18 May 2008

PC/Fiji Medical Kit

For new trainees, I thought it might be helpful to know exactly what the medical kit you are given contains. It covers all the basic, plus some. So don't waste precious packing space on redundant health needs.

The PC/Fiji Medical Kit contains:

Pain killers: UnAspirin, Acetaminophen, Tylenol, Ibuprofen
Antiobiotics: Flucloxacillin, Amoxicillin, Erythromycin, Fasigyn
PeptoBismol and Antacids
Cough Drops and Sepasoothe Lozenges
Electropl (for heat stress)
Aquatabs (water purification tabs)
Hydrocortisone Cream
Bacitracin Antibacterial Cream
Clotrimazole cream (for fungal infections)
Sunscreen Lotion
Insect Repellant
Emergency Eye Wash
Lipbalm with sunscreen
TempaDot (external thermometer)
Medical Tape
Butterfly Tape
Dental Floss
Plastic Tweezers

Things I'd recommend to bring in addition:

A digital thermometer
Tweezers, metal with a very keen edge
Emergency dental repair kit (the kind at CVS)

11 April 2008

On Vacation: April 12 - April 27

The Short

I will not be around to check my email/journal/wall for the next two weeks from April 12 - April 27. If you need to get a hold of me call my cell but it had better be important.

The Long

I have amazing friends. I have four wonderful people in my life who are willing... no, eager to truck their bottoms a world away to Fiji to come to vacation and to visit me. It goes without saying that I am horribly excited to have the chance to share my life here with my friends.

We have some loosely woven plans for our time here. The rough itinerary includes scuba diving, hiking, relaxing on tropical beaches, wind sailing, 'horse boarding', visiting various local sites, and hopefully getting a taste of real life in Fiji. I am nothing short of giddy - I have needed this leave for weeks now and its so nice to finally be at that moment.

See you all in two weeks with a hard drive full of photos.

03 April 2008

A Few Thoughts On Culture

Culture is not a style of music or a particular dance step. It is not a single craft based on generations of artistic tradition.

Culture is much more elusive. It is the assumptions we make about the world around us. It is the unspoken interpretation of events. It is no more and no less than our entire personal perspective on reality.

Culture cannot be sifted like rice, separating one aspect from another with enough effort. We are each a fusion of innumerable influences, unique unto ourselves. Each person encountered is a singular manifestation of culture, a phenomenon impossible to replicate.

02 April 2008

Donations for the Senior Citizens Centre

As most of you who read this know, I am working in Fiji at Senior Center as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Currently, the Centre is struggling to get by and while thinking of potential solutions, it occurred to me how much excess we have at home in the US... often small things that are prohibitively expensive here. So with several of my friends coming in three weeks for a visit, I thought I would invite those back home to support my work here and directly aid a community of disadvantaged elders in a developing nation.

Here's what I am asking for: Consider the following list and see if you can offer to donate any of the following items. If you can, please comment below on the post so that there are no duplicate gifts. My mother has offered her house in Worcester as a shipping/dropping off point, where the gifts will be collected by those coming to visit and then delivered directly to the seniors here in Ba.

For practicality purposes, items should be small and lightweight. If you can think of something useful that is not on the list, please just send me an email. For those of you who would like to offer a monetary donation, I am currently working on establishing a PayPal account for the centre, which should be in place by the end of the week.

For details, shipping or otherwise, please email me - raedochartaigh at gmail dot com

I would like to have all donations in Worcester by April 5th.

Please make sure to list your donation in the comments, i.e. which video you have donated. If you wish to you can do so anonymously.

The List

  • Diabetes Testing Strips (Unlimited)
  • Diabetes Testing Machine (1)
  • Portable DVD Player (1)
  • Secondhand PC Laptops (2)
  • Ink Cartridges for a Canon iP1000 - Color and Black (Unlimited)
  • DVDs for Golden Oldies Ex: Exercise Video (Unlimited)
  • Lightweight Arts and Craft Supplies
  • Appropriate Health Posters & Pamphlets
  • Simple Crafting Manuals Ex: Watercolors and Brushes

The Details of the Center

Their Website

The Senior Citizens Ba Community Centre (SCBCC) is a not-for-profit, non-government organization registered in 2005 under Fiji's Charitable Trust Act. The SCBCC works to support the elderly of Ba by providing access to health services, education, social gatherings, and financial opportunities. It seeks to raise awareness within the community regarding elder issues and a senior's right to independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity.

In striving to fulfill this mission, the SCBCC offers a variety programs and services to the local senior community. Current programs include: Weekly enrichment activities, monthly health clinics, health & lifestyle education, outreach & home visitation, social events and referral & advocacy.

At the moment, we are developing some new and needed programs to better serve our seniors. These programs include stroke awareness & management, education on aging for the families of seniors, basic technology training, and opportunities for income generating projects.

21 March 2008

Photos: Home Sweet Home

This is a collection of photos from around my house. Nothing special, just a glimpse into the visual life of me in Ba,Fiji. Enjoy.

17 March 2008

Photos: A Friend's Wedding

This album is from my friend and counterpart, Sunita's wedding earlier this week. There are two components to a typical Indo-Fijian marriage here. The first is the legal ceremony. This is the occasion where close friends and family gather to witness the signing of the paperwork and often have a small lunch afterwards. This is what this album contains. What I did not get the chance to capture was the more religious ceremony, which took place yesterday. But really I was too busy dishing out curry and puri to run around with my camera anyways.

04 March 2008

A Moment in the Life

I have taken to walking to town to get to my afternoon/evening aerobics classes. It serves as a bit of a warmup.

Well, today as I was walking along the major highway of Fiji, a farmer was walking opposite me with his cow trailing behind on a lead. We met on the sidewalk of the bridge and easily passed one another, his cow behaving herself. And then it occured to me that this is the sort of thing that I don't bat an eyelash at anymore. But it was a moment.

Oh and my dance teacher/friend has convinced me to paint my toenails. I feel girly, though the only reason I am doing it is because it looks more professional. My feet are usually (mostly) clean as I can get them, but my nails.. even with a scrub brush never look good. Now all you can see is shiny light taupe. I'm looking at them, but they don't look like my feet.

03 March 2008

Blog Updates: New Feed and Photos

So I finally got around to organizing my photos and establishing a feed for the Senior Centre's news blog.

Both the new photo album links and the news feed are located on the sidebar. Please do check them out.
And I promise more photos soon... perhaps even ones where I have hair!

24 February 2008

Typical Music in Fiji

This is fairly typical music in Fiji. I thought I might give everyone abroad a little taste of my musical landscape here. This is a very popular song.

Quick Rundown on Peace Corps in Fiji

(I saw this idea on another site and thought it might be helpful.)

The quick run-down on PC/Fiji

PC Fiji currently has 2 main programs: Community Health Promotion and Integrated Environmental Resource Management. There are also volunteers working in Youth Life Skills Development and Business Advising.

All trainees currently arrive in late May.

PST (Pre-Service Training) is community based. This means you will live in a village or a settlement for 10 weeks with a host family while attending language and technical training.

After PST, you will be placed at site in your own housing. This housing can vary. Possible options: an apartment on your own with water and electricity, a shared house with another PCV, standard government housing at a hospital or school, your very own bure in the village.

You will find out more on the specifics of your site about 6 weeks into PST. Our site announcement was on July 4th.

Language: Currently, the majority of volunteers learn Bauan, a select few learn Hindi. The language you learn, in theory, depends on your future placement. This is not always true.

My advice, if you have a strong preference - give it up, you'll be happier.

Internet: Internet access is available throughout the country. Internet cafes vary in price from $1.00 - $6.00 and hour. Speed also varies greatly, but often uploading pictures takes a long time. Some volunteers, like myself, are able to have access in their homes.

Electricity & Water: The majority of volunteers have power/electricity all the time. There are more random black outs than you might experience in America though and they take longer to be resolved. You may or may not have indoor plumbing.

Food: You can be vegetarian, even vegan while serving in Fiji. Fruits and fresh vegetables about on Viti Levu but become more scarce on other islands or in the interior areas of the country. Main staples everywhere include: cassava, dalo, bananas, coconut, fish, powdered milk, rice and canned meats.

Electronics: Most volunteers brought digital cameras. Some brought their MP3 players and have been quite pleased with the decision. A few brought their laptops, and a few who did not have expressed that it might have useful if they had. There is a risk in bringing such goods to your service, but I personally have found the benefits outweigh the risks by far.

Other: There are ATMs available in the larger cities on Viti & Vanua Levu. This is not always so elsewhere in the country.

The Peace Corps Wiki - Fiji seems to be a through and accurate resource

Thoughts on Volunteer Contributions

"Too Many Innocents Abroad" - An Article on Peace Corps

The Peace Corps has long shipped out well-meaning young people possessing little more than good intentions and a college diploma. What the agency should begin doing is recruiting only the best of recent graduates — as the top professional schools do — and only those older people whose skills and personal characteristics are a solid fit for the needs of the host country.

I read recently this article by a previous Peace Corps volunteer, recruiter and country director. Attached to it are some interesting arguments about the effectiveness of young volunteers in country.

It makes me wonder about my own experiences here in Fiji and how often I feel ill-equipped to do the work I am being encouraged to do. My personal solution has been to create projects that play on towards my strengths and still work towards fulfilling the needs of those around me. These chosen projects, however, do not fall squarely within PC/Fiji's overall health promotion plan.

I've often dream of the position I was first offered in Morocco working with art/business development. Would I have felt more fulfilled there? It is hard to say, speaking from my current biased standpoint. I'll never truly know. I can only keep working towards helping the community around me reach the goals it hopes to reach.

But part of me wonders what it means that I am one of the most occupied volunteers (from those I have spoken with) and I am still not entirely sure I am accomplishing anything much. Are my standards too high for myself? For Peace Corps? For Fiji?

09 February 2008

A Note to Peace Corps South Pacific Applicants

I have internet access here in Fiji and I'm not afraid to use it. So if you do have any questions or thoughts feel free to email me, or comment here.

Also, I am currently working on a list of what you can't get in Fiji/Kiribati. So if you have specific items you are curious about... ask.

Good luck!

Project Update: Senior Citizens Leadership Team

One of the projects I am currently working on is an ID for seniors in the Ba area, to recognize their contribution to community safety. This program is a joint venture between the Police in Ba and my organization, Senior Citizens Ba Community Centre. However my mind always working, I wanted to expand the project to serve several purposes and make the most of the opportunity.

So with the ID I have designed,
- I have collected baseline data on who the organization is reaching currently for grant write ups
- I have provided the seniors with emergency health cards
- We recognize a valuable service provided by the elderly of Ba

06 February 2008

A Glimpse of Sunlight

Well, not physically. No we are still having daily heavy downpours here in Ba, which is very unusual. But emotional and psychologically... I have had a day of bright shining sunlight. The wheel has two sides... maybe I am just glimpsing the other side.. maybe the wheel turns fast.

So firstly, Senior Citizens Centre.

They've adopted many of my suggestions... we took program specific attendance for the first time today and in an unexpected stroke of brilliance I nominated one of our aunties to take on the task and she was thrilled. The main idea behind an attendance chart at the Centre is an accurate record of who attends which program so we can better plan programs in the future. It also encourages our 'golden oldies' to come more.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our Annual Fundraiser, a very new concept to an organization accustomed to doing fundraising on an as needed basis. As we acquire more funding in the beginning of the year, we can begin to establish a monthly/yearly budget. I am very pleased, the board and staff have agreed to the idea and are thinking in terms of the larger needs of the Centre.

Second, Hip Hop Aerobics Class.

Tonight was my debut as a funky, upbeat aerobics instructor. I was a bit nervous not knowing what to expect of myself or the group. It was wonderful. I over planned of course. But I took it at a middle pace and reviewed the steps frequently for those with no movement experience. The soundtrack was on, the women liked the moves and by the end of the class I could see them letting their guard down. When we realized we had a scheduling conflict with the harmonium class and had to change the time, several women were really upset that they would not be able to make one of the proposed times. We figured it out in the end... but I was really pleased to see they stuck around to make sure they were able to get two classes a week. I did moves that I thought might have them walking out... body rolls, hip thrusts, chest pumps.... they loved it. I think by the end of this term I'll be looking at a studio full of more fit,more confident, and diva-like ladies.

Third, Dinner.

I've been letting meals slide. That isn't to say I haven't been eating. I'll grab a samosa or some Maggi noodles while on the run or sitting at my computer. But I have really been slack on preparing my own nutritious and well-made meals. Tonight, despite having had Bharatnatyam for an hour and then teaching an aerobics class for hour... I came home and prepared a lovely dinner. I had rice with snake beans (really long French beans), carmelized onions and pecans. (Kelly... I don't know if you read this, but you are a Goddess for those!) I put on some classical music and dined. I didn't shovel or rush... I need to do this more.

Simple little things. I need to relish those details more. For such a detail-oriented person you'd think it'd be natural... nope. I also don't need to hold myself to an unreal standard of expectation that I need to be some ultra-aware being. There is a middle ground. And standing on that ground doesn't mean I need to set my standards low... I just need to listen to myself in the moment and I'll find it naturally. (I have faith in that)

29 January 2008

Cyclone Gene

Just wanted to let everyone know I am safe and sound here in Fiji (yet again). We did get hit generally speaking by a small Class 1 cyclone last night and it seems to be affecting us today still with heavy winds and rain.

The only real loss was my beloved papaya tree in the backyard, which met my back door in the wee hours of the morning with a tremendously loud thud. But I've included pictures here for your perusal.

Hope everyone else, everywhere else is doing well. And I promise to write a real update soon.

The article in Fiji Times:

Cyclone Gene claims four lives, flatten homes

PC/Fiji Event - Cyclone Gene

27 January 2008

From the local paper: Condoms slow village growth

Thats right.... Apparently in this article, we learn that condoms are slowing village growth and school attendance.

I just don't undertstand where this mentality comes from. I am flabbergasted.

18 January 2008

I sometimes love technology - Kindle

I rarely lust over gadgets.. except when they would be of supreme use to me... this is one of those.

The Kindle

I wouldn't have to carry books anymore.... my back would rejoice. I could travel with just my camera, laptop and kindle and have most everything I need... oh and clothes of course. Sometimes I wish I was earning a salary, this would be one of those times. Sigh.

Photos: Christmas Update

PC/Fiji - Event

Added some Christmas pictures to the current album.

03 January 2008

Peace Corps Fiji Barbie

Over vacation, I had a bit of spare time and I decided to tinker with an idea a fellow volunteer suggested... so here it is Peace Corps Fiji Barbie.