In Fiji, I have found I am making very different friends than I have back at home. Culturally, relationships are extremely important here. As I have outlined below, relationships (actual lineage) determine what you can and cannot say to different people and even if you can talk to the person. I don’t necessary follow these rules, but I have found that I treat everybody a little differently. Some people I have a strictly joking relationship with and others I only have serious conversations. My Fijian relationships are very dynamic- I am a friend to people of all ages! For this blog post, I thought it would be interesting to convey my different friends and our relationship.
Lutu- Lutu is the father of two girls in the primary school and he is also the school boat captain. I have a joking relationship with Lutu. I like Lutu so much because you’ll always find him with a toothy grin and crafty joke. He picks on me relentlessly normally with jokes about drinking cold beer even though I have yet to drink with him. He loves to tease me about partying in the mainland and looking for cold beer (an impossible find on an island with no electricity). Whenever he is serving the grog he insists that I drink a full bowl every time- “Sini for Miss Andi.” We have made a habit out of meeting on the school deck right by the sea every Sunday after church and lunch but before he takes the boat to pick up the kids. One Sunday, I found him sitting on the deck alone reading the full addition of Thomas the Train. After coming back with the kids, he always asks to borrow my muscles to move the boat back up onto the shore. During the “cagi laba” when I was in the mainland, he called me on Sunday just to give me an update on the weather and conditions of the sea. Although he was sitting on the deck ready to take the boat out, he was unable to pick up the kids that day due to rough seas.
Miss Ili- Miss Ili is the typist at the school. She is a very hard worker but is only on the school compound during school hours because she lives in the village. Her and I became friends by default. We were both very very close to Mrs Va, the teacher who transferred at the beginning of the year, and she would be the first to tell you this too, we bonded over the fact that Mrs. Va left. Miss Ili and I quickly became friends and now she refers to me as her sister. Often when I have no work, I sit with her in the office singing Fijian songs or showing her pictures from home.
Sovasiga- Her first name is Andi Claira (so she is also considered my namesake- I go by Andi here). When you have a namesake in Fiji you just refer to them as your “yaca.” The word yaca means name. Andi, or yaca, is in class 2 and is one of my closest friends. I spend the majority of my Sunday afternoons at her family’s house. Her ta (or father) has become a father to me as well. One Sunday after lunch, I brought her to my house to eat some melted chocolate from the United States (a very rare and precious commodity). The afternoon sun can make the sand along the beach very hot, so I gave her a piggyback ride all the way to my house. After sharing her chocolate to a naked 2-year-old running around the school compound, they both were covered in chocolate from head to toe. She reminds me of the time she got chocolate every time she comes to my house.
Radini Sala- Radini is the head teacher’s wife. Her and I have a joking relationship. She owns the canteen at the school and is always joking about the price of things that I am trying to buy. She encourages me to dance every time we hear music and we have a joke about the next school cluster meeting when we meet with the two schools close by us. She has instructed me I have to wear my snorkel, mask, and fins while dancing. She is very kind and always bringing me food and insisting I drink tea at her house.
Luisa- When I first arrived at Ratu Naivalu Memorial School, Luisa was the first student to greet me. She was waiting on the deck with the head master (who has now transferred). She helped serve the mangoes, papaya, and coconut water as I met the class 1 students and several of the teachers. After our snack, she came to my house to help me unpack. She was not shy to turn up the music and start digging through my bags to determine where my things should go. This year she is in class 8 and is an absolutely gorgeous girl. She pulls off the modern Fijian look with long hair and rolls her sulu up just a little below the knee. She is the head girl of the school, is very smart and always willing to help. Unfortunately for me, she will be schooling in the mainland next year! She is my chicken partner when we play in the water, so I guess I’ll have to look for a new partner next year.
Joseva- Joseva is in class 1 and one of the teacher’s kids. His family moved out of my house in order to open one of the teacher’s quarters allowing me to move in. During the first few months, I think he forgot he didn’t stay in my house anymore. I would often find him hanging out in my house alone or peeking in through my windows. He is a very “cheeky” boy. A term used here to describe someone who is naughty or always looking for trouble. Even now, he frequents my house just checking to see if I am home, to see what I am cooking, and to watch my use my computer. We have recently started running together on the rugby ground after school. He is also sent over fairly often by his parents to bring me ginger, cassava or crabs.
Koloa- Koloa is a cheeky village boy. He is related to my family, so I think I should refer to him as my cousin brother (?). You can always spot Koloa because there is a giant pack of dogs following him around. He is the best diver I have ever seen. When we go fishing out on the reef, he can hold his breath of an insane amount of time. If he misses the fish, which is actually quite rare, he can reload the spear three times and continue to shoot without coming up for air. When I try to shoot the spear, which is much harder than I realized, I have to shoot, come up for air, and then go grab the spear. Koloa and I have a brother sister relationship. He is rather protective which works in my favor because it forces other cheeky boys to keep their distance. He is always helping out around my house… He fixed the locks on my doors, made my clothesline, always calls me to drink grog, and shows up at my house with fish.
Kuru- Kuru is one of the very few girls in the village of Yalobi and she doesn’t even stay in the village full time. She spends the majority of her time in Nadi, but when she is in the village she is always going crab catching. We have visited the waterfall, taken hikes, made coconut toffee and drank homebrew together. She is always up for an adventure and I am excited to explore the island with her.
Vouvoso- Vouvoso is a very cheeky class 6 student. Last school year he took me on a hike with a few of the other boys to check out our water source. On the way back, the boys gathered mangoes for me, and Vouvoso climbed a coconut tree, so I could drink coconut water. He got a bad cut on the bottom of his foot on our walk home, so all last year, he would come to my house 2 times a day so I could wash the sand out, use triple anti-biotic, and give him a Band-Aid.
Maravu- Maravu is my Ta in the village. He is also on the school committee so is always helping out around the school compound. He is very efficient and easy to work with- not always found in Fiji. We have a joking relationship and he is always teasing me but knows when to be serious. He is always checking in with me to make sure everything is working at my house, my phone is charged, and to see if I need anything. He insists that I eat lunch with his family every Sunday. Whenever I see him in the village, he asks me to come home to drink tea. I think he is just as excited as I am for my family’s visit next month. He is going to come to a Peace Corps workshop with me so we can work on a water project together the weekend before I pick my family up from the airport. I think he wants to come to the airport with me and host a welcome dinner for my family. The kindness and generosity him and his family have shown makes me feel at home here in Yalobi.
Simeli- He is the elected village headman. He is always telling me I am full of “bullshit!” for no reason in particular. I think I have had a serious conversation with Simeli twice since being here… He normally jokes about how he is smoking “healthy” cigarettes and how he doesn’t drink beer, just rum. Overall, Simeli is a very good man and is always responsive to my requests and looking out for me. He is a great friend to have!
Manasa- Manasa is one of my slower readers. I work with him one on one in the library and we always have such a good time. He has also become one of my regular running buddies. He is constantly coming up to my throughout the school day saying, “Miss Andi. We train today?” After school yesterday, he came up to me and told me to wait until he came back before I started running.
Master Lui- Master Lui is the head teacher of the school. Him and I have a working relationship. He is a very humble man and has a big heart. I am very very fortunate to have him as a boss because he is laid back and supportive of all my ideas.
All of my running buddies- For example, today I tried to go on a peaceful run to have a little time to myself and think about my lessons tomorrow, but instead I made 15 new friends and was being watched by about another 15. I was swarmed by all the class 1 and 2 students. As ran around the ground, a different group of students would join me each lap. They would take a break, wait for me to come back around, and then start again. Of course, they all wanted to either hold my hand and run right next to me or yell from in front of me… “Faster Miss Andi, faster!” Needless to say, it was not the peaceful, thought provoking run I was looking for, but I must admit, I really enjoyed it! After about 10 laps around the ground (they each did about 4), we did an ab workout all together.