So yesterday, Wednesday for us, I had just about my most “normal” day by American Standards that I believe I have had since arriving in Fiji just over 9 months ago. Yesterday just showed me the incredible change in daily activities and perspective I have now, and it was great to feel like I was re-living my life from America for a day.
So I am still in Suva on medical because of my neck. I guess this is the abnormal part of my day, I went to Suva Private Hospital to get X-rays done of my neck because the physical therapist was concerned about my C2 vertebrae (see last post) so they wanted X-rays to double check I hadn’t fractured it, etc etc so that continued physical therapy wouldn’t create subsequent issues. So I went to the hospital at 8am to “beat the crowds” that typically leave volunteers stranded in the Hospital waiting room for hours on end. I sat there and enjoyed about 30 minutes of people watching until I was called into radiology and had my set of x-rays done. I waited another 10 minutes for them to get printed out along with my report to give to the Peace Corps office to be put in my file. After all that I decided to get a cup of coffee and the hospital café and just relax for a few minutes.
Once I left the hospital, I returned to the Peace Corps office to deliver my x-rays and notes, raid the Peace Corps Library for some reading books, talk with all the different people at the Office (I never get to see them so its really nice to catch up with the office business), and used the free internet. I went back to my room at 11 and a fellow PCV Alicia asked if I wanted to do lunch and some exploration that day. Um. Yes!
So we met at the food court at the mall, which is not like your American food court with Hot Dog on a Stick, McDonalds, Burger King, etc. This food court is DELICIOUS. We weighed our options between Mediterranean food (aka falafel and hummus wraps), Indian food, Chinese food, and Pizza. Eventually we went with Pizza and it was quite incredible. After our lunch we got some Indian Sweets (which would be my downfall if I lived in a place that had them on a regular basis, thank the lord Levuka doesn’t!)
We waited for the bus in front of MHCC and rode our way out to the University of the South Pacific. We explored the campus and I tried to meet up with a professor there to inquire about potential outreach opportunities, or collaborating on research with the outer islands, but after waiting for him to get back from lunch for what seemed like forever, we just left him a note. We “sat in” on about 5 minutes of a lecture but got bored when it was about forms for students to fill out. We took a free shuttle bus for students (we look like students still, right?!) around the campus and explored the oceanfront near the marine building, swung on swings, and balanced on logs.
We walked our way over to Cost-U-Less, the Fijian version of Costco, which is frequented by ex-pats who want cheese its ($30.79), Quaker Oat Meal ($12.75), Special K with Red Berries ($27.88), Frozen Berries ($17.99), Salmon ($106.74), Suave Shampoo ($5.49), etc. and who actually have that much money to spend on stuff. For example, four bagels (and honestly who sells bagels in 4s? They are supposed to be in 6’s everyone knows that) is $9.99. I think when I am in Suva I go to Cost-U-Less (affectionately renamed by PCVs to be Cost-U-More) we go there just to remind ourselves that those things exist for those rich enough to purchase items there. We just go to drool. I have never bought something there because honestly, I don’t need cheez its bad enough to spend 30 bucks on them.
After our Cost-U-More adventure, we took the bus back towards the city center, got off on the outskirts because buses were just driving us crazy, and walked to the Fiji Museum. We ended up getting to pay the Student Price ($5) which was pretty awesome. It is a really cool museum, and they actually allow you to take pictures (which I personally think all Museums should allow you to do, whats the point of information and history if its not shared? Why are museums hoarding all the knowledge?!) We saw the original canoes, clubs, cannibal forks, whaling history, a masi (pounded inner bark of the mulberry tree into a fabric) exhibit, a natural history section, there was even a section on religion and the first Capital, Levuka! There was a lot of information about the different cultures that have influenced Fiji over the years which was interesting in drawing connections and realizing where certain traditions originated from.
Once we finished our informative museum tour we headed over to Gloria Jeans coffee to enjoy some iced drinks and watch music videos that they were showing. We stayed for about an hour and a half talking about our PC experience, what we are doing, and where we go from here. It was a wonderful conversation as I always anticipate with over coffee with other volunteers.
After our conversation, Alicia headed home and I walked back to where I was staying. On the way I walked with an old Fijian man named Raki who told me stories about his village across the bay. There is a rock that looks like a thumbs up, and two sets of rocks he called the “daughters breasts” and the “mothers breasts” the story behind them is the daughter went to the mother and father to ask to get married and the father gave a thumbs up and said okay! Kind of funny, but just an example of how ecology and natural formations influence cultural stories. He took me down to the water front and gave me two wooden “swords” that he carved and carved my name into them. He was very kind and it was good to spend time with a Fijian after being out of my village for a week now.
After that encounter I headed to MH to buy a few oranges and cabbage to make dinner. Went back to the hotel, made dinner, and watched Australian News.
This day was a great boost to morale and showing me that life can be “normal” comparatively speaking. I wouldn’t want this every day, I miss my village terribly, but am grateful for the day of normalcy