So I can’t speak to the damage caused by cyclone Evan in other areas in Fiji other than it was terrible. Yasawa I Rara was probably hardest hit, along with Lautoka along the Western Coast of Viti Levu, the main island in Fiji. All volunteers are safe. I apologize to all parents who read this that I cant provide you with more information about the specifics of your volunteer, but please know they are safe and the office did everything possible to ensure their safety during this natural disaster.
Vanua Levu, the north island, was hit very hard. Many places throughout Fiji still have no water or electricity. Many places the cell towers fell and there is no reception for your volunteers to call.
The Ovalau volunteers returned yesterday. Taking the ferry and then the bus down to my village was depressing, there were many downed trees and everything just looks dead.
In my village the water is very low, so I went to town today to purchase new pipes and pipe glue to replace our old water pipes in Tokou. See the blog post “My Peace Corps Day” for images of what that water infrastructure looks like and you will understand why it broke during the cyclone. But if you don’t want to look back, here is what it looks like when its fully functioning…
My village lost the roof to our community hall. We have replaced it with various pieces of corrugated roofing iron to prevent further damage. A community hall is the central point of village life. Fundraisers, Events, Grog Sessions, Meetings, etc all occur in the community hall. Its hard to see our hall unable to be used, it’s a detriment to village life. Our community hall is the oldest on the entire island and we are hoping that with this disaster we may be able to obtain funding for a new, sturdy, community hall that is actually big enough to meet the needs of our growing village.
My home was fine, very dirty inside from the gaps in my walls, windows and under the door it just allowed a lot of small pieces of cement from my walls to blow inside, grass, leaves, dirt, rocks etc. My mat (ibe) was also soaking wet meaning that my house had quite a bit of rain water enter under the door. Thankfully today is sunny so I am sunning my mat and all other things in my home.
The worst part of this is the damage to the crops. Most of the family farms in the village, on this island, and all throughout Fiji have been decimated. Root crops like dalo and cassava were just washed away. Yaqona plants (one of our main money makers in the village) have been destroyed. Mango season is over. Papaya trees are just gone. Banana trees are gone as well. The hot season is typically a time of limited produce but this cyclone just pushed it to another level. It is going to take years to recover from this. Yaqona takes at least 3 years to grow to a usable size and potency (but a good flavor is obtained after about 5 years), dalo takes around 9-12 months, cassava about the same. Banana trees take nearly a year to produce fruit and an additional 3 weeks for the fruit to ripen. Papaya takes 9-10 months to have ripe fruit. Pineapple takes up to 2 years. These staples of culture and diet are the most difficult aspect of the reconstruction period.
As usual, the people in my village are all smiles. We know we were lucky here. We missed the worst of it. We are blessed to have all our homes. To have water and power available now. My Turaga ni Koro’s face showed the gravity of the situation immediately, but soon turned into that unmistakable and warm Fijian smile that I have fallen in love with here. It’s a long road to recovery from Cyclone Evan. It will take this country years to obtain the same standards of living we are used to , but I know that everyone around the country will meet this challenge with that smile, laughter, and camaraderie that makes Fiji such a unique and wonderful place to be.