18 June 2009

Almost a month in Fiji...None to go...

So a rather unexpected update in the ongoing saga that is my life: I have decided to early terminate from Peace Corps.

So I realize that this probably shocks the vast majority of you. I have decided that this is the best decision for me because after being in Fiji almost a month I have come to realize that I have outgrown PC, so to speak. I find myself wishing that I were living back in the states (or at least on the American continent) closer to family and friends with a more settled life. This is not to say that Fiji was not amazing or the people great. Everything in Fiji was as good as I had hoped, but I feel that I will be happier at home (or closer to it). Making the decision to re-enroll in PC after being evacuated from Bolivia was, at the time, the right decision; however, after spending 6 months waiting to leave for Fiji, something in me changed that I did not realize until after my first month: that I think it is time for me to look beyond being a PC Volunteer because that is no longer what makes me happiest. Having done PC before, I am more aware of the fact that a good volunteer is a happy volunteer – one that can become fully passionate about and involved in the culture. And while I have no doubt that I could work in Fiji, I feel that I would spend much of my time thinking that it is not exactly right for me and wondering what it is I “should” be doing. So I have decided that I would rather leave that space open for someone that this job is right for and seek something that is right for myself back home. This was a very difficult decision for me to make because along with it comes explaining my decision to PC, to the family I was staying with, to the other trainees and volunteers, and to my family and friends at home (and all over the world). It also means changing all that I have known since College. I have lived and breathed PC since before I graduated and did not have any plans for that to change any time soon. However, I have come to know myself well enough through PC that I was able to recognize that PC is no longer the fit for me that it was before and I wanted to go ahead and act on that decision so that PC Fiji was less impacted by my decision to leave. I am thankful that I realized this before I was placed in a site and was committed to an organization that would have made leaving much more difficult for me.

My plan now is to go back home and look for a job (and by some miracle I hope to find one). I will probably also be looking into graduate school options. I hope to stay in the not-for-profit field and hopefully work with the Spanish speaking community because I really miss that.

Everyone has been so supportive of my decision to join PC, and you will never know how much that has meant. It has really been invaluable to me in my service of PC. This is a very hard decision to explain fully (especially through e-mail), but I wanted to try because of the support everyone has shown me. I would just like to thank everyone for your thoughts and prayers and hope that very soon I will have something just as interesting (if maybe a bit less exotic) to blog about.


PS – I will put up my pictures that I did get while I was in Fiji up on flickr so you can see what I was doing while I was there. (www.flickr.com/photos/amz8op)

01 June 2009

12 Days in Fiji...Lots to go!!!!


So….some highlights of my first 2ish weeks in Fiji. We got here Thursday morning, May 21, at about 1030am Fiji time (We are about 16 hours ahead of EST during Daylight savings and 17 during regular). It took lots of hours of travel to get here, but the flights were comfortable. We flew on Air New Zealand planes that were operated by United Airlines…they were very nice – by far the nicest planes I have ever been on – we didn’t have to pay extra for anything!!! Once we arrived, there was a handful of staff and volunteers at the airport in Nadi to meet us and help us get our baggage and such. We then had to drive about 5 hours to the compound near Suva (the capital), where we did our orientation. We spent the first 4 nights at a school, which was really a bunch of bungalows with 2 bedrooms and a common room in each, and a cafeteria and conference room. It was pretty basic, but very beautiful…any way you looked you could see the river or the ocean and other islands in the distance. It’s pretty hot and humid here, but not too bad (it’s the humidity that gets you) and a few mosquitoes but I haven’t gotten eaten up too badly :) We had lots of sessions for orientation and got to know each other and the staff better. Everyone is really nice and we all get along really well. The staff is very helpful and super nice! Sunday we just rested and I got some good use out of the hammock that I brought (another volunteer brought one too, but forgot his rope to tie it up, so we made bunk-hammocks with mine).
We started learning our languages on the second day. 2 others and I are learning Fijian-Hindi. We will be working mainly with that language during our service (in an urban or semi-urban site – so something somewhere between Conce and NYC probably), so in the interests of learning as much as possible they decided early on who would be learning which language. The 3 of us are living in an Indian settlement during training with homestay families (similar to in Bolivia, but this time we are separated into 6 different communities instead of all in the same one). Our language trainers live in the communities with us too. This set-up is good because we get to focus on our language and cultural learning but still get to all get together for the big sessions several times a week. I really like learning Hindi, the going is kind of slow, but we are getting there (it’s hard for me to get out of Spanish mode)…so far I can have a basic conversation with my homestay family, and at least be mostly understood (mostly because they speak English too).
My homestay family is awesome – they picked out an Indian name for me, so to them and everyone else in my settlement, I am know as Savitri (the name of a Hindu goddess who fought with the devil to save her husbands soul...or something like that). I have my own room (that I share with my little gecko friend who eats the bugs that pay us a visit sometimes) and I live with my “mom” and “dad” who are in their 60s and their son and his wife and 3 daughters live in a house attached to the back of ours. The daughters are 14, 13, and 7 and are a lot of fun to hang out with. We spend a lot of evenings playing games (like Skip-bo and tag). My “dad” found a puppy stranded on the side of the road today and brought it home, so we spent this evening picking ticks off of it and fixing it up a box to live in. It is super cute and cuddly and we named it Buddy (I got to pick the name…not too creative but I think it fits). My “family” are farmers, so almost all of the food we eat is from our farm. We have eggplant, okra, cassava, potatoes, dalo (a root like potato), beans, tomatoes, cows for milk, chickens, pigs, and I’m sure some other stuff that I can’t remember. We eat Indian food, so mostly curries (we eat with our hands so my fingers permanently smell of curry…yum!!), rice, and tortilla-like bread called rotii, and LOTS of fresh fruits (papaya, bananas, oranges, passion fruits, etc…). We have electricity and running water here, but the floods in January messed up a lot of the piping in this area of the island, so there is very little water pressure…which means: back to bucket baths!!! So life here in my little (about 73) Indo-Fijian settlement is good. The settlement is right on the river, so you can look across the river and see a sea of green with the mountain ridge in the background.
We have had a little more than 1 full week in the settlement so far and have met most of the families that live here and even had an afternoon cooking session. We went over to the house where Ramiyan (the Hindu Holy Book reading) would be held and learned to cook the Prasaad (blessed food) for the ceremony. We then attended the Ramiyan that evening and a couple of the PC training staff came to see what it was like as well. It was pretty cool to see how things were done (I got some pics I will try to post sometime). My “family” loaned me a sari to wear and some jewellery, so I was all decked out and looking pretty good for the ceremony. Since then, I have bought my own sari to wear for the next dressy event :)
This past weekend, we had water safety day on Saturday, so that PC could approve us all to be in/on the water and issued us all life jackets and such, so that was a lot of fun to go play in the ocean a bit and have a picnic. Then on Sunday, I went with my “mom” and “niece” (Sita) to visit some different family members (they all wanted to meet me) and to go to a wedding reception for another family member, so that was all a lot of fun.
Next weekend we are going to different volunteers sites to visit for a few days (Sat-Tues) and see what a PC Fiji Volunteer’s life is like. I don’t know yet who/where I will visit because all of the details are still being worked out, but I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!
There is lots of studying and learning during training so we don’t have a lot of free time, but I am really enjoying all of the new people and experiences and definitely learning the language. I will probably not be updating very frequently during training (especially seeing as how this is only the 2nd time I’ve ventured to the internet since we got here), but everyone can rest assured that I am enjoying everything immensely. I will try to get some pictures posted sometime, but I have no clue when that will be. We have Internet in Naussori (the town close to our settlement where we have some of our training stuff), but as I said, I’ve only been once and the speed of the connection was not as fast as lightning (or anything close for that matter). Hope this update answered some questions and even though I don’t get to the Internet often, I love to hear from everyone so feel free to email or facebook me (even though I may not respond in a timely manner :) and don’t forget about snail mail!! I love to receive pictures to put on my wall!!! Hope everyone is doing well and staying out of trouble. Ciaocito!!! Amy aka Savitri

22 April 2009

Mailing Address

My mailing address in Fiji for at least the 1st 3 months is:

Amy Barnhart, PCT

Peace Corps/Fiji 

Private Mail Bag 

Suva, Fiji Islands 

South Pacific 

Less than 1 month to go...

So, here I am, still in the states with less than 1 month to go. Am I excited you ask...the answer would be an emphatic "of course! I'm going to an island in the South Pacific, what's not to be excited about?!" Of course I will miss all of my family and friends, but I have this feeling that people may be a bit more interested in visiting me in Fiji than they were about visiting Bolivia...for the life of me I still can't figure out why ;) Anyways, this is my new blog for Fiji, and I will do my best to keep it updated (although we all know how that goes). 

So basically, I hear that there will be 33 people total in my group going to Fiji. Fiji only gets 1 input a year, where Bolivia got 3, so there will be less total volunteers in the country. The basic plan is that I leave Monday, May 18th and fly out to LA where we will all go to a hotel and have an "orientation" session. Then Tuesday night, May 19th, we all head to Fiji to arrive Thursday in Fiji (where did Wednesday go you ask - lost to the international dateline!) Anyways, then I do training (all over again - this time for the Integrated Environmental Resource Management Program) for like 3 months, then my 2 years of service (let's hope everything goes according to plan this time!). I'll probably be doing something similar to what I did in Bolivia but with more focus on the environment...but I won't really know what it is until I get there and get into training a little bit. 

So that is essentially what I know at this point. Fiji here I come!!!

08 January 2009

When do I leave, you ask...

I'll be headed to PC Fiji May 18, 2009...YAY!