After a lot of preparation, training and filling in of forms Connie and I have landed in Fiji. We’ve been on the ground now for almost two weeks and I finally got internet so I can put some thoughts out there about this town, and our experiences thus far.
We are on an Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) program placement in Suva, Fiji. There was five of us that headed over in this intake, but there are already a lot of people who have been here for a good while. We will be placed in capacity building roles here for one year, attempting to help various Fijian organisations with tasks, and also to train native people with our skills so that after we go home they are able to take over the reigns. At least that is how it works in theory. We shall see how that pans out in the weeks and months ahead.
I am here with my wife Connie. Her assignment is monitoring and evaluation with habitat for humanity, mine is marketing and IT with The Good Neighbour International (TGNI). When I tried to google TGNI all I got was a couple of press releases, so if you are looking for information on TGNI and you ended up here, drop me a comment please.
Connie has started today but I am starting on monday for some reason. I intend to do a bit of work tomorrow though as I already have a couple of deadlines for end of year stuff. The time off before starting is really useful because it actually takes a long time here to get phones, internet, banking and other stuff sorted out.
These are the people we came to Fiji with. The small Fijian boy is working for the UN doing… aha no, he just snuck into the photo for cuteness factor. From back to front we have Glen, myself, Grace, Sneakyman, Nikki and Connie. Glen and Grace have sports related postings and Nikki is working at Habitat with Connie. We all get on well thus far and are sharing a house together. Connie cooked us all italian food last night, the meal was served sans basil as the island seems to be devoid of it.
Our experience so far has been really great. We had a few days in Nadi followed by an induction in Suva. The induction was a week-long and involved a mix of language classes, indian cooking demonstrations and an amazing race – which the men won convincingly, even though the girls cheated. We are currently considering buying a $250FJ trophy to commemorate the occasion. It’s real nice.
One of the highlights of induction was a visit to a village outside of Suva. We met a chief, had a lovo (ground oven) and drank kava. All of the locals seemed to enjoy our presence, and I might have the opportunity to return as a helper with the next intake.
If you have never been to Fiji, let me briefly explain that kava is like an institution over here. It’s shared between friends, it’s part of welcome rituals and it’s given as gifts when you savusavu (ask for entry into a village). We had about 7 half-bowls this day and I didn’t feel any different, but apparently it is a muscle relaxant. It tastes bad, but not as bad as what everyone says.
I was worried about whether it would be the right thing to do to drink it while I was here, but honestly the vibe about it was ok, and it seemed culturally like a good thing to do. Some of the devout Christians here don’t drink it. I haven’t had a proper conversation with them about why yet, just that they consider it to be like alcohol which they also abstain from.
There is a lot of social interaction that happens around the kava bowl, and it is not uncommon for people to stay up really late talking and drinking kava and singing songs especially on a weekend.
Basically things are going really well so far, we’re right in the middle of the honeymoon period, and loving the food, the people, the weekly frisbee games and the $3 cinema tickets. I’m sure as we settle in and start to miss things from Australia I will probably have some emo blog posting times, but for now, things are pretty good.