Since my return from my stay in Suva, I’m feeling a little more at home here in Nabasovi each day. I know the names of the majority of the faces I see each day, and just that in itself makes me feel more like a member of my community. I was struggling a bit in the first months here with a lack of privacy and the constant attention, but as I settle in I am more able to float around the village like any one else, without all of the pomp and circumstance! It’s nice to be able to stretch out on my floor with the doors open and the ocean breeze passing through, interrupted now and then by one of my naus (grandmother) coming by with an afternoon snack, or one of my many tiny friends returning my cat (this happens all day).
Feeling less pressure to be “on” 24/7 and the constant focus of attention has freed me to relax more into my life here. I’m appreciating even more the simple pleasures of village living. This evening as I washed my veggies for dinner some of the children in the village came by my window to see what I was cooking and talanoa (chat). We talked about their favorite subjects in school and what we’d all have for dinner tonight. They’d all heard I’d gone fishing yesterday too, and wanted to hear about my first adventure in the art of catching my own dinner. It was a success in that I caught a fish big enough to be my cats dinner and I can gather my own baca (bait). We whistle to hermit crabs, the sound drawing them out of their shells. As soon as they emerge, out they come and off with their claws. I can’t say I enjoyed singing to the sweet little hermit crabs, only to follow my song with pulling off their limbs, but if I want to eat then sacrifices have to be made… it’s the circle of life. The kids were excited to hear that I had at least caught something, and it always gives them a good laugh when I tell them of the new things I’m learning.
After chatting with my little friends I sat down to enjoy a kale and papaya salad with a citrus almond dressing. I could practically still taste the sunshine in papaya and the earth in my kale 🙂 The kale came right from my garden right below my kitchen window, the citrus from the next village over, and the papaya from Mareta’s (my nurse counterpart) back yard. Talk about local! As I sat down to enjoy my salad, I heard my cat’s name being called in the distance. Out my window I saw one of the older men in the village carrying Kila towards my house. He patted her little head as he passed her through my window. Throughout the day I often hear “Kila!” being called throughout my village, and it warms my heart. My neighbors know that Kila is important to me, and make sure that big dogs don’t go near her and that she makes it home before dark. In a place where pets are not cared for in a way that I’m used to, it means a lot that my neighbors watch out for Kila. To me it feels like a way of showing that what matters to me, however small, also matters to them. These little acts of kindness are what makes me feel at home here.
The highlight of my week was for sure fishing, as I’ve been waiting so long to go. It was fun to spend time with Mareta outside of work, just a bunch of amateur fisherwomen passing an afternoon up to our waists in the aquamarine sea, sun shining on our shoulders, bright blue and striped yellow fish swimming around our feet. From where I was standing fishing, I could see the dock where the local kaivalaqis (foreigners) that own property here fish. There I stood with my fellow villagers, sulu wrapped around my head like an African queen, plastic bottle full of massacred hermit crabs hanging from a root-rope around my neck, tabasco sauce bottle fishing contraption in my hands… I couldn’t have felt further from that dock if I were looking down from a plane. I felt so accepted and at home there in the water with Mareta, my Nei Mana my Bu Sere fishing beside me. Not some kaivalaqi, just another friend and family member out to catch dinner. I may have caught the tiniest fish possible, but everyone was proud of me. I could a ride back to the village with my Na Leva who happened to be rowing by on her bavelo (tin boat) as I finished my bait. Peace Corps says no hitchhiking, but do makeshift canoes on the open ocean count?!
Another highlight of my last week was the first birthday of my friend Dikula’s twin, Rusi and Sai. The talatala (minister) cut each of the boys first lock of hair, followed by their cutting of their cake with his help. The feast had included some of my Fijian favorites- rourou balls, palu sami and dalo vavi. After the meal I helped with dishes as usual, sitting in the grass along with some of the other young women, my job in the dish procession being the drying. In the midst of clean up a water war broke out, which is usual for a party in January. From the new year until February it is customary for people to dump buckets of water on one another and throw each other in the ocean, the Fijian way of wishing you a happy new year! I thought that I might escape being “sui”-ed, until I was taken by my arm and pulled under a running outdoor faucet. I have to admit, a part of me was hoping that would happen, if only to confirm that I’m part of my village and so part of the fun 🙂
Work this week was spent doing the census in three of the four villages that make up our tikina (district). This involved Mareta and I walking around the village, finding people in the middle of cooking, bathing, farming etc. and writing down birthdays. More often than not people don’t know theirs, so much time was spent thinking, guessing, tracking down birth certificates and asking relatives! Conversations sounded a lot like this, “His birthday is on three nine… no I mean nine three, march ninth, right? Wait no that’s me, he’s the tenth. And he turns 14 this year so that means he was born in 2000? Or would that be 2001?” Good thing we were in no rush! There’s no such thing here in Fiji. And the days were spotted with rests under lovely trees and snacks of Ivi (tahitian chestnut), so there was no need to be in a rush anyways.
In one week I will be heading back to Viti Levu for Phase 2 of training. I’m not quite sure what this will entail, besides staying at a camp site across from a beautiful beach with the rest of my group- that’s enough to make me excited! I’ll be getting in to Suva the weekend before training begins, staying there for a night, and then heading up north near Rakiraki to get scuba certified with a bunch of other PCVs! We’re staying at a little lodge on a beautiful beach and getting certified in open water. I’m really looking forward to catching up with fellow volunteers doing something so exciting!
Well the rain is pouring, which means I should sleep while the noise outside is conducive to sleeping (as opposed to chickens crowing, bats screeching and people meandering!). More posts to come soon. Missing you all at home very much, keep me in your thoughts and prayers, you’re in mine!