It has been entirely too long since I actually posted something. I can’t lie, I have started writing things but it seems that with the ever increasing heat and humidity of this summer season, my capacity for extended attention has absolutely diminished. So here are my musings on Fiji from the past two weeks now that I have brought myself into a caffeine induced frenzy and the weather has taken a break from scorching to actually cool and pleasant.
On the note of weather, it is now nearly 10am here and it is 84 degrees, with a cool breeze and cloud cover! Amazing! For the past week it has been absolutely scorching. 96 degrees inside my house (which is concrete with an iron roof, can you save oven?) So I have taken to moving my mat outside and working out there in the afternoons when my house is as blistering as the surface of the sun and the shade has created enough of a patch in the front of my house to justify the move. It is the holiday season though it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. 96 degrees, 10 days before Christmas? Please, where are my snow, hot chocolate and ugly sweater parties? I decorated my little house for the festivities, a string of lights (which are pretty awesome and I might just leave them up all year… they add a nice ambiance to the room when people come over and want to drink grog here), and two strings of red and green tinsely garland stuff above my door. It’s not much… but it makes me feel a bit happy and festive about the upcoming season. I just keep thinking of all you in your sweaters drinking warm drinks and eating the extra fancy nut mix at holiday parties… Its okay though. I get to drink coconuts, eat fresh mangoes, and go swimming at an amazing reef. Unfortunately that small consolation doesn’t make up for the fact that I am so far away from my friends and family during the one time of year you should be near to them. It will definitely be a hard Christmas. Everyone in my village is shocked that I am staying here… I just tell them that this is my village, my family, my place and my land now. They just smile and say, “Isa Ru”.
Just a side note… I want to remind everyone that grog is NON-ALCOHOLIC. I am not sitting around drinking my service away… haha. Grog is the ground up root of a pepper plant that produces a slightly relaxing effect after drinking it for long periods of time. You could probably drink it for 3 hours and not feel anything. I use this time to further my work, not just sit around and joke although sometimes that is a welcome break from the day to day struggles of working here. When I drink grog, the other attendees know that at some point in the night we are going to talk shop. We will discuss something environmental or Peace Corps related and they have come to accept that. Grog has been the single easiest tool I have been able to use to assimilate into this village. You try being a white person trying to get involved in a Fijian village and not drink grog… not going to happen. Some of our volunteers that are struggling the most at site are those that do not drink grog with their villages. It is a time of “sharing the cup”, sharing stories, telling grand tales, discussing issues and solutions from the farm and at the reef. It is a time for work, play, relaxation and bonding. It is essential to my service. Just wanted to clarify that point to everyone here, so thank you for bearing with that short description of the purpose and necessity behind my seemingly endless mentioning of grog.
On that note, grog is also used as a time of “communion” if you will to remember and converse with someone about a recent event that has been sad or exceptionally exciting. I had my first experience with this last week. I had called my sister in Texas to find out that they had gone to the doctors to get their ultrasound done for the 3 month check up, only to find out devastatingly that the baby no longer had a heartbeat. They were obviously upset, but surprisingly I was the one who was crying on the phone. I was the first one to know about the baby and I was just so taken aback by this that I cried. After getting off the phone with my sister, I walked outside to my neighbor, Nei (Auntie) Sabeta and just cried. She asked my momo (uncle) Vuki to go buy 2 bags of grog and that we would mix together at my house to remember the baby and to give thanks for the fact that my sister was alive and well to tell the story. It was truly the most comforting thing that could have happened that afternoon. My and my “auntie” sitting in my house drinking grog and talking about all sorts of things. I am so thankful that I have people in my village who look after me as one of their own. I don’t know what I would do without them.
Well enough on grog and sad news. The week of December 6-10 my village hosted the annual FLMMA (Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas) Annual meeting for the Learning sites across Fiji. This is basically the organization that has set up and run a majority of the Marine Protected Areas, or tabu areas, in the past 10 years. It was really exciting to be a part of this type of conference with representatives from all over Fiji coming to learn more and discuss issues that they have been having in their tabu areas. The conference was extremely long, starting at 8 every morning and officially ending at 6pm but with grog and the informal talanoa (story telling) sessions that happened after, people would usually knock off around midnight or so. On the last day of the conference, an Australian woman named Helen Stykes, a Marine Ecology Consultant that has lived and worked in Fiji for the past 15 years gave a presentation about how all tabu areas should also be shark reserves. There is legislation due to come out (fingers crossed) in Fiji next year that will prohibit all catching and selling of sharks which would be incredible. She showed a video explaining to role of sharks in the coral reef marine ecosystem as a primary consumer and apex predator and how their top down control over the reefs food chain essentially controls every aspect of the reef. It was really great to see that information presented in a video and have people watch it, she also handed out T shirts and stickers about it, I have already seen the stickers up on plenty of doors around the village and its great to see people (at least apparently) taking a real interest in what was said and shown in that video. I hope to continue the interest in shark preservation in my village in the near future going off the momentum that was created by this FLMMA conference.
Other than that things have been relatively calm in the village recently. With Christmas coming up no one wants to work or start new projects so I am just reading, playing my guitar, and planning for the next year so that when the work is ready to begin, I am ready as well. Sorry that this update has been so late coming, I would by lying if I said I have been busy…. I have just been tired from such hot weather…
Hope you all enjoy the cool weather wherever you are!