Tonight we had a meeting with our families regarding our last two weeks here in Vanuadina. The meeting supposedly started at Liz’s house at seven, but in true Fijian style we all showed up after plenty of dinner and tea around 8:30… seqa na lega! It used to be that I could blame my Fijian family for being on Fiji time, but I must admit I’m starting to “Fijianize”. I may have been kana tiko roti and curry at 8:15… it also may have been my second dinner. When in Fiji! Just call me Keresi.
Our meeting consisted of the men gathered around a bowl of kava as usual, with us ladies sitting together towards the back of the room. It’s not a meeting until until the masu (prayer) happens and the kava is mixed! It’s crazy how quickly one develops a new normal. Sitting cross legged on a woven mat around a bowl of kava is the only way to have a meeting, right?
Also in true Fijian style, all of our parents came to the meeting excited to plan some special going away activities. They are always eager to do something special for us, we’re very spoiled by our families here in the true land! I didn’t catch all of the details, but I do know that we are having a big dinner with just our families one night, which will include lovo. Lovo is usually saved for special occasions, and yet most of us have eaten it nearly every Sunday… yup, so spoiled. My tai also assured us that we will have plenty of music and kava post-dinner, a.k.a. a “siqidriqi” (sing & drink). As if that was even a question!
Our last Sunday church will also be a special service in our honor, followed by tea at the vale va koro with the entire village. I think it’s so sweet that our families want the whole village to be a part in our send-off, but they also want a special night for just us say farewell.
It was also decided at the meeting that this week, post language exam, we will have school in the bush and at the river. There are certain “survival skills” that the Peace Corps requires us to learn, such as scaling fish and shucking coconuts. The list also included proficiency in taking a bucket bath and sweeping with a Fijian broom. In case I forgot I was in the Peace Corps, my swear-in to-do list reminded me. In addition to the Peace Corps requirements, our families want to teach us about different wild foods that we can find throughout Fiji and about basic Fijian (herbal) medicine. Finally! If I had my way, this would be part of training every day… but I guess this isn’t Girl Scouts.
Meeting tonight to discuss our approaching departure was really bittersweet. I can feel the end of PST coming, which is exciting and relieving. The next two weeks are going to be full of cool activities and fun times with my fellow PCTs and our host families. I’m also so eager to get my site placement and begin my service as a PCV. Two weeks to go! The feeling is truly bittersweet though, as the reality of leaving my Fijian family is setting in.
Sitting back observing my tai (grandpa) and mom talk about our departure really tugged at my heart strings. These people are the only family that I have for thousands of miles. They’ve taken me in with open arms and minds in one of the most vulnerable times of my life, and made me feel supported and secure. Today at lunch, my younger brother started telling a story about kaivalagi (a foreigner) to which my mom interjected, “Ia Emosi, Keresi seqa na kaivalagi, Keresi kaiViti”, which basically means, but don’t forget that Carissa isn’t a foreigner, she belongs here now. My family always reminds me that no matter where I am sent for service, I have a home with wide open doors that I can (and am expected to!) always return to. As my tai said, “Now you are never alone here in Fiji”.
Feeling a sense of community and belonging is a primal need for which I truly believe there is no substitute. PST can be a trying time, and there could be no replacement for what my Fijian family has given me. Tonight’s meeting really reminded me of how lucky I’ve been to have a such positive PST experience. I’m looking forward to my last weeks in Vanuadina, and to maintaining my connection with my vuvale & koro throughout my service—and life! I can only hope that the community I will serve in is as welcoming as the true land 🙂