This week we have HVV (Host Volunteer Visits), and I was assigned to a current volunteer in the capital city of Suva. I’m here with three other volunteers and our host, Mary, works in the Ministry of Health. She does many things, as do most PCVs, but given that she is a nurse back in the US she has been doing a lot of capacity building for nurse training here in Fiji. Yesterday she showed us around the public hospital in Suva, which was an interesting experience. We were able to go in every department in the hospital, including labs, the ICU, neonatal unit, and the emergency department. My big take away from visiting hospitals so far in Fiji is that a lot of work can be done here around health promotion to mitigate some of the burden on the health system here. The hospital staff was excited to hear that we will be doing community health work, and I’m really looking forward to starting!
It seems to me that it is more likely that volunteers with advanced degrees and more technical backgrounds will be placed in Suva, so it don’t think that I will end up in Suva. I’m hoping that’s the case, because although Suva is a really awesome (and totally needed) break from PST in villages, I really couldn’t see myself living in a city for my entire service. Even at home I’m not really a fan of cities, so I’m hoping I will be in a smaller community where I will have more of an opportunity to be immersed in Fijian culture and learn the language!
That being said, it’s nice to spend a few days with a current volunteer and we are totally being spoiled in Suva. Mary’s home has a shower, a big kitchen with a fridge and freezer, and Wednesday night we ate pizza and saw a movie! Never in a million years could I imagine that I would be sitting in an air-conditioned theater during Peace Corps service… but hey, I never imagined I’d live in Fiji for two years either.
Myself and my the others that I’m on HVV with have greatly appreciated talking to our host Mary about her Peace Corps experience. She described herself as a volunteer who packed her bags to go home multiple times during PST, and here she is two years later, extended for a third! She has been really informative, encouraging, and honest about the ups and downs of being a PCV. It’s also really awesome that we know have someone in Fiji to reach out to when we’re adjusting to our new sites and need some advice! Also, she made us “bula bars” today- peanut butter, honey, oats, dried fruit and chocolate chips. We’re pretty easy to please now a days, and that was just the icing on the HVV cake!
The absolute best part of HVV was our trip to Colo-I-Suva today, Fiji’s national park. Since being in Fiji, I have spent a surprising amount of time inside. We’re in class every day, and being a woman I am often in my house when I’m not in training. I’m not allowed to be out and about alone and I’m often helping with household chores. It’s really strange to not be able to move about freely at 23 years old… I miss just laying outside under the night sky, watching the moon rise and listening to the crickets. Or taking a thoughtful walk through the woods, without having to tell anyone where I am or when I’ll be back. All in all, I really REALLY miss being in nature! Today’s trip to Colo-I-Suva was so very needed and so refreshing. Walking through the rain forest felt like walking through prehistoric times. There are ferns of all shapes and sizes, some like feathered fans bigger than my body to palm sized plants that curl like neon green ribbon. There were these awesome palm trees that could have come right out of a Dr. Seuss book, snaking up to the sky and topped with a big poof of leaves or an umbrella of fronds. We spent a good portion of our day in Colo-I-Suva at a natural swimming pool which had a rope swing. The rope swing has definitely made today the most fun day since my arrival in Fiji! I couldn’t have felt more free and refreshed than I did swinging from the top of waterfall into a chilly pool of fresh water, under a towering tropical canopy as the sun and rain peaked through. HVV was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of the other volunteers better outside of training, which leaves little time for just enjoying each other’s company. The people that I have in my group are really down to earth and authentic, and I feel really lucky to already have a supportive network of friends here in Fiji.
Well it’s getting late here in Suva, and I am back to my village early tomorrow morning. It was nice to take a break for a few days, I feel well-rested and ready to take on month two of Pre-Service Training! Four weeks until we get our site placements… the countdown is on! The next time I post I might know where I’ll be posted- be hoping for a great assignment or that I can have a positive attitude no matter what 😉 Oh and don’t forget to mail me, snail mail is the best surprise during PST. Peace out!