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?

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