Now that I’ve been in Fiji about two months, I’m feeling pretty accustomed to the daily happenings in my home and village. It never ceases to fascinate me how quickly a person is capable of settling into a “new normal”. Two months ago, stopping for an iced coffee on my drive to the beach to hang out in my bathing suit was totally routine. Now? Not one of those things are even possible here. Except maybe the beach, eventually… All you people who thought Peace Corps in Fiji would be a two year beach vacation were slightly mistaken. I wonder how weird I’ll feel in a bikini by the next time it’s appropriate for more than my shins to see the sunshine…
My new normal:
- I must wear a sulu at all times. Unless I’m deep in the bush. But that’s a rare occasion since women aren’t really allowed in the bush.
- Eating with my hands—why dirty utensils when we we have hands capable of scooping up miti like no fork ever could?
- Eating on the floor. Besides the fact that my knees are still adjusting, I’m actually a fan. Chairs just limit the number of people that you can have over for dinner! Perpetual picnics here in Fiji.
- “Smart in…” –this is how one describes being good at something. “You are smart in volleyball!” “You are smart in speaking Fijian!” “You are smart in eating cake!” …it always works. It also lends itself to some great jokes.
- Telling the time of day by the lali. The lali is the drum that is banged to signify when events are starting. There’s a large wooden one at the church which is queued to start when the metal one on my porch is rung. I’m still getting used to my ears ringing at 5 am, but I never worry about sleeping through the day!
- Fiji time. I was told yesterday that I’m smart in Fiji time now. I was asked what time I planned on going into town, to which I answered “oti na katalau” (after breakfast). We can pretend there’s a such thing as time, but in the village the only times are these: after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner.
- Wildlife in unexpected places. Last night I encountered six chickens on my way into Liz’s bathroom. Last week I grabbed a cell-phone sized cockroach along with the roll of toilet paper. Good thing critters and creepy crawlers don’t bother me!
- Cross-legged meetings around the tanoa. It’s not a meeting unless we’ve said the masu and are passing around the bilo.
- Coconut wireless. Word here travels faster than 4G. Even when I was in Suva for HVV my family knew what I was up to… “You were walking by the seawall right? Isa, the turaga ni koro’s sister’s momo saw you! It was lunch time, did you remember to eat??”
- No meal is complete without dalo or cassava. Even if the meal is curried potatoes over rice. A Fijian meal without a root crop is like american thanksgiving with no turkey: borderline immoral.
- Skin issues. My friend Liz currently has over 80 bug bites, and I’m pretty sure I have ringworm. If it’s going to be something, I’ll pick bites and fungi over parasites, thanks you very much!
Despite some daily absurdities and a few adjustments, life here in the village is really growing on me (at the moment: literally). There is no shortage of lessons and laughs, and it’s the moments when I think “when did this become normal..?!” that I think, well I guess I’m integrating!