Settling In

This week I began my official Peace Corps work at the Nabasovi Nursing Station.  Every morning, Mon-Fri, I’ll take a five minute walk over to our little health center, where I will be assisting my nurse counterpart in her daily work. My counterpart’s name is Mareta, and she’s awesome!  The nursing station is usually pretty quiet, so this week we’ve had plenty of time to start to get to know each other.  We’ve already talked about everything from our work background and community health to gardening and spirituality–I think we’re going to be great work partners 🙂

It is common for the afternoon at the nursing station to be completely empty, so we plan on spending that time starting a garden in the fenced in property (which will keep out the chickens and pigs that are terrorizing my garden in the village) once we can get our hands on some seeds.  We’ve also discussed talking to villages about starting small community gardens so that people can use their food waste in compost (rather than throwing it around the village or in the burn pit) and add some variety to their diet.

After the new year we will start our community outreach work.  Here in Fiji, by the end of November most work slows down until school starts up again in late January.  This gives us plenty of time to get to know each other and start coming up with ideas!  We’ve discussed my going to the two schools nearby to do health talks, work with the Girl Guides group (like Girl Scouts), and possibly do some fun physical activity programs with the youth.  I’m also hoping to strengthen the Health Promoting Schools initiative in my catchment area, which empowers schools to keep students health by requiring them to have a school garden, have healthy canteen guidelines and promote physical activity.  I’m really excited to play a role in promoting the youth’s awareness and individual responsibility for health here in Koro.

I’d also really love to start a “HOPE” club at the Nabasovi District School.  HOPE stands for “Helping Our Planet Earth”.  The program builds students capacity toward more sustainable schools, and is an initiative of Live and Learn Environmental Education (a local NGO) to promote understanding and action towards environmental sustainability.  Climate change is already greatly impacting island nations like Fiji.  Students are the future leaders that will be solving the environmental issues here in Fiji, and it’s so important that they start critically thinking about these issues now.  All in my, my goal in working with local students is that they go on from their educational experience feeling confident and empowered to address the health of the individual, community and environment… I have a lot of really exciting work ahead of me!  You people back at home just pray that the local school administration is as passionate about all of this work as I am 🙂  Of course without buy-in of the village and school community, none of this will be possible or sustainable.  My job until school starts will thus be to continue getting to know my community so that when it comes time to start discussing different initiatives they will trust me enough to have these conversations!

For the next several weeks I will be pouring over the many materials I brought from the Peace Corps library in Suva, thinking, writing, and walking around my village, slowing evolving from “the kaivalaqi” to “Keresi”… or in other words, being another neighbor, and not some white lady who happens to be living in Nabasovi 🙂  Most of the small children actually call me by my name now, which is a small victory and makes my day!

Today is Saturday, and I slept in a bit because I came home late from the health worker’s Christmas party in Nasau.  The doctor at the health center gave me and Mareta’s family a ride home through the heart of the Koro wilderness at around 10:30 pm.  Half the time the fog was so thick I could barely see the road ahead.  It was also barely a road, and the truck was barely running, so most of the time I was wondering whether we would actually make it back to my village or would be camping out in the bush..!  It was kind of exciting to drive down the windy dirt road in the light of the nearly full moon, I truly wanted to hop out of the truck, sling my hammock to a big mango tree and sleep under the stars 🙂  Alas, I took the ride home, but I will probably watch the sunset this evening from my hammock on the beach.  Now I’m off to wander around the village, practice my Fijian, and possibly go fishing if Ta doesn’t deem it too windy to do so.  Sota tale!

Vuniwai, Dr. Sarjneel
Vuniwai, Dr. Sarjneel
My counterpart Mareta and her adorable daughter Elina
My counterpart Mareta and her adorable daughter Elina

DSCN1431

Koro Island Community Health Workers!  Hopefully next year Luigi and I can get in on the awesome Kalavata shirts :)
Koro Island Community Health Workers! Hopefully next year Luigi and I can get in on the awesome Kalavata shirts 🙂
My Koro Island buddy Luigi and I
My Koro Island buddy Luigi and I
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