to the village yet. Angst. So I just spilled my guts to him about my frustrations and we decided to have a little meeting tonight to talanoa about issues and discuss how to resolve them. The meeting went well, we talked about the fact that after the village meetings, someone needs to meet with me and discuss what has been brought up, that the committees need to inform me of their meetings so I can take part in them if they want me to help, we talked about different NGOs and contact information, I clarified my role to him, talked about how this village is my main priority and if they want me to help lead things in Visoto that they have to understand that my first priority and work is to remain in this village but naturally any help I can offer I would be willing to do so, we talked about current issues in the village, talked about the fact that people talk about me all the time, talked about tabu area rules and how to enforce them, set up a meeting time to lead a workshop in my village and one in Visoto about mangroves and their ecological importance to low lying coastal communities, set up a time for our next village development plan etc. It was wonderful. Clarity.
Life here is so easy-going and relaxed. I absolutely adore living here. Working here, that is another story all together. I love being a Peace Corps Volunteer…But it comes with many of its own challenges. Imagine if you lived at your workplace. Ate, slept, drank, went to their funerals and weddings, saw them 24/7, I’m serious. Imagine it right now…
How do you think that would change peoples perception of you? Your ability to do work? They see you at your highest highs and lowest lows and they know everything about you… for christssake your dirty laundry is literally hanging on a line in front of your house! It’s challenging. Difficult. Energy consuming. Endless. Ovalau is a small island. I have no escape here. At other islands there are resorts, cities, areas where people don’t know who you are and you can be invisible for a few precious days when you need it the most. I love my village. I love my island. But sometimes I feel like I need a vacation!
So on that note… chaos and clarity… the title of this posting. Its just a pendulum we swing back and forth on, sometimes it swings slowly and you can handle it, but other times in runs wild and you do your best to handle it. Right now, mine is swinging out of control and I’m just taking it day by day which is all anyone can really ever do.