Thursday, August 18, 2011

Last blog post

Dear Faithful Blogging Readers,

I have decided to terminate my service from the Peace Corps.  I know this may come as a shock to many of you and possibly a disappointment.  My decision was not made without considerable thought and contemplation on the issue as well as a heavy heart.  Over the past month that I have officially been at my permanent site, I have severely struggled with the realities of isolation and homesickness.  Furthermore, in talking with my village, there seemed little to accomplish and make sustainable improved healthy living habits.  My decision came down to either spending the next two years very miserable, homesick, bored, and needing the company of family and friends or deciding to terminate my service now with the possibility of regret.   In the end the former seemed a greater evil.  In coming to this decision over the past few weeks, I became aware that even the smallest and most insignificant things were causing me to overreact and be very negative about others and my situation.  As anyone who knows me will attest, I am not like that and I do not want to be like that at all.  Thankfully I realized that in order to grow and advance my life, I needed to come home.  I will say humorously, that it felt strikingly odd to be standing in the shallows of the ocean on a white sandy beach on a beautiful sunny day in Fiji nonetheless, being very unhappy.  It was definitely something you do not hear every day.  As a great friend of mine said, “There are no mistakes in life, there are only opportunities to learn”.

I do not have any regrets about doing the Peace Corps.  In fact, I am so proud that on May 15th, I boarded that plane, boarded another plane to Fiji, got through training which was sometimes stressful, and became a Peace Corps Volunteer.  If I never left Boise, I would always wonder “what if” and I am so glad and proud of myself that I do not have to wonder anymore.  I do hope the best for my village and I know there has been meaningful progress.  However, I must take care of myself before I can help and take care of others. 

In conclusion, I cannot thank all of you enough for your amazing support of me these past few months.  Every time I got a comment or a Facebook message, my day truly brightened.  I also would like everyone to know that I encourage you to ask me about my experience, because although I am no longer a Volunteer, I would be glad to share this beautiful but often hidden culture with anyone who is interested.  I look forward to seeing all of you soon.  Please do not be a stranger. 

Thank you all again so incredibly much.  Ni sa Moce, ka Vinavaka Vinaka Vakalevu.

Domona (Love),


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Missing Idaho, but loving Fiji

Hello everyone,

I really do need to do a better job of keeping up on this whole blog thing.   So much has happened in the last few weeks.  It is hard to remember everything.  It has also been challenging to get some free time that I am not mentally exhausted, but here is what I can remember now and it should get a bit more consistent from here on out.

I am officially at my site.  Unfortunately I cannot tell you exactly where that is due to Peace Corps policy, but if you would like to know, you can either ask me, my parents or Michelle.  It is hard to imagine that I have already been in Fiji for about two months.  Training went by so fast.  During the last few weeks I have been staying with my host family.  It was a wonderful experience and I hope that I will be able to stay in touch for many years to come.  At the same time, I am excited to now be at my permanent site for two years.  The best way to describe training, really all of Peace Corps in general, is that the first day you are born again.  I’m not referring to a born again Christian (although it could happen).  In terms of Language, you are back to being a baby.  You first learn how to say hello (BULA!), then you learn yes (io), no (senga), and shortly thereafter, you learn a few more.  I still feel very novice however with my language skills.  I learn so many new things every day.  Today for instance, I went to Savusavu to say good bye to some PCVs that are finishing their service and I took the Drakaniwai bus, unfortunately this bus takes a detour to another area of the island that adds about an hour to the trip.  Once I got to Savusavu, I vowed never to take that bus again.  Unfortunately, I forgot the name of the bus that I vowed never to return on and I happened to get on the same bus again for my return trip.  Needless to say I am very thankful to be at home now resting and not sitting on a noisy bouncy bus.  I also should mention that the trip is on par with some of the Central American counterparts in terms of road conditions.  I am actually surprised that some of the bridges over creeks are able to support a bus with 75-100 people on it (don’t listen to this last part Mom J).   My time in Fiji is funny to say the least.  I never thought that the Peace Corps would be tremendous emotional ups and downs but it is.  Since I have been to site (which is only a couple of days now) I have been a little overwhelmed with it all.  I think that living alone, in Fiji, on the other side of the world from home, the realization of two whole years have all contributed to possible homesickness.  Also, I do not have internet (which I didn’t realize how much I would actually miss) and the only place I can get cell service is by hanging my phone on a lanyard on a nail over my door.  I even missed a call today, so whoever you are, I am sorry.  I have had many ups and downs but I could not get through it without the support of every one of you. 

I should mention that although normally one would think of Fiji as a warm beautiful, sunny, green paradise, … and it is, but not without the occasional weather interruption.  For instance, a few weeks ago, we had a tremendous amount of rain and partly due to that it got really cold (when I say really cold, I mean in the 50°F).  I even had to put on my one light jacket and wear my one pair of jeans.  It was a little bit of a shock.  I’m not going to lie. 

Since it is after July 4th, I figure I should say a few words about my swearing in.  I think I might have missed the celebration of it all.  Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredibly happy and joyous time, but as I was sitting there listening to the President of Fiji as well as the American Ambassador speak, I was concentrating more on the oath I was about to take.  I have never been in the military and so I have never pledged my loyalty and service to my country for anything accept the pledge of allegiance, and definitely not for two years of my life.  It was a bit of a humbling experience.  I did pledge, although at the point where you say “I  say your name”, all of us said “I (awkward pause) do solemnly swear…”.  It was pretty hilarious.  We all missed our name interjection point.  The crowd had a good laugh too. 

The day after swearing in, about ten of us boarded a plane for Labasa (pronounced Lambasa) to meet our Initial Community Contact Person (ICCP).  I really do like my ICCP.  I am sorry Michelle, but I might actually have a little bit of a man crush on him.  Let’s just say he’s ripped!  His name is Illimo and he is actually a really nice guy.  He is also really smart and worked with Melissa (the former PCV) on an extensive water sanitation project.  I have a very motivated village although it will take a few months for me to get up to speed in my Fijian as well as understanding of village dynamics. 

I am very grateful for being able to follow after another PCV in the community I am in, although it is not without its hardships.  It is tough to always be compared to the version of the PCV that left, not the former PCV that started.  I think that this will just take time however.  Also, my house is incredibly small, even for one person. 

I will not leave without leaving you with extensive mouthwatering.  My village is on a little hill that overlooks the ocean.  There are white sandy beaches on one side and high mountains (or hills to Idahoans) on the other.  Because my village is so remote, horses are often used as a means of transportation and carrying loads (usually sacs of Kasava or Dalo, which are like a Potato without the taste).  In fact my first day here, I was on the beach and a Fijian on horseback came ridding up to give it a bath in the ocean. 

Missing Idaho, but loving Fiji,


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finally Ben!!!! An update (sorry everyone)

Bula everyone and hello from Fiji,

I am now entering my third week here in Fiji and it is amazing how fast it has been going.  I only have 4 weeks of training left and then I will be off to my host village.  Time is really flying by.  I know it has been a while since I last wrote and I wanted to update everyone on what has been going on. 

Fiji is an amazing place but also an entirely different place from Boise.  I will never forget the morning getting off the plane in Nadi and just sweltering and asking if it is always this hot.  The reply I received was “This is winter; it gets much hotter in the summer time”.  Even as I write this, I am sitting in my room sweating.  I guess it goes with the territory. 

The thing about the Peace Corps is that whatever expectations you might have about a place, it will be entirely different from what is actually going to happen.  For instance, since Fiji is a bunch of Islands, I half expected to see the ocean or the beach a bit more, but I have been inland and have only seen the ocean the first day we were here when we did our water safety training.  We are hoping to go with our host training families possibly this Saturday though so we will see if it works out. 

OH!  I forgot to mention that we are in host villages and each of us is assigned to a host family that provides us meals as well as helps us to integrate into Fijian culture.  I also must note that I do not think that I have ever learned a language this fast.  Tomorrow is our first language test and so all the trainees are studying up for the verbal test (including me).  It is a relief to know that although I need to know the material, there are no such things as grades here.  The more Fijian you know now though, the better off you will be come July.  It is a relief not to have to compete with anyone but yourself. 

I have made many new friends here that are fellow trainees as well as volunteers that are currently serving.  The staff here is top notch too.  We have a great country director that is a wonderful person and very personable to get to know. 

There are striking differences between the US and there are striking similarities as well. 

Fiji is a very missionized society.  Every village has a church and village week announcements are relayed during service.  Everyone in the village is in attendance.  Although I consider myself a religious person, this is a stark contrast to the role religion plays in America as an optional entity.  Life is also much simpler here for better or worse.  Every water faucet usually only has one spigot: cold, and I had to learn the hard way that I need to pack toilet paper and soap around if I plan on using the bathroom at any location. 

There are similarities as well.  For instance, Vampire Diaries is a very popular show here.  There is a soap opera called “Southland Street” which is a huge success here.  They have an American Idol-like show called M.I.C. which Fijian University music students compete.  Oh and I forgot to mention that Miley Syrus (I think I spelled her name right) and her song “Party in the USA” is also a rather large hit here.  In fact, I never thought that I would have Fijian boys serenading me with “Party in the USA”, but I guess life is full of surprisesJ. 

I will hopefully find out where my work site will be in a week or two, although I will still not be able to tell you my exact location (Peace Corps policy, sorry :/).  More to come though on my job description.

I hope all is well and feel free to facebook me with any news or just to say hi.  It might take me a few weeks to respond, but you words and thoughts mean a lot to me. 

Signing out, or as they say in Fijian, Ni sa Moce!!!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Culture shock!

Hello everyone.

I am doing well.  This is my 3rd day in Fiji.  We arrived on Thursday morning (which is really Wednesday for people in the states).  We bussed to another part of the island and stayed at a motel where we had a traditional welcoming cerimony called a Savusavu (say-voo say-voo) by the PC Fiji staff.  Following that we had several lectures on multiple items worth discussing. 

The following day was spent in the ocean where we learned that basically if it is not sand or water, don't touch it!  In addition, we went over boat safety and alittle bit of snorkeling.

The food is tremendously different hear.  We eat alot of root crops, one of the main ones being dalo which is less thick than a potato but still pretty tasteless.  Other items include alot of fruit, specifically mango and watermelon.  Life is good here.  Im trying not to be too overwelmed.  I ran this morning with some PC trainees which was alot of fun and I am getting to know everyone here although names are still a bit tough.  Fiji is a wonderful place and I feel that this is exactly where I need to be in my life at this time.

Again, thank you everyone for all your support.

Moce ("Moe-thaee")


Monday, May 16, 2011

Sitting in the Boise Airport

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for the minor inconvienence the other day.  Google decided to have a stroke and erase my blog and first post. 

I am as we speak sitting in the Boise Airport (BOI) waiting to depart for LAX as of 10:52am.  I have said goodbye to at least one person for the last month now and although it has been difficult, I know that everyone is rooting for me to do great things on the other side of the world.  As I was waiting in line to get through security, I was right behind a guy by the name of Joe Coulter who I went to BK 9th grade.  He just got back from Chile with the Peace Corps and said it was the most amazing time in his life.  That made me feel a whole lot better.  Its a small word.  It seemed like just another confirmation that I was supposed to do this. 

I wanted to thank everyone for all they have done for me through the years.  I even got two phone calls this morning wishing me luck.  You have all meant so much to me.  However, now I should probably go and get ready to board so farewell for now (or how they say it in Fijian, Ni Sa Bula).