Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's been a while so dive right in!!

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated here and a lot has happened! Let’s dive right in then – I’ve taken the liberty of categorizing things so that you make pick and choose what you care enough about to read. Although I encourage you to read all – if you don’t you might actually be productive at work today and we wouldn’t want that. I am going to try and include photos and videos for your pleasure as well.

Work (non-marine):

Let us start with the ho-hum side of things. I’m excited about it because SOME progress is slowly being made. First off, I had a Project Design Management (PDM) Workshop in Pacific Harbour (The Adventure Capitol of Fiji!). Volunteers brought a counterpart from their village and we learned about how to start designing projects and budgets and things. My partner and I worked on a design for repairing and renovating our village’s community hall. We just recently had a carpenter visit who helped us generate a full materials list. That list is at a couple hardware stores now and I intend to pick up finished quotes while in town today! The next step will be to work with my community partner to write up a proposal to bring in some money for the project. YAY! I also just applied to go to an alternative livelihood training in February. I’d like to attend because I will be bringing someone that will hopefully be able to get the bakery running properly.

As an aside – there was fun to be had by the volunteers at the workshop as well. Swimming, swinging, ziplining, bonfiring, eating, etc.

Work (marine):

After the PDM workshop I went to a village with a good friend for a work exchange to learn about fish houses. He works with a resort near his village, and I got to make a fish house. I really hope to get some of the youth making them in my village. It is basically an igloo made of rocks and cement that fish can come and live in. You can also attach small coral fragments to the house to build up reef structure. Tres chic! I spoke with some people about coral farming at the resort as well as in Suva after the work exchange. This could be a possibility but I want to start with the fish houses first.

Finished product

The building process

On the reef in my village, I’ve been snorkeling and found some unfortunate reef inhabitants – crown of thorns starfish (aka COTS)!! These are nasty little buggers that can munch through a reef in no time flat! They have spines all over on the outside and toxin inside. I was planning to do a removal before the weather went sour. Now that it has cleared up I will try again once the visibility is good again ( it is bad because of all the kicked up sediments and such from the storm). I am still waiting for the materials I need to make markers for the Marine Protected Area (MPA) as well as instructions for how to operate the GPS to find the boundaries of the MPA.

A crown of thorns starfish - they even look creepy!

HOLIDAYS! (Woot!):

So, several holidays have come to pass lately. First there was Thanksgiving. Many of the volunteers who reside on Viti Levu congregated in Suva for a feast! The food was excellent! People brought potates, veggies, fruit, chips, dip, pies, ice cream, the works! I tried to Jew things up a bit and made matzoh ball soup (hey, it’s easy) and I think people enjoyed it. Thanksgiving holiday also happened to coincide with … MY BIRTHDAY. Yes folks – I am old. I realized recently that I am no longer in my mid-twenties. I am officially in the upper twenties bracket. When did that happen?! This isn’t just bad for me – think of my poor parents!! They are officially old enough to have a daughter in her upper 20s. I’m so sorry you two. Cheer up, you still have so much life in you! J So for my birthday I celebrated in many ways. First, I took advantage of the fact that my work exchange was near a resort (and that Sunday is a hard day to get things done) so I booked and received a wonderful massage and facial courtesy of my mother and stepfather – my body and blackheads thank you both. Then on the actual day of my birth I was in Suva for Thanksgiving, but before dinner I indulged in a movie with my friend and a couple of orders of McDonald’s French fries. Heavenly. Then when I returned home to Ovalau, I had a camping hammock waiting for me in the mail so I celebrated again by swinging between 2 coconut trees – thanks Dad and Natalie. J Lastly, Chanukkah! The first night I celebrated alone with a bag of gelt. Pathetic, but tasty. The second night I held a small vakamarautaka (celebration) in the community hall. I spent the day making doughnuts and latkes for the village (doughnuts were a bit of a fail, but edible when smothered in honey and cinnamon). I also had a menorah to light with them, dreidles to play, and prayers to sing. Thank you Saftah for all the Chanukkah accoutrements. The kids really had fun playing dreidle (or they enjoyed the free gum I gave out) and the food seemed to be a success as well (it was all gone anyway). If you would like a copy of the speech about Chanukkah that I gave the kids, just let me know – I’m proud of my Fijian translation. The last couple of nights I haven’t been able to light the menorah because the wind was so strong the candles kept blowing out … in the house. Yes. True. Pictures are below, and scroll all the way down to see video - you've not lived until youve heard Fijians playing dreidle - it's hilarious.

Thanksgiving feast! Hard for me to look at it again ... sooo tasty!

Asa had the restaurant bring me a piece of custard pie for my bday. Ain't it cute ...

The party layout with some of the guests.

Me and the driedle poster I made - notice the directions in Fijian!


CYCLONE SEASON IS HERE! We had our first one, I believe it was named Nick, just this week. It would have been fun if I had a friend to play scrabble or dominoes with, but cyclones (even in Fiji) are kind of dull. I read 2 books and didn’t dare try to watch movies. I had my computer packed away with other don’t-want-them-wet items in case I had to make a mad dash from the hut. Oh and I attempted to “bake” oatmeal cookies in the makeshift oven of mine. The theory being – if you have to be stuck in a cyclone, might as well be stuck in a cyclone with oatmeal cookies. They didn’t bake well and I ate a lot of dough in the process so the theory failed and was converted to “shit, now I’m stuck in a cyclone with a stomach ache.” Overall it was fine. I had to pull my mattress onto the floor because of the leak over my bed. This meant no mosquito net protection. There were several other leaks all over as well so the mats had to come up so as not to be ruined, exposing the sasa underneath. You don’t realize how unsealed a tin house with a grass roof is until situations like this. The wind was gusting to 65 mph I believe which isn’t too bad, unless your roof is made of sasa (palm fronds). The wind was causing them to fall apart a bit and it rained down debris (in addition to the actual rain that rained down) on me all night. Simba didn’t like it much either as I kept him under house arrest for almost 2 days straight.

It all really started when I was woken up the first night of Nick by the village mayor and wife at midnight to tell me the cyclone would be here at 2 am. WHAT?! So I do what any normal person in their upper 20s would do … I called my mommy. Woke her right up. Had trouble sleeping the rest of the night and texted my fellow Ovalau-ian, Asa, until about 3 am. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t scared (really! I wasn’t!) but that kind of wind in this kind of house is just a tad bit loud and it was the middle of the night and dark. Let me put it in perspective – Asa sends a text that says “the wind sounds so loud it’s like the ocean is out there!” (Asa lives more inland than I). Well, Asa, imagine that kind of wind AND THE ACTUAL OCEAN outside the house. The rough weather lasted almost 2 days, and then by the afternoon on the 3rd day, you would never have known there was a drop of rain! It was amazing how flat the seas were. Now the past 2 days have been beautiful. I have swung in my hammock, swam in the sea, and swashed some clothes (I had a whole ‘sw’ thing going there, didn’t want to ruin it).

The wind kicked up the ocean reallllllly nicely.

Standing in the storm - my raincoat was attempting to stop a leak in the house, and an umbrella would have been useless - hence, the towel.

The aftermath in the house - this is just a small square of an already partially swept house (before I realized to take a photo) of the debris that was all over the floor from the roof.

This is the calm after the storm - and a great pic of me using my birthday hammock from dad and natalie!

So folks, I believe that is all for now. This is a ridiculously long blog, but it will probably be the only one for this month so stop your complaining. And for those of you who love me enough to have gotten this far … perhaps you wish to peruse the wishlist? I’m just jonesing for those Ugly Betty DVDs and they are just waiting for someone to buy them. What?! Who said that? I’m not begging …