This is the fourth day of straight rain. Now, I don’t know about you… but I get a little cabin-fevery in the village when everyone has their door closed and is hiding away.
Here in Fiji, they think that if your head gets wet from the rain you will get sick. So you see people with the oddest things protecting their head- a washcloth, some have umbrellas, anything with a hood, plates, and my personal favorite… the plastic grocery bag with the handles tied in a little bow!
With all this rain, and Lake Washington (the affectionate name I have given the pond in front of my house) growing every day, here is my post explaining what on earth I do.
Now many of my posts may have you thinking, “My goodness what an exciting life she leads! Living in Fiji, going to workshops, these projects! Every day must just be an adventure and a half!” Well my friends, sorry to burst your bubble, but you would be wrong. There are many a day here where the highlight of the day is making breakfast. Then its all downhill from there. Volunteers find many activities to fill their time and this post will explain to you how I have passed the time these past 4 days in my 21.5x 13.1 foot house (yes, it’s a whopping 281.65 square feet).
- I washed EVERYTHING. Well, okay not really everything because when its raining I have to hang my clothes in the library and they take a long time to dry (so far its been 39 hours). But I did wash 2 skirts, 1 sulu, both of my towels, 7 shirts, 3 tank tops, 2 shorts, 1 washcloth, 2 sports bras, and 17 pairs of underwear. I also decided to wash my foot mats (which embarrassingly enough haven’t been washed since I got here in July 2011…) I even washed one of my sheets. That burned a solid 4 hours one day.
- I baked bread. Not just any bread… but cinnamon raisin bread! Yeah, I know. Its pretty awesome. Normally they don’t sell raisins on this island so I have to substitute dates, but I found raisins and it turned out pretty good! Stovetop baking has its drawbacks… namely that the bottom cooks well before the top of the bread does so you end up with a 3/4 cooked, fairly flat, loaf of bread. But either way it was delicious… and the next morning I made French toast out of it.
- Watched movies. In the past 4 days I have watched, “The Goonies”, “Red”, “Toy Story 3”, “The Last King of Scotland”, “Kung Fu Panda I and II”, “Dogma” and “City Island”. It’s embarrassing to admit my movie addiction here. But there are only so many ways to kill time.
- I counted how long it took for my hair to dry. 7 hours, 14 minutes.
- I made a rain gauge to keep track of how much it is raining. I just finished it today so Ill update you later with a day by day total!
- I started making a magazine bowl, taking 1/2 pages of magazines, folding them lengthwise (about 1/4″ width). I used a glue stick to glue the edge down and then super glue to stick each piece to the next. I used about 22 half pages and it made the base of the bowl about 3″across. I’m going to finish it today and then when I go into Suva next week I will buy some tacky glue or something to finish the edges.
- I cleaned out my water filter and cleaned the mold growing inside my nalgene.
- I cleaned my toilet, shower, and drains.
- I “adopted” a puppy. AKA I feed it when it wanders into my house… but isnt he cute?!
- I am in the process of making Oat Milk right now. With no blender it will take a bit longer… but I hate milk. And am tired of using powdered milk for the things I need to use milk for… so I’m making oat milk to use.
- Grog. It’s the best time waster. I went to a couple of new houses to drink grog for a few hours in the evenings. Had one of the most disappointing conversations one night. I was sitting in a small house lit only by a hurricane lamp giving the eerie glow of a fake campfire situation. A group of the “night divers”, people who go fishing with spears at night and also collect sea cucumbers, were sitting around along with their wives. We started talking about fishing- go figure. I had heard a story earlier in the week about divers who were taken from the Tokou Marine Protected Area- Tokou is the village next to mine and the MPAs line up… aka the far edge of our northeastern boundary lines up with their MPA edge creating one continuous MPA for the two villages. Well. The story I heard from the Mata ni Tikina (the Districts government representative) was that divers were fishing in their MPA so they called the police and the fisheries department (exactly what they are supposed to do) confiscated the boat, and questioned the divers. Well the story I heard from the divers… they were out diving in what they thought was a gap between the two MPAs. Their boat was taken, the sea cucumbers they caught were thrown back, and they were taken into town for questioning by the Mata ni Tikina, the Fisheries Department, and the Police. Their excuse? “We didn’t know it was an MPA” Bull shit. I just sat in the corner. My face dimly illuminated by this hurricane lamp and felt like crying. So I carefully proceeded to questioning.
“Why were you over there”
Divers: “We didn’t know it was MPA”
Me: “Okay, but you know that we have our MPA there. Right?”
Me: “And you know that Tokou (the next village) has a MPA right?”
Me: “Where did you think that Tokou’s MPA started?”
Me: “Where does out MPA end?”
Me: “Our MPA ends at the patch of mangroves on the point between here and Tokou”
Divers: “We were past that”
Me: “In Tokous MPA”
Divers: “We didn’t know”
Me: “Okay, that’s fine. Now you know. What were you diving for?”
Divers: “Sucuwalu” (Sea cucumbers which are sold for quite a bit of money to the Chinese)
Me: “Okay, how many had you caught?”
Divers: “4. big like this… (Proceeds to show length based on arm distance… it’s a more accurate length measurement than just holding your hands apart from one another. Based on his arm span I would say the cucumbers they caught were approximately 20 inches, or about 50 cm. a good size and worth a lot of money- upwards of $70-$100 a piece.)
Me: And you were going to sell them?
Me:” Do you have your fishing license?” (Knowing full well none of them do- out of all the divers and fishermen in our village only 2 have licenses. A license is required only if you intend to sell what you have caught. If you fish for your dinner, no license is required.
Divers: “Yes.” Replied 1 of the 4. “And because I have it that means they can fish with me if I am the one selling it.”
Me: “Technically, but the only divers in the village that have the licenses are Alex and Percy.”
Divers: “No I have mine.”
Me: “Okay, but the other people with you should have theirs too.”
Divers: “They shouldn’t have questioned us like they did. They shouldn’t have taken our boat and charged us. On the first offence they are only supposed to give us a warning”
Me: “So you know the penalties?”
Me: “Do you understand why they did what they did? Why they took your boat, threw back your sea cucumbers, had you questioned and fined?”
Divers: “No, its not fair”
Me: “MPA rules are set by the village. If that is their system you have to respect it. It may not be fair, but they are trying to protect their own qoliqoli (expanse of village owned ocean) and you had intruded.”
Divers: “But I have my license that says I can fish in the qoliqolis from our village down to town”
Me: “But you can’t fish or dive in an MPA.”
Divers: “But the boundaries aren’t set by the government. How am I supposed to know”
Me: “Don’t bullshit me. You all know very well where the tabu areas lie. Especially between here and the next village. Just because you have a license doesn’t give you permission to fish in the MPA its tabu (taboo) to do that. You broke their rules and they took action.”
Divers: “But they come into our tabu area and dive and fish”
Me: “Then do exactly what they did and catch them. Bring them into the fisheries department with the police and have them fined.”
This continued on for a while. Then the conversation turned to a varivoce (Humphead wrasse) that this particular diver caught a few months back. I interjected and told them it was illegal to catch the varivoce (humphead wrasse), the kalia (bumphead parrotfish) and the vonu (turtles). To which a woman in the back who I have a pretty strong distaste for said something to the effect of, well when we are sick we need to eat the kalia it makes us better. And the other ones we use for birthdays. I just stared at them feeling uttterly hopeless. The conversation eventually turned and they realized how upset I was about all of this. They promised to get their fishing licenses. (I’m bringing up the department just to make sure) and promised to stop catching the endangered species (which they didn’t catch very often but still… its illegal) and agreed to respect the boundaries of the MPAs. It was a really draining evening.
- So other than feel like my work here is worthless… I cleaned up my entire house.
- I finished 2 books I had started a while back.
- Practiced my fijian a bit.
- I wrote letters that I cant send until I get more envelopes from Suva.
That’s really about it. It is 1:49… I finished writing a support letter and request for our fish ponds to get the water piping. Now i just got called to our community hall for a reguregu, ceremony where the different clans and family members bring gifts for a funeral which is where i will probably spend my afternoon.