Sunday, May 30, 2010

What’s the word in Fijian for love? PIZZA!!!

Bula! So this past week has been a bit crazy. I moved in with my host family. I have a mom, sister (18), two brothers (24 and 26), a cat named Laisa, and a dog named Boy. They have all been absolutely wonderful to me! I have my own room andddd my own bathroom (that’s a really big deal in Fiji). I live in a nice little house in the center of the village. We have treated water in our village (also a big deal) and electricity. Most recent exciting news… my village has free wireless Internet in our provincial office area! Quite ironic since most people do not have laptops here, nonetheless I am excited about it as well is my host sister who looks forward to checking her facebook more often. Prior to this revelation I had to go pay for Internet at an Internet cafĂ©… its pretty cheap to do but a little more a of a hassle.

So Fiji is kind of a tricky county when it comes to the whole language thing. To anyone who knew me through high school Spanish… they would be able to vouch that language is not my forte. But here you would think I would have to figure out how to speak for my survival… however there is a catch… most people can speak English and some better than me! If fact, my sister just took a test on Hamlet last week… I barely understand Shakespeare sometimes and English it’s my first language! Nonetheless my language adventure continues. This brings me to my title… I was asking one of my brothers one night at dinner what the word for love was… his response was “pizza!” hahaha good times in the house. My brothers did not let me forget how the family dynamic works. From the moment I arrived, I was immediately treated as another little sister. They watch out watch out for my safety however I am constantly the subject of harmless sibling teasing. Me speaking in Fijian sounds like when a child is learning how to say the Pledge of Allegiance… “I pwedge aweegance to da flag of de United States of ‘merica, and tuuu de repubwic…. “ You get the point. Everything I say is just a little off from what is actually supposed to sound like. I think I am improving a little bit each day(at least I hope I am).

My na (mom in Fijian) is my new social life coordinator. No blackberry or facebook necessary. Every Saturday night we have a huge gathering for the 4 PCTs and their host families at one of our houses. From the looks of the first one we had, it seemed like the whole village stopped by our house at some point. Last Saturday was curry night (the Indian influence is HUGE here). We had a huge dinner followed by lots of singing and dancing. My dancing (its more like a lack of dancing… I have no rhythm or really any moves) is perfectly acceptable here. In fact they told me I am a great dancer. Looking back now they could have been joking but eh, oh well. Speaking of compliments a new one I am getting used to is “uro levu!” To Fijians it’s a great compliment and means you’re hot… in English it translates to “you’re fat!” Oh yeah… talk about motivation to try to stay healthy. In general many Fijians like their women bigger because it simply means to them that you’re eating well and are therefore healthy. Everyday my na yells at me (in a loving way) because I don’t eat enough. I can only eat so many carbs… love me some bread, potatoes, kasava, and rice… but goodness I have a limit. Okay well that is all for now. Moce!!! (it means goodbye and is pronounced “moth-A”)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wait, what’s for breakfast??? Bacon and Spaghetti!

Yay! I made it to Fiji!!! And it is BEAUTIFUL. We got in around 5:00am. FYI we left on May 18th and because of time zone craziness we arrived on the 20th so technically May 19, 2010 never really existed to me… weird huh? So after we got into the Nadi airport. we drove another few hours to like a Christian hostel type place. When we arrived we were greeted by the entire Peace Corps Fiji staff where we partook in a traditional Fijian and Hindu welcoming ceremony complete with kava. Basically I think they said “we know you are going to mess up and we forgive you in advance and offer you unconditional support.” It was really really nice. Kava is a drink that is apparently part of life around here. Its made from the yoqana root and makes your mouth numb when you drink it. Very interesting….

We spent the night at that place and woke up the next morning and drove an area outside of Suva the that houses a learning center for Fijians. We stayed in dorms called bures. But these totally top any dorms I have ever seen (not that that’s to difficult to do compared to UF). These were located on top of a hill overlooking a river. Then in the community center… aka my classroom… overlooks the ocean. Oh another new part of life… tea time! Tea time happens twice a day complete with finger sandwiches and cookies. To everyone who said I’d come back skinny…. That will not be happening. Between tea time and a starchy diet, I may be in trouble. Ahhh. Oh and about that title. Meals here are sometimes… different. We eat everyday at the cafeteria on campus. Usually its rice, dalo, or some kind of starch and fish or beef stir fry or chicken. One morning we woke up to spagettios , barely cooked bacon, and a loaf a bread all on our plate. Oh yeah breakfast… the most important meal of the day.

Alright enough about the scenery and such…. A little about life. My group (we are called PCTs, Peace Corps Trainees) consists of 35 men and women from young college grads to men in their late 60s… haha yes we are quite an eclectic group. I truly love getting to know everyone. I’m already somewhat bummed that I have to leave them so soon when we move in with our host families. Don’t get me wrong I CANT wait to meet my host family… I just cannot believe I am already leaving the people again who are my good friends. Alright that’s all for now.

PS. I promise to put up pictures soon andddd I will do my best to post more often now that I have access to internet.

Also, I wrote this post like a week ago and have since moved to a place where I have even more freeeeeee access to internet!

Friday, May 14, 2010

So I finally got a blog...

Okay so here's a brief rundown on my Peace Corps experience thus far. I applied and was interviewed at UF in the end of November. Fortunately I made it through the interview however there were not any health type programs available for me to be nominated for. So I was hoping at earliest, to be nominated to a program that might happen in Africa that might be leaving in December 2010. Still following? Basically I spent my days crossing my fingers.

Now it is late February. I was just starting to come to terms with graduation and realized that I needed some sort of post grad plan. After a quick visit on campus to research internships I ran into the PC recruiter, Amy who asked me "How would you feel leaving in May?" I was so excited/shocked/surprised so it's all blurry now but I think at some point I said yes. I was then nominated for a Health Extension program in Sub Saharan Africa. So after pushing through all my medical paperwork in 2 weeks I was now again crossing my fingers, hoping for an invitation. (Thanks to my roommates for putting up with me. I'm pretty sure I was a crazy ball of stress for a few weeks.)

Now from the title of my blog most of you will realize that Sub Saharan Africa is not a little island. The date is May 24th. I was working at health fair for my internship at the American Cancer Society. My poor phone was on the fritz and I could not answer or call anyone but I could see who was calling. I received a phone call from an unknown number with a 202 area code... AH thats Washington DC!! So cool, this number is calling me... I can't answer it... its leaving a voicemail... and I am trying to work. After a twenty minutes of tampering with it, I did get the #1 (the voicemail number) to work. It was a message from someone in the PC placement office asking me to call her back. So to make a long story a little bit shorter, basically she asked me if I would like to be apart of a Health Promotion program in the Pacific Islands. Ummmmm? YES! So two days later I received my invitation to Fiji!

So the countdown has made it to 1 day. Ahhh. Tomorrow my adventure begins starting in Los Angeles with an orientation and then on to FIJI. Once in Fiji my address will be:
Megan Benson, PCV
Peace Corps/Fiji
Private Mail Bag
Suva, Fiji Islands
South Pacific

According to the information we have received "It is recommended that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed and opened more frequently."

Thats all for now. Look for updates from Fiji!