Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summertime...and the livin's easy (or not so much)

It's the last Sunday in July, and I'm coming to the realization that I haven't written anything about what I've been doing here in Fiji this whole month. This is unfortunate because it has been an incredibly busy month. Great, but incredibly busy.

Week 1

A few videographers came this week to put together a you-tube video for Help International. It's actually one guy and his girlfriend, and they spent the day with me and Sandra out in the villages because they wanted to get some shots of us teaching and cooking with the locals. They're a fun couple, and I really enjoyed getting to know them. As for the video, I guess it's not really publicity for Help as much as it's supposed to just open up people's idea of development work. Admittedly, I'm a bit skeptical about it having that desired effect. Either way though, I'm curious to see how it turns out. I'll be sure to post it here when its finished.

Week 2

I went to Suva again this week. Sometimes I really wish I could just live there for the summer, because I really don't care for going back and forth. This week I had an appointment with Dr. Isimeli Tukana. He's the big guy over NCD's in Fiji. Originally, I met with him to pitch the diabetes book I wrote and get approval for the WHO to publish it. What ended up happening, was me agreeing to write a book to teenagers about media awareness. I might have been more bummed about the book not getting automatic approval, but even if it never does get published, meeting with Dr. Tukana was the best thing that could have happened to me in Fiji.

You see, Dr. Tukana has my job. Well, the job I would like one day anyway. He's the go-to guy for policy and programs in the Ministry of Health. After out initial visit, Sandra and I went to interview him for her research project later that week. It turned into a very long conversation about some of my policy ideas and even the opportunity I may have in the future to help them carry out some of their initiatives. I doubt I'll have a better opportunity to gain such relevant experience with what I want to do for my PhD work. I'm excited to see how that all pans out.

Oh, and as for the book, I also met with the a press team from the Hibiscus Festival committee. I guess the theme for the festival is NCD's so they were wondering if I would be willing to put together a short skit for the pageant contestants to perform at the festival. I showed them the diabetes book and they thought it was perfect. I'm hoping to get the book published before the festival so that maybe they can distribute it after the performance. If not, the performance will be a great start at getting people to become more aware. So I'll be headed back to Suva in a few weeks to help organize the skit. The one thing I'm a bit bummed about, is that the festival happens the day after I leave Fiji, so I won't be able to catch the actual performance.

As if all of that wasn't enough, Sandra somehow roped me into going on a double date on my last day in Suva this week. She called it "not a date," but the moment we met up with everyone else, it was very apparent that it was. Funny thing though, I had actually met my date before. We had met almost a month earlier in the temple from doing sealings together. Haha I actually remember talking to Annie about it that evening and telling her I got to do sealings with one of the most attractive Fijians I'd ever seen.

As you can imagine, my face upon finding out he was my date was rather priceless. Sandra called it 'fate,' but I would consider it more God's ceaseless sense of humor. And just to make the date just a little more interesting, that man was not my only date that night. I guess somebody got their wires crossed, and in an effort to find me a date, two guys were called, and two guys showed up.

Lol maybe other women would enjoy this, but to me, it was mostly just overwhelming. I don't care much for dating, and paying attention to one date all night is exhausting enough. Two dates just about killed me. It didn't help that they were both fresh off the mission either. The one I had met before just got back from his mission in Ogden (where my brother is currently serving), and the other served in California. They both are majoring in engineering (what all of my brothers have thusfar majored in), and hoping to go to school in the states. Between the extensive amount of familial conversations and the random times they would talk to eachother in Fijian, I'm still not sure if they actually enjoyed the 'date,' but they did invite me to hang out with them again when I go back. Lol hopefully they mean in a larger and less paired off group setting. I don't think I have the energy for that again.

After returning from Suva, we decided to spend our Saturday at Treasure Island resort. The parents of one of the YSA girls from Lautoka works there and she was able to get us a great rate for the day. It was a gorgeous island. As you can see.

The snorkeling was stunning and the lunch was overwhelming delicious. I also had the chance to kayak with Molly and Holly (two of our other volunteers). We kayaked to one of the other nearby islands, swam a bit, watched people parasail there, all while I was coveting the jet-ski's they had available for guests of that island. I wish I had a camera out on the kayak, because I've never seen such blue ocean water in my life. It was bluer than the Crayola "ocean blue" crayon, and you could see for at least 10 feet deep or so. Enjoyable as it was, the kayaking did work up quite an appetite, and I was starving by lunch time.

The lunch at treasure island was a buffet, and luckily stocked with tons of different kinds of veggies. Whether it's from my body knowing what it needs or my education playing tricks on my brain, spending lots of time in the sun always makes me crave vegetables. Between the squash, corn, carrots, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, onions, and romaine, I probably ate 10-12 servings of veggies in just that one setting. It was soooooooooooooo good. As to be expected though, that sent me into a food coma. I tried walking it off by wandering around the beach, but I got half way and felt the need to just lie down on one of the many lounge chairs. I passed out there, and woke up to someone calling my name. I guess the boat was all loaded and everybody was ready to go, but one of the workers (haha not one of my country directors) mentioned that somebody was missing. That lead to the search party, and my unwelcome wake up call. Haha after all, I would not have minded getting stuck there overnight.

Week 3

This week the whole team took a trip to Navai. It's one of the most rural villages in Fiji and sits at the base of Mt. Victoria. I had scheduled with Irene to go out and give my nutrition lectures to the village, but the whole team decided to join for the chance to hike Mt. Victoria. Originally, I planned to do this with them, but after a really cold rainy night and some honest examinations of my less-than-suitable hiking sandals, I decided to stay back and hang out with some of the locals instead. Though everybody seemed to enjoy the hike, I'm really glad I stayed behind. It was one of my most relaxing days in Fiji.

The weather was cool, the village was quiet, and the family we stayed with was incredibly hospitable. I played with their kittens, their daughter Lucy, watched some Bollywood, took a nap, and went for a walk with Tacy and Nikki (who also stayed behind). I didn't have anybody asking me questions, I didn't have to worry about any plans or schedules, and most of all, I had some time all to myself. It was incredible, and rather energizing actually. Working on that entry on love had taken a lot out of me, and this was a great opportunity to recenter and refuel before finishing it up.

After returning from Navai, one of our girls got incredibly sick. Likely, it was from the wild boar she tried on the hike. Back into mother mode, I spent the next couple days taking care of her and trying to get the house and schedules for the next week in order. I don't know if I've mentioned this yet. But I really have enjoyed the chance I've had to be "Momma Cherie." The girls here are wonderful and I've loved the chance to work with them, laugh with them, and serve them. It's been a great experience.

Week 4

This week we celebrated Sia's birthday. Sia is our cook and the woman I've been working with most in my efforts to provide food for the team. She's an amazing and sweet woman, and because of the friendship I've built with her, it was designated to me to figure out a way to get her to her surprise party. We decided the best way to celebrate was taking her out to dinner instead of her cooking for us. My mission, was to get her to the restaurant at 5pm after doing our weekly shopping together. Well, it was a particularly quick shopping trip and somehow, we were done by 4pm. So, I did the only thing I could think of...I stalled...for an hour.

My first method of delay was to ask her opinion on a few things we might need for the house. After that, I asked for her help in purchasing a suluchamba. I told her I wanted her help picking out materials so we went to do that first. Next, I told her to pick out some material for herself because a suluchamba was my b-day present to her, and that after picking out the material, we had to go get ourselves fitted. The timing of all this was perfect, and we finished with our fittings right at 5pm. I then told her I had to pick something up at the restaurant I was supposed to get her to, and without her suspecting a thing, got her to her first surprise birthday party. As much as I love healthy food; pizza, cake, and ice-cream, will always be appreciated by my palate.

The morning after Sia's party, I went to Suva again. This time I went to do HPS (health promoting schools) surveys with Molly, Holly, and Bekah. I was glad I went, because spending time with them was exactly what I needed. They helped me to have fun and at the same time, not fret about trying to pick up the slack I'm constantly being handed. You see, as much as I don't mind being Momma Cherie, it has been bugging me that I've had to take on several country director roles out of default, and without compensation. There's something frustrating about doing the job that I'm paying someone else to do.

The problem is, I have an idea woman for a leader. She's incredibly nice, and I actually really like her personality, but often she seems out of touch and oblivious when it comes to functional planning. It's been a reoccurring problem throughout this trip, and since I hate bad plans, I've tried to pick up some of that slack. For example. Monday, she tried to plan out a HPS trip for us, but it wasn't a plan as much as it was an idea, and since I was the one who was going to be suffering the consequences of that bad plan, I spent my whole day Monday trying to do her job, and make an actual plan. I spent the morning researching and calling all the different schools we were supposed to visit that week. I mapped and scheduled them out so that we could actually get through them in the time allotted, and then told her how we were going to carry things out.

In all, we were able to visit 16 schools in 4 days, and with the exception of one school whose road was washed out by floods, we finished our evaluations in that area. It was an incredible experience to meet with all of these different headmasters. I ended up taking all the rural schools because it was the most efficient way to get them done. Rough as it was getting there, I really appreciated the opportunity to talk with and assess the needs of these remote schools. Perhaps it was just strange coincidence, but all the headmasters I ended up visiting in these villages remembered me from the conference we had had a few months previously. They liked the ideas I presented there and were very receptive and open during our interviews. I felt like I was able to get a clear picture of what they were wanting to achieve in their schools, as well as what was hindering that progression. It's interesting to see how much opportunity for service there is when you are able to form relationships with those in need.

Overall, I felt like it was a successful trip, and I'm happy I was able to help get everything done. I guess I should just be grateful for the opportunity I have to step up and test my leadership skills. It's something I've been wanting to improve for a long time. Maybe this is just a good opportunity for practice.

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