Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unemployment. (or funemployment?)

I made it home, and have been here in New Mexico for 2.5 weeks now. I have been having fun with my my mom, going to museums and banjo recitals and appreciating that creative expression I have so dearly missed. I feel as though I came off of an experience that assumed no particular length of time, moving elliptically and erratically, due to its sheer intensity and otherworldliness. In Fiji, days could feel like weeks, and weeks could feel like days. It was a time warp, with so many life experiences packed into those two years, that having now emerged, am I still 25? Do I have to seriously start a career? But I'm so tired..

That's spawned my latest idea of skipping career and shooting straight to retirement. It's interesting that a few of my friends are emerging from different paths too, having worked intensely in something for a few years, all now arriving in the same spot. Thinking, now what? And to all of us, retirement sounds real nice. Of course, when you spend 4 seconds thinking it through the idea crumbles in impracticality. I guess my generation is lucky we are not necessarily locked into a career upon graduation, and can rather do bits here and pieces there of meaningful and contrasting work.

Adjusting to America is perhaps harder than adjusting to Fiji. They told us, they warned us, and ugh, they were right. A few things I may not have expected:

-Living very rurally for 2 years means that I now feel out of place in the very city I grew up in. I don't know if this will ebb with time, or maybe I have learned that I feel more comfortable going at a rural pace.

-Leaving Fiji meant leaving a family I had grown to love, a cat I raised from a kitten, a routine I had grown accustomed to, a wonderful social network in the other volunteers, an identity I had grown into. Basically, uprooting everything that meant anything to me for 2 years all at once. And I don't know if any parts will remain intact after the transition.

-Struggling with a sense of purposefulness and identity as I figure out what's next.

-Having been through something so intense but so alien. There are no reminders of Fiji here, and it would be easy to forget it even happened. Additionally, no one from America can really understand the intensity of what you've been through.

So those are some things. Like all major transitions, maybe it just takes patience, putting some days under your belt, distracting yourself until it gets easier. However, all that aside, I am excited to live America having lived Fiji, appreciating things more and being physically closer to my family and having easy transportation and communication and freedom and bagels. Lots and lots of bagels.

Friday, May 20, 2011

sa voleka ni oti

One month left, oi.

I have exciting news, which is that apparently I am smart at wearing skirts. My PC bosses came to visit, and one of the main things the older men from the village told them was that they were very impressed by my long skirts, and that I am setting a great example for the young girls with my modesty. Clearly this will be my legacy, the tall girl who was really good at wearing skirts. Who needs to run workshops or paint murals when you can have the same if not more effect on your community with your fashion. Especially if you are a woman. If you are a man, I would suspect your fashion wouldn't be scrutinized in the least. Oh, to be a woman in Fiji...haha. Maybe funny haha.

The other exciting news is that the paths are all finished, and the village continues to be thrilled with them. They started and finished a project together, as a community, everyone helping in some way. I feel pretty lucky to have been a part of it all, witnessing them come to life and work so hard.

I have my date of arrival in America: June 26. They stagger our group's departure because we have plenty paperwork to complete at the office right before we go -- closing out accounts, taking a language proficiency exam, exit interviews, signing this and that waiver, etc. I happen to be in the first shipment home, which ensures that I'll be in America for the 4th of July. That is going to be amazing. (I think I've become patriotic. But perhaps another story for another time.)

This week new volunteers arrived, to replace those of us on our way out. They are just starting their training, their language learning, their cultural immersion. Wow. Interesting that of the 32 people that were in my group at the start of it all two years ago, only 21 have stayed to the end. Hm.

I watched spinner dolphins last weekend as part of Nan's birthday at Nataleira Eco Lodge. It was perhaps in my top 3 experiences in this country. They took us out in a boat, and many of us climbed onto the roof of the boat to watch them better. I learned dolphins travel in pods. They are so beautiful to watch. It was one of those moments that puts life into perspective, kicks the power out of anxieties and trivial thoughts. It was good timing, because we're all feeling a bit dazed these days at the enormity of the transition ahead, of saying goodbye to Fiji and hello to America. Of leaving a tropical winter and entering a temperate summer. Not to say I have at least 4 countdowns going in various planners and calendars. But still, it's change, and who can think about huge change without even a sliver of worry? I sat next to Catherine, who is such a calm and peaceful person. We both were watching the dolphins, thinking about the last two years, and said to each other, what just happened? What did that 2 years just mean? One day we would know, we'd figure out how Fiji fit into our lives. "I'll call you on that day," Catherine told me. Our eyes staying on the calm, light blue ocean the whole time.

I'm realizing that my life will soon not be very interesting, and this blog will soon fade. Not like it was an incredible blog or anything. But. Hoping that my 1100 pages of journals, of which about 5 pages of material surfaced in this blog, will find their way into some form of book some day, not commercial, just, you know, for fun. We'll see how that goes.

The sunflower just bloomed in front of my house. it is pretty massive, and obstructively joyful. it's hard to look at it and not smile. The first morning it bloomed, tata stood and talked to it for a good while, wishing it good morning, thanking it for the day, for the weather, for everyone's health. ha.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

path pics

The first half of the cement shipment arrives in the community hall.

Day one. Here, the elders of the village, including the big chief (far left) pour the first bit of cement into the start of the pathway. This was preceded by a grog ceremony to inaugurate the project.

The boys collect sand and rocks from the river.

action shot!

another action shot!

Big chief sits with his granddaughter on a bench outside his house, in front of a new stretch of path.

Big lunch in the community hall.

A completed section! They used some cement to fix the drainage along the pathway too.

Another completed section!

The village insisted on this stand to commemorate the donors. It is in the very middle of the village. The house behind it is the big chief's house. They said, but Lisa, we should get a nice engraved stone from Suva to place on the top. And I said, can we just carve the names in the wet cement? They said, but it must be nice. Then they pointed out the electrical wire they had draped above with attached lightbulb so that when the generator comes on at night, the names will remain lit up. Maybe a bit overkill, but pretty frickin cute -- just shows how incredibly happy they are with these paths!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I have learned that it is good not to get your hopes up for things. I spent a lot of time my first year getting my hopes up, then getting my villages' hopes up, then being let down, then having to let down my villages. Not a fun cycle. That is why I was a bit covert about this footpath operation, not telling too many people in case it fell through. But now that I have seen 340 bags of cement sitting in the community hall, and have seen completed sections of new footpath under my feet, maybe it's time to get excited!

The footpaths were needed for many reasons. During the rainy season mud makes the paths inaccessible. Some just simply stay home, and meetings, funerals, weddings, and children going to school are all affected. In addition, the mud mixes with animal feces which then enters open wounds in feet, leading to skin infections. Footpaths minimize the villagers' contact with the dirt, making skin infections less common.

Plus, they look cool.

Money came from America, from friends and family and organizations through a PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program). I still haven't gotten the list of donors, and a proper thanks will come with time, to be sure. But a preliminary thank you to anyone who contributed to this project!

Turns out, the way to a Fijian's heart is through footpaths. And the way to my heart is through a good lunch. So. These past couple weeks have been excellent. Every day the men work on the paths, while the women cook. Around 1:30, the women carry large pots full of breadfruit and curries and cassava and fish, etc, to the community hall. The women set the floor with food and plates and then tell the men lunch is ready. The men come in and eat, while the women fan the flies off the food and sit near the door. The men then leave to go rest for a bit while the women eat what is left over. Then the men get back to work, and the women clean up and then lie down and tell stories.

I like seeing the whole village working together on the same project -- men and women alike. And the boys are learning too, helping after they come home from school. The village is very happy with the footpaths. And that makes me happy.

Pictures to come soon!

Friday, February 25, 2011

the tropics are such a gaudy joke.

"The tropics are such a gaudy joke: people have to live with every other kind of poverty, but a fortune in flowers, growing out of every nook and cranny of anything. If you could just build an economy on flowers. I stayed in a house that had vanilla orchids growing out of the gutters and a banana tree coming up under the kitchen sink. I swear. There were some kind of little animals too, like mongooses."

(from Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver, p.88)

Thursday, February 24, 2011


This most recent project I've been involved in is co-producing a CD to be used in the curriculum of a set of schools in Fiji. These songs all teach human values in some way (you know, respect, devotion, etc) and are to be used in conjunction with other mediums (stories, art, etc) to reach the most amount of kids as possible. This CD is another volunteer's main project, and she recruited musicians to help her put it together (!!).

So. Clearly, teaching about waste management in villages, sometimes sifting through mountains of trash while piglets are running about, is incredibly valuable too. But this project, where I am told to play the guitar all day, think up chord progressions to fit the wonderfully cheesy lyrics of these songs, is kind of like a dream.

We recorded 6 songs this past week, and will get together again in the coming months to make up/record the rest. SO. FUN.

Friday, January 28, 2011


So it's really tropical here. I had forgotten. And in the middle of summer to boot. Quite a shock to come from a cold dry New Mexican wintery wonderland where I wore wool socks every day and night.

My garden doubled in size, vines growing all up in each other such that it will take one very large morning to sort through through it all. Maybe two large mornings. I haven't had the energy yet, still getting my Fiji legs back.

At night I have been taking my mattress off the bed and putting it onto the floor so that I can feel the breeze from the cracks beneath my misfitting doors. I did this last year, but what is new this year is waking up to frogs jumping on me. They usually don't make it over me, but they sure try. This summer it is a lot rainier and walking down the road around my village I have been noticing miniature frogs, smaller than crickets, jumping out of my way. They. are. everywhere.

You know, as a kid, I loved frogs. I had a big poster full of beautiful poison dart frogs splashed in different neon colors. Driving home sometimes we saw toads hopping across the road after a rain. My mom would stop the car and I would hop out, scoop them up and place them beside the road. They were always these special, mysterious, reverent little creatures to me.

I remember my first dinner in my host village I was shocked to see a frog hop across the floor with neither mention nor regard from my host family. Did they not see this frog? They did, they didn't care, how strange. After slowly getting used to that, one night I saw my little host brother kick a frog across the living room like a soccer ball.

And now. I not only have frogs hopping around my house, having to clean up frog poop twice a day, but I also have them hopping on me at night. And when I see a frog, it is like seeing a grounder in baseball. I dive on it and throw it out of the door in one swift motion (my neighbors once laughed at the sight of frogs flying out of my house, but they are used to it now).

* I meant to say in the last post how much I loved seeing all my fam/friends while I was home. What a wonderful blanket of comfort and happiness and warmth that was. I had such a great time. Love you all! SO MUCH!