A breath of fresh air

(From Oct. ’15)

This past week I was lucky enough to get my first two visitors on Koro; Kendall and Hannah, new arrivals from Group 92 who are currently training on Viti Levu.  The Peace Corps almost didn’t send me anyone for HVV (host volunteer visits) because of the boat schedule.  Visitors would have to arrive 7am Monday morning and leave at midnight on Wednesday!  I begged the staff anyways, promising them that visiting my village would be worth a trip cut short.

The days before they came I started to worry that maybe they would have rather gone elsewhere.  Taveuni has waterfalls!  Rakiraki has scuba diving!  Suva has movie theaters!  Can I really make 24 hours of ferry travel worth the same amount of time here?  Caught up in my own excitement at the prospect of finally having visitors after a year at site, I’d assumed that a “fun” HVV for them would be the same as my “fun”… collecting seaweed to make your own lunch with fermented coconut scrapes and fresh coconut milk is pretty cool right?

Well, luckily it was cool to Hannah and Kendall (the pot we consumed between us being proof)!  Besides lumi (seaweed), they loved snorkeling in the beautiful reef and spending time in talanoa with all my village mamas, aunts, sisters and friends.  Their visit turned out to be a “real treat” (yes, I’m quoting you Kendall!) for all of us, and we walked away having learned a lot from one another.

Kendall and I wading through low tide

Having been here a year, I shared what I could with them about life as a PCV, being ever clear that each experience is personal and theirs will vary in many unknown ways.  The purpose of their visit was for new PCVs to get a glimpse of how one person lives at her one site, and this way get an idea of the site they might succeed at.  Most importantly though to me, it was about establishing relationships between the groups and some momentum for the year to come.

Roti and curry for lunch with Hannah!

If anyone took anything away from this visit, I’d have to say I’m the lucky one!  Being in such a beautiful place, in a community where I feel safe and appreciated is such a blessing, but sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see all of that and reflect it back for you.  As much as I am always subtly aware of how blessed I am to be serving as a PCV (in Fiji of all possible places), on some days I find myself mired in my struggles with a muddy  perception of the beauty around me.  This week I saw Fiji through the clear eyes of my new friends; I saw sunsets that reflected metallic off the boundless ocean, palms that seemed to dance along the coastline, fish so bright that they could be mistaken for stars glowing atop coral reefs…

I also saw that my community does appreciate what I do, however insignificant it seems some days.  Everyone made an effort to make Hannah and Kendall feel right at home; I think my village now expects that they will be back for Christmas.  It’s the least they can do if they can’t stay forever!  A few of my friends even brought over yaqona to have a welcome kava session in my home, something that is a Fijian tradition, but having never drank grog in my house I wouldn’t have even thought of it!  “Welcome to Keresi’s house, to our I house,” declared my friend Laisa as she took her first bilo cross-legged on my floor, “since Keresi hasn’t said it yet, I want you to know that you are always at home and welcomed back to Nabsovi.  Thank you for coming!”  (Okay, I swear I told Hannah and Kendall that they were welcomed back… but I guess if the words aren’t christened with kava it ain’t worth diddly!)

Having two new PCVs visit at around the half way point of my service couldn’t have been more wonderful.  Their actions and words reminded me what a special opportunity it is to be a PCV.  I’m so very grateful to share this life-changing experience with bright, passionate people like my very special HVV visitors!

Sun set over Dere Bay, Koro Island
Sun set over Dere Bay, Koro Island

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