My typical pre-service training week

It’s hard to believe that I have only been here for 2 weeks thus far! Our action packed days make the time my go by very very quickly. During this pre-service training period in our host villages, we are given very little free time. The sun rises early and life in the village begins shortly after. I have been waking up just before 6 am to enjoy the rising sun and go for a morning run- in my sulu. After running, my host brother Timoci and I feed the pigs on the other side of the village. If my run didn’t wake me up, my cold bucket shower surely does the trick. At first, I really dreaded showering, but now that it is starting to get really hot out (as we move into summer), I find the cold water to be very refreshing and one of the few moments during the day that I am completely alone. Sometimes I stretch out these showers in order to have a little peace and quiet. Conserving water doesn’t seem to be a concern here in Fiji, which is another reason I take long bucket showers in the morning. It is typical to shower twice a day, and often, I find that they forget to turn the water off.

Morning tea (or instant coffee in my case) is always accompanied by large quantities of bread usually fried but sometimes baked or steamed. Lots of carbs are consumed early in the day and tons of sugar is dissolved in tea. I counted this morning as my host uncle spooned 2 heaping tablespoons of sugar into his tea (holy sugar!). During the first week, I kept stressing how much I love black coffee and fresh fruits for breakfast, and finally, I am served black coffee and offered fresh papaya, bananas, and oranges every morning.

Even after being here for 2 weeks, I am very much treated as a guest. Although it is uncomfortable, my host family insists that I sit at the head of the table; I am served separately and often am given high quality food. I have tried to refuse this special treatment, but they seem to take offense to it, so I am forced to accept it. On top of this, they don’t let me help with dishes or any of the housework during the week.

After morning tea, I head to my language teacher’s house (Monday-Thursday). Tilaour language instructor is also staying in Vuci with a host family. My individual training group in Vuci is 7 people total as all 35 of us were split up between 6 different villages. We stay at Tila’s for close to 3 hours where we work on Fijian. Every other week we have one day of Hindi instruction. After language class, we typically head to one of the other training villages for a combined session where we are lectured on Peace Corps policies, strategies for service, safety and security tips, and on technical skills. Each week has a different theme for the technical skills training section. This week our focus will be non-communicable diseases. The Ministry of Health sent out several project officers from varying departments to speak with us about diabetes, smoking, and nutrition. In addition, several current Peace Corps volunteers who primarily focus onNCD outreach will be in attendance for the remainder of the week in order to explain their work to us. Sometimes during the afternoon sessions, we work on group projects/presentations or visit local health facilities.

My favorite assignment so far required that we return to our prospective training villages to seek out and speak with some key players in our community. We spoke with the chief, the taruga ni koro, the community health worker, and the leaders of different committees in order to better understand the organization within our village, community involvement, decision making, how healthcare works, common illnesses, how trash is taken care of etc… After finding this information, we had to make a presentation. It was really interesting to hear what other groups found out about their individual host villages, because it showed us how much our communities vary. This assignment will have to be repeated individually upon arrival to our 2-year work site in order to learn the organization and set up of our placement communities.

In two weeks, we have a trip! We will be going to stay with different volunteers who are currently serving all over the country. We will have the opportunity to stay with them for 3 nights in order to shadow them and better understand their unique assignments. I am really looking forward to traveling to another site, seeing more of the country, and experiencing what life is like as a volunteer.

After our afternoon training is over, we head back to our villages around 5pm. We have been given permission by the taruganikoro(the elected village head master) to play sports in the field in between the church and his house. Although we have really enjoyed playing soccer, rugby, and netball with the kids it is really sad that the only reason the kids are able to use the field for the next 6 weeks is because we are here. There isn’t much land for the kids to play on, so after we leave the village of Vuci the kids will have go back to playing in the small areas in between homes.

The village bell rings promptly at 6pm indicating that it is time for the kids to return home and time for prayer. Upon returning home, we eat vakayakavi (dinner), which is always followed by tea and sometimes more bread. The food is amazing but the quantities are unbelievable. Yesterday for dinner, I had a pumpkin curry cooked in coconut milk, fish, homemade roti, dalo (a root crop similar to cassava), and cucumbers. Tonight we are eating taro leaves with tin fish and coconut milk, an eggplant casserole, and cassava. The food is very good but a lot of butter, vegetable oil, salt, and sugar are added.  In addition the food is very carb heavy. I have started eating meat because we don’t eat fish too often and I wouldn’t eat enough protein if I avoided the beef, chicken, and lamb that are often on the table. I am proud of myself because often the meat still has bones in it… I have been struggling a bit but the meat is definitely organic and raised locally. I am not sure yet if I will continue eating meat when I am cooking for myself at my placement site.

After dinner, I typically attend a Kava circle, get some homework done, visit with my host family, or read etc…

On Fridays, we skip our language lessons to meet as a combined group. We have presentations all day or visit different health facilities. In the evenings, we run a community activity in our individual training villages. For example, this Friday we are planning to organize a game of soccer for the children.

Saturday is a day for self-directed learning. Last Saturday I learned how to hand wash my laundry, traveled into Nausori but minibus with my Na (mom), and learned how to cook roti.

Siga Tabu (Sunday), when translated means, “do nothing.” This day is reserved for church, rest, and eating.

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