A different kind of Friday

Last Friday was very different than any other kind of Fridays I had in the states.  At the end of the day, I went to bed thinking...."Gosh, what a full day and so different than what I am used to."

It started off very similar to my days in Atlanta.  I woke up with the girls, got them off to school and then turned on my downloaded version of the most recent Bachelor.  I watched the terrible/awesome show as I packed for a weekend away.   It took me way longer than necessary to pack (and I totally forgot underwear for the entire weekend) because I kept getting absorbed into the "most dramatic" home dates ever.... and just couldn't believe that shy, sweet Jade had posed for playboy, but I digress.  I even missed my run because I was sucked into my awful reality tv show ... the one that lets me escape from real life.

Oh, ya!  Gotta love it!

After I finally finished packing, I went over to the embassy for cultural training class.  It was such an awesome class!   I learned so much and know that I still have SO much more to learn.  In a very simplified version, I learned that the western worldview is always looking forward, towards the future.  The iTaukei worldview acknowledges and deeply respects the value of precedence.   They look towards the past believing the future will take care of itself if the past is valued.  Some of the major iTaukei values are spirtuality, listening to one anotherr, and humility.   Davo donu (to lie straight) is extremely important..meaning by consensus we all put ourselves down so that the one who has the power can stand.  So...if you have the right to speak, come from the right clan..or have the power position in the clan, others should listen.  If you walk into a meeting or ceremony where someone with power is presenting, you should bend down as you walk...or kneel.     Caring and expressing concern for others, mutual respect ("You first. No, you first.") and respect for seniors are also deeply tied into the culture.

Something extremely facinating to me is the vakanomodi (silence) way.   Silence is how the vanua is respected.  Vanua literally means land, but also refers to the social and cultural aspects of the environment associated with a cultural group.   So, for example,....if you are part of the chief's clan, you have speaking rights in public.   You should be silent in awe of custom, ancient grounds, death, and in harvest.   You should respect your mother's brothers (your uncles) and not talk when they are around, or leave the house.   (I think this is the way...but I am still unclear on this, because I have also heard you have to do anything your uncle asks you to do out of respect for him).   There are some relationships among different clans that are silent/avoidant relationships as well....due to the respect for the clan.  For instance, the presenter told a story of one time when he was at a dinner, there was fish and chicken.  He LOVES fish, but knew that a member of the clan that he has this silent/avoidant relationship with was there.  He got chicken out of respect for her.   When a foreigner was asking him about it loudly, he kept hushing her.  Finally, the one he had the silent relationship with left the room and he was able to explain to the visitor why he denied himself the fish.  He explained that this relationship began many, many years ago with their ancestors.  The respected clan's ancestors laid down their lives for the clan of the presenter, hence, he is forever indebted to them.  I still have so much to learn!  There is some more information about the silence here (http://www.southernperspectives.net/tag/silence).   Again, I just find it so interesting that this is not a culture of a long time ago, but the current culture in this country.

Here are the relics he brought with him for the presentation

Larger versions of these mats are what many Fijians sleep on at night

Unfortunately I had to leave the class a little early so that I could head over to the girls' school for a family picnic in Zoe's class.   The picnic was great.   I think picnics at an international school may be a bit more exciting than picnics where the demographic is more homogeneous.   There was so many different kinds of food, from pizza to dumplings to meat pies.  It was all delicious, but unfortunately my picky children only ate the pizza and muffins.   (They at least tried the other things).  When I walked up to the picnic, Zoe showed me her flag (USA) and pointed out the flags of all of her other classmates.   It was cute and pretty cool that she knows her flags now.

Zoe's beloved new friends.

The flags outside of Zoe's classroom and picnic.

Forty-five minutes after the picnic, there was a whole school assembly scheduled.    I had that time to kill, so a friend (Wendy) suggested that we go get coffee.  Once we got into her car, she got a phone call and asked if I minded if we change plans a bit.  Wendy recently secured three wheel chairs from Austrailia for the kids she goes to see.   After four hours in customs, she was able to finally secure and deliver the chairs to the families who needed them.  (I am trying to persuade her to do a guest entry for the blog so that people can see all the amazing work she does...and can help in any way possible.  If I don't convince her, I will soon cut and paste her instagram pictures on here).    We went to Sanjit's house.  For most of his life, he has laid on a floor because he did not have the supportive wheelchair he needed.   His mom stayed home to take care of him.   They could not take taxis or busses because of the expense and the awkwardness/heaviness of carrying Sanjit.   Now, they have a wheelchair that works!  Wendy and I dropped off the wheelchair and helped them to adjust it to the exact right size for Sahit.  We ended up missing the assembly at the school, but really...it didn't matter.   It was so wonderful to see this family receive what they needed most.   I loved being a part of helping them out and loved that Wendy worked so hard to secure them the wheelchair.   Doing good feels good.   I need to do more of it here.   Before I left for Fiji,  I went to a yoga class.  Throughout the whole class, an inner voice kept speaking to me....  telling me my purpose in life is to help make the world a better place...to do whatever small things I can to help...whether by being consistently kind and patient (a challenge sometimes!) or helping in a more organized manner.   I am not sure that delivering wheelchairs is my niche, but I need to find out what it is.  It certainly was a good start.

Here I am in action fitting Sanjit in his new chair

After the delivery, we headed back to school in a torrential downpour to catch the last few minutes of the assembly and pick up the kids.  The girls and I stopped quickly at home to get some last minute items, and then headed straight for Pacific Harbour, the beach about 45 minutes away from here.  Warren has been out of town for the past two weeks for a Peace Corps training at a Christian camp in Pacific Harbour.   (He did come home over the weekend, so that was nice.  While he was gone I felt no pressure to cook a good dinner...so we survived mostly on breakfast food, beans, and rice.  But...I digress).   We were going to stay with him and all of the volunteers at the Christian camp on Friday night and then move over to the resort across the street for Saturday night.   The drive was scenic and quiet as both girls slept in the back seat.

When we arrived, we were greeted by several Peace Corps volunteers who already had heard much about us.   The kids wanted to run around barefoot and explore the whole camp.  At first I asked them to put on their shoes and Andie replied, "Mom, if you want us to be like real Fijian kids...we should be barefoot."  She's right.  Kids around here never wear shoes.   The girls had a blast exploring and meeting the local children who's parents staff the camp.   It seemed like the English of the local kids was not great...but somehow kids just make it work.  It's so cool to watch.   After sitting around in the heat for a while, we went across the street to the Uprising for a party for the volunteers.    It was lovely.  I couldn't join the group because I was watching Zoe in the pool....but I could still enjoy the sunset and the view.  
Our room.  The girls competed all week with who would sleep on top bunk.   


The kids playing with the local children before dinner. (All barefoot)

Andie was very proud that she got the most points to sleep on top bunk.  I was nervous she would fall off onto concrete floor!

All of the volunteers were at the beach for a few toasts.  I wished I was there too, but siting by the pool with a mojito watching Zoe swim is not a bad second choice!

Sunset at the Uprising.

Escaped the pool for a gorgeous sunset picture.

Andie didn't care about the sunset.  All she wanted to do was catch bull frogs!

As I sat there at the pool, sometimes talking to volunteers who wondered over to say hello...I thought about how different my day had been than days I had in the states.  Not better or worse...just very different.   In one short Friday I had watched reality TV, learned about the deep culture of the country I live in, delivered and fit a wheelchair to someone who desperately needed it, had a scenic tropical drive, partied at a resort on the Pacific Ocean, and spent the night in a Christian camp with my family.   What a day!  More on the rest of the week's happenings tomorrow!


  1. If I could do half of what you did in one day, in a week, I'd feel very accomplished. I hear that same voice telling me to make a difference one way or another; you will be my inspiration.

    1. Kathleen, you are an amazing mom and person and make a difference every day in the way you interact with others!


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