On November 7, 2014, I moved to Tawake village. It is located on the northernmost tip of Vanua Levu, the second largest of the Fiji islands. It is north of Viti Levu, the main island, and it is much hotter. It also lacks many of the modern amenities that have made their way to Fiji—the majority of the roads are not paved and Labasa, the largest town on the island, is comparable to a small, mid-western town in America.
On the boat ride to my village that first day, the rain was pouring down and I couldn’t see what I now know to be the beautiful scenery surrounding my home. When the boat arrived in my village I saw my beautiful house, a traditional Fijian bure made of sticks, leaves, and pounded bamboo. Unfortunately, we moved all my things to a neighboring house because the floor of my bure and the bathroom had not been completed.
Luckily, the construction went quickly and four days later I moved everything I own into my new home. I was so excited! A bure is exactly the kind of house that I wanted when I first began researching Fiji. It stays cool during the hot months, and warm during the cool months. Also, my bathroom is absolutely incredible for Fijian standards, with a new flush toilet and a modern shower head. Unfortunately the showers are always cold
The other hope I had when I found out I was going to be doing my Peace Corps service in Fiji was that I would live on the beach. Once again, my wish came true and my bure sits about three paces from the sand. I fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the waves breaking on the shore each day. I’m thinking of building a patio in the back of my house where I can sit and have my coffee and watch the sunrise, listen to the ocean, and watch the clouds move over the distant islands.
Only one-hundred thirty-six people live in my village, so it is fairly small. We have one nursing station, built by the Ministry of Health in the 1960s, where I am assigned to work alongside the nurse, Siti. Though, for Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in villages, work is a loose term.
I usually go to the health center to see if anything is happening on Mondays and Tuesdays. Mondays are village check-up days, where we go around to anyone who has a condition like diabetes or cancer in the village and give them their medicines, IV drips, etc. This is a good time to catch up with my neighbors over tea and biscuits. Tuesdays are Maternal Child Health (MCH) days. This is when mothers with infants come in to get immunizations, check-ups, etc. I use the waiting time to give health talks to the parents.
On the days when I’m not working I try to go up to the school to watch the lessons, teach a little bit of health, English, and whatever else I might feel like sharing, and talk to the children. I know most of them pretty well since it’s such a small village and most of them live in the area. I have another post I will share in the near future with more information about the school.
Overall, I am having an excellent time in Fiji. It is a very laid back culture and, while sometimes it is difficult to slow down with my American on-the-move mindset, it is really relaxing and peaceful to slow down for a bit. The beauty of every island is astounding and the people are so genuinely happy and sharing. I am very luck to call Fiji my home.