Well goodness its been a while since my last blog post. Sorry about that folks, but amazingly enough, life out here can get a bit busy!
This post has no particular theme. I just want to give you an idea what my 2013 has been like so far!
- I finally opened the bank account for our composting piggery project in conjunction with the UNDP. Its much more difficult than I had imagined to open an account. Now, I don’t know if its this difficult in the states, but it took me nearly 2 months and talking to about a dozen people thanks to my non-resident status. But Account= Open!
- So now that the account is open and the Memorandum of Agreement has been signed, we are just 2 short weeks away from receiving our first payment and beginning construction. Stoked beyond words doesn’t begin to explain how I feel.
- I went to a wedding in the next village over on my birthday, the church portion made me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon, but its nice that at least I know understand enough Fijian to know that their vows are very similar to ours (Do you ____ take this man ____ so be your husband, to have and to hold, in sickness in health, yadda yadda yadda, as long as you both shall live? I do… I do…) I pretty much pretended all the festivities were for me, “A feast?! You guys really shouldn’t have!”I had 3 different groups of people sing happy birthday, and hassled a bit for my age. Now that I’m approaching the 25 year mark in my life, marriage is imminent. I tend to laugh off these situations because, well lets be honest, I’m no where near that point! I got home from the wedding at 7:30pm (we started drinking kava there at noon…) and I made a quick dinner and headed to my favorite house in the village for my birthday “lose” (said loh-say) or mix of kava. It was me and 4 of my best friends in the village. We just sat around laughing and playing music until 2:30 am. A fantastic birthday!
- That Sunday I had another birthday celebration with my good friend Tui whose birthday is on January 7th. His mom had us made matching clothes called kalavata (literally means same color), my green sulu jaba, and Tuis brown shirt were the same pattern. And I spent the night drinking grog with my family here. It was really an awesome, seemingly week long celebration!
My Green Sulu Jaba
Tui in his matching shirt, with his sisters Luisa and Baki
- I went swimming in our tabu area (Marine Protected Area) and saw some really spectacular and promising things. First were 2 sea snakes (Dadakulaci), they are incredibly poisonous but their mouths are too small to bite you. They are really cool to swim next too, but when the shoot up from the sea floor next to you it’s a little terrifying! I then saw a group of fish spawn, this was a first for me and really cool to witness first hand. After a few hours I happened upon a huge barracuda. I would say it was 4 1/2 feet long. Here we call them ogo. I was actually pretty scared of this thing. Its mouth was huge and it just swam in front of me about 10 meters out really slowly. It then circled twice before disappearing. After my camera died (unfortunately) I stumbled upon 2 sharks! This was another first for me. They were about 1 meter long each, White tipped reef sharks. The first one had its head under a piece of coral so I swam closer to make sure I was seeing it correctly… yeah I was. So I went back up to the surface to watch it for a while. Just as I was about to swim away, I looked up in the distance and saw another one hunting. Just absolutely incredible. I got back to the village right as the afternoon rainstorm came rolling in. I was left with awesome memories and a pretty gnarly sunburn that has just now finished peeling.
My Baraccuda stalker
The amazing view as the afternoon showers came in
- The first full week of the new year, we have what is called the “Renewal Week” here in Fiji. After church services every night, a different clan (mataqali) hosts a grog session at the community hall. These grog sessions are accompanied by the band, plenty of grog, and the women dressing up their male cousins in dresses and sulu jaba’s, and then adorning their heads with baby powder. Its easily the most entertaining part of the new years celebrations.
Men in dresses with powder, gotta love New Years!
- Another Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji, Jeremy, came to my village with his parents to see what village life is like. His father was wonderful to have here, he is a retired diplomat and just did a fantastic job here. We made a lovo (earthen oven), provided tea, the women did a meke (traditional dance) and we walked around the village and talked about projects and what I’m doing here. He gave gifts to the village from San Francisco, a t-shirt for the Chief which I have seen him wear on multiple occasions, pins, colored pencils and crayons for the kids, and jelly beans! He gave a speech at the end of the day talking about how the environment and our lives are so interconnected that we must protect them both to ensure our future. It really had an impact on the people present, its amazing how beneficial having a visitor can be. Because of his speech I have started a program with the youth in the village (20-35 year olds are considered youth here…) all about environmental preservation and a “Ridge to Reef” approach to environmental resource management in the village. It’s a really exciting time!
The Women doing our Meke
The Lovo lunch we made :)
- I started my last attempt at a farm. My other two attempts have been thwarted. So this time I’m growing in my home. I have 2 kinds of basil, chives and mint started in old egg cartons sitting on my windowsill. Tomorrow, a good friend of mine is bringing 2 kinds of banana suckers over so we can plant them in a row behind my house, hopefully when they grow up they will provide some shade for my house. In a few weeks im going to start tomatoes and bell peppers inside before transplanting them in front of my house once they are a bit older. Lastly, I will be starting a lettuce garden made from hanging 2 liter water bottles. Vertical gardening with an emphasis on recycling. What more could an environmental volunteer ask for?
- Last night was highly entertaining… I went to my favorite people’s house and sat down while the mother was cooking. I though it was just fried eggplant, a common fare here. Well I asked about it and they told me it was “luvena” which just means, a child. They immediately saw the concern on my face and explained that it was Mackerel eggs that they had fried up. Then asked if I wanted some. Well who can say no to something that sounds that appetizing… hahaha! They showed me what they looked like before they were cooked and I have to say, I was slightly terrified before that first bite. In all honesty, it wasn’t that bad at all though! One of the women there told me her husband, the village tattoo artist, was giving another friend of mine a tattoo at their other house, so I went up there to check it out. It was interesting for sure. And very painful looking. Its an improvised machine, and I was just mesmerized by it. The guy was getting a full sleeve done but only got his upper arm outlined before he had to stop for the night. We made a mix of grog and were hanging around, slowly but surely more people and more bags of grog came until at around 2am I had to just pretend that I had to use the toilet and run away!
Sakapo’s outline for his new tattoo
So those are just some of the highlights of the year so far! No real theme, just snapshots of life out here. Its ungodly hot right now. Just that stifling, humid, stagnancy that makes you wish for a tropical depression to come through just so you get some wind and rain. We are in the middle of our summer right now so no relief in the near future from this heat, but praise the generosity of the village! I have inherited a broken fan that I fixed up!