Happy 2013 everyone!
I celebrated here in Fiji in true Fijian style, drinking grog. There was one wedding proposal at the house behind mine so I started with them at about 5pm after the man’s clan presented the woman’s clan with the whales tooth to ask permission for her to marry him. We haven’t had a wedding in this village since October 2011… so we are long overdue for some wedding festivities! So the kava session finished up there at about 11:40pm. I quickly went home to change into a sulu jaba (the matching skirt and top outfits) to go to the hall and ring in the new year. I stayed at the community hall for a few minutes until it was officially midnight, and then was called out by a few friends to go to the other side of the village. So we left and went to an abandoned house on the far side of the village for a little midnight whiskey celebration.
We call drinking alcohol after grog a, “wash down” or just wash. In Fijian its called, “sava” which literally means wash. They think that after drinking too much kava, your stomach needs to be washed and that the alcohol will clear it up. It is also believed that if you wash regularly, you can attempt to prevent kanikani, which is when you get really dry, scaly skin which happens when you drink too much grog. Its pretty gross and usually affects the hands and feet first, but some serious grog drinkers are just constantly covered in white, flakey scales…. Like body dandruff…
Anyway, after a few nips of whiskey me and my friends went back to the community hall. Its also tradition during the new year to drink together from midnight until the next morning. They were literally drinking at the hall until 7:30am… I am not that strong. So I went back and was sitting on the porch with my friend, which has an awesome view of the stars now since the cyclone blew the roof off. I decided to go home and check my phone real quick. I live about 60 meters from the community hall. Not very far at all.. I mistakenly thought I could make it home and back with no issues… which brings me to the next New Years tradition… water.
Now maybe I think there is more meaning behind the whole New Years water fight because of my high school english teacher, and the book, “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” but it is said that the presence of water whether in the form of rain, someone being submerged in a lake etc. can be thought of as a symbolic rebirth, an adult baptism if you will. So maybe my literary brain is telling me there is more meaning behind the weeklong water fight than there really is, but regardless, New Years rings in a week long celebration of people running around the village with buckets, bottles, containers, really any container, and bombarding people.
So I went home with no problem. On my way back, I forgot to be sneaky and stay in the shadows and was sneak attacked by some kid hiding behind my house and soaked in water. Realizing the futility of going back into my house and changing (I only have one door, and it squeaks something terrible so people know when I leave) I just continued back to the hall. When I got into the hall the women laughed at me and said it was good luck (right…). I was told that I should have changed, of course, because staying in wet clothes means that you will get a stomachache in Fiji. Another one of those weird, inexplicable, yet somehow true statements that I have encountered here.
I ended up going home at around 3am. There is a point with grog that many of us volunteers have reached, when you are just SO full of liquids that the thought of putting another bilo (coconut shell cup of kava) to your lips is nauseating. Some of us try to be strong and stick it out only to go home later and throw up all that delicious kava. And if you didn’t think it tasted terrible the first time, try having it come up the other way. Most of us only make the mistake of going past our limits once… its not something you want to experience twice.
So that was my New Years 2013. What it really made me think about was how much has changed since last year, which is really the stereotypical retrospective and nostalgic feeling for the past year we are all supposed to experience , right? Here, we don’t have the News Channel showing the party in New York, a video reel of highlights from 2012, a cheesy message of hope for 2013, the 10 second countdown, that song that plays at midnight with the champagne toast and cheesy midnight kiss. We just have each other, the people sitting next to you on the floor who you have spent the last year with, who you know nearly everything about, singing yet another church hymn or sigidrigi song, dressed up in our best sulu jaba’s and bula shirts, enjoying the company and counting our blessings.
I have no idea what 2013 will hold for me. Technically my service ends on July 4th (although I am applying for an extension). Our composting piggery was funded and we are starting construction next month, we are doing coral planting and mangrove planting, waste management with the women’s group, biological monitoring training, organic gardening workshops, attempting to get a new community hall built, and a lot of other things. If my extension isn’t approved, I could be back in America… the thought of which absolutely terrifies me. July 4 is a short 6 months from now. In 6 months I could have to say goodbye to the people who have been my family, friends, support system, really my everything here for the past 19 months… I’m not ready to say goodbye.
So, 2013, bring it on.