14 December 2007

A Maze Without Walls

I won’t presume I know what is best for the world (as if I ever could) - But I do know I feel like I am drowning in opportunity. I’ve tried to relax my ideas of boundaries, to embrace non-duality but when it comes down to it... if you remove all the walls in the maze - you are always everywhere. Then what? Where do you go from there?

I realize the only boundaries on my actions are the ones I choose to accept... but thats more than a little overwhelming isn’t it?

I was raised as an artist but within a structure - that was my foundation and I think some part of me is always returning to that. I want to create and innovate but I want it to serve a purpose, to feel as though I am offering a genuine and meaningful contribution.


Everything here has a thinness to it.
Even the strong palms seem riddled by the persistent sun.
The grass is like a child’s pretend world with jagged green paper as turf
The water has weight but no substance - its transparency makes it seem shallow.

09 December 2007

Pattern: Reversible Travel Skirt

I'm going to begin to post some rough pattern drafts for some of the clothing I have created in my time here. I'll do my best to make them user-friendly and simplistic. If you have any questions or recommendations, please do leave a comment. Thank you.

08 December 2007

All Clear.

For anyone concerned about Hurricane Daman,

It came and passed us, doing minimal damage to some of the Northern most parts of Vanua Levu.

01 December 2007

Settling In or Just Settling

I’ve been here half a year.

And it has been nearly 3 months since I have posted anything of substance about my life here. In that time, I have shifted houses, lost my step-mother, given up vegan-ism again, taken up running, gained and lost numerous friends and decided to come to terms with having no plans.


I shifted houses just two weeks ago. I joked with a close neighbor that I was migrating (like every other neighbor it seems) but in reality, I was just moving down the same street to a new and smaller flat. This flat does not have any of the high maintenance needs that the other one did. Its is a quaint 1 bedroom flat attached to a house with a kind elderly couple. The husband and wife just lost their daughter to marriage and are really missing her. I am not trying to be their daughter, I do not need the heavy and demanding expectations (I have enough of those thank you very much). But, this relationship does help me a great deal, as I now have a close connection with a family here. They need help with their English, which is a blessing for my Hindi studies and they love to share their abundant and delicious Indian food. When, I went away recently for a week-long conference, they happily fed and looked after Choti for me. All in all, I am happier here than I was at my last home. I’m still settling in though.

Losing Friends, Gaining Friends

The last few months, I have had a flux of friendships with varying qualities.

My fellow Massachusetts PCV in FRE-5 (my training group) departed back to America. I understand all of her reasons and I’m glad she was able to discover what she needed to while she was here. Still, I was sorry to see her go.

I met another Rhianon, who was Buddhist and working in Fiji as a international volunteer. Odd, huh? She was great company the few times we were able to casually hang out in Lautoka. She finished her contract and moved back home to Australia.

I also had the pleasure of getting to know Angelina, a young lawyer, who had come on contract to work in Fiji. She is a brilliant, genuine person with a passion for music composition and cute little cartoons from children’s books. She’s also vegan. Sadly, her contract also ended and she returned to a hopeful future in Australia.

Socialization in a foreign country is not the same as it is in America. I seem to have an easy-going and friendly relationship with most people I meet here. I network without being conscious of doing so (most of the time). And I am generally well liked and received by my neighbors and colleagues. This has not always been the case at home.

There are drawbacks. Balancing social obligations (spoken and unspoken) with my own need for quiet reflective time can be difficult some days. But I also lack a local relationship with the intensity and trust that I look for in those friends I confide in. There are so many things I know its unwise to share about myself. I understand my liberal views and sometimes strong opinions are better left unsaid but at times that filter feels like a barrier to emotional empathy with those around me.

My Work

Ba Methodist High School
My work with the school has slowed to a halt with the closing of the school year. As it was, schedule conflicts and a lack of investment from some community members was making it difficult to conduct the programs.

Ba Senior Citizen Community Centre
My work with the Senior Centre has been slowly building towards a definitive direction. I currently work with developing new sources of funding, train in IT skills, and work on program planning and design. I also, spend time with the seniors either as a workshop facilitator or just another person sitting and chatting over morning tea.

Youth Theater Program
I’m currently developing a diversity oriented youth theater group which will explore social issues and the development of personal life skills.

Family Ties

As I noted, my step-mother Marilyn passed away last month. I truly am sorry for the loss. She was a wonderful woman with boundless enthusiasm and understanding for those around her. She has given me the gift of a second family, for which I could never repay her. Going to Canada to be with my father and step-brothers allowed me to see just how much we are family, even if our time together has been short.


While I was in Canada, my family saw to it that I was able to travel back with my father to Boston to visit friends and family while I was in that hemisphere. It was amazing to see everyone I have thought about for the last 6 months. I spent the time watching horror films in good company, tromping about Cambridge, buying too much at health food stores, stocking up on books, having lunch with my mum, and reconnecting with everyone at faire. What whirlwind and bittersweet trip! It was such a blessing to spend my favorite season with my favorite people, doing the activities I enjoy most.

Art and Expression

I’m finding my inner artist once more. Creative solutions are coming easily but more importantly, I am interested in creating art for art’s sake. It has been a few good years since I was able to participate in an act of creation without practicality coming into play. I have a few pieces in mind... Mostly digital photography collage. Its the easiest medium at the moment.

I had previously thought about becoming a minister. I had let the thought fall into a neat plan for a future lifestyle. I let the thought shape and blind me to very basic truths about myself. Just because I am a person who feels a need to contemplate our existence here on a daily basis and I am spiritually inclined, does not automatically make ministry, even interfaith ministry a good choice.

I know what I can do, I know what I am good at (for the most part) and what I enjoy (usually) - but life and career choice is not some simple equation to be calculated like a budget in Excel. So I have decided not to decide. I’m going to continue to serve those around me as best I can, while working to relax a little and enjoy myself. But I am beginning to recognize my life long needs for tangible results and visual accomplishments. I wonder at how how much of an artist I am... and what that will mean for my future pursuits.

Random Thoughts from an Overactive Mind

Some days, I have the knack of being absorbed into the flow of the Universe. I trust my fate to the winds and I live. Other days, I couldn’t be farther from contentment. Very few days, do I sit in the middle. There was a time in the beginning of this journey when I had gained a sense of purpose and fulfillment. That bright buoyant light has fled me temporarily. That's not to say that I am in a pit of despair... I merely do not feel that connection to my larger goals at the moment.

I’ve been thinking lately of my teen years. Those years were very difficult for me in many ways but I still had a soft heart...and it seems as though over the last few years I’ve become somewhat impenetrable - forcing those I know and those I love to climb numerous fences of trust, slowly breaking down hidden and nameless boundaries.

I don’t have answers for the “big” questions that I ask myself. And I don’t need to. (Maybe I’ll believe that if I say it often enough)

Is it appropriate to act without having full knowledge or control of a situation? Isn’t this something we do everyday and an unavoidable part of living? Then where does one draw the line on mindfulness, when does it become impractical? What about deliberate actions? In the case of this perfectionist, I am often paralyzed by indecision for fear of taking a wrong step.

Samsara. I understand intellectually that Samsara is a fool’s dream and logically speaking, it is a vain pursuit. But emotionally, I relish even the ups and downs of it. So long as this is true, I will not full renounce my earthly attachments and I will struggle in my meditation. But the heart of Buddhism lies with practicing active non-attachment not renouncing attachment altogether. Right?

Stepping Out of Me

I seem to have little control (its an illusion.. I know) over my ability to remain in the moment as a mindful observer. I often flit between an acceptance of now and being enmeshed in the daily struggle with my mind creating more boundaries than it destroys.
This is true in the bigger sense and also, the minute details. I have trouble seeing from others perspectives some days. All my cross-cultural understandings leave me and I just want to be productive in some quantitative way. I desire something I can point to and say “look, I created that. And its clever/effective/innovative...”
I can be drawn into my work so much that I forget to leave it behind. I forget to leave office talk in the office. I forget to leave Ba to visit other PCVs. I forget that one of the most important lessons I can take away from this experience is to learn to adopt some of the positive tendencies of another culture.

  • I enjoy gardening
  • I have a love of simplicity and minimalism. In some ways this tendency can resemble a Puritanical need to cleanse my self and my surroundings and at other times, its an appreciation for everyday tasks and objects.
  • I do not work well with a lack of structure... nor do I work well in an imposed structure that I find confining.
  • I enjoy time to myself to clean and organize my space, to return things to an aetically pleasing state
  • I have great difficulty meditating in the morning without falling off to sleep
  • I can be dyslexic when learning a new (or just fourth) language. I shift letters frequently. To solve this: I learn similar words as pairings.
  • I am a bit of a glutton when it comes to sleep.
  • I have difficulty in dealing with anxiety relating to personal standards but I handle dramatic life changes well.
  • I like to live in smallish spaces with lots of “out of sight” storage space.
  • I like containers. I appreciate the cleverness in the way things can be stored.
  • I lose patience with animals and other dependent beings. I’m working on this trait, but it can be difficult when Choti finds the worse place to relieve herself at the worst time. I have trouble not feeling upset with her even though I know she doesn’t know any better.

New Personal Goals

I would like to....

* Run at least 6 days a week for the next 3 months
* Fully learn the Shiva Bharatnatyam dance
* Learn 1 Kirtan
* Memorize all of the basic verb conjugations in Hindi (Pure and Fiji)
* Memorize 5 new vocabulary words a day in Hindi

My 26th Birthday

On My 26th Birthday, I...

  • Took a bucket bath complete with cockroaches
  • Made fresh pineapple & passionfruit juice
  • Had a short meditation session
  • Started eating Indian Diwali sweets at 7am and didn’t cease until after 11pm
  • Started packing my life back into boxes
  • Made a lovely no-egg dark chocolate cake with rum and coffee in it.
  • Had tea with my neighbor, Veena
  • Spent half the day at my friend, Hemi’s house preparing Diwali prasad
  • In the evening, I went to Sunita’s house and had a puja and a splendid birthday cake
  • Toured the Diwali light show in Ba

15 October 2007

Obituary: Marilyn M. Doherty

This was the digital copy of Marilyn's obituary. There is also an online guestbook here.

14 October 2007

News: Marilyn, my stepmom has passed away.

It was a peaceful but unexpected death. She passed on in her sleep of a heart attack. I've come from Fiji to Victoria, Canada to be with my family and my father for the ceremony. I will miss her presence in my life.

Use this moment, this brief space in your usual daily thoughts to reflect.
Reflect not on loss but instead think on those you care for.
Treasure them in your every breath because we do not know how long we are to be in this lifetime.
Life as we
Find it, death too
- Ta-Hui Tsung-Kao.

01 October 2007

Diet & Dharma

Just this morning, I tasted the first mango to be harvested from my tree. The depth and complexity of flavour was astounding. I truly hope I can continue to savor my food each time with such relish.

I have decided recently to attempt a vegan diet once more. My conscious has been disturbed each time I think on the conditions in which most dairy cows exist. And if I am able to abstain from meat and eggs, than why not dairy? Besides, I truly think there is no better place on this earth for fresh organic produce than Fiji. The exception I will make to this diet is while eating as a guest in another’s home (it would be near impossible to avoid milk in an Indo-Fijian home).

I have been walking besides a path I was too cowardly to step upon. A path where I must hold myself to a higher standard of behavior.

I have felt for sometime that there have been actions in my life, which were less than appropriate: the treatment of those around me, my level of compassion and respect regarding others’ commitments, my diet. In the past, I found some way of consoling myself and disregarded my violation of certain ideas that I hold to be true. If I lowered my standards of expectation for myself, they were easier to attain without failure. But I want to be worthy of the respect I am given, even if it means failure.

The truth I have perceived lately is that being a noble person does not mean denying emotion or contrary thoughts. I do not have to defy who I am to walk this path, I only need to find the benefit in taking the other more challenging action.

The first step in this journey is coming to terms with who I am, not in a struggle to better myself, but to consider my Self a friend. I need to see my Self as I would someone I care for – I would never disregard someone because of their flaws but accept them for everything they are, unconditionally. So why should I not extend the same attitude to myself?

Fun with Hindi - Tati & Tita

In my learning Fijian Hindi, I have made one terribly notable mistake thus far. And I thought I might share it so should you ever come to Fiji you will not make the same mistake.

I was over a neighbor's house playing with her young daughter of about a year when suddenly the child grabs her diaper and begins to shout "Tati, tati!" I had not heard this word before and asked her mother what it meant and she said it translated to (politely put) poop. I laughed and said that perhaps she needed to change her diaper. The next day at the Senior Centre, the staff and I were having lunch and my friend (and counterpart) offered me some of her curry to taste. It was delicious but spicy and so I said to her, "khana bahut sawaad, bahut tati." Yes, I had said "tati" instead of "tita." Meaning - instead of saying that her food was delicious and spicy, I had said it was delicious and shitty. She laughed and still reminds me of it every time we sit down to eat and she offers me food.

Recipe: Maharishtrian Eggplant

I am hoping to post recipes that I discover here in Fiji to give each of you back home a little taste (literally) of my life here.

I've included the recipe as an image so you can just copy and paste it.

Eat, enjoy and think of palm trees!

24 September 2007

Compassionate Intent Gone Awry

And then there was the time I got stung by a hive of wasps while trying to save three drowning kittens…

I came home in the middle of a tropical downpour to the sound of mewling kittens. I searched the house unsuccessfully, until I came upon a window near my bedroom. Right outside this window is a partially finished cinderblock enclosure that was meant to become a bathroom and there in the corner, are three newborn kittens slowly drowning in a puddle. At first, I think – that their mother has abandoned them and I should go and save them. Then, I think that perhaps I just can't see her. Then, I call another PCV to get a second opinion. He thinks they are probably abandoned. Compassion gives me little choice. I go, barefoot, back out into the rain and try to climb into the "window" almost successfully until a stabbing pain blossoms in my arm. At this point I cry out and see the mother cat slink out from inside her cozy barrel. I proceed to get stung a number of times all over my body as I desperately try to get away from the place and into the house. Now, as I am sitting in bed, thanking the gods I had tasty leftovers for dinner, and writing this entry - I understand that those kittens will more than likely not last the night but I also know that it is not realistically within my power to do anything about it Part of me searches for the larger message in this event but I am not seeing it, not yet.

22 September 2007

Photos: Pre-Service Training

PC/Fiji: Pre-Service Training

Ideas for Care Packages

Personal Supplies


Recent Pictures of Friends & Family (Laminated if possible)

Nalgene Containers, 32 oz. (Be sure to fill them with something)

Magazines - Tricycle, Shambala Sun, Dharma Life, Martha Stewart, Good Things, anything Photography/Art oriented

Nice Cotton Bed Sheets & Pillowcases

Good Absorbent Towels

Games & Puzzles

(I am missing these the most)

Anything Buddhist/Zen - Examples: Pema Chondron, Thich Nhat Hahn, S. Suzuki

Anything UU or inter-faith related

Educational - Alternative Classrooms, Learner-based technique, Interactive Games

Health/Community Development - Nutrition, Gardening, Elder Care, Simple Crafts

Fantasy & Fiction - Harry Potter, Laurel K Hamilton, Sean Russell (Bodahist series), Dune


Dr. Bronners Soap (Tea tree, Lavender)

Anything from LUSH

E-Z Fill Ziplock Bags 1.5 & 2 Gallon Sizes

Compilation Music CDs

New Release CDs (For ideas check out MySpace music section)

New Release DVDs

Extra Rechargable Batteries

Incense (Favorites: Cedarwood, Traditional Zen, Tibetan Rope)

Silica Gel

Non-Perishable Food Items (Vegetarian)

Anything vegetarian from Trader Joe's will earn my undying love

Spices: Mixes are great. Italian, Mexican, American, Japanese, Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Mix

Tea - Favored brands are Yogi Teas (Cocoa Spice, Simply Green, Sweet Thai) and Tazo

Powdered Soymilk

Vegan Chocolate, Dark (in packages that will not leak because it will melt)

Dried Soup Mixes

Dried Seaweed: Wakame, Hijiki

Dried Fruit in Ziplock Bags

Miso Paste

Dried Ravoli (No meat please)

16 September 2007

Poem: City Limits by A.R. Ammons

When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold
itself but pours its abundance without selection into every
nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider

that birds' bones make no awful noise against the light but
lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider
the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest

swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them,
not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider
the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue

bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped
guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no
way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider

that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen,
each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then
the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the

leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark
work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes
and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.

14 September 2007


I am once again a part of the digital world.

I also have acquired Skype. I have enough bandwidth to be able to hold a conversation over the internet. This means if you get Skype too, we can sit and talk using our computers for free. So, all of you go get Skype. My username is the same as my email address, or you can search for me via my email. I hope to chat with all of you soon.

01 September 2007

Creating a Home

नामस्ते (Namaste)

A month into service. A month living in Ba.
So much can happen in a matter of 30 days.


I have a new address. I have updated my listing on the sidebar.

I have officially moved into my new home here in Ba. It’s a 2 bedroom flat with a lovely yard, which is half of a single story home. Overall, I feel comfortable here. Though I have found it is a great deal of work to maintain a neat compound when you have mangoes, coconut, starfruit, lemons, eggplant and pumpkin growing all over. As I spend half my Sunday (or all of it) raking, I just have to remember what a blessing it is to be able to go into the yard and pick a ripe mango as a snack or some curry leaves for a recipe.

There are times I wish that smaller home might have been available. My rooms feel quite empty, devoid of furniture as they are. But, really I have little need or ability to fill my residence with chairs and tables. “What is essential to a home?” turns out is a difficult question (made even more so if you have just finished reading Walden). Does one really need two pots? What about a modern can-opener or will a sturdy knife do? One can live without a great many conveniences, but is it pragmatic? Does denying myself a material possession that would save time bring me closer to my goals?

A Day’s Purpose

Days here meander… not without purpose but something akin to the way a brook might course through the woods. Each day has a general destination or goal but which path it will choose is a constant and fruitful mystery.

For instance on one particular day, my purpose was to clean my new flat and secure some basic needs, such as a bed, possibly going into town. I awoke early had something to eat and went to town and returned once more around 10. I met my landlord at my flat and we cleaned until lunch. Afterwards, I was intending to go back to the task of scrubbing walls when my new neighbor, came to greet me and ask me to tea. She instructed me to go visit a house in the neighborhood where a migrating family was selling their possessions. I made my way there, was invited in and looked at what they had available. Our conversation at first formal, it quickly became pleasant and familiar. She invited me to stay for dinner and her daughter and I exchanged emails. I asked her to write to me in Hindi so that I would have a reason to study harder. Life is truly miraculous when you let it take its course.

A Most Unconventional Conversation

The other day, I was in town shopping at the market and on my way home, I saw a begging woman seated on some cardboard. I went give her some fruit and a small bit of change when she urgently gestured me to sit. So I did. We proceeded to have a conversation without words, herself being deaf and mute. She would write in my notebook and gesture emphatically, looking to me for comprehension. Then I would struggle to spell out in Hindi what I thought she was going for. Even she asked what religion I was. Just imagine me trying to gesture about the concept of inter-faith. But it was a success and we parted ways better for it. Now, each time I come from the market I’m sure to leave a piece of fruit or some such for my friend.


I feel as though I have become a different person here in Fiji. I already have gained a substantial social network and people seem to regard me as friendly and knowledgeable. I feel as though in some ways it is easier to be open-minded here. I am not tied to any one identity and I can learn to embrace each aspect of myself that in the past, may have been discarded from circumstance. One aspect being my talkative nature. In Fiji, it has become an asset that I can harness to make others feel at ease when talking about personal of difficult subjects. Also, my views on spirituality, although out of the ordinary are appreciated by most members of the various faith communities here whom I have spoken with.

Choti चोती
“The small one”

I adopted a dirty little abandoned kitten. She has taken to me very quickly and follows me from room to room. At the moment, she is on my lap trying to discover what is so interesting about the keyboard I keep playing with. Her fleas are mostly gone now that I have kept her indoors for some time. I try to give her a bath once a week to keep her infestation down. When she is bigger, I plan to let her out during the day while I am away at work. But for the moment she is still too young to be roaming where there are feral dogs.

My Work

Ba Methodist High School
I am creating a new reproductive health/ life skills curriculum to implement at the beginning of the next school year in January. I am using the upcoming national standards to guide my lesson plans, as well as taking into consideration various cultural factors, i.e. I am teaching in a Methodist school that desires a values-based approach to such sensitive topics. Also, I am developing professional teaching materials and workshops for my fellow teachers at the high school. These materials will focus upon learner-centered alternative teaching techniques, adolescent mental & psychological development and how it applies to teaching, and classroom management.

Ba Senior Citizen Community Centre
This is a small private non-profit organization that provides a much needed public service. It is the only senior citizen centre in all of Fiji. Each month the centre offers medical screenings (sugar levels, blood pressure, and weight) as well as activities (cooking, language, crafts, social games) and informative lectures on issues that concern seniors. They are completed supported by donations and grants. My role at this site is a bit more diverse… I am currently focused on the centre’s services and structure. I am working to more efficiently organize the centres procedures for grant applications and processing donations. As well as, seeking out new donors and more stable ways in which the centre might support itself. At the moment, I am developing a fundraiser with handmade paper cards which are designed using scraps of local fabric. I also participate in daily programs and sometimes facilitate programs on health. Recently, I did a workshop on HIV/AIDS for the elderly focusing upon their respected status as a means of educating and safeguarding their families and communities.

During my own time, I am creating a multi-racial, non-denominational youth group. The group will focus on leaderships skills, rights and responsibilities, peer counseling, and of course, cross-cultural awareness.


Earlier this evening I made a music mix of various Irish folk songs. Music is my means of remembering vividly moments that have passed and this evening I was reminded of the last few years. As I composed this entry, my mind flooded with the past… early morning fight call, archery on the hill at Pennsic, the long drives to faire site, food cooked over a campfire. Even now, even after living in a village where every meal was prepared over a fire, I still think of faires and Pennsic each time I smell burning firewood.
It’s a strange thing to feel so close to these moments and know that even as you recall them to mind they are changing shape for those whom you shared them with. CT faire is about to begin once more and Pennsic has come and gone and with this year’s passing and you know that these events have grown and changed, as have the people who were a part of them. Part of me feels a sense of loss for these moments where I have been absent from my friends. Not being able to share these experiences, which we have all come to cherish. But as I am learning, this is the way of life. I cannot be ever present. Sometimes, we need to be removed from what we have come to value to realize its worth. I can only keep the memories of those I care for near my heart and in my mind, praying for their well-being and contentment.

The delicate black lace of a dying Imli tree
Set against the twilight’s mourning dove wing,
The play of shadow and light, solid and insubstantial
Draws my mind toward the Infinite.

10 August 2007


Here in Fiji, religion is as commonplace as technology is in the West.

Upon first meeting someone - they will ask you your name, your age, for myself... country of origin, whether you are married and what your religion is. For many, this is not a simple one word answer.

In fact, my explaination often begins with saying I am inter-faith which of course requires some explaination. I often continue on to say that my spiritual tradition is something more of Hinduism and Buddhism than Christianity. I explain that my congregation in America (UU) values compassion and love as well as equality and justice. I also usually add something a little more concrete about my practices often saying that I try to maintain daily meditation and yoga and I am a strict vegetarian.

This is all well and good. And hopefully I enlighten my audience more than baffle them. But then there comes the time when I am asked to pray or say grace aloud. I often fumble through some vague blessing asking everyone present to remember person and circumstance that has allowed this food to be present, the whole time sweating the fact that I am not going to mention Jesus or Allah or even Lord at all. I don't quite feel comfortable saying Goddess aloud in public. A possible hang up from Catholic School days. So today, I've been rumaging around the internet for inspiration... something universal and inspiring... so that I can use the precious moments I am given to express my faith with conviction.

Here are some of the things I have come across.

Gatha Before Eating (And other prayers)

"Bless all of those who have brought this nourishment to our table -- through their labors and their lives."

Have any thoughts or inspirations you want to share? Please feel free!

12 July 2007

Site Visit - Inspiration Manifested

I would like to just briefly comment on my impression of my future placement and home of the next two years... Ba.

Within just two days of arriving, I have already begun integration into the community. I have individuals, strangers, invite me into their offices to sit and chat about what I will be doing here and why I have chosen the Peace Corps. One such person, related his experience of having a teacher 20 years ago who was from the PC and how he was very appreciative of what I was here to do. He mentioned that at anytime I was welcome to come and talk and that he would like to invite me to have dinner with his family once I was settled in Ba.

My work looks challenging but productive and sustainable. I feel competent with all that is being asked of me as a volunteer.

What a relief and revelation this has been. I was fearing that the rigours and stress of training would be just a reflection of my future service. I am not deluded in thinking that my service will somehow be straightforward and easy... I acknowledge that there are many challenges ahead. However the main difference between the two being that I will be able to rely on my own techniques for remaining mentally and emotionally stable throughout.

07 July 2007

Training: Weeks 4 -6

I let it go again - however I have used entries from my written journal to fill in the details of what I’ve been doing the last several weeks.

The Big News

I’ll start with this exciting tidbit. I have received information about my placement for the next two years and will travel this weekend to visit my site.

I will be serving as a Health Promoter in the Ba Province.

Wikipedia Entry on Ba Province

About Ba

Map of the Region

Ba, Near the Coast

Market in the Town of Ba

I will specifically be living in the town of Ba in a flat and working on three separate main projects…

1 – Developing and HIV/STI and Life Skills program for the Methodist High School
2 – Creating a multi-racial, non-denominational Youth group focused on diversity and leadership
3 – Helping with finance and program structure at the Senior Citizen’s Center

Additionally, I would like to work on developing an Indo-Fijian oriented youth program that would build life skills through the arts.

On Integration…

In general, I’ve noted that people appreciate stability – this includes consistent behavior in individuals. The villagers seem to value the fact that I go running/walking each morning around the same time. Sometimes I’ll even have children from the village following behind me.

On Interaction…

Everything is such an event here – every passing. Each entrance and exit takes nearly 15 minutes. There are series of motions and considerations you are expected to conform to… confirming where you have come from, where you are going, how long you expect to be gone and what time you expect to return, not to mention your purpose in going. Despite the annoyance, I can see the value of being so polite in such a communial setting. I am not against these rituals but I am a bit awkward in performing them. Saying “vinaka” after everything seems a bit excess to me still. I have been trying to use each of these interactions as a meditation on empathy and consideration for others.

Things I miss from home…

- Good pens (specifically Pilot Precise v5)
- Green tea, Red Tea Chai & Decaf Earl Grey
- Waste free water puddles
- Dry, mildew free clothes
- Voluntary & enthusiastic spiritual practices
- Trader Joe’s
- Wireless Internet
- Game Nights
- Thai food
- Privacy
- Choosing and cooking my own food
- Skin so Soft (layering repellant and sunscreen daily gets old quickly)
- Riding the T

Training thus far…

My training is difficult and challenging, for so many reasons.

I do not feel as though I am grasping the language but I feel that it is not due to a lack of effort or desire but teacher qualifications and time being allowed for study. Our technical health training is many fields and facets of Fijian healthcare but all of it seems a bit shallow sometimes.

My family is wonderful. My mother is a warm and caring woman who seems genuinely interested in my welfare and has no hesitation in calling me daughter. My father keeps to himself but has a good sense of humor. My younger sister, Marea, is very hard working and friendly. Even if my family can be overprotective at times, they have said they are honored by their role and its responsibility.

Every so often a group of older women from my Nou’s (my mother) church will come over and she will have me sing and dance, a mini show if you will. I try singing different songs I know that are religious… Godspell, Children of Eden, and Prince of Egypt songs. Oh and Amazing Grace. Its her favorite to sing along with in English. She also has been asking me to dance for the group. (This is activity is often accompanied in giggles because dancing is not allowed by the Methodist church here) Last time, Bollywood style dancing was the request. Who knew I would be starring in my own personal talent show when I joined the Peace Corps?


It is a fine line between accepting disrespect and serving another.
I would be the first to admit I can be prideful but sometimes I find it hard to determine just how far I can submit and have it still be healthy. I am working towards humility but one day I was tested. I was told to go sit and wait on Ratu (my father) and the other ministers. For nearly and hour, I waited silently at the side of the room until I was requested to go fetch something. The men present thought nothing of ignoring my presence completely. I tried my best to adopt a spirit of humility but it was very difficult.


I can hear the sounds of yagona (kava) being hand-pounded somewhere in the village. The sound reminds me of children playing at a playground. There are also men chanting as they drink yagona. The songs and the clapping - both rituals from antiquity.


I went to visit several PCVs staying in Latoka who are currently finishing up their two years. The first night there we made a dinner of hummus and burritos with cheese. I could not have been more pleased… everything tasted like heaven.

After dinner, we went to a nightclub. An unforgettable experience that involved Island-style covers and several very intoxicated members of a local hospital. And I thought they were just trying to impress me by saying that they worked in the medical field (like a guy might in the States)… I came to find out later that the one guy wasn’t lying when he said he was a surgeon. Oops.

The next day, we took a carrier truck to the mountains and went hiking at Koronanitu National Park. (I’ll post pictures eventually) There was a tree you could walk through and a beautiful waterfall. But most importantly, I was able to get out in Nature and retrieve some of my sanity that I lost during training. I pondered the uses of different types of wood and seashells in jewelry projects… in short, my creativity had partially returned.

Finally, We went to a movie theater to see “Number 23” which I thoroughly enjoyed. His tattoo in the movie was really attractive. The movie overall was well done, I thought. I liked how it turned things around in the end to be somewhat realistic.

A Reflection

This experience is the unraveling of me.

Already my time here has forced my foibles to the surface. In this environment, I am capable of observing the negative and destructive tendencies I could easily mask back home.

I am prideful and controlling. And when faced with intimacy (some forms anyway), I find subtle ways to avoid the commitment. Do I fear the responsibility of someone’s well being or the unspoken expectations they have of me?

I can appreciate the task of supporting another – to act as a counselor is a role I have always thought suited me. But is that because acting as a professional in that role is a distanced and controlled matter?

The demands of a relationship (in this case a familial one) seem to outweigh the possibilities available by the connection.

Will It always be like this…. An all or nothing scenario? A situation in which I hold those around me to impossible standards and instead of finding solace in the human community around me and continue to look instead to an abstract ideal of the Sacred?

My life back home…

I wonder if my imagining about others lives back home will fade? Will I eventually be so out of touch with that way of life that I no longer have any material to shape the fictional reality from?

15 June 2007

Training: Weeks 1-3

I will begin this by saying that I have learned that I should not let three weeks go by without a record of what I am doing with my days... When I finally get the chance to pause and reflect upon my activities, I am overwhelmed by the task and can think of nothing to say. Lesson learned.

I couldn’t precisely say what in me has changed since Kiribati. Though, I will note that I have felt a distinct shift in my attitude and the “lenses” through which I observe my world. No longer am I drawn to reflections of spiritual importance filled with wisdom gained about my own nature. I feel a sense of regret at the loss of that perspective and I hope it will return.

Three weeks.

It feels like so much more and also so much less. The Peace Corps has seen to it that every day of my training is packed with cross-cultural and health development goodness.
To start, I will say that I received a disappointing hit on my first day when I was assigned to a Fijian village after clearly listing my preference to learn Hindi. I’m trying my best each day to see the positive in this choice but some days are more difficult than others. To see years of study and understanding about Hinduism and Indian culture set aside without any specific explanation as to why I was being asked to do so. I must mention in fairness that I brought the topic up to my Program Coordinator who promptly told me that they lined us up on a grid by job and placed us where they thought we might be needed, which is logical enough. But her demeanor seemed slightly dismissive and my preference was not simply out of desire but a clear understanding of my ability to integrate with the Indo-Fijian community. Something in me is still upset with the decision... but I will remain positive. I can learn Hindi on my own later and find some way to integrate with the Indo-Fijian community here, most likely through attending functions/holidays at a temple. But, for right now, I am getting a rare opportunity to experience Fijian village culture and learn the language.

Life as a Peace Corps Trainee...

A typical day.
  • 6:00 Go For a Run
  • 7:00 Bucket Bathe, Brush Teeth & Get Dressed
  • 7:30 Eat Breakfast - Today, Papaya, Banana, Roti, & Green Tea (from my depleting stash)
  • 8:00 Vuli ni vakaViti (Fijian Language Lessons) - Today we studied: Subjective Pronouns and all their exciting and specific forms. For example: “Keitou” is the pronoun for “We” when there are more than 2 people and the speaker is included.
  • 10:00 Morning Tea
  • 10:30 Fijian Lessons Continue...
    We continued our studies by reading a bit of article on rugby from the local paper.
  • 12:00 Lunch
    Today: Ginger Broth Soup with Egg and Ramen & Cucumber
  • 1:00 Community Assessment Activities or Health Technical Training
    - Ex. of Community Assessment Activities
    Going house to house and asking (in as much Fijian as you can muster) about rubbish disposal in the village
    - Ex. of Health Technical Training
    Visiting the only Mental Health hospital in the Pacific... St. Giles Hospital. And realizing there are no services available there for adolescents or elderly.
  • 6:30 Dinner
    Today: Dhal Soup Fijian Style with Rice & Milo
  • 7:00 Evening Family Prayer (like a Mini Church Service in Fijian)
  • 8:00 Study with Fellow PCTs
  • 10:00 Bedtime

So...Thats my day, everyday with some small variations to keep things lively.


Ah, Day of Rest… in theory. In reality, the most exhausting day of my week. I am living as a Minister's daughter. 6 hours of church on Sundays starting at 4:30 am. The Methodist here are not what I remember from back home. But its good to see that aspect of the culture... if it is exhausting to have to sit in church for an entire day with every word spoken in Fijian.

I'll continue this another day when I have time.. my precious hour at the Internet Cafe is up.

25 May 2007

In Fiji ... At Last

I just wanted to assure everyone that I have safely made it to Fiji. I am currently near Suva but tomorrow I leave to stay with my host family in a nearby village.

Everything is going wonderfully and I look forward to writing all the details.

May this note find you all well

Namaste! Bula!

22 May 2007

Arrival to Staging

I have safely arrived in L.A. and completed my first day of staging.

From here forward, I am not sure what access I will have to the internet... so as they say in the Peace Corps - "No news is good news." It is possible that you will not hear a word from me in the next 10 weeks, so please do not be concerned.

My staging is going well thus far. It is indeed the same material being covered as last time, but fortunately I have with me a large new group of people to get to know. We are 29 trainees in total this time. Nearly double the size of my last training group.

The folks I have come to know thus far are enthusiastic but down-to-earth. Generally speaking (of course) they are optimistic if a bit nervous about traveling and working in Fiji. I have tried to hold my tongue, recognizing that my limited experience with the Peace Corps, although valuable to me is not needful or wanted in conversation. So unless I am asked, I am trying not to disclose much.

I should go now, as I have offered my computer and internet access to the group.

Also, my address during training for the next 10 weeks will be:

Rhiannon Doherty PCT
Peace Corps/ Fiji
Private Mail Bag
Suva, Fiji

06 May 2007

A Note to Myself

I want to be content without being numb.

I want to have opinions without being closed-minded.

I want to have morality without judging others.

I want to love without being selfish or ashamed.

I want to grow without leaving others behind.


I Respect & Admire -

Those who are able to find balance in their lives.
Those who live and work in quiet perserverence.
Those whose first thought is about others not themselves.
Those with strong opinions that force us to questions ourselves.
Those who can give their love freely even if they know they will be hurt by it.


I hope in the future that I will...

Hold myself accountable for my actions

Risk being hurt if it mean I can help someone

Live deliberately without allowing perfection to infect my efforts

Practice awareness and empathy when dealing with the rights and feelings of those around me

Be Honest

Come to understand that I am only human and I am not infallible

Always act in the spirit of compassion and understanding

05 May 2007


The net of the universe hangs like a shawl on my shoulders.

At times, it is woven in love and sustains me.
I glimpse the nature of unity and find peace.

And there are also times when it feels as thought it were made of lead.
The weight of action and responsibility force me to my knees.
The thread is all of humanity and I feel that I am overwhelmed by duty.

But it is my choice - I alone give thought and form to this perception...
Will I be struck by awe at the miracle of our time here
Or will I despair at the emptiness of the universe?

Is there not something in between...some joyful celebration of our bond?
Why instead, do these unnamed feelings overwhelm my spirit?

04 May 2007

It Begins Again.

I just confirmed my flight to LAX.
I depart for my Peace Corps Adventure: Fiji Edition on the 20th of May.

I also just saw the staging itinerary...
It will be the exact same 2 day presentation. It was trying the first time...

But I am happy to see things falling into place.
I have only a few things to do before I leave which is refreshing.

  • Pick up some clothing.
  • Purchase portable speakers.
  • Burn extra CDs.
  • Save my HD to my external unit.
  • Re-pack.

02 May 2007

Day to Day in Boston

Last week, I had the opportunity to house-sit for a friend with two dogs. My responsibilities to the pets (especially the puppy, Matilda) and other office work I offered to assist with had me occupied and content.

Now, I have come to stay with a gracious friend for the remainder of my time here. The arrangement is ideal. I am close enough to bus lines that I can easily move about the city. I am also close to St. Elizabeth's Hospital where I have chosen to volunteer until I leave once more.

I went today to speak with the head of volunteering hopeful that she would be able to find a placement for me soon. And she quickly switched from the informal questions of an interview to eagerly explaining a new project she hoped to initiate. She went into the explanation of the event already assuming my participation in it.

I was thrilled that I was so quickly accepted into the workings of the department. To have a purpose once more and be able to use my skills to help others has truly made my day. I already started work on a community development program for seniors at the cafe. I'll be surveying individuals coming to a hospital event on Thursday night for their responses to the idea. It looks like I will also be helping plan a volunteer appreciation event for early June.

Now I just need to get myself to sit down and study my Hindi and Bauan.

16 April 2007

Packing List for Fiji

  • Long dresses: Short-sleeved, hem falls below the knees*
  • 1 Moderately formal dress*
  • 1 Conservative long black skirt/dress*
  • Long, loose skirts, hem falls below the knees*
  • 1-2 Long-sleeved tops*
  • Loose-fitting, short-sleeved cotton shirts*
  • Short-sleeve, button down blouses*
  • 2 Tanktops with Support
  • 2 Sportbras
  • 1 Traditional-style Bra
  • 2 Lightweight sweaters*
  • 1 Zip-down Sweatshirt/Lightweight Fleece*
  • 1-2 Pairs of long pants*
  • Pairs of lightweight, knee-length shorts*
  • Athletic shoes*
  • Sandals/walking shoes*
  • Durable Reef Shoes

  • Backpacker’s sleeping bag liner*
  • Pillowcase
  • LED Headlamp
  • Small Sewing kit
  • Sunglasses*
  • Hat*
  • Waterproof windbreaker*
  • Light-gauge wetsuit*
  • Snorkle and Mask*
  • Umbrella*
  • Waterproof watch*
  • Thermarest
  • Personal hygiene and toiletry items*
  • 2 Pair of Prescription Glasses
  • Crystal Rock Deodorant
  • 2 Toothbrushes
  • Dr. Bronner's Soap
  • Tom's of Maine Toothpaste
  • Floride Floss
  • Hair Clippers
  • "Keeper" (I highly recommend this for every woman)
  • Folding Camping Chair
  • 2 Dry Bags: X-small, Small
  • Sturdy luggage/travel bags*
  • Large Military Style Pack
  • Medium Internal Frame Pack
  • Medium -sized Hiking Backpack (inside luggage)

  • Small Clock with Alarm*
  • Travel Adapter (Type I)
  • 3-4 Nalgene Bottles
  • Good, sharp kitchen knife*
  • Shortwave radio*
  • Portable tool kit/ Multi-tool*
  • 2 Lightweight towels and face cloths*
  • Flashlight*
  • Duct Tape*
  • Locks*
  • Plastic French press*
  • Silica gel*
  • Basic cookbook*
  • Vegetable steamer*
  • Zip-Loc Bags*
  • Tupperware
  • Personal Thermometer (There usually isn't one in the medkit)
  • Herbal Sleeping Aid (for the flight)

  • AMEX Credit Card for Emergencies
  • Personal Passport
  • Medical Record & Immunization Record in Protective Folder
  • Photocopies of Important Documents in Protective Folder

  • Camera*
  • CD player & CDs*
  • Portable Speakers (Regretted not having them last time)
  • Laptop (Powerbook G4)
  • Solar Panel System
  • Paperback books*
  • Zen and Spiritual Texts
  • Favorite Casual Reading
  • Games: Cards, UNO, Scrabble, Frisbee, Deflated Ball*
  • Inflatable globe & atlas*
  • Personal Photo Album/Address Book,Laminated*
  • Simple song book of American songs*
  • Surface mail subscriptions*
  • Martha Stewart
  • Tricycle
  • U.S. postage stamps*
  • Children's Books
  • Gifts*
  • Anything "American." A trip to the dollar store should suit your needs fine.
  • Stickers are wonderful for children.
  • Kitchen tools - Silicone Potholders, Can opener
  • Multi-tool

*Peace Corps Recommended Items

14 April 2007

Second Invitation

I have officially received my (second) invitation to the Peace Corps.

My placement will be in Fiji working with the Community Health Promotion Project.

I will post what details I can here, including updating links and contact information.

I am very pleased to be accepting this assignment. I believe that the location and the work could not be more ideally suited. I look forward to returning to the South Pacific and discovering more of the beauty in that area of the world.

13 April 2007

Accomidating Uncertanity

The last two weeks have been a disorienting combination of frantic preparations, tense waiting, and frail attempts at meaningful activity.

I understand that I am the type of person who feels they need to be continually engaged in a directed purpose. If I am in a situation where I have little control over my environment and I am given to much time on my hands, I will become restless and unmotivated. I would like to imagine myself using this time to meditate and do yoga or another activity that would encourage my personal growth. I envision myself lingering over cups of tea and reading some insightful words.

What do I do instead? I sleep in, unable to force myself from the apathetic blanket of half-consciousness. And unless I have specific tasks set out for the day that I must accomplish, I waste my time on the internet... pretending to occupy my time with lists and Word documents. Taking digital figments of reality and re-organizing them into tidy files. Essentially, trying to make order out of illusion.

Previously, this was enough to fool my mind into thinking it was occupied. But I have a new perspective. I see these actions a just subtle distractions. My mind working against its despondent attitude. I also have the experience of being in a distant place, in similar circumstances but I was unable to as easily escape my dejected state. I was forced to face my malaise and take measures to alter my mood out of cultural and professional necessity.

What does all this amount to? Perhaps, if I make the effort to schedule my days with more structure I will be able to convince my fickle emotional self that such activities are worthwhile.

09 April 2007

Video: News Article on Global Warming in Kiribati

Here is a news broadcast on global warming in Kiribati. I think it is a wonderful effort to show the impact on human life instead of just listing facts on a page.

Video: Global Warming in Kiribati

05 April 2007

Returning to The "New World"

I missed my flight.

One would think a 10 hour layover would be enough to connect from LAX to Boston...
Apparently not in my case.

I could not accurately tell you if it was a wrong time on a clock, the wrong gate, the fact that I may have slept through boarding that caused me to miss my flight... which probably says something about my lack of brain functioning yesterday.

But more than all of that I have been a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of everything here.. in just a short time I became accustomed to a simpler pace of life. My penance was sleeping on the rug floor of the international terminal (which was none to clean but seeing that I have been sleeping in a hut with rats the last few weeks, it was immaculate comparitively)... and not actually getting any rest. I'll live.

I'm planning on trying to adjust to the local time zone in the East Coast... trying not to sleep to much during the day. But I may take a rest on the plane.

Everything here is so bright... and the materials of the buildings are enormously varied. Everything is on a tight schedule and everyone seems to be in a rush. Astounding what a month away can do for one's perspective.

02 April 2007

Still Safe.

Despite the earthquake this morning I am still safe and sound. No Tsunami.
This is a good thing... because had I been killed this morning at that time I would have died watching Matrix 2... and no god would want that... no god is so cruel as to wish that death upon anyone.

I'm Coming Home (Temporarily)

It has been decreed...

Because of the transfer, I will be returning home for a month or so.
I will most likely be living in Worcester... trying to get to all the medical appointments and repack .
I am hoping to get a First Aid Certification and volunteer at the hospital while I'm home.

The latest news on my placement:

They offered a very specific placement in Fiji where I would act as an health extention volunteer using theater to educate the public about various topics.

The job, plus the culture and my ability to remain vegetarian seemed reasons enough to put in a bid for the position.

If all goes well and I get the position I desire, I will be leaving to return to the South Pacific on May 20th.

As for myself...

I am doing well and I do not feel badly about the changes. I look forward to the opportunities ahead of me.

I look forward to hanging out with my friends.. most likely in sedate places - i.e. not the mall. I will be experiencing some re-adjustment and there is no telling how that will be until I get back. But eating good food in good company is something I look to treasure in my short time back.

On a side note: I will be selling my SLR when I get home for a decent price... including the case, extra filters and extra batteries and what not. It is the best thing I can do in circumstance and if you are interested please let me know.

28 March 2007

Important Announcement - Transfer

I have just been informed by Peace Corps that I willnot be able to serve on Kiribati due to circumstance beyond the control of the Peace Corps.

At this moment, I am disappointed but I appreciate the way the Peace Corps is supporting us during this process. At this point I do not have much information to share about the next few weeks or my plans for the future. I plan to continue my service in another country... hopefully Africa. I have my aims set towards work with AIDS/Hiv and community development. It is not all bad. The way I see it this opportunity allows me the ability to choose my next assignment with a more discerning attitude than when I accepted my invitation to Kiribati.

So, in short, if you were planning on sending letters and packages... don't. I will continue to keep you all updated with the details as I get them.


(Below is the official notification from Peace Corps.)

Dear Friends and Family of Peace Corps Group K36,
It saddens me to report that Peace Corps Kiribati is scaling back its program. The current domestic air situation does not allow us to support volunteers in the southern islands of the Gilbert Group. Consequently, we are relocating those volunteers located on Nonouti and all islands south of Nonouti to islands closer to Tarawa.

Unfortunately, this move greatly reduces the number of site placements available to members of training group K36. As a result, Peace Corps has decided to offer re-enrollment/transfer options to all fifteen training group K36 members. We at Peace Corps Kiribati share the disappointment felt by the newest members of our family. We are doing everything possible to facilitate alternative placements that will allow all members of this group to look back fondly, one day, on two valuable Peace Corps experiences.

We take our promise to provide a safe and supportive environment for your loved ones very seriously. It is that promise that requires us to take this action. Your son or daughter (and in three cases, your mother and/or grandmother) will provide you with more detailed information. Additionally, I am available should you have any questions.

Thank you for your patience and your understanding and for loaning us your loved one, albeit for a shorter time than we all expected.

Michael Koffman

Director, Peace Corps/Kiribati

16 March 2007

March 8-15: Village Life

Without further delay... letter-post #2

9 March
Hotel, S. Tarawa

This is my last evening in the hotel for some time. I am excited to go meet my host family tomorrow. I hope my language skills are good enough to be able to communicate with them. Today we went shopping in Biriki. I visited the only internet cafe in the country and was able to post my first in-country entry. This also means that for a few days every 3 months or so I will be on gmail to chat.

10 March
Nooto, Kiribati

Today was the day... I moved in with my host family in Nooto. I feel like I am starring in 'The Last Samurai' but, unlike Algren, I am not a linguistic genius. It is difficult not to fall back on English upon occasion. I even had a walk with my 10 year old tiram (sister) just like in the film- awkward pauses and all. Sometimes, I feel a bit like a pet. They watched me eat and go to bed. But I hope I made a good impression. I understand that these things take time.

11 March

Went to church today... I did my best to sing along. I also tried to use the time to meditate.

12 March

I'm growing.

I'm also analytical to a fault... at least I allow it to become a fault. I will not let a single mood become my existence. So what... I am overwhelmed- I have had little sleep and I am not in my comfort zone. I just need to so something I enjoy.

Things improved drastically. But I just need to recognize that this is hard- language aside, just living here is an accomplishment. The I-Kiribati don't see all the health concerns, dietary restrictions. It is nothing for them to live without privacy in a small room with rats. All that... and so far from my friends... I'm growing.

14 March

I enjoy the challenge and frustrations of learning a new language. I've also started taking up old passtimes in new ways. I just built a bike rack out of pandanus bark and making a meditation cushion out of traditional woven mats. Little things that remind me of home and of who I am are important. Just negotiating my schedule each day with my tamau (dad) is a cross-cultural exchange. In a male-dominant country, an unmarried woman/daughter (my relative family status) has few rights and priveleges. But for myself, a woman as independent as they comes, it takes empathy, humility, and a sense of purpose to maintain my composure when I am told regardless of logic that I will do some particular thing, like return home at a certain hour. But this type of interaction is why I chose to join the PC.

15 March

Another volunteer has gone back to calling me by my affectionate nickname 'Beefykins'! I must admit it makes me smile.


Paradise disguised... not lost.
We all create our own circumstances.
Whether the water is clear and bright
or dark and clouded.

Phrase of the Week: Ko Kewe! (You lie!)

- More Kiribati Language
- about the Public school system in Kiribati
- It is difficult to give up concern about appearance totally.
- Sleeping in a hammock is bad for your back.
- Your leg can indeed be covered entirely in mosquito bites.
- My skin can sunburn and then peel, making me look like a zombie.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do is breathe.

09 March 2007

Important Contact Information.

Mauri! (Hello)

Anyone who would like may send an email to me at the following address:


It will be printed and mailed to me (read: seen by others)
For the next 2 months I should receive your letters weekly.

Kam Rabwa. (Thanks)

08 March 2007

March 1-7: Arrival in Kiribati and Beginning Pre-Service Training

Here is the first of Rhi's letter posts. Please forgive any spelling errors. Sometimes her handwriting is a bit shaky.

2 March
Lagoon Breeze Hotel, S. Tarawa

Today marks my second day in Kiribati.

So much has occurred in the last day and a half... its hard to sum it up in words. We were greeted by groups of children and PCVs at the airport. They brought us chilled moimoto (young coconuts with juice) and flower garlands to wear, each one exquisitely crafted by hand. We then had a briefing on the basics of training.

4 March
Lagoon Breeze Hotel, S. Tarawa

Language has me a bit stressed- my need for perfection is the source more than the classes themselves.

I was very moved by the sunset today... the landscape combined with some jazz that was playing set the tone for a mood that was relaxed and content and yet very moving. It was a beautiful moment.

7 March
Lagoon Breeze Hotel, S. Tarawa

I feel as thought I am beginning to adjust to this new way of life. Slowly, I recognize new patterns of behavior. I also am adapting previous patterns of behavior to fit a new context. On another note, I am finding that it is difficult to retaing personal priorities while in a group. I struggle to remain humble and dedicated to my role here.

Reading a letter from a friend reminds me that I should cherish each moment... cherish each person I come into contact with. I never can know how much I might effect them.

I visited the local JSS (junior high school). It looks a bit run down and very institutional but inside the students were attentive and well-behaved. It seemed as though each teacher I observed taught by rote form though. This will be a difficult attitude to alter significantly if it is embraced country-wide.

On another note, I had the unexpected delight of meeting several neighborhood children. We played games, they taught me to climb to the top of a coconut tree and how to count in Kiribati. I also showed them how to recycle wrappers into flowers for their hair.


A day that spans oceans,
A moment that passes without notice.
My breath rises and falls
Each breath should be seen as a
beautiful wave.

Phrase of the week: Tinam... (Your mom...)

- Create a traditionally woven meditation cushion.
- 'Root-cellar' style cooling pit with lid.

Learned this week:
- How to introduce myself and make simple polite conversation.
- How to tebotebo (bathe) Kiribati-style.
- Water safety near a coral reef.
- That I have several strong intelligence styles: Logical, Kinestic, Self and Existential.
- That I prefer private time after being in a crowd.
- Bonding with others is an active choice for me - a needful one to be effective here but also need to respect my personal needs to.

02 March 2007

Travel: February 25th - March 1st

Logan Airport - Boston, Massachusetts
Pink hued morning glow
I travel far from the known
Flying with fullness

It is hard to determine if "this" has hit me yet... I am present in the moment (Or so I think) But is that truly the case if I am continually asking?

Above a land marbled with nature's wintry touch
I contemplate distance and identity
But while my mind struggles with answerless questions
The land below has changed completely.

Gateway Hotel - LA, California

I have enjoyed meeting everyone thus far. Everyone seems to be in a similar place to myself - pleased to begin a journey they have anticipated for months.

I spotted Colin from "Who's Line is It Anyway?" at Starbucks in the Airport.

Raffles Hotel - Nadi, Fiji

The 12 hour plane ride was not nearly as daunting as I thought it would be. I slept through the worst of it for about 6 hours.

The moment I stepped off the plane in Fiji, I first sensed the fertile smell on the air and the heavy weight of the humidity and heat. But this climate which normally would be oppressive was my first taste of inspiration - this was the beginning.

In Fiji, I was able to walk the countryside with a fellow volunteer. The area near Sleeping Giant mountain was rural and very attractive. On the returning bus ride, we were dropping children at home after a day at school. The village homes and the people linger in my mind not for their profound beauty but the simple human connection they embody.

Also... I was mistaken for Natalie Portman by a Fijian local.

On the Plane to Kiribati

Red bridge without water

Distant mountains green and still

A Journey within a step

Time has passed strangely these last few days.

Looking below me at an atoll, I recognize that I will be spending my next two years on one of the most remote places on the planet.

I hope I am able to live up to this opportunity. I want to be worthy of this priviledge.

And now we descend toward an ocean like the sky.

27 February 2007

Arrival & Staging

This will be the last post here for quite some time... months most likely.

I have arrived safely in L.A. My staging conference/training was very helpful in diffusing some of my concerns for this trip. I am exhausted and I imagine the 12 hour trip to Fiji will only add to this situation.

But more than all that... I am elated.

I want to thank everyone for their support this last year. I could not be here walking this path without you.


(I expect each of you to write... so get going.)

24 February 2007

Kiribati/English Dictionary

This site provides a combined Kiribati-English dictionary as well as historical language descriptions and references.

16 February 2007

Neutral Thoughts

I am unsure of how to give form to my thoughts.
They are full of weight but without any color of their own.

I am not afraid or even nervous. Nor am I filled with idealized expectations. I just take each day as it presents itself - working through my lists, collecting objects for my journey, and visiting with friends who will soon be distant. I have no doubts or hesitation. Nothing present but this singular vision and purpose. Somedays, my curious mind will ponder what will come of me when I return, but such thoughts pass quickly.

Is this what a calling feels like?

I want to be able to provide a snapshot of my mental state for future reflection, but I struggle with pining such neutral emotions on a page.

I prod seemingly sensitive aspects of my departure to conjure some more romantic ideal to write about. I think about leaving my friends. I reflect on how so much changed last time I left them for just a half a year. But then I also recall how each of those dear to me remained as they were despite their external circumstances altering. Each friend retained all aspects of their personality that had endeared them to me in the first place. So there is no regret at leaving them to pursue their own journeys.

Its strange... I have finally found some form of contentment in this life and yet I still grasp blindly for something to struggle against. I am more aware, more present than ever before and I am chaffing with the ease of it. I have a long way to go yet.

13 February 2007



Surreal crossroads on foreign land

Waiting in the distance, yet abiding in my thoughts.

Will the vision of shores below wake me?

Will the tide pull my mind from its well-trod earthy paths?

Translucent Pacific, Harsh Atlantic

Ever-changing and ever-constant,

I am as the Ocean.

05 February 2007

26 January 2007

Charging a Powerbook by Solar Power

The Panel: Solarius 26

The Equipment:

Powerbook G4 with a 15" screen
Input: AC 100-240V 50-60Hz / Output: 24.5V 2.65 Amps

Lithium Battery Charger for the Nikon D50
Input: 100-240V 50-60Hz / Output: 8.4V 0.9 Amps

Charger for Ni-MH/Ni-Cd Batteries
Input: 100-240V 50/60Hz
Output: 2.8V 450 mA (2 AA's)
2.8V 180 mA (2 AAA's)

The Problem:

Needing to find a 12 Volt Power Adapter for each of the above electronics.
The battery charger should be easy enough at an electronics store. However, the Mac adapter poses more of a problem. Apparently, there is no DC car adapter made for a Powerbook that doesn't have an inverter. Using an inverter as the connection from your solar panel to your computer is not an option. The panel can only provide a trickle current. This type of current is not strong enough to power the inverter's needs and feed the remaining electricity into the device.

I have purchase a small 12v battery that weighs about 3 pounds. Using an adapter on the battery, I will attach the battery to an DC/AC inverter. I will then plug my laptop's power adapter into that. This approach has the benefit of limiting the exposure of my electronics to the harsh weather conditions.

The Solution:

Modern Outpost. They have kits where all you need to have is your computer. This is the kit I could use with my Powerbook G4 if I had the time to purchase it. Gram, the gentleman I spoke with guided me through building my own but if you have the time/money to have them ship it to you (They are located in Canada) do so. Problem Solved. If you have a Powerbook it would be better for you to get this DC/DC adapter here at Xterasys.

Here a visual guide from Modern Outpost:

Contact Info


"Notify the office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 1-800-424-8580 select option 2, then extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574...

For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your
country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 1.800.424.8580.



PCVs assigned to outer islands will be issued a satellite phone that
they might occassionally use to call home (special occasions such
as birthdays), which costs about $3.00 US a minute. You CAN'T call them
on this phone, however. Only they can call you. It is VERY DIFFICULT
to get and keep a connection on these phones, however, so they are by
no means a reliable source of communication. If you wish to send brief
messages (120 character limit) to their sat phone, ask your volunteer
for his/her sat phone e-mail address.

Now and then, like during conference times, the volunteer
will be staying at the Peace Corps dorm. Friends and
family can call that number (011-686-21572 or 011-686-21573) when they
know their volunteer will be there.


Volunteers/trainees will have very limited access to e-mail,
so opportunities for them to write personal e-mails and
respond to e-mails will be few and far between.

However, when the trainees will have completed training and been sworn in as PCVs, you may e-mail them at pcv@tskl.net.ki. You must always write "[the full name of the volunteer]" in THE SUBJECT FIELD in order for the Peace Corps office to know who should receive the e-mail.

In the past, the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader has printed out the
e-mails and sent them to the respective volunteer once a week with the
Peace Corps mail (assuming this practice still continues). This should
hopefully speed up the communication process, since regular mail
typically takes a MINIMUM of 4-6 weeks to and from Kiribati. However,
the time it takes for mail to travel from island to island
(especially registered mail coming from Peace Corps, Tarawa) and actually
get into the volunteers' hands once it is one their island...it could be
slower than just sending mail.

Keep in mind that e-mails sent to this address are viewed by the
other volunteers and project leaders, so please keep the cursing
and obscenities to a minimum. Also, no attachments, please.

If the subject matter is of a private nature, please send it on to the email listed on this site under Contacts in the sidebar. It will eventually be received, about once every 6 months or so.


You may also contact volunteers/trainees via snail mail(as this
will likely be their main way of communicating with people back
home). The address during training is:

Rhiannon Doherty PCT
PO Box 260
Bikenibeu, Tarawa
Republic of Kiribati, Central Pacific

Trainees will not be given their specific assignments (or assigned
island) until May, and therefore do not yet know their mailing
addresses for May and on.

To send a letter (from the U.S.): $.81 for normal weight from U.S.

Marshall Islands" below the mailing address.

MAKE SURE TO NUMBER YOUR LETTERS (e.g. "letter#1," "letter #2," etc.)

23 January 2007

Addendums to the Welcome Book

This informal notification was posted on the Kiribati PC Yahoo Group.

1 - There is not snorkel gear available for purchase. Occasionally
there might be masks, but fins are nearly impossible to find, and
nearly worth their weight in gold.

Note: I did find snorkel gear in Betio and they have it regularly stocked at
the fishing gear store just before the causeway to Betio, but it is
expensive and not that great quality. I definitely recommend buying
snorkel gear in the states. [posted by skyski02]

2 - Clothing for women- You have to wear knee length shorts under your
lavalava (sarong) so bring a few that are light weight and really
comfortable. The availability of good bras is very limited. Don't
worry too much about clothing - in our first week we were given all
of the clothing that leaving volunteers had left. You will also
quickly abandon all sense of fashion you once had.

3 - Read The Sex Lives of Cannibals by Maarten Troost. Some things
are very very different (the Chinese Spy Station is no longer there,
Kiribati is no longer in a drought, the Tiawanese have come in and
figured out how to make soil) but your hotel you stay in for the
first week is directly behind the FSP and the volunteers who read it
seemed to have a more comprehensive view of what to expect.

4 - You will sing. You will have to sing at least 3 songs in the
welcome botaki as a group. Think now (before going to training) of
songs you know all the words to and the tune to. You will then have
to sing by yourself at many botakis. Learn the words to a few songs
you like, or print them out and learn them while you are there.

5 - Solar panels are not as readily available as you would think.

6 - You have to bring a 3 month supply of prescriptions, not a 1
month supply. Medicine has to be ordered from South Africa and takes
a very long time to arrive.

[posted by hidden flaw]

Serving in Kiribati - Q&A

The following is a compiled list of questions and answers concerning Peace Corps service in Kiribati. The original postings can be found on the Kiribati yahoo group.

Q: What is it like getting to Kiribati?

A: Depends on your group's situation. K27 came through Australia and had to pay extra for their luggage (they were reimbursed). K28 (our group) went through Hawaii and Fiji, without a hitch. K29 went from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands in two batches, having to leave a lot of luggage in Hawaii. They were reunited with their luggage a few days later in Kiribati.

Staging, usually in San Francisco, is an afternoon-long process of paperwork and mental preparation for the trip. Ours was run by a woman contracted by the Peace Corps. We didn't meet anyone who had been to Kiribati, but somehow we didn't mind. We were up for an adventure, and that meant unpredictability. Most of our questions were answered soon enough when we got to the country. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Do I need to worry about vaccinations before staging?

A: In our experience, no. When we arrived in Kiribati, the Peace Corps nurse who is a fulltime employee of the Peace Corps office in Kiribati looked at our vaccination records and filled in the gaps: tetanus, measles-mumps-rubella, polio, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid are the ones I remember. Just be sure to have records of your vaccinations, or you risk getting the shots again. Ouch! Luckily there's not a lot of weird deadly stuff you can get here. No malaria, and no rabies, for example. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What is training like?

A: Peace Corps Volunteers everywhere get trained before they are sworn in. You'll be thankful for this when you start your service. Other volunteer organizations don't have much in the way of training. Peace Corps currently believes in community-based training, which means for 8 weeks or so you live with a local family. (This is in addition to a week or so staying with a volunteer, and a few more weeks in Tarawa learning your way around the governmental ministries and Peace Corps policies. About 12 weeks in all.) Homestay is where you begin to learn the culture and the language. It's hard. You eat new types of food, awake to the roosters at 3 a.m., get sick, sit on your tender rump for hours at a time on the ground, miss home, pray for mail, get wet when your little hut leaks. You get the picture. You might learn local dance, ways of getting fish, how to fetch water from a well—skills that will serve you well living on an outer island. Some people have a blast.

You might wonder, if your service is going to be in Tarawa, why you're being forced to endure this outer island boot camp. Well, it because it humbles you. It also shows you what kind of life most of those in Tarawa come from. And if you're doing work in Tarawa that will impact people on the outer islands, wouldn't it be helpful to know how those people tick? The alternative is the colonialist model which is more like: "I'm going to come in and show you poor people how to do things right." The community-based model says: "I'm going to live like you, understand you better, so we can do great things together." [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Is the work fulfilling? Will I learn new skills for future work?

A: The work varies tremendously from volunteer to volunteer, island to island. Work depends on local counterparts, resources, shared vision, and personal motivation. Some volunteers are very busy while others are not. Some decide to focus instead on the cultural exchange aspect of the Peace Corps mission, which is 2/3rds of your job description. One thing is certain: Work is treated differently in other countries. Learning how to adapt to that and still manage to get things done involves a complex set of personal skills that is bound to serve you well in whatever future work environment you find yourself. Or, it may drive you insane and cause you to end your service early with bitterness. It all depends on how you decide you're going to be. Will you change, or will you die trying to change everyone in your host country? [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Is life in Tarawa much different from the other 16 Gilbert Islands where volunteers are placed?

A: Some things are the same, like topography of land and the kindness of the people, but not much else. Tarawa is the city, while outer islands are the country. Think of Tarawa as having the stuff of a small town in America and the outer islands as small farming hamlets. Tarawa has a power plant and buses that travel at high speed. Outer islands have a bit of solar power at scattered homes, some small gas generators, and maybe a handful of trucks for transport. Drinking is, in general, more accepted in Tarawa, and there is a much larger population of Westerners. One can get most foods in Tarawa (and goods, tools, etc.) while the stock on outer islands is unpredictable. Tarawa has email and telephones, while most outer islands don’t have phones (as of now, two or three islands have solar-powered pay phones. Telcom is expanding phone service each year to new islands.) [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Is Kiribati safe for single females?

A: Kiribati has the reputation as a safe country overall. The people love Americans. They have a stable government and no civil unrest. Thievery happens but is rare. However, there have been a number of instances of sexual assault on PCV women over the years, including at least one rape. Usually the attacks have involved men who overdrink. There have been break-ins of homes at night and attacks on the road or in the bush. Almost always they have occurred when the woman is alone at home, on the beach, on the road, or in the bush. PCV women protect themselves by traveling with other PCVs or local female friends. Some single women sleep at a neighbor's house, keep a dog, or ask a trusted friend to sleep on a buia outside her house. It is rare that a woman taking these measures has any serious problems.

A single woman living alone is not familiar to the Kiribati culture. Women don't sunbathe on the beach alone, travel through the bush alone. Many PCV women have led very independent lives without a single problem, but others have experienced problems. A woman should have the freedom to travel alone without fear, but a corresponding reality is that there are some men in Kiribati who are violent--and Western women are very conspicuous targets. Likely this would go for most Peace Corps countries, of course. The nice thing is that women in Kiribati who believe in safety in numbers and allowing their neighbors to "protect" them are rarely refused help. Marian lives very conservatively. Sometimes it frustrates her that she can't do things alone like a guy can, but she is happy with her decision. To date, she has not experienced any violence directed at her. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Can you save enough money to travel? What about meeting family?

A: Most PCVs travel to other countries during their service. From Kiribati, Fiji perhaps is the most popular destination, followed by Vanuatu, Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific countries like Samoa and Marshall Islands. And, of course, many return to the States one time for Christmas after their first year.

At the moment, PCVs take in about $350AUS each month in various allowances. Tarawa volunteers take in a bit more, but costs are higher on Tarawa. We've managed to pay for a 12-day trip to Fiji (one night in a resort) and roughly half of a trip to Australia on Peace Corps dollars we've saved. We decided not to meet family in Fiji last year, as we worried flights might be delayed. But many volunteers do meet family, usually with no problem. And some PCVs have family visit them in Kiribati, almost always with good results. The people here are very generous and there is usually a week or two of things to do on an outer island before some people start to go stir crazy. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Just how isolated are you in terms of emergencies?

A: Living on Tarawa, you are near the Peace Corps medical officer, a hospital, and an international airport with regular service to Australia. On an outer island, you have only between one and three regular flights per week, and only a few islands are in close range for speedboat travel. In case of an emergency, the PCV or a friend would CB or use a satellite phone (some islands have them now, and all islands are due to have them in the very near future) to call the office and the medical officer might elect to hire one of Air Kiribati's two planes to come and get you. One problem is that none of the landing strips have lights for night flights, but conceivably villagers could light up the runway with flashlights (I'm not kidding). And the Marshall Islands has an American base with military craft that conceivably could be called on in an extreme emergency. Yes, it's remote and scary, especially in the case of a dreaded appendicitis. At the same time, were something to happen, everyone would be going well out of their way to help you. It's risky, but one we've decided we're willing to take for all the BENEFITS that come from being hard to reach. It's nice not to return home and automatically look for the answering machine. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What are the advantages or disadvantages to joining Peace Corps as a couple?

A: Having constant moral support is wonderful. Living in close quarters for two years can be very difficult, but if you can adjust, your relationship is all the stronger. Sharing experiences is priceless. Doing it by yourself I would assume is a huge confidence booster and something to be proud of. But it's hard enough with Marian's help; I wouldn't trade this decision for the world. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What's the food like?

A: Some of the food is quite amazingly good, especially the fresh seafood when you can get it. It all depends on what village you live in and whether you know people who fish, or if people sell fish. There are some coconut recipes that are very tasty. There is not too much in the way of veggies, but there have been vegetarians who have gotten by (though none would say it's been easy, and most give in and start eating fish.) There are a lot of canned foods, like canned meats, that are popular and very unhealthy. Lack of variety is a common complaint by PCVs, including us. We spend hours talking about food we miss. I miss food almost as much as I miss friends and family. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: How about your health?

A: Some people never get sick, but they are the exception. Marian and/or I have had the following: giardia, salmonella, something like dengue (blood test being processed), food poisoning, fish poisoning (a mild version, not ciguatera, thank God), 24-fever, common cold, heat rash, diarrhea, and just plain feeling tired, low energy. I'd say we've been sicker than most in our group, however. I've lost 40 pounds, Marian 10. It's nice to have year-round sunshine and a place to swim to make up for feeling cruddy sometimes. I've probably only lost about 3 weeks of work due to sickness, however. Somehow you make it. The physical challenge is something I was looking for. Though 12 of our original 32 group members have left, only one left due to a medical condition. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What happens in case of a family emergency back in the States?

A: If you have a satellite phone, your family can simply call you. If not, Peace Corps Kiribati keeps trying by CB until they get hold of you, and you can then go into Tarawa to speak with your family by phone. There is free email at the dorm that is currently working, and there is an Internet café in Tarawa that costs $8AUS per hour. Peace Corps has strict policy as to when you can return to the States on their dime. Consult the maroon handbook for this one. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: When does your service end?A: Most Peace Corps terms of service around the world are 27 months. Currently PCV groups arrive in Kiribati in October and leave 26 months later, in December, before Christmas. This is because there is a long school break December and January in which very little work gets done, so there's often little point in sticking around. Some health volunteers leave even a bit earlier, with special permission. Others get permission to stay beyond the 26 months, and some extend for a third year. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Can I have a pet?

A: Cats are great for mice, and there are plenty of both in Kiribati. There are plenty of dogs here, too, and many PCVs adopt one or more. Then comes the question of what to do with them when you leave. We're researching on how to bring ours home, but most elect to pass them on to other PCVs (when possible), make them dorm pets (when there's not one already), or let them fend for themselves (they don't always survive.) It's a very difficult issue that has no clear answers. Take note: If you get a pet pig, it will certainly be eaten. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: How easy is it to go swimming? Snorkeling? Diving? Surfing?

A: Most PCVs swim, even in Tarawa where it's hard to find places that aren't polluted. Getting past the breakers to snorkel is harder on some islands than on others. There are wonderful places to dive (unfortunately the latest word is that the dive school on North Tarawa is going out of business in June 2003), and there is some good surfing. People do bring surfboards and find opportunity to use them. (Remember if you are a single woman that getting to water might mean traveling alone, as water is almost never used recreationally by locals and most beaches are deserted. See the above statement on safety for women.) We believe in the buddy system and never swim alone. We have seen sharks, lionfish, Portuguese man-o-war, and a few other prickly sea critters, but we're alive to tell the tale. Everything's pretty well fed and has very little use for a starved PCV. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Do many PCVs travel after their service?

A: The ones in Kiribati certainly do. When you leave, instead of letting the Peace Corps buy your ticket home you can take the cash equivalent and purchase around the world tickets at good prices. We're going straight home, but most of our friends are doing at least a couple months of travel on their way home. Some travel for a year or more, and some even go to Holland. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: The PCT has been told that she will be teaching teachers how to teach English to the natives. She has not been told on which island she will be doing this. Might anyone have an idea as to whether this would be on South Tarawa? Obviously this would have a significant impact as S. Tarawa has electricity etc.

A: My best guess is that she will remain on South Tarawa, as that is where Teacher Training College is. [posted by tisarunner] She probably will be on an outer island, as people who are going to be stationed on South Tarawa are given advanced notice. [posted by Hannah]

Q: She has been told that she will stay with a host family initially.
Then what? What are the PC dorms, do you live in these afterwords? Are there PC dorms on every island?

A: The PC dorms are located on South Tarawa, and are used mainly as a temporary-stay when volunteers come in from outer islands for conference, on school breaks, etc...You live with a host family for the entire 12 weeks of training. When I was there in 1996 we stayed on south Tarawa with a family, then spent two weeks on an outer island -as a group-each staying with a host family there [posted by tisarunner]

The training is a little different now, in that we go to North Tarawa, where it's more like an outer island, for the bulk of the training, with just a few weeks spent on South. In North you stay with a host family in your own kiakia, or small enclosed raised room. Once you go to your site, you will have your own house, made usually from local materials. The PC dorm is where volunteers stay when they come to visit South for whatever reason. [posted by Hannah]

Q: What is the cooking situation? We see that she is to bring some cooking utensils. What does one cook on? Is everyone pretty much responsible for their own meals?

A: It really depends. If she is on south Tarawa she will most likely cook her own meals. However, the I-Kiribati don't like to see people eat alone, and will often bring plates over, fish, bread, etc....or a lot of the time she will have lots of invites over to other family's meals. I lived on the island of Nikunau, one of the furthest south, and I ate with the teacher's families nearly every night. The I-Kiribati are extremely generous people! [posted by tisarunner]

Outer island volunteers cook on kerosene stoves. You can buy kitchen utensils here, but I've never seen measuring spoons or hot pads, so bring them. You may also want to bring a good lightweight frying pan, as sometimes they can be hard to find. Everything else is available on Tarawa. Many volunteers eat some or most or all of their meals with a host family. If you want to cook, you can; it's up to you how much you want to cook for yourself, because there are always people who will feed you if you don't want to. [posted by Hannah]

Q: I've read that many PCV's still boil their water after it has been filtered. Do you need to bring something to boil the water in? Does this mean you should not wash your food in unboiled water? Should one bring plenty of Imodium?

A: Imodium may help, although a lot of those things will be supplied by the PC medical office. You can purchase a large metal teapot on Tarawa, and that is what everyone boils their water in! No need for purification systems, etc....the boiling works! The hardest part is being offered a drink and not knowing if the water has been boiled! You end up drinking a lot of HOT beverages just to be safe!! [posted by tisarunner]

PC provides all vols with a water filter. Boiling is not necessary, but depending on your immune system and preferences, you may want to boil and filter your water. [posted by Hannah]

Q: What are the sleeping conditions? We see that it is recommended to bring like a camping pad, but does that go on top of an existing mattress, wood, the floor, what?

A: Well, once again, if she is in Tarawa she will have more "modern" conditions, and can buy a piece of foam there. Most outer-islanders sleep on buias, raised platforms, with mats piled on them. I brought a therma-rest and it served its purpose! Also doubled as a floatie for the ocean!! [posted by tisarunner]

Q: I bought a Thermarest inflatable sleeping pad. It's going to take up considerable space in my luggage. Instead, would it be a better idea to buy a pad in Tarawa? What are they like in Tarawa?

A: Definitely wait and get one if you need it. you can get a foam pad if you want it, but most people end up not using anything. you'll get a sleeping mat free your first day of training, and before that you'll be on hotel beds. [posted by Gina]

If you need a pad, a thermarest is probably a good idea... they can make it hotter when you sleep. Most people sleep on mats that are made locally & seem to adjust to it fairly quickly. I did during training and was comfortable. If you have a hard time sleeping generally, you may want a thermarest. As far as pads in Tarawa, yeah, they're not too bad, kinda expensive and would be hard to get it around. [posted by Lindsey]

Q: Most postings I've read seem to think a hammock is an important item to bring. Why? Do you sleep in it? Where do you hang them?

A: There aren't many choices for furniture, most people sit on the ground there. I bought a small hammock, nothing fancy, from the Campmor catalog, and LIVED in it! It's just a nice place to read a book once in a while! I never slept in mine. I hung mine right inside my hut. They are constructed with large posts, so you hang them there. [posted by tisarunner]

Hammocks are nice because of the laid back lifestyle, and the lack of chairs to sit in here. They are very relaxing and an absolute essential for the free time when you just want to relax. Highly recommended. [posted by Hannah]

Q: How bad are the insects? Do you need to bring repellents? Do you need to bring your own netting, or is it supplied?

A: LOTS of maninnaras (insects)!!! PC provides stick repellent, and you can purchase mosquito coils there.....PC also supplied one single-size mosquito net, however a lot of volunteers went to the seamstress and had larger ones made very inexpensively there. [posted by tisarunner]

Mosquitoes vary depending on location, weather, wind, etc. But yes, they are here, and yes they can be annoying. PC gives you as much repellent as you want, and a mosquito net that is plenty big enough to sleep in comfortably.

Q: I assume one should bring lots of 50 Sunblock?

A: YES!! [posted by tisarunner] Again, PC provides this, so it's not necessary to bring it. You may want to bring a little to get through Fiji (the stop before Kiribati on the trip over), and the initial few days before meeting the medical officer. But other than that, it's free through PC. [posted by Hannah]

Q: The PCT would like us to ship to her a small portable typewriter. I've heard that it can take quite a while to receive such large packages - so is this feasible?
A: Feasible, though expensive, but yes, it will take a while....you may even want to ship it now! Regardless of US postal service, everything arrives very slowly. There is really no such thing as priority, express, etc....Definitely do AIRMAIL, though....I had a few packages sent ground and received them six months later, rat-eaten from being on a ship!! [posted by tisarunner]

Mail is extremely slow and sometimes unreliable, so yes it's possible but would be very pricey and time consuming. [posted by Hannah]

Q: Is metal degradation a serious problem such that electronics need to be kept in a ziplock bag when not in use?

A: The salty air tends to affect electronic equipment more so there than anywhere I have seen. I would highly advise against brining very expensive items, with the exception of a camera, which you will be glad to have. Ziplocs can only do so much. [posted by tisarunner]

Q: What is the sitting situation, on the ground alot? Is bringing a chair an important consideration for an "older" person?

A: Most everyone sits on the ground, and it can get darn near uncomfortable having to sit for hours on end at a botaki. I brought a Crazy Creek foldable camping chair that served its purpose there! [posted by tisarunner]

Q: It appears that there is access to the receipt of emails, just \not the sending of them - is that correct? How does that work?

A: There was no internet when I was there, it's a fairly new \arrival...so I imagine lots of glitches still. [posted by tisarunner]

Volunteers have access to email and internet through the PC office in South Tarawa. There is no email access on outer islands, so it's a once-every-three-months deal. It's fairly consistent though. [posted by Hannah]

Q: Just how hot does it get? I've seen that the avg. temperature is in the 80's, but read some saying it gets as high as 122 F. Is bringing a personal fan an important consideration?

A: I have lived in Arizona, and now in Texas, and I can attest that it is no hotter than the hottest places in the US....you usually have a nice breeze being near the water. It is humid, though, and that can make it seem unbearable....122 degerees sounds a bit high. Maybe some of those hand-held fans would help? There are some large handmade native fans made in Kiribati that work well! They are thick and made out of pandanus leaves. [posted by tisarunner]

Temps are usually 80s and 90s. [posted by Hannah]

Q: How often does one get off the island they are assigned to and travel to either S. Tarawa, or elsewhere where they can purchase needed items?

A: Depending on your island...Nikunau was one of the farthest, hence one flight a week IF WE WERE LUCKY!! Based on the PCT's age I think they will not place her so far away...so the likelihood of her getting in to Tarawa is very good. We had three school breaks, though, which were about 3 weeks each. The Christmas break was around 7 weeks. That's when most PCVs would come in, and often we had conferences in Tarawa to come in for anyway. [posted by tisarunner]

Q: About how long does it take for small packages, up to 2lbs, to arrive to and from Kiribati to the US?

A: On the faster side-2 weeks, slower up to 4 weeks....all AIRMAIL. [posted by tisarunner]

Lately, it's been more like 3 - 6 weeks. It's tempermental. [posted by Hannah]

Q: How do you mail letters home? Do you need US stamps? Do you use Kiribati stamps? Do we need friends and family to send us stamps?

A: To send letters from Kiribati you will need to just buy Kiribati stamps at the post office there (and they are available on the outer islands at the government centers as well). But also bring a supply of US stamps for those going back stateside (which, surprisingly, you find more than you think!) so that they can drop off letters from you in the US that will be received much faster! Mostly everyone obliges, as they understand what a great opportunity it is! [posted by tisarunner]

Q: Sheets are recommended to take. Being a couple, can we expect to sleep in a "double" size bed or two "twin" size beds? Any suggestions on sheet size would be great. (posted by a PCT couple)

A: You will most likely get a double kie,(floor mat-don't worry they're actually quite comfy! You will probably NOT have a bed!), both with your host families and once at your assignment location. Therefore I would bring a larger sheet for the two of you. When I went I had sewn a double sheet in half, resembling a sleeping bag (as per the recommendation of another volunteer, to keep out dirt, critters, etc....) I ended up pulling out the stitches to make one sheet! At the PC office there are twin beds, but better to have a larger size sheet, then you can just fold it in half....and actually I remember in the past they provided the sheets there, anyway.... [posted by tisarunner]

Q: What's the best way to get to the money you need while abroad? Is it better to open up an account in Kiribati? Do you really not need that much and is it better just to bring some travelers checks? What would you recommend?

A: You will get enough money from the Peace Corps to cover all of your expenses. During your training every volunteer opens an account in Kiribati, so you will definately have one there but dont worry about it until you get there. There is a place on S Tarawa with an ATM, and I would reccommend bringing a debit card because that what gives the best exchange rate if you really need to withdraw money. Not many places accept travellers checks. However, once training officially begins in LA you are completely on the government's dime. [posted by hiddenflaw]

All the money you'll need for in-country expenses will be provided by the PC. I actually saved money while in Kiribati because there wasn't really a wayfor me to effectively spend all the money I was given in daily allowance. Even after food, gifts at botakis, etc., there was just too much to spend. I was anouter-island volunteer, however -- I recall that S. Tarawa volunteers had towatch their money more closely as there are many more things to buy on S.Tarawa.

For larger expenses (such as vacations, etc.), the PC kept cash/traveler's checks in a lock-box for us. I brought a few hundred dollars in cash when I first went to Kiribati and brought it all back home as well. Didn't spend a centof it because I had so much from my PC daily allowance. Then again, I didn'tleave the country during my time there so I didn't have to pay for airfare, etc.However, I did use my credit card once to pay for a few night's stay at the Otintaai Hotel on Tarawa when I had visitors.

If possible, I would recommend you provide power of attorney to someone youtrust in the states, or simply set up an automatic payment plan for your creditcard. Leave a chunk of change in your bank account here and use a credit card(make sure the expiration is good for the full time you'll be in Kiribati) tocharge airfare, hotel, etc if you decide to vacation to Fiji, etc. When I was in Kiribati, there was a Aus$15.00 surcharge on anything purchased via credit card (because it cost so much for the vendor to call to make the funds transfer), so you'd only use it in limited circumstances. But -- if a ticket overseas costs several hundred bucks or more, a small surcharge is worth it so you don't have to keep so much cash on hand. Then again, only a very select few places accepted credit cards (the only western hotel, the travel agent, etc.) -- so it's wise to have some cash on hand if you need it in a pinch. [posted by stu]

Q: What is the process of washing clothes like? Can I buy a bucket, detergent, and any other items used in the process?

A: Washing clothes is , as you said, in a bucket. you can get plenty of buckets in kiribati, and detergent. in fact, our training director gave us each one when we first got there. you hand wash your clothes, and line dry them. it's actually not that bad, as you are often bored. also, other people may offer to wash them for you, like your host mom or sister, so you can let them if you want. that'll be up to you. [posted by Gina]

Q: In general, how secure is your "stuff" when you go out for the day? I assume that the doors of the homes have no locks; is theft not an issue, or do you have to be protective of your things?

A: Peace corps provides you with a lock and chain that you can use on your door in training and then bring to your site. you may want to bring a combination lock, as keys get lost (if you're like me:). it is a requirement that your house has a door. in general, security is not a big issue because people look out for your stuff. just keep all your valuables locked in your house--people won't generally break in. that being said, it has happened, so don't show off anything of finacial value, like a cd player. some people lock their bikes up too, but i never did. you'll have to evaluate your site's safety when you get there, but in general theft is not a major issue, but a random drunk guy can easily ruin that. [posted by Gina]

Q: I have heard that many PCVs take a break after the first year mark. Is this true? Are you able to take shorter breaks? How much freedom do you have to take breaks as you please? Do your breaks have to coincide with breaks during the school year.

A: Many people do take vacations--you get like two days of vacation per month. the new rules around it will depend on the new country director. you'll have to get those specifics during training. [posted by Gina]

Q: When you travel back to Tarawa every so often are there times when you're not able to get back to your island for a while, since the planes are so erratic? What do you do if you're "stuck" there for a few days?

A: When you are stuck on your island or tarawa, that's about it. you just hang out till the plane comes. i personally alomost missed my parents visit when they came because of a plane problem. luckily i was able to get on a ship that was going to tarawa just before they came. there is also a new passenger boat called the "super cat" that goes to alot of the northern and central islands that you are allowed to travel on if it goes to your island. but inter-island transportation is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of kiribati as a peace corps post. like i said before, you just haveto "go with the flow". and yes, as an education volunteer you will only be allowed to take vacation during school breaks. [posted by Gina]

Q: Has anyone had a friend or family member visit them on their outer island? If so, how did it go?

A: Quite a few people had parents visit outer islands. it's a great thing to do because they will be such honored guests in your community. it does require some pre-planning. my parents used a travel agent, so that took care of everything like visa's, etc., but you can probably do it cheaper on your own. it's better to wait to plan that until you've been in kiribati a few months. [posted by Gina]

Q: My aunt bought me a steripen, which is a UV light water purifier that de-natures the DNA of bacteria in water. Is this unneccesary in addition to what is given by peace corps, or would it b a good supplement/backup?

A: This is unneccesary--the PC will give you a good one for your personal use, and boiled water will get you through training. just don't forget your nalgene (bring a few)! [posted by Gina]

Q: Many of the shorts at camping stores that have UV protection and are conducive for hot, humid weather are fairly short; well above the knee. I remember reading a lot about wearing shorts that are below the knee. How culturally important is this to the Kiribati?

A: It is VERY important your shorts cover your knees. you won't actually be in the sun that much--it's too hot, so you stay in the shade, as will Kiribati people. I would say don't bother. [posted by Gina]

Q: I bought a sun shower that holds 5 gallons of water. Is this a good idea?

A: Frankly, no. it is hot enough in kiribati that you won't need a warm shower--a cold bath is refreshing, and you also won't have room in your "bathroom" for it, so you'd have to use it outside, and it would bring weird attention, and you won't be wanting extra attention. [posted by Gina]

Q: Is the Peace Corps-issued sunblock and insect repellent of a good quality or should I bring my own?

A: The PC stuff is fine. maybe bring some insect repellent without Deet. [posted by Gina]

I'd say bring a bit of your own to start. The sunblock isn't waterproof,which I find a bit annoying & like using my own. The insect repellentworks, but smells. I'd bring some with you, but not too much... someone can always send you some more later. [posted by Lindsey]

Q: What recommendations do you have for the bags/luggage with which I bring all of my stuff to Kiribati? How many carry-on bags are permitted? Do things get complicated with baggage when transferring to the smaller planes?

A: bring suitcases with good, sturdy wheels. You won't be backpacking or anything, so standard suitcases are the best to carry heavy stuff. You will also use them to store your clothes when you get there. I think you are allowed up to 80lbs, and like 15 for your carry on. Don't push the limit because the airport in fiji has been known to enforce the rules. Don't worry about small planes--you won't deal with them till after training, and you'll get tips and advice from staff and volunteers for that when you head out to your island. [posted by Gina]

Q: What computer capabilities will I have in South Tarawa? Do most PCVs go to the Peace Corps dorm/headquarters to use their computer? Mainly I want to know what most people do about uploading pictures from a digital camera and freeing up space on memory cards.

A: People use the computers at the PC office, and there really aren't any others--there is one place on south that has a lab, but the PC stuff is much better. but, keep in mind you won't have access to those until you officially become a volunteer AFTER training. so don't tell your families you will email them when you get there, because you probably won't be able to. you proably can from fiji, and PC will probably send out a big one to everyone's contacts to say you arrived safely. after a week or two you may get a chance to call from north tarawa, or MAYBE in the first week from south, but don't have anyone count on it. basically, bring an extra memory card for your camera, because you'll take alot of pictures in training. there

is also one camera store on south that you can get them printed as pictures (not just on paper), but it's really expensive. most people send film/memory cards home, and have one set saved at home, and another mailed back to distribute. that is what i did, and it worked
out well. [posted by Gina]

Q: How much training/materials does peace corps give regarding teaching techniques and ESL information and what should I bring?

A: You'd have to get this advice from an education volunteer, but anything you can find on teaching ESL to primary students would be good to bring, and you can use it in school, or with your family and friends informally. [posted by Gina] I thought that there was a complete lack of educational resources, especially when it came to teaching English. There is basically nothing in the schools and teachers will often ask you to explain topics to them, and even though you understand it, explaining it becomes difficult. So one good thorough book would have been awesome. I often taught Math and Science as well and a resource book in these areas would also have been valuable. [posted by Nikki]

Q: Should I bring a hammock, buy one in Tarawa, or have one made on the outer island?

A: I say wait till you get out to your island and see your setup, but opinions vary. [posted by Gina]

Q: How do PCVs make up for the lack fruits and vegetables? Vitamins and supplements? Dried fruits and veggies? Freeze-dried fruits and veggies? And, also, what about dairy? Powdered milk?

A: PC provides daily vitamins. have people send you dried fruit and stuff. there is regular milk available on south, and powdered is (usually) available on the outer islands. you can buy some canned fruit and vegetables on south, and on a few of the outer islands. [posted by Gina] The medical officer will fill you in on all of this. The local fruits help & you'll get vitamins (bring your own supply for training) [posted by Lindsey]

Q: What is a good way to transfer funds from the U.S. to the Tarawa bank account? Also, am I able to use an account in the U.S. to pay for a plane ticket bought online, for example?

A: You can transfer the funds through any bank from US dollars to Australian--I just sent some money, but it cost like $36 to send. There is also a western union. But wait on that until you get there and get an idea of how much you are going to need. PC gives you plenty, in my opinion, so save what you have now for when you get back and are unemployed (like me). If you buy an international plane ticket in Tarawa, you have to pay cash, but the bank is directly downstairs from the travel agency. Some people have tickets bought by people in the US and mailed to them. Again, wait till you get there and get a better idea of the situation. [posted by Gina]
Q: I read that the Kiribati swim in their clothes. Would it be acceptable for me to wear a swim suit?

A: Yes, if it covered your knees, but you won't actually be swimming that much. In fact, some people (men) wear swimsuits all the time, because kiribati people don't differentiate them from shorts. [posted by Gina]