This will likely be an earnest, though potentially infrequently updated, account of my adventures, tribulations,
and everyday experiences as I spend two years working as an environmental Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji

Friday, May 20, 2011

So It Begins...

Bula and Namaste!

I am happy to report that I am currently updating my blog while on an old school computer at an internet cafe in the heart of Nausori... in Fiji! Nausori is the closest city to where we are currently holding training in Nadave (pronounced Naan da veh). Truthfully, I was not anticipating internet access and won't be able to put up any pictures yet but that's not for a lack of taking them!

This has been a whirlwind of a week: leaving, crying, meeting new people, having a brief (and yet somehow long) state-side orientation, being charged with the care and handling of everyone's passports and boarding passes and the immigration letter that would allow us to enter the country, flying the Pacific, skipping Wednesday, skipping sleep, arriving in Nadi (Naan di) and working through immigration/customs, meeting the staff, spending the better part of an hour loading up and boarding a bus only to find out we boarded the wrong bus upon trying to pull out, drive along the coast to the other side of the island to Pacific Harbor, stay at a resort/hostel and begin our first day of activities, rain, participate in the sevusevu welcoming ceremony, drink yaqona (kava), briefly lost feeling in tongue, have tea, eat lots of fried food, maintain a constant layer of dirt/bug spray/sunscreen on my skin, work a sulu, have tea, rain, play volleyball, visit beach, have tea, sleep!, wake, have tea, water safety training, have tea, get shot up with a barrage of vaccinations, drive to the new temporary training site in Nadave, have tea, meet more people and learn more logistics, rain, never wear shoes, moving into my burre (my little house that I share with four others) that is nestled among other burres along a winding dirt path amidst palm trees and beautiful native fauna set atop an expansive hillside overlooking a wide river that runs to the ocean in the distance, rain, accept that my hair will be mimicking Annie for the remainder of my time here, have delicious dinner, grog circle in which lots of grog was drunk (drank?) and random thoughts were shared for a while, language training in Fijian!, na yacaqu 'o Christine!, lunch, shopping, rain, and internet!

Well, I know that was an absurd way to post about my week but that is just about how crazy and overwhelmed I have felt for most of it! However, I am incredibly excited and enthused to be here and perhaps once this whole thing stops feeling so surreal and reality actually sets in I will be able to reach a level of content happiness.

As I'm about to be kicked off this computer I will end it here for now! I hope life is well back in the states and would love to hear from you via comments!

Moce!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm Leaving!! ...Almost

So it’s officially 18 hours and counting until my flight leaves from Logan airport for LAX and, well, it seemed like I had waited long enough to write up my first ever blog entry! But now that I’m sitting in front of my computer with the task at hand—at this desk and in my room for the last time—I find myself at a loss for words. Shocking, I know.

I slept in this morning after having a rather late night sharing some last moments with friends and family. Although, now I wish I had forced myself up early so that I could get some sleep tonight before leaving at 5am tomorrow… hmm, not that I expect to sleep much anyway.

This past week I’ve been experiencing the full gamut of emotions, from being stressed about packing to sad about leaving (duh) and, of course, excited about the adventure ahead of me. I’ve been mostly packed for a few days now and I am just picking away on some last minute tweakings before I officially zip up my bags an place them by the door.

Nikki obviously knows that something is happening; as soon as bags come thumping down the stairs she starts roaming around the house with her tensed little eyebrows (do dogs actually have eyebrows?) and morose expression, like she won’t ever see me again. Needless to say Nikki is my dog. She’ll be 12 in September and this time, for the first and only time, she’s right—in all likelihood, she won’t ever see me again. Naturally, I’m fairly depressed about not being able to pet her or play with her ever again but I knew this day would come… I just never thought it actually would. Kind of like how I’m actually leaving tomorrow. After working towards this for over a year now it’s a little difficult to grasp the reality of my situation and come to terms with the fact that I am finally going.

~~~~~~~~~

After I arrive in LAX tomorrow (at 11am local time), I’ll get my luggage and find a shuttle bus to the Crowne Plaza Hotel where my staging orientation is to be held. Unfortunately, the travel agency that arranged my flight out west could only manage to get me there absurdly early, which means that I will likely be hanging out in the lobby for a few hours before I can check into a room.

Registration for staging is Monday night from 6-8pm but the actual orientation isn’t held until Tuesday. The first bit of staging will be spent meeting and greeting the other PCTs (Peace Corps trainees; we don’t get to be acronymed with PCV until we finish training and are officially sworn in as volunteers) that are also Fiji bound. There will undoubtedly be an abundance of silly icebreakers to open us up, but given the type of people that will be there, I can’t imagine any of us will really need icebreakers to spark some friendly conversation. The majority of the orientation will then be spent going over logistics for the following few days of traveling, the first week of training, and settling in with a host family. It also gives me the chance to take care of some last minute paperwork and get some signatures from PC staff (for loan deferments and such).

Although we’re scheduled to wrap up around 3:30, we won’t actually be departing for LAX until seven; our flight doesn’t head out until 11:30 that night. Ick. There is a sixteen hour time difference between the east coast and Fiji and with a flight time of 10 hr 40 min (which is much faster than I thought!) we’re scheduled to arrive in Nadi International Airport at 5 am on Thursday.

After hitting up baggage claim, Peace Corps staff will be taking one of my checked bags back to headquarters for safe keeping during training while the rest of my bags will accompany me on a 2 ½ hr bus ride to Nadave (near Suva, the capital city on the other side of the main island, Viti Levu). The training staff and members of the community will be waiting to greet us upon our arrival and will immediately usher us into a full day of introductions and training activities. AKA you better sleep on the damn plane or otherwise hock up on some caffeine pills.

The first few days will be spent at a local hotel. We’ll be given any necessary vaccinations and we will all participate in the water safety training together as one big group. Around day four or five, they’ll segregate us into smaller groups that will travel to different communities for the duration of training. Each trainee will be staying with their own host family, which is intended to facilitate learning the language and culture. Hopefully, I will have internet access at some point during my first week to give a brief update!

Real quick because I know some people have asked. I did a little research (by which I mean I clicked on the appropriate link on the Peace Corps website) and got the stats of the number of volunteers in Fiji. There are 65 volunteers (ok a bit less than my estimate of 200) that are currently serving and there have been 2,267 volunteers there total since the establishment of a Peace Corps relationship in 1968. Service there was temporarily halted in 1998 due to instability in the government and a succession of coups. Service was reopened in 2004 and I am part of the ninth group to go Pacific since.  

Ok, so my lack of words turned out to be a rather lengthy entry. Well congratulations if you read the whole thing! Here is a video that I found on the Peace Corps website showing the swearing in ceremony at the end of training. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post my own in a few weeks!


Much love,
Christine