It’s 2015, and it is hard to believe that I came to Fiji last year, will be spending this entire year here, and will be returning home next year. Conceptualizing where I am in my service in this way is comforting. I’ve only been here four months, but it being a new year makes me feel somewhat accomplished J The holiday season was very slow at work, so in the next few weeks I will truly begin my work as a community health empowerment facilitator (which will mean many things)! I think my work will start with doing health talks in villages and classes at the local schools. I of course have many other ideas in mind, but I want to take it slow and see what seems to be needed in my community and the surrounding villages.
I returned to my village this morning after having spent the last two weeks in the capital city of Suva. My main reason for the trip was to restock on goods that I can’t get in Koro (cooking supplies, whole grains, beans, nuts, etc.) and to check up on some stomach issues that I have been having. After several tests and an ultrasound, no set reason for my tummy troubles. It seems my GI system is just a bit out of balance from adjusting to a new environment, so time is what will heal. I’m going to start fermenting foods so that I can introduce some healthy bacteria back into my diet (since lack of refrigeration means no yogurt). This will also be a good way to preserve my vegetables! It’s so interesting to have to learn about home preservation methods like fermentation out of necessity, rather than it being some fun new culinary technique I feel like getting in to. This could either help me feel a lot better over time, or I could end up making myself sick by doing this all wrong… guess time will tell! Hey, at least I have great health care in the Peace Corps.
Another motivation for my trip to Suva was to see fellow PCVs and have a breather from the village. My time in Suva was quite refreshing. Surprisngly, what I enjoyed most was some peace and quiet. I especially enjoyed waking up to the sound of bird songs without the incessant crowing of chickens and sitting by the window reading without my name being. When I was first invited to serve in Fiji I had this vision of spending free time reading a book in the shade of a palm tree, with nothing but the sound of lapping waves and bird song to break the silence.
Contrary to my idealistic fantasies, quiet and peaceful wouldn’t be my first choice adjectives for village life. My first two months adjusting to site have been more challenging than I had expected. It is strange to simultaneously feel alone yet never alone… I am constantly surrounded by people and quite often have attention on me or being asked of me. Even at the times when I resign to my house to relax, it isn’t long before people are knocking at my doors or calling at my windows until I respond. I’m also still working on finding people that I can relate to, and feel like my authentic self is appreciated and understood.
As a naturally more introverted person, this is quite a lot for the psyche and spriit! I truthfully can feel completely exhausted when I feel like there is no escape from having to be social at all times. Back in the US I was used to choosing when I wanted to be social and when I needed to have alone time. I enjoy having time to reflect and dream in solitude, so that when I am with others I feel energized and present. My goal upon returning to Nabasovi will be to find a healthy balance between social time and personal time, and to be really aware and proactive when I need more of one or the other.
This all being said, it has been really helpful to have time with other PCVs in the last two weeks to process my first two months at site. I do not mean to complain, but rather to be honest about what I’ve found difficult so far in this journey! While adjusting to the expectations of village life has been challenging, it is challenging in a way that I wanted. I joined the Peace Corps in the hopes that my limits would be tested, and learning how to find balance in being active in my community while still finding my personal time is an important life skill for me to develop.
Village life can be energetically intense, but the positive aspects of this lifestyle far outweigh the struggles. Once I know people better and am just another member of the community (not the exciting new Kaivalaqui), I’m sure much attention will shift away from me, and I will feel more at peace and comfortable in my new home.
After two weeks away from Nabasovi, I’m ready to be back on Koro Island. When the carrier pulled up to my village this morning, I felt at home. The rush of positive feelings was a relief!
Now that I’m back in my village, I’m going to focus on finding peers and being more social, knowing that it will sometimes be tiring and awkward, but necessary! I’m looking forward to the day where I know the members of my community well, and have a balance of social time and reflection time that feels good for me. All in all, I’m trying to be easy on myself and remember that moving to a new place is even tough in the US, never mind a new country!
Being in Suva made me miss my favorite parts about life in Nabasovi village—cooking with my Na, playing cards with my sister, painting my little cousins’ nails, helping prepare meals with the other women… Adjusting might not be as easy as I expected, but I wouldn’t give up my village life for anything else. I’m more than happy to trade in fast paced city life for my slow paced village life! Loud chickens and all 🙂