Friday, June 19, 2009

Site Announcements ... CHECK!

Pictures on facebook. Click here.

What a big day ... we finally found out where we are going to be placed for the next 2 years of our service. I will be on the island of Ovalau which is off of the east coast of Viti Levu! I could NOT be more excited or happy with my placement. I don't know TOO much about it, but I was told I would get to monitor the Marine Protected area that has been set up by a previous volunteer. Also will be doing some other environmental education outreach, working on cleaning up their piggeries (the villages all have lots of pigs and they are RIGHT on the water, so we are learning to set up a compost piggery so that the waste from the pigs can be recycled as fertilizer! not the most glamorous job, but the MPA monitoring more than makes up for it I think!), setting up other income generating businesses, and more. I will be living in a traditional Fijian bure (for an example google image click here) and can't be more thrilled! I have heard that the other kinds of housing that I could have gotten are like ovens in the hot season. Just imagine living in a tin house in 90 degree weather! I do have water and apparently 24 hour electricity! So lucky. I can't wait to learn more.

I am going to finish up online and go grab some drinks with my friends to celebrate our site placements! I look forward to hearing from you guys. I wrote a few letters to some people but I need people's addresses to be able to write more! So email them on!

Tuli (this name may be changed because everyone keeps calling me Julie and you KNOW I hate that.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What yaqona (kava) looks like.

Me drinking my first/2nd bowl of yaqona. Didnt post the picture after this of me making an icky face.

Me in my first mosquito net!

Flying overFiji upon our arrival!

So, it has been almost one month since arriving in Fiji and already I’ve done more out of the box activities than I would have done in 1 year back home. Who is ready for a list of things you never pictured this Jewish princess doing? Let’s just dive right in shall we?
· Hand washing my clothes! I soaked and then rubbed them with a GIANT bar of soap and scrubbed them on a board made of wood. Soak, rub, scrub, squeeze, rinse, squeeze, hang, wait. I cannot see my clothes lasting 2 years with this cleaning method. There is already a hole in a pair of unmentionables.
· Making jam!!! That’s right, I made jam. During a site visit to current Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) she took us for a nice walk/hike into the woods where she climbed a tree and we collected “Fijian Cherries” off the ground and from the tree. Let’s call them Schnozberries. Then she taught us how to turn those schnozberries into jam – boil, strain, boil, add equal parts sugar to strained berries. Turned out good! I gave the bottle I got to my Na (Fijian mom). She was very excited.
· Beekeeper. I went to a local school in the town nearby where a current PCV is working and got to put on a beekeeping outfit and check out the “hives” (boxes of bees). It was pretty cool feeling invincible in the outfits, except that right as we were walking to where the bees were, the guy said “the suit doesn’t completely protect you, if you get stung and can’t stand the pain, back away slowly or else they will attack.” Yay. But at the end of the day, after all the groups went to see the bees, he brought back one of those slabs filled with honey and we all just dug right in. I felt some guilt stealing all the hard work from the bees, but it was so tasty and delicious the sugar high from the gallon of honey I sucked out of that thing made the guilt disappear. I wanted some apples and no one understood why. Anyone like to hazard a guess?
· Carve a coconut cup. After cracking open a coconut, I scraped out the innards to use for food and then continued to clean out the shell to make it smooth(er) and then had to bury it in a drainage ditch to make it turn black from the sulfur. This brings us to the next bullet of things you never thought I would do …
· Dig in a ditch of mucky crappy grossness trying to find half of a coconut shell. My bilo (Fijian word for cup, so these coconut halves are referred to as bilo ni yaqona or cup for drinking Kava) went missing for a while, but was found later in the night by someone with a shovel who dug it out for me after I gave up. The head of our village (Turaga ni Koro, TNK) stopped by to give me the news about how it was found and then to laugh at me because it smelled soooo bad that one of the trainees said he would not be caught dead drinking from my bilo. I am going to give it to my Ta anyway – he doesn’t have to drink from it. PS: I scrubbed the crap out of it so it smells muuuuch better. And rubbed coconut oil on it to make it smooth and shiny.
· Cooked food in an earth oven called a lovo. It tastes like grilled food because there is that distinct charcoal taste to it. I don’t LOVE lovo food because I don’t usually eat lots of grilled stuff. But it is tasty. I helped wrap a fish with coconut milk concoction in some leaves. Crazy huh? I wrapped up a very liquidy … liquid … in leaves and it stayed in, then put them on red hot rocks to cook. Neato.

Lately the language has been a little frustrating for me. I already feel like I am picking it up a little slower than the rest of my group, but a couple days ago I would have given anything to be able to snap my finger and change the Fijian language! In terms of pronouns, there are … almost 15 or so. Not just I, You, He/She/It/We/Us/Them kind of pronouns. But there are specific ones that are for 1st person including the listener and 1st person excluding the listener, 2nd and 3rd person. AND as far as singular and plural – try singular, a group of 2 people, a group of 3-5 people, and a group of over 5 people. AHH! Then with family relationships you have different names for your cousins depending on whether they are the children of a sibling of the same sex as your parent or the opposite sex. Then even that is different with your mom and your dad. And there are different names for your siblings depending on if they are the same sex or opposite sex. Then within the “opposite sex” grouping, different names depending on if they are older or younger! Phew – talk about a look into the Fijian culture. It’s interesting but difficult to pick up as quickly as I’d like.

That about wraps up this week’s episode of “Juliana goes to Fiji”. Hope to hear from people. I’ve gotten to contact a couple of you guys and it’s been really nice!! Try using Skype to my cell. I can’t do computer to computer skype yet because I am using internet cafĂ© computers without microphones and speakers.

Again, I am going to try and post pictures, but I can’t promise anything.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

End of Week 2 …

Yes … just 2 weeks. I cannot believe it myself. It feels like I have been here FOREVER – but that is not meant to be taken in a bad way. I just feel naturally at home here so it doesn’t feel like I had to get used to it, just fits! Not to say that there have not been some less than perfect moments (ehem … diarrhea … ehem), but overall each day is new and exciting and something different happens that makes me smile or someone says something that makes me laugh. I think I will make a list because those are easier to read I think. But first a quick recap … (disclaimer: I am writing this on my laptop in my room without internet so I cannot be sure of what I have written already in previous emails or blog posts). I’ve been in my host family’s house for 10 days. They are still very hospitable and I am still not allowed to help with anything! Can’t clear the dishes, can’t help cook, can’t do my own laundry. I just have to relax – vakacequ! Relax! We have classes in the vale ni koro (literally “house of the village” but it is their community hall). These are just our language classes (vosa vakaviti – Fijian class) and our afternoons are for TDAs or “trainee designated assignments” which are to help us understand how to do non formal education in the villages, how to do some of the more environmentally specific projects (like composting toilets!! I know my stepdad would love to help out with those when he comes to visit!). Monday and Wednesdays are for all volunteers to come together in Nausori and have group training. This weekend we are going to do some site visits – not OUR sites, but the sites of current volunteers. We are going to stay with them for a few days to see what things are like for real volunteers, not just mere trainees (my – current title).

Fun Facts:

· When I hear the iron clanging sound, I know someone is grinding up some yaqona and people are going to be drinking Kava/grog in the village very soon.

· When I DON’T hear the iron clanging sound, I know people are STILL drinking grog somewhere in the village right now!

· The loud chirping sound I hear at night comes from the bajillion geckos in the house at any given time after sunset. They really disappointed me at first by not offering me huge savings for switching my car insurance, BUT I did see one on my wall a couple nights ago eating a giant bug, so they were completely forgiven and are henceforth considered heroes in my book.

· Bucket showers are interesting. They are cold and I never feel like I get all the shampoo out of my hair. I am quite happy to have short hair now even though I would love to be able to put it in a ponytail, I can’t put a price on not having a giant head of hair to have to clean by pouring cups of freezing cold water on it. And NO, just because it’s really hot outside does not make them feel better. Although, after the 6th or 7th bin on my head I get used to the temperature.

· It rained a lot today and was kinda chilly. It is funny to see how the villagers are when there is a breeze with a slight chill in the air. Jason called me today (I love you J!) and he looked up the temperature near me and told me it was 79F here. And yet people were wearing scarves! Yes, you heard right – scarves. And fleece jackets.

· I went to the beach on Saturday and we had our water safety training. They took us off the beach on a small boat about 300 yards from shore and dumped us and said “swim back.” Safety training over. Then we had a picnic lunch under the trees and played a game of volleyball at the school nearby. Not only was the beach probably 70 yards away or so, maybe 25-35 feet away from where we were played were 2 giant bulls. No fences. And I was in a skirt. Quite different from my volleyball experiences in Raleigh at JC Park or the office where Stephen works. We played a game here in the village as well and guys – these girls that played are good!! They would certainly give you a run for your money Eric. ;)

Anyway, this seems to be enough rambling for now. I am going to try and upload some photos if I can, but I don’t know how fast the internet will be when I go to town tomorrow. But I have uploaded some of my computer and will take them on the flash drive with me. Maybe next time I can have a video prepared of me walking through the village and showing you my home for the next couple months.

Moce Mada!! (goodbye!)