Because this is better than talking to a rock about it….
So yes I have been here a while, and yes I have a long time left to go, but it is the same situations and things that happen that make me literally want to bang my head on a rock until I either lose consciousness or my memory. Here are just a few examples I can think of off the top of my head…
- Repetitive questioning: What to know what a your first conversation with a villager will be? Here it goes… “Hi, What is your name? Where do you live? Where do you come from? Is that near (New York/Hollywood/Las Vegas)? How old are you? Are you married? How many in the family? Are your parents still alive? Do they work? What do you do here? Will you marry a Fijian boy?” Now there are slight variations on this structure for example if you happen to meet them while you are walking someplace add to that list “Where are you going? Where are you coming from? Or How Far?”
Now, normally this doesn’t bother me. I know it is coming and just have my standard answers ready. Its no big deal. However maybe a 3 weeks ago there was this new guy in the village (he used to live here and just moved back or something like that) and I’m really sorry but he just grossed me out. He is around 50, very large, smelly, always texting or just dialing numbers on his phone even when talking to you as if you are burden (even though he initiated the conversation and wont let it go), and he doesn’t have any toes on his left foot. Right. But its not like its just a stump, I have never seen it, his foot is just ballooned up wrapped in gauze and covered in a plastic bag mess with flies swarming around it. Cute, right? He literally stopped me from walking to the Turaga ni Koro’s house to complete some business and forced me to sit down next to his stump foot while he sat in a chair with his stump too close for comfort and regaled me with at least an hours worth of questions… now I normally would be okay with it… but he would literally repeat back what I said in the form of another question… or say something back to me completely false that I would have to correct for the 12th time so it took forever to get away from this guy. Eventually I just stood up (quite rude to do I must admit) said ‘I’m sorry I really have to get this completed tonight before he goes to grog’, said I would chat with him soon and left. At this point in time I though he was just a visitor coming for a week. I didn’t know he’d be here to stay. Stay tuned later in this post for the return of Stump-Foot man in Frustration #5.
- Stereotypes & Accusations: This is something I was prepared for when I came here. I mean honestly I had stereotypes of Fijians and still have some of them unfortunately. But it really pisses me off when someone who is a really good friend of mine in the village, that I talk to on a regular basis, says, “Oh but Rusila you are rich.” And I just stare at them. Oh right that $75,000 of student loans I still have to pay off and the fact that the only money in my bank account back in the states is what I got for my Christmas presents this year, the fact that my volunteer stipend is less than quite a few people in my village make, I’m still rich.
Now I know what your saying back home, but we are rich in opportunity, etc etc. and that is very true. I do not disagree for an instant that just because of where I was born my life is completely different than had I been born here in Fiji. I just don’t see beyond the present right now… and presently the other people in my village are richer than me and still bumming onions and tea off me because of my presumed wealth.
An accusation that was thrown at me last night that I couldn’t disagree with and that just made me think a lot was that I had no culture. I was at a grog session talking to the Methodist Pastor about the fact that I am not part of a Mataqali (clan) in the village. He jokes around with me and says that I am part of one clan and I refute it and say I am part of all of them. It would be unfair for me to claim allegiance to one and insist on working with all of them. So I just say that since we have 7 clans, that each day of the week I belong to a different one. He then pushed it further and said, well that into which clan will I marry. I retorted with, ‘I will marry one from each, have 7 husbands, 7 houses and 7 farms that I visit on different days of the week. Somehow this turned into an accusation that America has no culture and that’s why we are so different. I tried explaining that there are so many different cultures in America that the mixing of all of them creates unique sub cultures but the point was mute.
- Hand holding incident: This happened on Friday and I was absolutely (and for no reason) pissed off about it. So I am still getting over being sick and one clan in my village was bringing foods to the Provincial Administrator in town to then have grog and request information and assistance on various projects that I am involved in starting and following through including fish ponds, chicken farms, ginger farming, and an eco tourism business. I was told to go. And it was good I definitely should have gone, but I just really didn’t want to. I knew how it would pan out and was so uninterested in sitting there for 7 hours counting ceiling tiles. In meetings like this the women sit in the house and shoot the shit while the men sit outside drinking grog and talking business. After an hour sitting inside doing nothing I looked desperately at my Aunt and she asked me to come outside to drink grog with her. It was appropriate because it was not my request to go, I was asked to accompany someone else thankfully!
Well someone in my village came and got me from the Methodist Pastors house around 3pm where we were watching movies to leave on the carrier into town. So I got up and was walking back to my house, in an obvious hurry I might add, and as I was walking past the house before mine, an older gentleman waiting on the porch sticks out his hand to greet me. So I grab it thinking it would be quick, all the while explaining I have to go home so I can change into a sulu jaba to go to the meeting. Well he just stands there holding my hand and looking at me for about 5 seconds before I try pulling my hand away, he clasps down really tightly and I looked him dead in the eye, said probably a bit too loudly, “If you WANT me to be at this meeting for you, you need to let go of my hand right now so I can go get ready.” He held it for another second or two, still squeezing too hard, before letting go and I walked off to my house to get changed. Stupid really but I was in a hurry, and doing something for them, I didn’t want to go, I was already late, I just wanted to change and go and shaking someones hand forcibly was not a good time.
- I love you: Now to preface this, I have never been told this before by a man except my father and other relatives. In Fiji, I don’t think it holds the same weight as it does in America. People will date for years in America before saying that, granted a lot of other times its quicker but still, you don’t say it the first time you meet someone. Just saying. I guess this proves I’m not a “love at first sight” kinda person…
There are a few men in the village who say this to me every single day. At grog, one man (who is married and says it jokingly I’m pretty sure) at every round of grog passed around will look up and say, “Rusila, I love you.” to which a resounding chorus of “OSO!” is shouted which is like reproach or reproval of something that has been said. The person I dated said he loved me after 2 days and I laughed- I’m not very graceful in awkward situations. I get told “I love you” on a very regular basis.
Now this is where the cultural differences play a big role. From being an American my perspective is that that phrase has a lot of weight. You don’t just go around saying it to people all the time. In Fiji however; it is thrown around like hello. But I’ve noticed it only being said to me… granted I don’t observe families like a fly on the wall but I imagine it is said with more frequency to me that it is said to the wives in the village which makes me sad and uneasy. I like it when it is only said when you really mean it.
- Being a Judge: So yesterday the Methodist Youth in our village had an events day which was really fun. They played net ball (some kind of variation on basketball that I don’t understand), and volleyball. At 7:30 PM we met at the hall for each of the youth groups (there are 4) to perform a skit that they wrote and sing a song that they wrote. Prizes were handed out for the best teams that the games, the best individual players, the best skit, the best song and the two best dressed people. Well I had gotten to the hall, mistakenly right on time, which here means I was at least a solid 30 minutes early. Well as I was waiting, Ma and Sia gave me a salusalu (garland of flowers) for being one of the judges of the competition, and told me about what I had to do. I was told by the two of them, who put the whole day together, that me and the Stump-Foot man would be judges of the competition to chose one group for best song one group for best skit and a pair for best dressed. Well I quickly ran back to my house to get a spare battery and when I came back Stump-Foot was sitting in my spot, stole my pen, my lollies, and fan. I ignored it, sat down and said good evening. Well he looks over at me with Sia in the background and proceeds to explain to me how this will work… I tell him Sia already told me that I’m good. Well he said, that he, and he alone, will be choosing the best song and skit, and that I would be choosing the best dressed. I freakin saw red my friends. I was silently livid. Who was he to tell me to judge dress codes while he judged the skits and songs… I was furious but surprised myself with how sickeningly simple my response came out. I just said, “Oh well I mistakenly assumed we would be working together on this. Forgive me for being so foolish.” and stared straight ahead. Mind you this is after he sat there and spelled out the names of the groups to me, even though he also had handed me a sheet of paper with the names of the groups on them. I seriously think he believes me to be retarded. Sexist Stump-Foot.
So those are my current frustrations that I wanted to lay out on the line because events like these seem to be fairly continuous issues that I deal with regularly. They are petty, yes I am aware. There are bigger issues in the world being tackled by others with more grace than I have shown in certain situations but I am who I am and just do my best to handle what comes my way.
Next post will be an update on projects because that is WAY more positive, fun to talk about, and I just cant wait to share all the new and exciting stuff that is going on in Natokalau!
Loloma tu yani