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)