Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moce Fiji

Its over.

Today is my last day in Fiji and this is such a weird feeling. I can't believe that I've been here 10 weeks and that today I'm going back home to America. Fiji has been my home away from home this summer and it feels so weird saying goodbye to it for probably forever. How sad is that?! I realize I will probably never have the opportunity to come back here and so my goodbyes to the people here are for good - it breaks my heart!
Sunday was very touching when the closing song was "God Be With You Till We Meet Again". I could barely sing the song because I got so choked up. That is the worst song you can sing to someone that you'll never see again. "Till we meet, at Jesus' feet" has a whole new meaning to me now.

Yesterday was a very culturally filled day and a great one to end it on. Alex and I went with PRISM (Medical outreach) out to a village called Naseyani. We showed up and entered the village hall and were shocked by how many people were sitting there waiting to get free medical help - around 60-70 people. We scrambled to get things set up and started. I helped Sister Prakash register and screen the children - so many of them had scabies - that is a major problem here because things don't dry out and families use the same towel when bathing.

We had lunch at the Turaga Ni Koro’s (the village chief) house and we had a beautiful spread of rice, roro, kasava, curry and…. Fish. They brought out my fish HEAD on a plate – I think my eyes got a little bigger when I was presented it. Haha. But I dug in and ate the meat – it was actually very tasty – fishy yes, but tasty! I was impressed by myself – my first Fish head in Fiji – it was only fitting for my last meal in a village. I'm going to miss the PRISM Team - they are incredible nurses and doctors doing such a great thing.
Alex and I with the PRISM Team
Alex and I working with the Nurses.

Later that night, after dinner, Alex, Taylor, Carlee, Rohit, Ian and I went with Maya (our landlady and Indian cook) to Hindu Temple. We went and sat for 2 ½ hours listening to sermons we didn’t understand because they were all in Hindi. It was still a cool experience to be a part of and I was able to get the best of both cultures today! Awesome – Wananavu!

During the Temple, I was just thinking about my time here in Fiji because I certainly couldn’t pay attention to the sermon because nothing made sense. I started to cry because it finally hit me that I’m going home. I can’t believe it. This trip has been incredible. I have learned so much about myself and about the cultures present here in Fiji. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers and the people I’ve been able to work with in other NGO’s and organizations. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so grateful to those that helped me get here.

Thank you Fiji for all you've taught me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Projects and Reporting and Evaluations, OH MY!

I realize that most of my blog posts are regarding my vacations but my day to day life at the house in Ba isn’t as exciting as a beach, hike or day-cruise. But, I’m here to do projects with the people of Fiji and I’ve been able to be a part of a lot of different programs and I’ve become project lead on a few as well.

The two projects that I was put as a co-project lead include Ministry of Health and Music Class.

In the Ministry of Health program, we work with the Nurses at the Ministry and go out with them to schools in the Lautoka Province and teach nutrition and hygiene to the school kids. We talk about the importance of eating lots of fruits and vegetables and minimizing our intake of sweets. Along with keeping our insides healthy by eating good foods, we talk about keeping our bodies clean on the outside. We talk to them about brushing their teeth, washing and brushing their hair, washing their bodies specifically washing their hands and feet to prevent the spread of germs. On occasion, we would help the Nurses administer Oral Vaccinations of a de-worming pill and an iron pill to the children. It was always so funny to see them so nervous to swallow these pills – some kids were WAY too dramatic about it. We kept saying “Lilo! Lilo!” (Swallow! Swallow!) to the kids but some just couldn’t get it!

When the 3rd wave of volunteers left Fiji, our numbers here got smaller and so some of the programs weren’t able to function as well due to the lack of man power. The Ministry of Health was one of those programs. It also didn’t help that when we would call to see if they needed us for the week, they were either doing a breast-feeding campaign all week or heading to the Ysawa Islands for the week. SO, that program has since ceased but the few times I was able to go to the schools and teach, I really enjoyed it.

The other project I became involved with when I first got to Fiji was the Music Class. We teamed up with FRIEND Fiji – an NGO here – and assembled a youth music class (even though all the people in the class were boys and our age or older..) in the Vakabuli village. This class had some major challenges to it, which made going to it difficult each week. For example, it would take us 1 hour to get to Lautoka from Ba, then we’d hit the bus that went up to the village – take a 30 min ride there, sit in the Village hall for 1 ½ hours waiting for the boys to show up, have an hour long class, then catch the bus back to town – another 30 min ride, then catch a minibus from Lautoka to Ba – 45 minutes. All in all, it was a long, expensive day for an hour to hour and half class. Despite the struggles we faced with this project, we were able to pull a talent show together for the boys to showcase the songs they learned. It was a really fun night where the boys performed 3 songs – “Lean on Me”, “Down By the River to Pray”, and “Amazing Grace”. Abbo, the member of the class most devoted to it, was able to arrange for a local church group to perform some song and dance numbers. We had a good turn out of villagers and volunteers and afterwards we were able to be treated by some lemon-leaf tea and tuna sandwiches that the villagers graciously provided to all the HELP volunteers. It was a really neat night and I’m kind of sad we don’t go out to that village anymore because I became good friends with the people there – esp the music boys!

Here are the boys of the class at the night of the Talent Show! (L-R: Sarah, Rusi, Abbo, Amanda, Suli, Me, Mosese, Semisi)

The final project I’m involved in and the one I’m most proud of is the Koroipita Youth Group that the girls in the group titled “The Reality Group”. Alex and I have been able to go to the Koroipita Village for the past 4 weeks and teach about issues such as trust, peer-pressure, relationships and most recently, teen pregnancy. We really love teaching the girls in the group and spending our Thursday nights with them. We walk away from each class in such a good mood and feeling like we are making some kind of difference, even if it’s a very small one.

Next week is our last week of the class – and it happens to be my last day in Fiji as well L . Were going to talk about self-esteem and self-worth and then enjoy no-bake cookies and pass out the t-shirts were getting made that have the girls’ personalized “I Am _____” statement on the shirt. They are very excited about the t-shirts and I’m very excited to hear from each one what they’ve learned from the class. Next Thursday will certainly be an emotional one! I’ll have to cart my luggage to the village and then head right from class to the airport to catch my 10pm flight out of Fiji!! So surreal.

Alex and I

(So bugged - was uploading pictures of projects and my internet wouldn't work...great)

There is just an update of the 3 projects I’ve been lead over. I’ve been involved in various others such as PRISM – a medical outreach program where we go to villages and measure height, weight, BMI and check blood pressure, pulse and glucose to determine their risk for diabetes. It’s a wonderful program that is being run here and its always a very busy day! I’ve also helped work in school gardens – turning the soil and de-weeding the beds with the kids. I was also able to help out at the Ba Special School for Education Walk-A-Thon that was held at the end of July – I manned the Fish Pond booth that was set up to help raise money for the school. Last month, I was able to help teach a hand-washing training to business owners in Lautoka at the Lautoka Food Handlers Training Meeting. I’ve only done this once and really, really enjoyed it – we are scheduled to teach again at the second wave of the training on Tuesday – I’m so excited!

Rest assured that I haven’t just been vacationing while I’ve been here! I’ve been able to not only see the country of Fiji, but I’ve also been able to form relationships with the Fijian people I work alongside with and be a part of various projects.

Au lomani iko Fiji – I love you Fiji!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Mix of Emotions

Its strange how riding in the jam-packed mini-buses with blaring American pop music remixed with an awful reggae beat bring out some of my best thoughts and inspirations. I always wish I had my computer on the bus to whip out and write my thoughts down - but alas, thats culturally inappropriate and there's ZERO room to move, so duh, dumb idea.

I've got 9 days left here in the wonderful country of Fiji and I'm feeling bittersweet emotions. I'm SO excited to return to America and see my supportive family and friends - I think about it everyday in the downtimes we have here. I'm excited to start Radiology School in 13 days - holy crap - 13 days?! Eh, sega na leqa (no worries)!

On my bus ride today, I thought of some things that I'm going to have to get used to when I get back to the states...
  • Driving on the right side of the road with the driver sitting on the left side of the car
  • A variety in my food choices other than Top Ramen and PB & J for every other meal
  • Ice
  • Carpet
  • The convenience of having a car, cell phone and wireless internet
  • Minimal mosquito bites! I'm getting eaten alive!!!
  • Not being stared at because of my skin color
  • Having a wide assortment of clean clothes to wear
  • Getting used to doing my hair and makeup every day, not to mention getting used to seeing myself with bangs again...

Tonight I took a 5 hour bus ride back from Suva where I blew my last 2 vacation days and $400 FJD on zip-lining through the jungle, swimming under an incredible waterfall, taking a scenic boat ride on the Navua river, and blowing a big chunk of that money on souvineers and travel. It was such a fun trip and so worth every penny.

However, as I was leaving Suva, it hit me that I'll probably never come back to Fiji. Realistically, I'll never have the time or money to come here for as long as I've been here and this breaks my heart. I love Fiji - SO much. This culture is so unique and loving that I'm trying to capture everything I can about it. I'm going to miss the people here and their friendly "Bula!"'s on the street as we pass. I hate knowing that I'm leaving this place indefinitely - sure, I could come back when I've got some money but I think I'd want to visit somewhere new, go somewhere else in the world. There will always be a place in my heart for Fiji.

As a taxi driver told me today in Suva when talking about the size of Utah in comparison to Fiji, "Fiji is like a peanut in the world". Yes Mr. taxi driver, Fiji is a peanut and a special one at that. ;)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Love My Life!

This picture says it all!

This past Monday we had the day off because we worked on Saturday doing the Walk-A-Thon for the Ba Special School. So I had Monday off to go play.. and play I did! Carlee, Taylor and I got up early Monday morning and headed off to Nadi to meet up with Adam and head off on our day cruise to South Sea Island.

For only $50 American, we were able to take a yacht out to this TINY island, get fed like kings and do various things on and around the island.

When we arrived, we were welcomed by a small island band and then we were fed a buffet lunch with unlimited drinks the whole day. When you're fed rice, curry and fried everything for 7 weeks, any chance you get to eat anything else is like heaven on earth. So we wolfed down our delicious lunch with ample meat and wished for more!
We were treated with a Fijian Meke dance and some of that wonderful Fijian singing and harmonies - I loved every second of it.

Yes, I took a picture of the food....

Then we went exploring around the island - yes it took us only us 10 minutes to walk around it - and just took in the beauty of it!

Then we headed on a small boat that took us out to the submarine where we rode around and looked at the coral and marine life outside our windows! I'm glad this ride was a short one because I was getting pretty sea sick on the choppy water…

Then we had tea time but for us Mormons, cookie time! Then we went snorkeling and of course, I got fins that were too big so I snorkeled without fins - it was double the workout. The water was really choppy and the sun wasn't out so we couldn't see the marine life very well but we still got to see some things and just enjoyed being in the warmth of the Fiji water - it was warmer than our showers here in Ba hahaha - how sad. We only snorkeled for a short while and then headed back and just relaxed in the hammocks set up throughout the trees, hung out in the pool, and enjoyed our endless supply of sodas!

We attempted to play beach volleyball but the ball was crappy, the wind was strong and our skills were lacking so we all looked like a bunch of idiots trying our hardest to hit the ball over the net while the wind caught it and sent it in another direction having the ball fall just short of the net. hahaha. We felt SO white. People could see how bad we were and jumped in to play. Granted they were 2 7 year old boys from New Zealand and Australia. haha! Then we had an older Asian couple jump in and we had quite the diverse team, yet we still sucked. hahaha.

By now the sun was setting and it was breathtaking! Fiji sunsets are simply works of art. We had to leave the island at this time and we were so sad to leave it behind. All that we did was included in the price and it was SO worth it - I highly recommend it if you come to Fiji!

We headed back to Port Denarau and decided to have dinner at Lulu's right on the water. We had a delicious beef burger and fries that we all devoured - were not deprived at ALL. hahaha. I got surprised when the waitresses came out singing "Happy Birthday" and bringing a hefty slice of chocolate cake my way. Such a fun surprise and I thank Adam, Carlee and Taylor for setting that up!

Top that off with a hot shower at Adam's hotel in Nadi and the best nights sleep since arriving in Fiji because I was on an actual bed and it was a fantastic vacation day.

Happy Birthday to me, from the Fiji Islands!