Friday, December 17, 2010

If I were a blog ....

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Some videos of the kids at the school where I teach doing a meke - traditional Fijian dance. They do it for the cruise ship visitors that come to Ovalau every few months. Its a great way for them to raise money and do some cultural exchange. Some of the kids I teach and some that live in my village are dancing here. And now below is a blog I wrote a few days ago at my house.

OK, so I’ve done the goo-ey shmoo-ey blog, and I know I said it was only a onetime thing. Maybe we could classify this one as introspective instead. Thoughtful. Pensive. Reflective. All those smart sounding words. Contemplative.

Today was a good day. I know that doesn’t seem like much to write home about (that feels very literal in this case), but it was. You know how all those things that you know you SHOULD do because they will make you happy, but they are the things that are really hard to force yourself to do? Exercising and eating healthy falls into those categories. Doing your homework early so you have the weekend free. Going to the lab so you don’t take 4 years to work on your master’s thesis … hypothetically speaking. Well, in Fiji exercising and eating right certainly make me feel better and more energetic, but there is something simpler than that that makes me happy but is still REALLY hard to do. Two things really, but they are related. 1) Opening my doors, and 2) Leaving the house.

Don’t judge me! I know that sounds so inane to those of you who have to wake up at early hours and go to a job whereas I have nowhere to be … ever. But it is hard. Interacting with people regularly here can be incredibly frustrating. In fact, it seems that lately I have been nothing but frustrated with the people in this country and I feel bad about that. I’ve been finding that the only thing I was enjoying about being here was the scenery. Which, let’s face it, doesn’t suck. But the people are good, too; I was just having some rough times. There was a near-stealing incident. A pooping incident. A teenage girl gossiping incident. Lack of work. Illness. ARGH! BUT – I was also closing myself off more each day because it all seemed to be too much and was just piling on top of me causing me to want to leave the house less and less! I felt like I was at a wall – an “I’m so freaking close to leaving, but yet still so far” kind of wall.

But today was a good day. It was very Fijian. In fact, I got CALLED Fijian today by a girl in my house. My good day started with some catching up (very overdue catching up) in my journal. Then breakfast (oats, milk, sugar) and the sudden urge to clean. It was a sunny day – the mats in my house were gross. One of the downfalls of a roof made of dead leaves is the dust. And one of the downfalls of living in a glorified tent is the creatures I share it with. Frogs mainly – they poop and pee all over the mats. I hate them. So the mats got a scrub down and then went out into the sun. This is something most Fijians do every time the sun is out. I HATE to do it – my mats are big and awkward and under things (like my trunk and my table), but doing it today felt good. It was necessary. Two-thirds of the way through, I got company! A couple of young’uns (10-13 y/o) came over to help me and ask if we could snorkel. I haven’t been snorkeling in ages! At least 2 months! I know I live by the sea, but I have been sick for 2 weeks and it’s been raining nearly nonstop since the end of September and snorkeling here is tide dependent. While cleaning we looked at photo books and Life magazines – hello nonformal education!! I even have the kids reading this Magical Treehouse book series (courtesy of my fabulous stepmother) and they LOVE IT! It feels so good to watch them reading and coming back sometimes more than once a day to trade the books out for the next one. High tide came and I went snorkeling for almost an hour. We checked on the fish houses we built last year; and the kids saw all kinds of sea life, pointing out what they remembered from last time and finding things I missed – like a nudibranch!! There was also a sea snake incident – creepy, but cool. Back at the house after showers, they came over and baked muffins and we watched The Incredibles (I tried to go for the first Star Wars movie, but realized during the credits and 5 minutes into the movie that the plotline was over their head and the language was hard to understand for them – oops).

But the best part of the day was them telling me they loved me. J I don’t even remember when or how it came up in conversation, but it felt good after feeling so frustrated and worrying about the kids still interacting with me. The interacting is sometimes a challenge. Trying to find activities for the kids when they visit. Wanting to interact but not really being able to communicate THAT well. But at the end of the day – it’s rewarding and I am happy. Tada!

On to a short list … some list items may seem counter to the good mood I am in, BUT they are merely observations (and sometimes criticisms):

- There are 5 kinds of feces in my house: frog, lizard, rat, cockroach, and bat (they go on my clothes when they hang outside overnight). Yes, 5 kinds of feces. Jealous?

- The resident rodent that has decided to call my bure home is eating my curtains. And my soap, cheese, mangos, fly swatter, popcorn, and almost anything plastic.

- My fly swatter is being held together by duct tape – that’s how intensely I swat.

- 17 months later, the hermit crabs still amuse me, crawling across my floor.

- I have read 115 books in country, 3 of them on my new Kindle.

- A papaya tree fell on my house this week. The tree banged into my door – it was dead and therefore contained no fruit. Bummer.

- I figured out how to conference call on Skype and its wicked!

- I’m teaching myself guitar, very slowly, and can now play Yankee Doodle fiercely.

- I’ve bought my ticket to New Zealand! I go in February with 3 good friends!

- I start job hunting in February after returning from New Zealand. I’m open to moving anywhere (within reason), so if you see or hear of anything … marine-y … let me know!

- IF you made it this far, you deserve a joke. This one is from a good friend of mine from high school, Joe. It may seem familiar to you as I did a variation of it in a previous blog. **** What’s brown, sticky, AND JEWISH? Email answers.

- Bonus Joke: **** What happens when you throw a blue rock in the Red Sea? (also from Joe!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

If I lived on Ovalau ...

A marama (woman) eating candy corn at a grog party - apparently candy corn is a good chaser!


Teaching kids how to carve pumpkins. They did a good job, but letting them handle the knife made me nervous despite knowing that they run around with them and use them all the time.


I wrote my name on a mango when they started coming in on my friend's tree. I did this twice. The first one fell off on its own. This is the second one - her son ate it! But I've still managed to have many delicious mangos this season.


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Video of the completed community hall!!

Yes yes yes … it has been a long time, but … ok, no buts – I have very little excuse. I’m sorry.

I decided that it was time for a short blurb about transportation here in Fiji. In particular – transportation on Ovalau and on/off Ovalau. I wholeheartedly believe that after hearing this you will ALL appreciate the ease of travel in the states. On Ovalau, there are no buses. Ok – that’s a lie – there are 2 buses. BUT – 1 of these buses is used only on the ferry to the island and only arrives on Ovalau around 6pm and then leaves promptly the next morning at 6am. The other bus is a school bus for the kids taking them from the Levuka town to a secondary school only 20 minutes to the north. When I ride this bus home from town I still have a 20 minute walk to my village. Then it returns to Levuka town, picks up kids going south and then travels about 45 minutes around the southern part of the island. Normal transport for me on Ovalau is via carrier truck – pickup trucks that have been fitted with benches in the back and covers made of tarp that arch over the truck bed. There are small AND large carrier trucks. Some of these trucks are reliable. The one in my village is not. Now, in order to get off of Ovalau, things get trickier. I have to wake up at 3am to be ready by the road at 330am. There is a carrier that will come from one of the villages to the northwest of mine at 4am, but has been known to come earlier; therefore I must arrive 30-45 minutes before the truck usually comes. I have missed this truck before, thus making this part of the trip the most stressful for me. The truck takes me to Levuka and then I jump on that ferry bus I was telling you about. It leaves town at 5am to drive an hour to Buresala wharf on the other side of the island. The bus boards the ferry then leaves Ovalau around 6am, goes for about 1-1.5 hours to Natovi wharf on the main island. Bus leaves the boat and drives 2 hours to Suva capital. The reverse happens if I want to return to Ovalau, leaving Suva at 12-1pm – a much more reasonable time. The alternative is to fly on and off the island which is much more costly. The ferry gets me from my village to Suva for 25 FJD (about 12.50USD). The flight has gone up in price from 88FJD to 110FJD to recently 206FJD ONE WAY (this does not include taxi fares from my village to the airport on the other side of the island). It is a 10 minute flight aboard an 8 passenger plane. These flights used to run 3 times a day every day. Just this week I have learned they changed to 3 flights A WEEK using an 18 passenger plane. Wow – the feeling of isolation just keeps going up, doesn’t it?

In other news, the community hall is complete!! I am including a video in this post (hopefully) of a tour of the completely refurbished hall and would like to thank everyone again for their help with project donations. The community did a great job getting the work done in a timely fashion. Other projects in the village that I am trying to complete include a waste management system using trash cans to help separate the waste to dispose of it better. The school term is over so I anticipate children visiting and I hope to do some more marine education. My world map project at the school is 99% finished – I just have to go back while the kids are gone to paint back over the ocean where the gridlines I used to draw the map can still be seen. I would also like to get moving on my crown of thorns removal project now that I am done teaching for a while.

Last week I went to Suva and had a really nice time for Thanksgiving with other volunteers. We had a big potluck dinner at the country director’s house and I made mac-n-cheese with the help of my mom and brother from overseas; I finally learned how to make cheese sauce. I also celebrated my birthday with my fellow volunteers and it was great – sushi lunch, Harry Potter 7 movie, dancing, and midnight McD’s. My friend Courtney even gave me a tiara to wear out. Unfortunately, after the celebrations, many of us got stuck in Suva because of a tropical depression causing rough seas and flooded roads. I returned 3 days after I was scheduled too. Back at my house, I found lots of dust and my bar of soap completely gone – the resident rodent had eaten it all. I did return from Suva, though, refreshed and with a new thing of treasured Kraft parmesan cheese – 20 bucks a tub, but highly valued among volunteers.

Another fun list: things I hear go bump in the night. I can figure out what almost every noise is that I hear in the night time. Frogs hopping along my floor, gecko poop falling from the ceiling and hitting the mats, rustling palm fronds in the wind, the waves crashing on the beach, gecko chirping, scuttling of bugs, buzzing of mosquitoes, dogs fighting, cats shmexing, frogs bumping into the tin walls of my house from outside, rustling in my roof, squeaking that COULD be a rodent of some kind, hermit crabs scuttling across the coral rubble of my floor. I’m sure there are more but I can’t think of them right now – in the light of day.

I am going to try and load some other videos and possibly photos onto this blog – I apologize if the internet is unable to accomplish such a difficult task for Fiji’s network capabilities.