Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm in Fiji kids!

I have been on the island Viti Levu, Fiji in the South Pacific for almost two weeks now. I live on the main island where the capital Suva is, but my team is doing work in a small town on the other side of the island. The town is called Tavua District. This town is made up of Indo-Fijian people and Fijians.

The Indians were brought here in the late 1800s as indentured servants. Fortunately that ended in the early 1900s. Wearing their customary Indian dress, they currently compose nearly half of the population, earn 70 percent of the income and pay 80 percent of the taxes. Even though these Indo-Fijians are primarily a driven group of people they still suffer in a few different ways. They are only allowed to lease lands from the Fijians and do not have the opportunity for any ownership. Also, the Indo-Fijian women are often subject to domestic violence.

The indigenous Fijians, who are the nicest group of people you will ever meet, make up the other half of the population. Their hut and tin like houses make up many villages that surround the town we live in. The different villages are composed of 50 to 400 people led by a hereditary chief. They grow most of their own food in village gardens. They hardly import much here! But when these people attempt to set up a business, they are often stifled by the demands of relatives and friends. Their Fijian customs of claiming favors or giving of what little they have, has made it difficult for them to compete with the many Indo-Fijian business owners.

A bit of the Fijian culture still resembles Great Britain because they were under their control until 1970. Queen Elizabeth is represented on the dollar bills and coins, they play net-ball and cricket in the schools, and their English is similar to Great Britain’s.

As I am new to Fiji and came in the middle of the summer, I am not a project lead yet. For example, last year in El Salvador I was project lead over English teaching, girl’s dance classes, and rural health classes. This last week I had the opportunity to teach six health lessons during the week because the project leads were out of town. I absolutely love teaching health but there are many girls out here who have interest in that field. We’ll have to see!
Our group is doing some great things out here though. We have built adobe stoves in many villages. We have taught them how to do it and they have started to build their own. These stoves are great because the women don’t have to cook over an open fire where the rising smoke destroys their eyes and lungs.

We are also teaching square foot gardening. This principle allows the Fijians to utilize a small area in their backyard that provides them healthy food at a cheap price.

We also tutor kids in the schools and help them improve their English. (English is the prevalent language spoke between the Fijians and Indo-Fijians, and is necessary for everything).

Anyway, that will be it for now! I can’t bore you too much especially because there are no visually stimulating photos. (But seriously not my fault! All the volunteers have had issues uploading pictures on these internet cafĂ© computers. Lots to look at when I get home…look forward to it.)

PS. I went skydiving my first weekend here. (We have Saturday and Sunday off). It was intense! I went tandem so I had a “professional/stranger” attached to my back, which he may or may not have been a little high. 12,000 feet high- 45 second fall towards the islands was one of the most exhilarating experiences ever. I tried to tell my instructor those feelings. He furthered to tell me that deciding to be a virgin till I was married was the worst decision I could ever make. I didn’t really try to convince him otherwise because we were having this conversation about 6,000 feet above the ocean.

PSS. My house is covered in ants and small, medium and giant size cockroaches…much worse then last year.