Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I wrote this in Savusavu, just days before i left.... It's my last peace corps fiji-related blog entry...

In Fiji, I seem to live my life in extremes. There have been days were I couldn’t possibly desire anything more than to simply be outside at sunset. The light at this time is my favorite part of the day. The air is crisp as the sun is dying down and there is a slight breeze, calling everyone outside. The girls sit on their stoops laughing or singing or gossiping, chewing on ice blocks. The boys are geared up to go play rugby and jog to the field barefoot. It is a time of calmness for me, when the heat off the road is no longer steaming. Pink light fills the sky and makes everything it falls upon seem soft. It sounds crazy, but sometimes it feels like I can taste that air, that light…it feeds my soul, fills me with happiness. I wish I could bottle it up and take it with me wherever I go.

Then there are days where I am at the complete opposite extreme, where I feel stuck and claustrophobic and everything goes wrong. Those days when the clouds trap all the heat, and all of a sudden it starts pouring buckets of rain and I am caught in town without an umbrella. My trip into town is disappointing, there is no mail in my mailbox, I go to the internet café, and there are no emails from home. So I make it down the dirt road, now a messy muddy slippery path, to a meeting I had scheduled weeks in advance only to find out that the person I was to meet with is out of town. I make my way back up the dirt road. My flip flops get stuck in the mud and one of them breaks. I squeeze my toes together and try to walk with my broken shoe as best I can. The last thing I want to get is hookworm. I go to the market wanting to buy eggs for dinner. Of course, “no more eggs, eggs finished” my market lady says. Admitting defeat, I truck it home, covered in mud. All I want to do once I get home is to take a shower and go to bed, but of course, there is no water. They always shut the water off when it rains. So I take a bucket bath and go to bed and because it’s been raining all day, I haven’t been able to sun my mattress, so I toss and turn as the bed bugs feast. I’m itchy. It’s only seven o’clock but I can’t possibly be conscious for another minute of this day. I curse under my breath, take a Benadryl and at some point in the night I fall asleep, surrendered.

Still, as my service is coming to an end, I can’t help but think of all the memories and life lessons that this place has offered me. Of the growth that has happened within me, of the stillness I’ve found in my mind and of the strength I’ve gained throughout. I have learned so much in the space and time of these two years…

I learned that the search for truth is a solitary and individual experience and that change is the only thing that is constant. I have learned to allow myself to move slowly and to give myself time for myself. I have learned to rely on my mind and on my hands and I have learned to give with sensitivity; to give love with no expectations, with no strings attached. I have witnessed kindness and generosity from people who have next to nothing. I have reduced the amount of material things in my life. I have experienced time and stopped moving through it blindly. I have discovered that laughter is universal, the gateway to building friendships... and that i need it every single day.

I have learned to do something of great purpose and to trust myself while in the midst of it. I have gained patience of enormous proportions, and also learned to recognize my limits. Most importantly, I have learned to flex my freedom by taking control of my life and being at peace with myself.
The KLF expansion launch took place at the end of April in Nausori. It had been my intention to end my service right after the retreat. After all, Kids Link is the only reason I stayed in Fiji as long as I did. I wanted to make sure KLF in Savusavu was sustainable before i left and I was planning on finishing up with a bang, attempting to end my service on a high note. Unfortunately, beaurocracy got in the way... Peace Corps found out that my bags were packed, (even though i was still working at the retreat) and I was forced to leave my kids early, so that Peace Corps could process me and get me out of the country as soon as possible. I asked to stay for one more day, so that I could finish off the retreat with my kids and be there for the launching of the expansion we worked so hard for. After pleading my case with acting (acting being the key word) country director, I was denied and forced to leave my kids and the retreat early. I still don't understand why they wouldnt let me stay for one more day to finish up my project... after all, i had given them hundreds of days of service... Luckily, the office of special services in Washington intervened and I was allowed to attend the KLF expansion Launch before flying home. I am still distraught and drained by the whole experience... I didn't even get a "thank you" from Peace Corps after my two years of service. But regardless of what happened, I'm so thankful for the relationships I built with my kids, my local friends, my Fijian family and fellow volunteers. I'm proud of the work I accomplished and I'm forever endebted to Fiji for giving me one of the best experiences of my life.

Here are some pictures of the retreat...

Pete, Lora, Ateca, Lucy and Pate.. 5 of my favorite kids ever

On our way to the wharf

Care, Eddie and I took our kids on a night out on the town...

Bush kids in the big city....

Group presentation

Awesome public speaking skills by Pate

Cake-cutting ceremony, Launching of KLF!!

Teary-eyed kids... Goodbyes are hard
More photos from our Earth Day Clean Up...

Monday, May 12, 2008

KLF expansion: from 0 to 10 to 26... and still counting. I love these kids.

The photo was taken right after our clean up day,
my last group shot with our kids link members.
While we were up on the tree the kids sang "Isa Lei" to me... I was bawling.
See if you can spot me. Where's Waldo?

(*Isa Lei is the Fijian Farewell Song)

Kids Link Fiji- My last project at site. In collaboration with Save the Children, I started Kids Link Fiji, in October last year. We started with about ten kids. Today there are twenty six active KLF member in our Savusavu branch. We talk about all sorts of things: good qualities, self esteem, role models, we talk about children's rights in Fiji and being active citizens. We've talked about global warming and did our part during Earth hour. We also had a clean up day on Earth Day, and cleaned up Savusavu town. It's not always work though... we play games and journal and do team building activities. KLF Savusavu meets every Saturday from 10 am to noon.

I was fortunate enough to have Edwina, my best friend is Savusavu.
Eddie helped me with the kids on Saturdays and now facilitates KLF Savusavu.

The kids are eager to answer questions here because I was giving out chocolates in exchange for right answers. How long does it take for a diaper to decompose?

This is one of the kids' favorite games: Bring home the bacon

The kids are working on posters for Earth Day

Good qualities workshop. This is back in November when we first started.
There were only about ten KLF members at the time.

Cleaning up the town on Earth Day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This was just the other day, my family stopped by my house for a visit, and i had to film this.
They are such a musical family... look at that baby go!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Almost two months of being away, I’m back to the humidity and the moldy jungle. My house wasn’t as bad as I expected to find it. Of course there was that mildew smell permeating the walls, and a thick film of grimy dust covered the floor, and spider webs had taken up residence in every corner of every room, but upon my return, I was thrilled to see only two dead cockroaches on my floor. The bad news is a mouse moved into my kitchen and I can’t seem to get it out. I was going to buy a mouse trap, but I couldn’t decide which one to get, the one that snaps, (like in the cartoons) or the ones that have a sticky surface which super-glues the mouse’s feet onto it. I have bad, bad, bad visuals of both. I can’t decide what’s worse, having to clean up dead mouse guts and blood splatter from the mouse trap or have to remove a live squealing, screeching, struggling mouse with its little paws super-glued to a little cardboard surface. Um… neither. So now, in addition to my daily cleaning up of gecko poop off my kitchen counter before I have my coffee, I have to clean the mouse poop as well. In response to my mouse problem Fijians simply say, “What you need is one pussy.” A pussy cat, that is….

I visited my beautiful Fijian family yesterday. The kids ran out to greet me, yelling out my name, climbing up my legs and hugging me tight. “Danica! Danica! Danica’s here!” It was a wonderful welcome. Lucy, their mama just hugged me tight and sniffed me. “Oi le, Danica! us gang, we think you never coming back!” I had a huge duffel bag full of stuff for them. Toys for the kids, gifts from my mom to them, clothes, shoes… stuff to make s’mores. I had been promising the kids I’d show them how to make s’mores for the longest time. They had seen a cartoon once with kids roasting marshmallows and were so mystified by this… I don’t think the kids had ever seen so many toys at once. (thank you to my sister taco, and her first grade class at Paul Revere who donated them!) They were quiet and concentrated in amazement, and I was happy just watching their expressions. I played with the baby who hated the vibrating stuffed animal I got him, but really loved the box it came in. Then we went out and Nem, their father built us a bond fire and there we were, my Fijian family and me, roasting marshmallows to make s’mores. It felt good to see them again, to witness their innocence and sheer joy of taking part in something as simple as roasting marshmallows. I hugged the kids goodbye and they said thank you and hung themselves around my neck. I’m not entirely sure, but I think I may have scabies. My body is itchy… my ankles, my elbows especially. I noticed some open scabs on the kids as they held my hand and hugged me, what was I to do? Not hug them back? Scabies…greaaaat.

Happy, happy kids

Friday, January 11, 2008

a photo shoot with my two favorite island babies: Lele and my namesake.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Peace Corps Holidays in Fiji...

In Fiji, you can tell the holidays are nearing by the smell of gardenias in the air. There is no snow, no wind, (or breeze for that matter) but there is a lot of muggy rain. It is very hot in Fiji this time of year. So hot, in fact, that the candles melt without fire.

But it is also a time for fun friends and plenty of laughter...

and lots of cooking going on in the kitchen...

and silly puppet shows by jone

and friends you can count on to fall asleep and be the 'butt' of all jokes

Hope your Holidays were filled with love and laughter...

Friday, December 07, 2007

We had a tropical cyclone scare yesterday. It started with a lot of rain, and people in town were stocking up on their emergency supplies of tuna and candles. People had started tying down loose boards and covering their windows with sheet metal or plastic, anything they could find. Peace Corps consolidated all the volunteers, and for a while there it was pretty scary, as the winds picked up and the lights went out and weather guy on the radio kept repeating "DO NOT leave your house, Hurricane Daman is expected to hit Savusavu directly...."

This is what the news said:

"A destructive category four cyclone with winds gusting up to 275km/h is barrelling towards Fiji, sparking the evacuation of tourists and some flight cancellations.

Cyclone Daman has rapidly strengthened from the lowest category one to a "top end category four" storm, with an average wind speed of 195km/h.

Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island with a population of about 360,000, is expected to begin to feel Daman's full force about midnight (2300 AEDT Friday) when it makes landfall."

But the cyclone took a swing to the northeast and dodged us completely, and so we were left, excited pcv's drinking wine by candle light on the floor of my house... releived, yes, but I'm not going to lie...a little bummed that we didnt get in on any of the action.