Rise again

It is has been a great week, full of all things Fiji....followed by a good weekend full of good friends and 4 birthday parties!   I have begun taking Fijian language lessons at the embassy.   I have an incredible teacher and friends to practice with (including Warren who is also taking the class) but I am immediately brought back to my high school Spanish classes and remembering how TERRIBLE I am with learning a new language.  I seriously have some sort of mental block against learning to say, "How are you?" in Fijian.  To be fair, it is quite a mouthful (Vacacava tiko? - pronounced vacathava tiko?) but really it shouldn't take me two weeks to master that!  Regardless, I've signed up for 40 hours of lessons so I am hoping I get better!  I just need to get confident enough to practice with Fijians and diligent enough to study outside of class.

On Wednesday, ISS (the kids' school) had their swim carnival.  Wednesday also happens to be a day that I work, so I was working at the swim carnival all day.  Swim carnival is so awesome....even though it's so chaotic and I have a feeling half the kids are bored.  Regardless, I love the school house spirit. (Everyone is divided into four houses...like in Harry Potter...or apparently many other countries in the world and you stay in this house throughout your whole school career.)  Both my girls and I are in the same house so we have a little family house spirit.  I love that swimming is a part of life here and that it's completely normal and expected for everyone to spend the day at the pool...competing and cheering each other on.

I worked the timer all day.  I basically stood in the sun from 9 to 2 and timed kids swimming 50 meters.  It was full on.  There was hardly enough time to eat.   I scarfed down a sandwich in-between a few events.   It was exhausting!  Andie had a great day!  Because I was so busy, she had very little supervision and bought four ice creams and a chocolate milk.  Whoa.  More importantly, she raced her little heart out and came in first place for backstroke and second for free style.   It's too bad she never wants to practice swimming or go to practice because if she really committed herself to swimming she would kick some swimming butt!   Regardless, she had a ton of fun and is super happy with her ribbons!  When I think back to last year, I was so worried about her and this year I was completely settled.  It's pretty amazing how far we've all come in a year.  By the way, she didn't wear her swim shirt this year - she actually wore her swim cap so she would be faster...

Because I was timing, I never got a chance to take any pictures at swim carnival.  Here's Andie with her ribbons afterwards.  (P.S.  She's eating lucky charms that one of my bestie's, Ben sent us in an awesome care package! Thanks Ben!!!)

Yesterday was my housekeeper's day to work (she works two days a week...and I know that we are SO spoiled!)  She came yesterday morning and seemed a bit off.  I asked her if she was ok and she mentioned that she was missing her cousin's funeral so that she could come to work and that she had stayed up until 3am preparing for the funeral.   I asked her if she needed to take the day off and she said, "But, I have to work for you."  I then emphasized, "Please, go to your cousin's funeral.  You can take a personal day (she hardly ever does) and I will still pay you."  She asked if I was sure and I practically had to shove the money in her hand and push her out the door.  It's just interesting to me...because this is so Fijian (in my understanding of it anyway).   Instead of asking me directly, she passively let me know what is going on.   From talking to others about this sort of thing, it would be seen as disrespectful to directly ask me if she can take the day off  as a personal day.  It's sort of my fault for not being more clear in establishing a certain amount of personal days and sick days per year that she will obviously still get paid for.  Now I know.  I don't think I'm a very good people manager...thank goodness that's not my full time profession!

Also, yesterday was the celebration of the Iranian new year.  Who knew?  (Many people obviously, just not in my circle).   I was invited to attend the Asian Women's Association monthly lunch yesterday and I am so glad I accepted. Putting myself out of my comfort zone always pays off .   Besides good company and amazing food (minus my boring brownie contribution), I learned so much!  Golnoosh, a Iranian woman currently living in Fiji, did a demonstration for us all on the Iranian new year.  I learned all about the customs and traditions surrounding this holiday.  As she was talking, I found myself wondering what American traditions do we have?  I thought about the 4th of July....but what other big holidays do we all celebrate?  I guess each region of the United States holds on to their own customs and traditions as does every ethnicity and religion.  After she spoke, one of the victims of Cyclone Winston talked about her harrowing experience with her husband and disabled son in the storm.  They lost their whole house and had 3 near death experiences.   Just thinking about the details of her story gives me chills again.  We also got to listen to the amazing Asian Women's choir.

Golnoosh explaining relics of new year
Table set up for new year
Asian Women's Choir

We finished the night last night by going to see Allegra play at a cyclone relief show at O'Riely's (the only Irish bar in town.....appropriate for St. Patty's day).   It was a lot of fun to watch my friend do her thing!  She's a great entertainer!  Also, I think I may have forgotten altogether it was St. Patty's day if not for last night.   It definitely doesn't get brought up here like it does in the States.   No sneaky leprechauns here!

Goofy after Allegra sings!

This morning at morning assembly at the kids' school, all the kids sang a song composed by Mr. Tim, the music teacher.  It was beautiful!  It was all about Fiji rising up again.   Hopefully the video will work.  The first few seconds are in Fijian, but then you will hear it in English.