Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Werewolfs and Babies. . . but not in that order.

Baby:I work at the hospital and everyday someone new comes in with some kind of crazy disease or problem. A kid came in who poked out his eye with a machete. Once an infant drank gasoline because it was being stored in a Sprite bottle. He thought he was getting a tasty treat but what he got was 3 days in the hospital. Some people have elephantiasis and some have goiters but mostly we (the hospital) have women coming in to have babies.

(the population of the island is low and the hospital is small. usually we have about 3 to 4 patients admitted at one time. the waiting room is never full and the service is always good. and free. you should come next time your boil need lancing).

With all the new babies being produced here it seems like we are a baby-making factory. I decided I wanted to see how it all worked as I have never been in a delivery room. For the past few weeks I have been debating about asking if I could observe a live birth - out of fear (I was terrified that if something went wrong with the birth the mother would think I put some crazy foreign curse in the air and I didn't want to be blamed for anything. .. even if it was for only watching). Anyway, I finally decided I was being stupid and today when the nurses announced a baby would probably come in the afternoon, I jumped at the opportunity. I asked if I could watch and they said yes.

SO. today I saw a baby being born! holy moly. TV got it all wrong.

the mother was about 21 years old and it was her first baby. She was given no pain medicine. she did not scream. she did not make a sound. when she pushed you could see the pain in her face but shit, this girl could withstand waterboarding with a smile. she did not have a cloth or blanket covering her and there were no stirrups or anything for her feet. whenever she was pushing she would lift her legs and push them against the delivery nurses. I saw the entire thing. the head came out. then the body came swimming into the air. the entire process took about 45 minutes. the result - a beautiful, healthy, baby boy.

Another thing. The baby takes after his mom. when he was born he let out a quick little yelp and then didn't cry after that. at all. He just opened his eyes... and looked around the room. this baby could have been born in the library and no one would have noticed.

Werewolf: I live with the head doctor of the hospital and her 14 year old brother. Today when I came home from work, Jack (the brother), asked me,

Jack - Hey, what do you know about werewolfs?
Me- A lot! (even though I know nothing except for what is portrayed in Teen-Wolf the movie. I said that because I wanted to see where the conversation was going. It is not often a kid asks you about werewolfs in a their second language.)
Jack - Are they real?
Me - no. they are only for fun. . . for movies. . .why?
Jack - uh, cause I'm worried I'm turning into one.

turns out: poor jack was bitten by a dog when he was 13. shortly after he started growing - a lot! he became hungrier then ever. he was always craving food especially meat. he wanted to sleep all day but stay up at night. and mostly, when older people told him what to do he became really angry. He still has these symptoms today. and they are getting worse!

I told Jack I think that he is not a werewolf but he is just going through puberty. And these terrible symptoms will go away after a several long hard years. I also told him I would lock my door and avoid him on nights of full moons. Just in case.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Picture Time!

Its a Christmas Miracle! The internet is working super fast (uploading these pics only took a few hours!).

This is a pic from the church (which I talk about in the post Safety First). It is right next to the hospital and below is one of the villages.

Throughout the week we go to different villages to provide medical screening and services. On the way to one village we came across this. . . and then we turned around. . . hope no one was too sick!

Flying to Mel Gibson's private island:

fresh coconuts from the side of the road.

I Know Impressive People - and some of them know me too!

Listen: in case you have forgotten the women's world cup is starting in just 1 day! And depending on when you read this - it may have already started!!!! (for those of you who are not reading my blog immediately following my posting. . .which, I bet, is everyone. . .except me. . .who lavishes in my own writing/work/existence) So, go turn on your tv (if you have one) and watch America (i hope) come home with the cup. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY - WATCH FOR

Finau Vulivuli. She is one of 16 center referees chosen to officiate the tournament. Finau is from Fiji and when I was in Peace Corps we started refereeing together. We became the first female referees in the country. We traveled together to control men's professional matches. I thought we were a big deal. Now i know, Finau IS a big deal. anyway, watch for her. she's the one who never makes mistakes.

Also. on the trend of impressive folks:

this story isn't about Fiji but it happened while I was here. Thus,I will include it for your reading pleasure and mostly, cause I like it.

for Christmas JB and I gave everyone in our family a photo of us standing with President Bill Clinton. President Clinton has his arm hanging over our shoulders and we look like best buds. . .which is awesome cause well. . .it just is.. . and you know it!

Anyway, my father is the type of guy who hears anyone talking about kids and he will whip out a photo album (that he carries in his briefcase) to showcase how attractive his own kids are (why do you think I'm so vain). Someone could be talking about baby goats and half a second later my dad will be saying, "well, look. Look at my group of little rascals" and then he'll shove a dozen photos in their face (even if they are blind).

So the other day my dad was talking to a client (about painting a house) and dad starts showcasing his kid photos. When the client sees the photo I described above, the following conversation ensued:

Client: Wow! Your daughter got a picture with him!
Dad: Yeah. She's in grad school at the Clinton School so she gets to see Clinton sometimes.
Client: I'm NOT talking about Clinton! Look! Do you know who that is??? (starts pointing). . .. that is Josphat Boit! He is an amazing runner.
Dad: Oh yeah. JB - That's her husband. She gets to see him ALL the time.

so anyway, kudos to JB, and Finau, and President Clinton. . . i am continually shocked by your awesomeness.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


First of all, the only reason I haven’t written is because the internet has stopped working since my last post. But I’m still alive and all is well. Once again, I wish I could post pictures to help explain this post but I instead I will be grateful that I can upload text.

Let me tell you about Kava (also called Waka, Yaqona, or Grog (my favorite)). Kava is the traditional drink of the country and it can be seen EVERYWHERE. When coming into a new village you must give the village chief Kava and then you would typically sit and drink it with him (and the other villagers). I will do my best to describe it through bullet points:

• It is the root of a tree
• It is pounded into a fine powdered
• It is sieved into a giant basin of water.
(ALL drinking water on my island comes from rain water that is collected from roof runoff. Tasty!) Turning the water into what looks like a mud puddle. And tastes like a . . .well . . . . mud puddle.
• Everyone drinking sits in a circle on the ground (always on mats made of palm fronds)
• One person sits behind the basin and fills a cup (which is half of a coconut shell (called bilo for those taking cultural notes)).
• The cup/bilo is passed to someone in the group. That person claps their hands, says “great hello” to everyone and then drinks everything in the cup. Then the person hands the cup back and claps three times.
• The person behind the basin fills the cup again and passes it to someone new. This is done until everyone has drunk.
• A few minutes later the process starts again.
• The drinking last for hours. Sometimes all night.

So what does it do to you???? Other then perhaps give you some crazy communicable disease from drinking from the same “cup” as everyone else for hours. . .. especially when people are going to the bathroom and coming back without washing their hands. . . .including our friend behind the basin mixing the “drink”. . . . IT CAUSES:

• Your face and tongue to go numb
• It slows your thoughts. Once you are grog-doped you can sit in the same spot for hours without saying or doing anything. It makes you the laziest person in the world. . . except for maybe the dude next to you.
• Lights and shadows start playing tricks. Shadows start looking like they aren’t attached to people and objects. They are just floating and moving in space. They become living things with a mind of their own.
• It makes you dehydrated. So dehydrated that your skin will begin peeling off your body. . . in search of some water.
• When you do sleep it will be deep. When you wake in the morning/IF you wake you will still want to sleep. forever.

Honestly, I don’t really like drinking kava but if you want to understand the culture you need to drink it....at least once.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm on a Boat

The Prime Minister came on Monday. To be extra impressive, I wore a Fijian dress and ironed it – twice! You can never look too sharp for your meeting with the head of the country. The PM travelled overnight on his personal Navy boat. His first stop was the hospital (where I work) and then he went to tour some villages around the island.

As soon as he left the hospital, I threw on some shorts and a t-shirt and headed with some of my coworkers to the pier to check out his boat. When we got there we were somehow invited inside the boat! I must have looked fabulous and seemed extra charming (but really I think one of my coworker’s uncles worked on the boat). And once inside we were invited for a breakfast of coffee, cold apples, bread, and meat pies. Now I know you are thinking, “That doesn’t sound too tasty. I can get a better breakfast at IHOP at 4 in the morning that is mixed with my waitress’s cigarette butts.” But in this far away land of no refrigerators, no beef, no apples, no coffee, no milk, no nonsense, and no IHOP, this was a meal fit for the most powerful man in the country. And that is exactly what it was: we were eating the PM’s leftovers! In his kitchen. Drinking from his cups and stirring with his spoons!

After we finished eating we got up to leave. But the secret service guys told us to stay. When secret service tells you to do something; you do it. They said they would turn on a movie! And you would never believe what the PM’s team of manly security guards picked to watch from his personal dvd collection. “Something with guns and naked women!” you shout. NO. “Something about aliens or giant worms taking over the world!” you say. NO. My mind began to falter when I saw it. You will be shocked too. I said to myself, “this cannot be happening. This is not real.” The movie was: Justin Bieber’s Biography. Talk about inspirational! Ha ha.

Then the guards told us we could hold their guns. And they did! Guns in Fiji are like albino squirrels. You hear they exist but you never get to see them. So here I am sitting in the PM’s private boat, eating cold apples, holding guns, and watching Justin Bieber. That is when I realized: I have finally made it in life! Now, if I could just upload a video of me singing about this on YouTube the rest of the world will know about just how far I have come too!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lesson In American Speaking

In Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, I believe she correctly describes how when (some) Americans like something they act disgusted by it. And the more they like it the more they say how nasty it is. For example she writes that a person who has found an apartment they like might say:

“It was sick. You don’t even know. Marble slabs. The kitchen was all Sub-Zero: I want to kill myself. The building has a playroom that makes you want to break your own jaw with a golf club. I can’t take it.”

SO using those terms – I say:

This island is ridicules! When I first saw the beach I wanted to rip out my eyeballs and smash them into the sand. It is disgusting how blue and green the water is. And the reef! The reef! It makes you want to vomit and then get sucker punched straight in the snot-locker (nose) so you know you aren’t in the middle of a fat-dirty dream. And to make it even worse the people are friendly! I can’t take it!

Sorry. I stole that last line from Tina(but as I mentioned in my last post. . .I’m a copycat. I think she would see it as a sign of flatter. You’re welcome Tina!)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Only in Fiji (and probably a few other places). . ..

1)When getting on the plane the flight attendants announced: “Please remember - you are NOT allowed to lie on the floor during the flight.”

2)When i was still on the main island I went to a sit-down restaurant in the capital city with my Fijian friend. Halfway through our meal a drunken homeless man came in and asked for food. Dani (my friend) said, “sit there” and pointed to a nearby table. Then she split her food and gave him half. I did the same (because I am a copycat). And so did everyone else in the restaurant (I guess they are copycats too). Mr. UnwashedPants ended up with a HUGE meal and two drinks – one of them: beer.

3)My backpacks have started to mold. I don’t get it. They are not made out of bread.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


the Prime Minister is coming!!!!!!!!!

that means it is time to mow all the grass (with a machete and weed-eater), burn all the rubbish (it's European English here), and fix the roads by putting rocks in the potholes.

it will be an extra interesting visit because:

Prime Minister Bainimarama is the leader of country's military government. there are no elections and everything is censored. if you get caught talkin' shit behind his back, or to his face, you could go to jail. *Um, did i mention that I think he is doing an amazing job and has really answered the prayers of the Fijian people?

to make it double fun:

I live on the island where the ousted ex-Prime Minister Qarase lives. I saw him dressed in his Sunday's best at a funeral just last week. And where ex-PM Qarase lives so does his family and friends and clansmen. they believe he did an amazing job and really answered the prayers of the Fijian people. *Um, did I mention that I believe that too?

*i have no political thoughts regarding Fiji. where those thoughts should be is just a giant gaping hole. i have been taught to be impartial to international politics while working for the US gov't in said foreign country or representing a school with the name of a US former president. Maybe one day that hole will fill.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To Quantify:

Here are the stats since my arrival in Fiji:

geckos living in my house = 1 million
tailless geckos living in my house = 2
nights of all night grog drinking = 4
drops of alcohol = 0
amount of people I have taken blood from = 270 (give or take)
# of days per week I play volleyball = 6
# of days per week I play soccer = 0
hours per day I have access to a beach/ocean = 24
amount of times my "unbreakable" Teva shoes have broken = 2
chargers that work to power my Ipad = 0
cups of tea per day = 3 the hour in which I wake = 6-7am
stores on the island = 3 (and that includes the post office)
people who are willing to sell fruit on Vanuabalavu (my island) = 0
people willing to give you fruit in Vanuabalavu = everyone
seconds it takes to walk from my house to the office = 18 (or less)
seconds it takes to walk from my house to the ocean= 40 (or less)

Work Days

Almost every day of the week, for work, a group of 7 of us travel around the island or to nearby islands (by boat) to do health clinics in the villages. It has been unreal. Not only because this place has to be one of the most beautiful in the world but also because the people I am working with are really funny, friendly, and work and play equally hard.

Yesterday we were driving to the other side of the island (on a single lane sand/mud road) when we hit a road block. There was giant digger-truck in the middle of the road digging a trench (for better water flow) on both sides of the road. . . meaning we couldn’t get past. So instead of hanging their heads my co-workers high-fived and turned the truck around. They went back to a village we already visited. They handed out “plaster” or band aids and then spent a few hours throwing sticks at a fruit tree (the fruit is called is Wee). After they successfully filled about 5 buckets we sat on the beach and ate our collection.

NOTE: I did not eat the Wee. It turns out – I’m allergic. I ate some last week. And now my lips look like Angelina Jolie.

And today we finished a clinic in one village and on the way to the next we stopped on the side of the road and picked two big bags of papaya. Then we went to the beach and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. Then we trekked through the jungle in search of a hot water spring and collected coconuts on the way out. Then we headed to the second village where we provided health services for about 40 people.

Tomorrow we are going to an island that is about 1 hour away by fiberglass boat. My co-workers say it has an amazing reef. If we finish up early we will snorkel around.

All in a day’s work.

(and just to put in a plug for myself - I usually work on the database in the evenings. . . so I really AM doing what I came out here to do)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shark Tales

I went spear fishing last weekend. I’m talking legit spear fishing with just a medal rod and a fat rubber band. . . .no gun or anything ritzy like that. I went with a local kid named Thomas. . . .and by kid I mean 24 year old man. As soon as we went down he caught a good size rainbow fish and looped an old electric wire through its gills and out the mouth so that he could pull it through the water instead of having to go back to the shore. It looked like he was pulling the fish along on a leash. All the fish we caught we added to the same line. Pretty soon Thomas was dragging 3 then 5 then 10 fish behind him. We kept swimming further out and diving deeper on the reef.

Then while we were down I saw a shark. It was about 4 feet long. Not big enough to swallow you whole but big enough to take a nice piece; such as both your legs! I began to panic. Thomas’s electric cord of dead fish was basically a shark-chum line and I’m pretty sure a shark has got me beat in both the swimming and fighting department. I got Thomas’s attention to come to the surface. This kid can hold his breath for like 8 minutes. He should be in the Olympics. When we broke the surface I tried to act cool and nonchalant (and mask my mass panic), “hey um, there’s a SHARK. A SHARK. UH, A SHARK!” But Thoma just laughed and said that sharks sense “fear” and will only attack when you are scared. Great! How perfect for me?!!! I asked what I should do. He responded, “Just shoot your spear at it.” So Thomas Man-Child was telling me to shoot my only medal rod at the shark (I should probably mention here that when I am spear fishing, when I aim and fire, I come about as close to my target as Sarah Palin does in identifying where the countries Russia and “Africa” are on a map). Then after shooting I have to go and retrieve the rod in depth of the ocean - unarmed. This didn’t really sound sensible to me BUT what do I know? When we looked down in the water again the shark was circling. Thomas quickly grabbed his spear and shot. The shark swam away. It worked! Of course it did! Fijians are never wrong about fishing, the weather, or the best way to score in rugby.

I saw two more sharks while we were out. And there is no telling how many we didn’t see. But after the first shark I was able to look the other two dead on. I tried to show the sharks I wasn’t scared. Honestly, I was very scared BUT I was confident that they’d attack Thomas and his leash of dead fish before they decided to do a taste-test with me. After all he held the chum, not me.

I think the chances of dying from a shark attack look something like this in comparison to other life happenings (but I have done no research... this is just my guess):

Chocking on ice cream

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Real Deal

Via the request of April Sparkleface Johnson and a few other wishful souls I will give you the rundown on what exactly I am doing in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of people who don’t look or speak like me.

I am working in a hospital in a remote island group (called Lau. . .if you are interested in google mappin’ it). The hospital serves as the sole medical service facility for the 57 islands and 10,000 residents in the area. I am setting up a computerized medical database and doing IT training with the hospital staff. Right now all the patients’ medical records are kept in individual paper folders that are carried around in in different boxes (divided up by village). This is problematic as the paper system has proven to be inefficient as often patients’ medical paperwork is lost, damaged, illegible, confusing, and time-consuming to retrieve. The digital database that will allow for the prevention of lost and damaged data, quicker access to patients’ files, ability to compile comparative data, and the creation of a more streamlined patient information sheet.

Sounds impressive, right? Well it is. Or it will be. Once we work out all the obstacles. . . such as electricity running out of a generator that tends to malfunction and limited access to internet and programs on hospital computers by the Ministry of Health. BUT this should be fixed in the next week or so. The hospital is in its final stages of a renovation. A new, bigger, stronger, generator will be up and running by next week. And letters and calls have been given to the Ministry to change our internet and program settings.

I have already started installing the database on some computers and done simple computer training with some of the staff. But so far, mostly, I have been going out with the hospital staff on village outreaches. It is really hard for most villagers to come into the hospital because of lack of transportation and money so the hospital comes to them. It is good for me to go out on the outreaches because it allows me to build relationships with the hospital staff, I see what the “real” needs are, and I get a chance to see all the islands and meet tons of people along the way.

We have been taking a truck and different boats to villages around the Lau group. When we get there the entire village (over the age of 18) comes to the community hall where we take height, weight, blood sugar level, blood pressure, and then have a nurse who hands out medicine and makes house calls. I have become an expert on taking people’s blood sugar levels. I always thought I was afraid of blood and needles. Turns out - I’m not. I’ve made the entire population of a village bleed (7 times so far)!Then I record the blood sugar levels in their water soaked medical file.

I am also working on a village cleanup campaign that we will run with village chiefs and basic first aid training for the health workers based in each village.

April - Does this post make you happy? Now, I will go back to the side items of my life. I think they tend to be more interesting. BUT upon reader request I can give you work updates too. That is how devoted of an author I am. I am a fan pleaser.

By the way - i sat in a helicopter today that has carried the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ed Norton, and the newest cast of the Bachelor. . .which will be airing at the end of July. (it was filmed mostly in Savusavu - the town I did my Peace Corp stint in). I try to avoid that show but maybe this season I will watch (at least once).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Safety First.

Upon arriving in Vanuabalavu, I figured I better find a way to protect myself (and not because I think this place is dangerous but merely because I will be living alone (for at least a month anyway)). There are many ways one can go about protecting themselves. For example, my friend Tabitha carries a jagged knife and she is not afraid to take your liver, or heart, or vocal cords, if you try anything sleazy. My husband sometimes sleeps with a “beating stick” when he believes a place is a bit dodgy. Grandma has an alarm system that screams “INTRUDER!!!” and then calls the 501 (that means cops: in case you aren’t up-to-date on your gang terminology). Other popular methods of protection include steel toe boots, guns, or hand-grenades. I know none of these methods are for me. I’m scared to use any kind of weapon and steel toe boots only look good on me when I line-dance or work construction.

So I figured the best thing for me was to befriend a dog who would then police my home and look scary to people who are scary. To do this I gave a can of tuna fish to a dog that tends to roam around the hospital. The locals call him Logan. I call him Sally. The tuna treat worked. Sally fell in love with me immediately. He follows me around and growls when men get too close, especially when it is dark (the locals also say he hates guys and always growls at them. . .but I’d like to think it is because Sally feels he is protecting me).

Anywho, some friends invited me to church last Sunday and I really had nothing pressing to do so I figured it would be a good language lesson. I brought my Fijian-English dictionary and was ready to get my learn on. Sally followed me all the way to the church; which was nice since he is my bodyguard. I sat toward the back. As soon as the preacher started the service, Sally walked into the church and sat next to my chair. I tried to drag him out without making too much of a fuss but he wasn’t budging. He wanted to praise God too – and not from outside. All the Fijians started staring at me and some whispered, “is that your dog?” I avidly shook my head “NO!” and then I tried to make a face like “this dog is crazy! I’ve never seen him before!” Since Sally wasn’t moving and I was making a fool of myself trying to push him out, I gave up. I sat back down and Sally sat ON my feet. Did I mention Sally never bathes, lives outside, and gets by by mostly eating rubbish?

The church has a band and they play loud music and everyone gets up and dances and sings and clap their hands. This church is fun! During the songs Sally jumped up and ran up and down the aisles. As soon as the music stopped he came back and sat on me.

The entire spectacle was a bit embarrassing. So much for blending in and going unnoticed. Also, I am truly amazed at the power of tin tuna. I am going to start giving it to all my guests.