Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bula!!

The whole training group at the Nadave site. All wearing our Peace Corps sulus!

Sa vakacava tiko? How are you?! That is one of the few things I remember from Fijian so far. I have landed safely and am currently residing in my host village. I will be here for the next 9 weeks! So let me recap:

  • Arrived in LA on the 18th - met everyone and they all seem very nice - some quick training on how to get there and what to do when we arrive
  • Leave LA - Arrive Nadi: drive 5 hours along coral coast - stop for quick lunch.
  • IT'S HOT HERE!
  • Drank my first bottle of Fiji water!
  • Arrived for orientation - the whole group stayed there, took some of my first language courses, safety training where they try to scare the crap out of us so we are on our gaurd.
  • Move in with host family: I am living in a small wooden 2 bedroom house. the bathroom and shower are ACTUALLY INSIDE! I can't believe that really. I am very lucky. I don't know my parents names, but I call then Na (mom) and Ta (dad). I have become known as "Tuli" around my village because Juliana is "Tuliana" (the J is a ch here, so the name is changed to have a T) and I just decided to shorten it to Tuli. I actually really like it.
  • Oh yeah - you are probably wondering about the Kava - They drink it A LOT. We have had already 3 drinking sessions since I've been here! They threw one the day I arrived at orientation to welcome us and I had my first drinks of Kava - tastes like dirt. Here it is called yaqona (pronounced "yangona" because the Q=ng here). It DEFINITELY numbs your tongue. There was also a welcoming ceremony when we arrived (me and the 4 other volunteers and 1 language teacher) at Vatarua. I did not drink that time because I have so wonderfully acquired the same illness I had mere days before my thesis defense. So since everyone drinks from the same "tonoa" (kava bowl) I didnt want to infect everyone. Not too sanitary.
  • I have a telephone now! You can call me for mere cents a minute and it will make my day! I have heard Skype is the cheapest way. My number is 912-5016 and I think if it is from a cell phone you have to dial +679 then the number and you need the + sign. But if you use Skype you just have to select the country you are calling and then put just the phone number there. It is free for me to recieve calls so call all you want! Text too! Thanks to Stephen I have a great phone and look forward to hearing from you. Texts are free for me to receive.
I would love to write more but I have to get back to training!! Keep in touch!
xoxo

Monday, May 18, 2009

I leave .... NOW!

video

Hello everyone! I am just testing this whole video upload thingamajig. I leave for the airport in less than an hour and hopefully will have an uneventful journey over to Fiji. I am supposed to have limited communications while I am there so I am not sure when I will be able to let everyone know I am safe and sound. So just assume no news is good news. I had a nice last day in NC in which I had brunch with my dad, played video games with Mike and Jody, saw Jeff Dunham at the RBC center, and then munched on some Asian food with some more friends and family. And now my stomach is in knots. I keep getting asked "so are you excited!?" and my answer has been "I am tired!" And being the total geek that I made an graph of excitement level: there are ups and downs and I've extended it to beyond the time I am currently in (x-axis=time, y-axis=level of excitement). I am in the dip of excitement now because I am sooooo tired and just dreading the long journey there. There is a small increase in excitement I can expect when I arrive due to being so happy I am in Fiji, then a dip from the stomach parasites and lack of communication skills, then an increase to be expected in the coming months. :)

I am so bad with goodbyes, and can't even bring myself to finish writing this update! But I have to pack up the carry on because I need to leave in like 5 minutes! AHHhhhhhhh. Miss everyone already. Keep in touch! Write letters! Send hugs!

Friday, May 15, 2009

2 day Countdown ...

This is what not wanting to pack anymore looks like ...


This is what being in the middle of all that stuff and not knowing what to pack next looks like ...

This is what 2 years worth of stuff going to Fiji looks like.

And this is what my new haircut looks like! Seemed like the best way when I could possibly be washing my hair with a bucket of cold water AND it's hot and humid there.

So - in less than 1 hour, I will be in the 2 day countdown to leaving for Fiji. I am more aware than ever that I will not be back in this house or town or state for a very long time. As I was squirting shampoo and conditioner into small travel size bottles, I started to think "I will just leave the rest here to use for when I come back" but realized that it will likely be used up by guests before that point arrives. I spent the day packing packing and packing. I packed and repacked my things a total of ... 4 times? 3 times for bag 1 and 2 times for bag 2. I've finally gotten everything in but I am about 8 pounds overweight on the bags, so if I have to pay for that so be it ... I can't decide what to take out! Not my flippers, not my crazy creek chair, and definitely not my giant bag of Swedish Fish. A decision WAS made for me though ... no water proof camera. It is broken. WHAT?! I haven't used it in ages and it is broken ... perfect. I added a new piece of luggage though - a pelican case. It will carry my photography stuff in it and keep it safe in the humidity of Fiji. The camera store talked me into it. I'm a sucker! I think I have gotten all my last minute items and hopefully can relax in the next couple of days.

Lift-off at 1120 am on Monday for LA and 930pm on Tuesday for Fiji and land in Fiji at 10somthing am on Thursday!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

This just in ...

Countdown until Fiji: 14 days. What does this mean exactly? It means ...
  • 14 more hot showers
  • 14 more days of constant internets and gmail/facebook chatting
  • 14 more days of reliable electricity and water
  • 14 more days of flushing toilets
  • 14 more days of actually trying to care how my hair looks
  • 14 more days of watching trashy television
  • 14 more days of clean underwear
  • 14 more days of no kava in my body
  • 14 more days of any kind of weather below 80 degrees and humidity below 80%
  • 14 more days of wearing pants
  • 14 more days of junk food
The packing list has almost completely been covered, there are a few things missing that I will pick up from Great Outdoor Provisions in the coming weeks I bet. I've been stocking up on cotton undies - which I am told wear out pretty quickly when I am washing them on an ACTUAL washboard ... not my abs, but the real metal kind. Also have my leatherman ready to fix anything and ... of course ... travel Scrabble. I wonder how many people I will be able to teach in Fiji to play Scrabble. According to my research, the Fijian alphabet is similar to ours, but letters like F, H, P, X, and Z are rarely used - so much for those high scoring letters! I found a clip of someone reading a phrase in Fijian and it is here: http://www.omniglot.com/soundfiles/udhr/udhr_fijian.mp3. You have my permission to be very amazed when I have the ability to say all that without laughing, spitting, or blowing raspberries everytime I mess up. For those who are curious, he is saying: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Oh yeah ... I'm deep.

As far as communication goes while I am away, I will have a cell phone - I KNOW! Bet you didn't expect to hear that. I obviously don't have that number yet, but I will also have Skype on my laptop but I don't expect easy internet access. I think calls and texts to me will be free (for me) and as soon as I figure out the cheapest way for you to call I will post it. You can search for me on Skype using my email address (julana.r.miller@gmail.com). Also - you can send mail! I know ... step back into the early 90s why don't you, that's what you are thinking. Well, snail mail can be fun! My address for training is:

Juliana R Miller, PCV
Peace Corps/Fiji
Private Mail Bag
Suva, Fiji Islands
South Pacific

I am going to have an amazon.com wishlist of books since I predict having free reading time while I am there. I promise to be good with communication, but I can't make any promises on
the Fijian mail services. I have also been told that packages be sent in padded envelopes not boxes as often as possible because boxes get opened more often.

2 weeks to go and counting ....