Sunday, July 31, 2011

They say its your Birthday...

I had a memorable birthday this year and its mainly because I was in Fiji and did nothing traditional - haha.
We put on a Walk-A-Thon Fundraiser for a Special School here in Ba yesterday and so I spent most of the day behind a fishing pond game that i was in charge of clipping on prizes and candy to a clothespin fishing line. hahaha.

Adam and my 2 friends from Suva came to visit me and we bought a box of passionfruit ice cream, some "teaspoons" and they sang "Happy Birthday" to me in the middle of a parking lot. It was so white trash but so wonderful. I kinda got teary eyed when they were singing to me - it was so sweet.
That night we went to the Lautoka Carnival and I ate my first Fijian BBQ. It was packed with food but it wasn't that flavorful - dang it! 5 bucks for a fried egg, chow mein, a sausage, steak, and 3 hefty pieces of Kasava (somewhat like a potato).
The best part of the night was when we got dumped on in the Fiji rain. We all huddled under a tiny umbrella at a nearby food stand and watched as the food vendors tried to hurry and cover their stalls - some of the guys were standing on the food counter, bare footed to help hold the tarp over the food and cooks. hahaha only in Fiji is barefoot the norm.

It was definitely a memorable day and thank you THANK YOU for all the wonderful birthday wishes! i love you and miss you all!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Koroipita "Reality" Youth Group

So I figure its about time I write about the project that I'm involved in. Last week, Alex and I headed out to the village of Koroipita to have a weekly class with the young women in that village. We absolutely love the class - these girls are so awesome. They range from ages 11-29 and we discuss topics that they face at this time of life.
Our first day we talked about trust and how we want this class to be one where we trust each other enough to share our thoughts and feelings in confidentiality. We did a few games involving trust (ie: trust fall) and then we just talked about trust while also discussing the different things we will do during this 5 week class.
We first asked the girls what they want to name the class. One girl spoke up and said "What about the Reality group - because we're talking about issues that we face each day". Brilliant. We were thrilled with the name and the fact that one of them came up with it!
We passed out little diaries for the girls to write down their thoughts and feelings that they might have during the week. We then presented the "I Am" statement - we kinda stole this idea from a campaign that BYU did a while back. We passed out a piece of paper that had "I Am _______" on it. We ask the girls each week to write down an adjective that describes how they feel about themselves each week (ie: I am strong, I am confident, etc). As an incentive for the class, if they attend 4 out of the 5 classes, we will make t-shirts that have their favorite "I Am" statement on it with the name of the Koroipita "Reality" Youth Group on the back and the quote "Be proud to wear you" listed on the back of it. They got super excited when they heard they would be getting t-shirts and I'm so excited to design them! The first class went SO well and Alex and I are always so pleased after each class and excited that we have this chance to do this class - even if it is only once a week for 5 weeks...

Last night we had the class again. We talked about peer pressure. Alex talked about 4 steps to use when faced with peer pressure and then we split the girls into groups to role play different scenarios and use the steps to get out of that situation. Some girls were very shy about getting up in front of each other while others were very sassy and just loved being front and center - haha my kind of girls :)
After the role playing, we discussed how it felt to be pressured, as well as positive peer pressure and how much worth you have that other peoples pressure shouldn't define what you do with your life. Minutes before the class started, I was looking over the agenda and a quote by Brother Eggett - my choir director - popped into my head. He would always tell us the quote "In a moment of strength, prepare for your weakness". I talked about how when you're not in those moments of pressure, make you decision to do what's right so your choice will be easy when put in those situations. When I said the quote, the girls' eyes got big and they all wrote the quote down in their diaries! I loved it!
Alex and I feel like this class is so worth it and we feel so lucky to be able to do this class, even if we only have 3 weeks left.
(I'll try and post pictures from class last night later - the internet is being super lame today- of course).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Room to BREATHE!

Welcome to Ba, Fiji - my hometown for the past 6 weeks. :)

Welcome to my house in Namasau, Lot 5, Caleb Crescent. Its the pink flat on the bottom.

Today was a glorious day.... we deep cleaned/de-cluttered the house. I was in heaven. We spent the morning taking down some bunk beds, changing sleeping arrangements, and throwing away crap that has sat in this house for the past 3 months...

Check out the clutter and bunk beds in the front room in the pic above.. I guess you could say we've been "cramped for space"...

We took down those 2 bunk beds in the sitting room b/c we only have 14 people in the house now - its such a difference! And we hung our "HELP INternational" banner that I made for the Tavua Carnival! It's officially the HELP house!

Above is Ian and I cleaning out the freezer - I dont think that thing had ever been defrosted...a few good inches of thick ice...its clean now! Our landlady was so pleased with our work and so are we - everyone enjoys being at home now which is always a plus. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mt. Victoria

HELP International representing on the highest point of Fiji - Mt. Victoria.

A big portion of the hike was straight up - it was SO hard on our legs and knees. We all woke up SO sore the next day.

The view was incredible even though it was a super overcast, rainy day. We reached the top of the mountain and ate lunch and then quickly left because it started raining on us.

We started down the mountain in the rain slipping, tripping and falling down the path we took up the mountain. All we could do was laugh about the situation because we were soaked head to toe in rain and mud and our bodies were exhausted.

Even though it was exhausting and long (4 hours round trip) and I'd probably never do it again if given the chance... I'm proud of myself for doing it. I can do hard things!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Suva Photos!

These are backwards somewhat...sorry!

This is the Ratuvukivuki family I stayed with - minus the older kids - I love this family SO much - such an incredible family so devoted to the Gospel.
Hittin up the nightclubs of Suva!
Adam and I at Matesuva
Matesuva - Private island.. no biggie.

View from the watertaxi going through the brush to get to the island. Felt like the Disney Jungle Cruise.. but for real.
On the bus from Nadi to Suva
The view from the bus on our way to Suva - the road follows the coastline - no biggie.
A bure - a traditional Fijian hut
The waterfalls of Coloisuva - we went swimming in these - so cold but so fun!
Church in Korovo - this Chapel is on the top of a hill in the middle of the jungle. Everything was spoken in Fijian - we were asked to bear our testimonies in Sacrament meeting and 2 investigators were there than understood english said they loved church and they've committed to baptism!
View from the Korovo Chapel
These rules are funnnnny.
On our way to Matesuva
View from the watertaxi
Hooray for watertaxis!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A change of scenery

Bula from Suva! I tried to post earlier this week but it got deleted right as i published it - darn internet, oh well.

I'm in Suva with Adam and I've been here since Saturday. Weve seen some really cool places like Coloisuva's amazing jungle and waterfalls, Matesuva's private island beach and none other than Suva's hoppin night clubs! Its been such a nice trip to get out of Ba and make some friends here on the "wet" side of the island. I'll post some pictures when I get back to Ba. :)

We've been staying with such an incredible family - the Ratuvukivuki's and they live in Wailoku (aka. the joke). There are 11 people in one house (2 of which are grandchildren and 4 are relative children) and then you add Adam and I into the mix and you've got a full house. This wasn't any different really than my house in Ba with 20 people except for the change of scenery and faces.

I fell in love with this family. They are so loving and charitable to open up their small home to Adam and I (2 kids and the father slept on the floor in the sitting room just so adam and I had a place to sleep), they fed us delicious meals (they made a delicious Fijian BBQ as a goodbye dinner for me) and just made us feel like part of the family.

I was most amazed by their devotion to the Gospel. They have family devotion (scripture study/discussion) at 7am every morning as well as at night. They show such faith and love for the Gospel that it is something I want to have in my own family someday. This family has made me feel so at home and I'm so sad to leave them. I'm hoping I can make one more trip to Suva before I leave so I can see them again.

I head back to Ba later today and get back to work with HELP International. I can't believe I only have 4 weeks left in Fiji - this is crazy!

Hope all is well in the great U.S. of A and that you're all hapy and safe!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Familiar Face...

Today was an exciting day - Adam Steele came to Fiji! Wahoo!!!

It was so strange to see a face from home in Fiji - this is MY getaway! haha. We were both so weirded out by the fact that we were seeing each other in this 2nd world country. hahaha.

7 other volunteers and I met up with Adam in Lautoka and saw the new Harry Potter movie!
We saw it before America - haha suckas!

We kept laughing during the film because in the silent moments of the movie, we heard a symphony of popcorn bags rustling, candy wrappers crackling, cell phones ringing and hacking coughs galore. It totally got us out of the moment of the film WHICH I recommend if you're a Harry Potter fan. However, the ending scene of the movie is a little, nope, a LOT on the cheesy side. Other than that, it's a great film and a nice conclusion to the end of the HP saga. :(

I'm so stoked to this weekend because Adam and I are heading to Suva and just doing various things, meeting his Fijian friends and seeing some sights! I can't wait!

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's Not Polite to Stare

That phrase has a whole new meaning - especially when you're the fish in the fishbowl.

I wish our eyes could take snapshots of events. Pulling out a camera is sometimes too obvious and the moment is passed by the time you pull it out.

Today was one of those moments I wish I could have captured.

Four of us girls were coming home from Lautoka on a stopping bus and what started off as a boring ride, cramped with people, turned into a hilarious ride.
The bus slowly emptied out people on its way to Ba and then the bus started picking up primary school kids.

Kids in Fiji make you feel like a celebrity.

The kids got on the bus, saw us "pelanqes" (White people) and just stared us down on their way to their seats. They continued to stare at us until they hit their stop. I'm not exaggerating when I say, everyone was staring at us. Some girls in front of us, turned in their seats and just looked at us straight faced. It got kind of uncomfortable not doing anything so we smiled at them, waved and laughed to ourselves.

Then we saw a totally dead, bloated, rigamortus dog on the side of the road which kinda killed the moment.. but we still laughed at the sight and wondered why we don't see that more considering the amount of wild dogs here...

Then we got another bus full of kids. Same thing happened. This one boy got on and when he saw us, he physically rose up on his toes and his eyes widened. It was hilarious.
We passed other school kids on the side of the road and they all waved at us, then got shy and laughed when we waved back. There is a scene in the movie "Evita" where she is arriving in Argentina on a train and she stretches both arms out of the window overcome by excitement waving at people she passes. So many times i've wanted to do that here in Fiji. Just hang out the side of the bus and wave with both hands to those we pass on the road. I'd look like the biggest idiot tourist but thats how much I love this country and its people.

I've accepted the fact that when I return to the U.S. I wont get this much attention from people I pass by simply from the color of my skin. Be grateful you're American, cause I sure am!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

1 month!

I've officially been in Fiji for one month and I can't believe it! Time has flown by.. but it hasn't. I feel like its taken me a long time to get into the swing of things and stop feeling "America-sick" but I've arrived at bliss. I really do love it here. The people continue to amaze me, the food is great, the weather is hot again, the projects are picking up and I'm enjoying living with 20 people.. honest. There is always someone home, someone to talk to and something to do... sort of. :)

Today I went with my country director, Emily, to Lautoka where we presented the importance of hand-washing to some restaurant owners/managers from the Lautoka Town area. We taught them of the importance of washing, shared some statistics, and showed them how to wash their hands properly. We passed out some cool hand washing signs to be put up in their establishments and we gave them a bar of soap to put in their washrooms as well. 2 other volunteers were in Lautoka today and they used a washroom of a restaurant and the sign was in the washroom - it wasn't up on the wall - just lying nearby - but STILL! We made some sort of impact on these people! I felt like it was a successful day and I was very pleased with how it went. We may even have our picture in the newspaper showing how to wash your hands! Sweet!

In other news: my friend Adam Steele comes into town this week and I can't wait to see someone from home!! Its going to be so fun to take a few days off and go travel Fiji with him.

We also have 2 girls leaving the house this week and 2 new girls to replace them. Then, on the 20th, 5 more people will leave. The house will feel empty.. its going to be weird getting used to.

Well, I seem to have run out of things to say. haha - thats odd. Hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful month of July!

Sota Tale!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Carnival Queens...

Boy, Oh, Boy. What a week - I'm glad its over because it has been a crazy one. This week was the Gold Town Carnival in Tauva! Chanae and I have been helping the Gold Foundation for a few weeks now to prepare for this carnival and we spent every day in Tavua - hence the long week. Every year this carnival has young women vie for the Miss Gold Crown in the carnival pageant. However, the only thing you have to do for this title is raise the most money to be donated to the Gold Foundation. There were 5 girls in the running this year, but 3 of them dropped out last minute. So, naturally, they turned to the 2 white girl volunteers to fill one of the positions. They asked Chanae to do the job and they called me as her "manager". We both thought this was an absurd idea - an American girl in a Fijian town carnival? No way.

They said they needed "help" and we were from "Help" International so this should be in our nature to lend a helping hand. Nice… they pulled a fast one on us… So what was expected to be long days of manning a HELP International booth at the carnival grounds, turned into pampering with the contending "Queens". We had delicious meals paid for us, got a tour of the Fiji Water Plant, were forced to wear makeup and do our hair (which is weird when you haven't cared about your looks for a month) and were given special attention from the Board of Trustees of the Foundation.

Did I complain about the change of events? Not one bit. It was like a week long vacation.

The week was filled with lots of laughs between Chanae and I because of how chaotic it all was especially with everyone on "Fiji Time" (ie: the walking parade was supposed to start at 1pm on Saturday. It started at 2:30pm).

Carnivals in Fiji are very different then in America.
Example 1: Their Ferris Wheels are like Ferris Wheels of Death. They are the fastest machines and they look like they're made from match sticks. You get on and you can ride the thing till the cows come home. We had to yell at the operator to let us off b/c we were starting to feel sick…yeah, it was bad.
Example 2: There was a "Best Breast-Fed Baby" Contest. Not kidding.
Example 3: They had a whole nights entertainment dedicated to the Priscilla's of Tavua. Priscillas here in Fiji are commonly known as "cross-dressers" in America. Yup, a night devoted to the trannys - and this was a paid event too! $2 to see 7 "shims" prance around on stage, dance to their hearts content and flip their wigs back and forth. The best part about it - I was asked to be a judge. Did I laugh the whole time? Yes. Did I feel uncomfortable at all? Yes. Will I ever forget that night? Never.
When the scores were tallied, I was summoned on stage where I put the sashes on the winners. I felt so awkward because I was the only "true" girl on stage and I had to fake a smile and tell them "good job" as I gave them their consolation prizes and draped a sash on them. The winner of the night was so overwhelmed with joy that he/she asked to hug me. Yikes. Truly, an unforgettable night.. sadly.

At the end of our stay in Tavua, we were very impressed, once again, by the generosity of the Fijian people. People we had met just days ago were offering up their home for us to stay in, offering Chanae outfits to wear for each evening Ceremony, buying us food throughout the week. We were overwhelmed with kindness and compassion from the people of Tavua.

I wish American's were this open and trusting of others. People here talk to you to be friendly and to get to know you. I feel like in America were trained to question the motives of everyone - there must be something they're wanting from me… Here, its different and I love it. Everyone needs a trip to Fiji to see what I mean.

Oh and in case you're wondering, Miss Help
, as she came to be known, took 2nd runner up. We were expecting that seeing as she was white, raised no money and had no desire to be in the contest. hahaha. Also, we won for best "Float" in the parade (got a trophy!) - probably because we had about 50 Fijian kids walking with us shouting out "HELP International!" on my count. It was an awesome sight.

Sota Tale!
(See you later!)

Miss Helps Manager

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekends keep me sane...

Weekends here in Fiji are THE BEST. Its like a mini vacation every week and it helps us all with our sanity knowing were getting out of sleepy little Ba Town. J

This week we went to Sigatoka (Pronounced Sing-a-toka) Sand Dunes National Park. We went on this stunning 30 min hike up hill to this outlook on top of the hill that looked out over the Pacific Ocean – it was breathtaking. Then we made our descent down to the dunes and the ocean. We were blown away by the coast and the huge waves breaking onto the shore. We stood on the shoreline taking pictures, laughing and screaming when the waves crashed into us and just took in the beauty that was there. Of course this was a “no swim zone” which was understandable considering the size of the waves were like 6-9 ft tall…so, we walked along the coastline to the “swim zone” further down the coast. We set up camp and jumped in the water as fast as we could – we were all so hot and anxious to get into the water!

We built a sand castle “city” with a capitol, hospital, squatters land, and 2 major rivers. Hahaha. We got a little carried away. We also laid on the beach and took naps, read books and just enjoyed the distant sound of the waves crashing onto the beach. I dozed off and when I woke up, I forgot that I was in Fiji until I heard the sound of galloping horse hooves on sand. I looked up and saw some little Fijian boys riding their horses along the beach. It was so picturesque and I wanted to join them SO badly!

It was a fabulous “vacation” day even if most of the day was overcast! I hope you enjoy the pictures (that I'll eventually put up when the internet is strong) – they don’t do it justice though! Guess you’ll all have to make a trip out to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes to know what I’m talking about!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A new kind of poverty....

When I first signed up for this Humanitarian Project in February, I was expecting that I would come here to this poor country, do a lot of good through health programs that bring new educational insight to the people here.

I was wrong.

The poverty here is COMPLETELY different than I was expecting. These people live in houses, are very family oriented, live very religious lives. Education of nutrition, STD’s, hygiene and diabetes maintenance are already taught in the schools. These people are aware. Their problem is, they’re lazy. Their poverty lies in their laziness. Therein lies the difficulty.

As volunteers with HELP International were trying to create self-sustainable programs to better these peoples lives. How are you supposed to create a program that a) already exists in some form, b) will be kept up after you leave and c) that is teaching something “new” to these people? My expectations differ 100% from my reality.

Developmental work is HARD. We don’t just enter a village, build a house, hold some orphans, and/or teach about STD’s. We start from the ground up. We start with nothing. We figure out what the community is in need of, we figure out how this program will last long after were gone, and we try and “re-invent the wheel” when teaching basic concepts. This work is HARD – and I’m struggling to accept it. With developmental work, you also don’t see the immediate results of your efforts. You may never see them. They are results that take time. I knew somewhat, what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this. I liked this idea of creating self-sustainable programs. I just didn’t realize how hard this would be – especially in Fiji where poverty is so different.

I just wanted to let you all know a little of what I’m doing here – not what you’d think of when I told you I was going to do “Humanitarian work”. I knew this would be hard, but not this hard.