My Million-Dollar View

A view of the school and the village from my favourite rock near the mango tree :)

A view of the school and the village from my favourite rock near the mango tree 🙂

Walking from the village to the school!

Walking from the village to the school!

My view, the beach I live on, and my country of service are very deceiving of my daily life. Yes, I serve in Fiji. Yes, I eat lots of fresh fish. Yes, I live on the beach. Yes, I can snorkel out of my front door. BUT these wonderful things all come with a cost- the cost of food access, the cost of cold drinks, the cost of running water, and the cost of privacy. Let’s just say I can’t slip on my bikini and lounge in a chair on the beach while sipping a cold cocktail- duh, I am in the Peace Corps; however, it is impossible to get through an hour out of my day without being reminded that I am not living the life style Americans think of when they picture Fiji. Between the cold bucket showers in my spider ridden shower room, my morning kitchen clean up to dispose of the evidence rats left behind the night before, the inability to charge my computer when the sun isn’t out, having to hand wash my clothes, my usual lunch of canned tuna and rice, drinking warm rainwater infested with mosquitos, and picking ants out of my sugar, I am reminded that I am not living the life many would imagine in Fiji. A lifestyle lacking the small comforts from home has become normal to me. I no longer look for the light switch when I walk into my dark house at night, miss cold drinks or ice cream too much, or scream when a large spider runs across my foot. I am adapting to my new life and living very happily without all the small amenities (such as chipotle burritos…) I once took for granted.

All this being said, I still face challenges… My two biggest challenges are the gender roles and the lack of stimulating conversations. These are two things that I am still struggling with… It is so interesting being a European female because I can eat first with the men, sit at the top of the table, and sit in front of the kava bowl, but as I integrate, these options are offered less, which overall I appreciate; however, it is tough at times begin treated like a servant to the men. The women here are used to that role and don’t seem to question it, which can be very frustrating at times. I often find myself in a bind caught between wanting to help the women and integrate into the culture yet wanting to participate in the more fun activities (such as kava drinking or eating first- yes, these are the excitements in my life!) with the men. This is something that I will continue to struggle with for the next 17 months.

As English isn’t the first language here, many times I find myself sitting quietly around a kava bowl having conversations in my head. Even though I always prided myself as being “well-rounded” and having common sense and street smarts, I am finding that my intelligence is more geared toward book smarts than I ever realized. The skills my villagers are capable of are incredible. They can spear fish by hand 10m underwater while holding their breath, can build huts out of reeds and mud that withstand cyclones, can climb coconut trees with grace, can cook gourmet meals for 40+ people over a fire, and can catch wild pigs. Needless to say, we don’t talk about politics, discrimination, outer space, or religion around the kava bowl, but rather what everyone had for dinner, where people were going that particular day and which teachers are in the mainland for shopping leave. Another piece of this is when I do find myself getting frustrated, I have nobody to vent to because I am completely isolated in an I-Taukei community on an island. And due to the lack of critical thinking, I have to be very careful not to criticize things out loud because comments would be taken very offensively due to lack of cross-cultural understanding.

All this being said, I wouldn’t change a thing! I am willing to pay for my million-dollar view through the loss of amenities and privacy and am doing what I can to empower women and increase critical thinking to enhance casual conversations. Overall, the life I am living here is exactly what I dreamed of for my Peace Corps experience. I love living from meal to meal, eating fish right out of the sea, crowding around a flash light with my neighbors at 7pm just to read a book, not being able to charge my computer daily, and making a game out of water conservation.

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this blog post to remind myself that when times get tough, I am merely experiencing the challenges that I wanted to face when I joined the Peace Corps and to paint a realistic picture of my life in Fiji. Needless to say, I am adjusting to this lifestyle and am able to appreciate my million-dollar view in the company of rats and spiders while sitting at the bottom of the table without a cold drink in my hand or a full stomach.

Cheers!

5 thoughts on “My Million-Dollar View

  1. Robert Gulliver

    It was good to hear from you. Keep fighting those rats, spiders and mosquitoes! We love you. Grandma and Grandpa G >

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  2. Kelli Pape

    Adriane, you are a wonderfully brave, refreshingly humble, and truly inspirational young woman. Some of your experiences sound a little too reflective of living in an Ann Arbor co-op after discovering my fair share of critters preparing for the health inspection, but I’m always really glad to hear about the things you’re struggling with there and knowing that you are able to adapt and appreciate life in a whole new way. I never felt like such an adamant feminist until I went to a country where cat-calling was as common as the olive oil, and I can only imagine how that expectation for women to be servants could feel infuriating when you know of another existence that you reasonably believe to be more valid. You should definitely learn that underwater spear-throwing trick though, it’ll come in really useful on our future backpacking trips! Love you, miss you, and definitely want to talk to you about my potential application process to the Peace Corps coming soon 😉

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    1. adrianek08 Post author

      Isa Kelli! You, my friend are going to go places! Thank you for reading and for your encouraging words. I just wish that olive oil was available here… Ha. It can be very very frustrating at times, but you’re right, my perspective is only different than these women because I know another existence- hopefully, I am able to empower them in these 2 short years! Good luck with keeping the critters away and please let me know what I can do to help you with that application. I highly recommend applying… For me, it has been a great experience thus far! Also, I am really looking forward to the next backpacking trip! Enjoy all Ann Arbor has to offer and drink a cold beer for me!

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  3. Mary Rogers

    I would like to say the BDR is awaiting your return. But like your adventures, trials and tribulations in Fiji…we too are experiencing a new and different reality in our humble little world at Chimney Corners. Even when things are different and frustrating they can also be so exciting and real. Challenges give us a new perspective of our lives. And you are doing such a fantastic job at understanding your reality and working to help bring a new perspective to the Fijian reality. Being female – I think your goals to improve equality among men and women is so important. Keep doing what you do to educate women and men. They can operate in this world as equals…but it may take time and maybe even a few generations to improve a lifestyle so many are accustomed to.

    (We) You are so fortunate to have such experiences. It certainly sorts out the different lives people live. What a gift you are (giving) but also receiving. I am so proud of what you are doing. And, it will be over before you know it! Enjoy every moment – do what you can – and know you are making a difference.

    Just an update from the Corners – all is going well – weather could be better…sad face : < Very similar to last summer and hope it just gets crazy warm and sunny soon! First Friday dinner tomorrow and we have scavenged lots of stuff from the BDR to improve the Lodge operation. A la carte menu and no more buffet. Steve & Austin seem to be ready and very happy with the new operation. We start Lodge breakfast Saturday morning and then start our "grab & go" lunches on Sunday. We are doing 3-5 cold sandwiches and a couple salads served with chips or coleslaw and a cookie. Going to run it out the the Snack Shack! Sam, Ben, Jaylon, Jackson, Evan & two new gals will run the breakfast and grab & go lunches. All new stuff, but soooo HAPPY we are not doing the BDR this summer!!! You went out with a bang and we are moving on!

    It is 1:00 am Michigan time and I gotta get some sleep…big day and weekend and then next week as well. The "Nancy's" are doing a lunch on Tuesday, first BBQ on Wednesday, special dinner on Thursday and then Friday dinner again! Woopee…we are rolling along!

    Love and miss you! Mary, all my boys and your CC friends.

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