The first wave of our volunteers has arrived!! I could barely contain my excitement when we went to the airport to pick them up. It is the coolest airport I’ve ever seen, with just a little landing strip right on the ocean. They are so excited to be here, and I’m so excited to pair them with the projects Ryan and I have worked so hard at putting together. Speaking of, I’m so lucky to have a partner like Ryan. We worked through a lot of challenging situations together these last 3 weeks, and its created the foundation for a really solid partnership that gives me confidence for what is to come these next 9 weeks. That being said, we both agree that our house is a little too quiet and night and we can’t wait to have our volunteers fill it up.
This is Linet. Linet is the nutritionist at the Hospital here in Savusavu. And she is amazing!! Yesterday I was in meetings with different head doctors at the hospital, and then the physiotherapist where we chatted about the current needs of the hospital and where our volunteers and interns can fit into that. I was told there was a nutritionist, and knowing that I, as well as one of my volunteers is interested in nutrition, decided to find her. I’d learned that there are nutrition classes on the days that hypertension and diabetes clinics happen at the hospital.
I found Linet sitting at her small corner desk in the cafeteria. When I introduced myself to her and told her my purpose and what brought me to her, her eyes started to tear up. She said, “you have come as an answer to prayer.” I had to do a double take and remember that I’m not a missionary anymore.
We began talking about her needs. She was hesitant at first. We talking about nutritional class, clinics, and presentations, as well as posters and pamphlets that she needs help with to educate people about preventable diseases. Slowly she began opening up to me more about possible things we could do. She told me of a garden she wants to do at a nearby school so that malnourished children have access to fruit for snacks at recess. Getting closer.
Then she said, “well if you’re sure, I do have a bigger project I’ve been trying to do, but can’t get enough help.” Ding ding ding! I was pumped. She then told me of how there used to be a greenhouse at the hospital, but Cyclone Winston destroyed it two years ago and they’ve just never rebuilt, and she now really wants to rebuild and plant a whole garden around it. There was also a compost bin, but now people are using it for garbage. Or as everyone calls it here, rubbish. We began discussing the possibilities, and I’m very excited! We chatted about the sustainability- who would care for it after we’re gone? Would they work on it with us? We talked about where we would get seeds and what can grow here year round that could be used in the cafeteria. The purpose is to grow fruits and vegetables that will be used in cooking for those patients staying at the hospital. We went and surveyed the land that needs to be cleared and turned where rows can be planted.
The picture above is of Linet showing me this tree on hospital grounds called a Soursop. She read that its leaves and fruits can prevent and even treat cancer. And the wonderful thing about the whole thing is that we’re in Fiji! That means we can literally cut a piece off that tree, stick it in the ground and it will grow! So great!
It was interesting to me that what seems like such a simple thing to me, and what we’re here to do, elicited the comment from Linet at the end of our meeting: “you’ve given me hope.” Sometimes in life we just need a helping hand, and someone who believes in us.
Life in Fiji is fantastic! Usually when I wake up I’m just immediately thinking about what needs to be done to prepare for our coming volunteers, and help this experience to be a successful one. And other times I wake up and I just can’t believe where I am! Seriously, take a glance at a map and find the island of Vanua Levu. Now Ayman, my Arabic teacher from Jerusalem, can truly call me the “from the middle of no where girl.” Haha.
I'm getting very excited for our volunteers to arrive! I'm excited to get started on projects that Ryan and I are setting up, and becoming very passionate about. Also, this house needs some more life in it! Although I do enjoy listening to Ryan playing his harmonica at night. He's got skillz.
Development work certainly is keeping me on my toes. And traveling. Not just traveling, but being given the job to set up camp in a new country for people who are coming; who are relying on me. It’s so new to me, and is so wonderful. It seems to pull things out of me in ways that I’m not used to. For instance, I realized today that I have characteristics that I’m used to being strengths of mine that are now being challenged in completely new ways. Like before I thought that I was efficient, a wonderful multi-tasker, and able to solve problems well. But this week these things have not felt like strengths in the face of new challenges. For instance, who new that settling a housing contract in Fiji for three months could be such a challenge? I’m glad for the challenges though, because it means that I’m growing. It's easy to find things that challenge my weaknesses, but to find things that challenge my strengths- I think that means I’m being stretched. And growing. And that helps me feel fulfilled.
“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.”
These are the things I’ve learned in my first week as a country coordinator with Help International in Fiji:
1st- people in the islands really are as nice as you hear. I have never had so many people give me food as when I landed in the Nadi airport, and was sitting for a while waiting for the bus. We were so hungry, but didn’t have any currency yet nor know where to go, and we didn’t want to miss our bus! Who knew when it would really come! Multiple people walking by just sat with us and shared whatever food they had. I had my first yummy island orange, and I learned what Roti is. My dad was right – when you’re on a mission to do a good thing, you are taken care of.
2nd- the people are happy!! And if they don’t look happy, all you have to do is say “Bula!” And you’ll get a smile and a happy “bula bula!” in response. Also, stop and talk to them. Chances are they want to get to know you, and will probably invite you to do something awesome.
3rd- I’m not sure my feet will ever be clean again. Sweat + dust + sandals = equals (almost) permanently dirty feet. It’s a battle. Chacos help.
4th- If you think you got all the glass out of your foot that you stepped on, put it in the ocean. If it suddenly hurts terrible and you can’t walk on it, chances are you didn’t get all the glass out! If you’re too much of a baby or you can’t see it to get it out yourself, ask one of the nice people around, like the nurse living downstairs to help you. And all will be well. Life lesson- don’t walk barefoot here, even in the house maybe. Also, always be humble enough to ask for help.
5th- Be open to new culture. I had my first traditional meal with an Indian family who invited us over. I met the sweetest people. I sat on a mat and chatted with the women while Ryan drank Kava with the men. What incredible women. They grew up in such completely different environments than myself, several even having arranged marriages. I could tell how kind they were, even when there wasn’t English spoken. They laid this feast on the mat before us of different curry dishes, and insisted we eat first. That was also after hours of preparing while we were waiting, and trying to help. Have you seen The Office? When Michael and Jan invite people over for a dinner party, Jan mentions that it takes three hours to cook. Pam looks at her and in a sort of panic says, “three hours from when you put it in like two and a half hours ago, or three hours from now?” “Oh Pam,” Jan replies, really not explaining anything. I’m here to tell you, it’s the ‘three hours from now’ option. Luckily though for us, our dinner was much friendlier and less awkward than Michael’s dinner party, and no one broke any dundies or the 27” plasma screen that collapses back next to the wall. J
6th- the stars here are different. I knew that because of being in the southern hemisphere for the first time, but it’s actually sort of disorientating at night still when I look up and don’t see Orion, the seven sisters, Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper or the North Star. I looked for a star map at the library, but apparently there are none. Hopefully my phone will work better soon and I can use my Star Chart. I can’t wait to learn these constellations.
7th- If you go to Fiji, bring an inordinate amount of bug spray. Don’t buy some here. It’s lame, expensive, and just smells like some sort of weird hairspray. Plus the mosquitoes are like invisible little ninjas, and their bites sting as well as itch.
8th- Embrace the unexpected. When you’re in a new place, it’s okay to feel off balance. I haven’t really been okay with that before, but am learning it really is okay. Especially when you are going to be working in that new place, and so much is asked of you. You must learn many new things very quickly. “Going with the flow” takes on a whole new meaning. If in that state of feeling off balance, you begin to be sad, or want to judge yourself for not being up to the task at hand, just take a deep breath instead and release that. Do not let any thoughts of negative self-judgment enter your mind. Embrace the things that are yours- as Cesare Pavese put, “the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky- all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
More to come, but eight is my lucky number, so I’ll stop there for now. :)
P.S. Love that Fiji gave us a big thumbs up!