2009-09-22: Picture Tour

After much anticipation and requests from family members we
are finally ready to unveil our humble abode.  We would have had them much sooner but Kelly HAD to get
matching curtains for the door-table and kitchen sink.  I’ll admit it does look much better.




This is our bedroom / kitchen / dining room / classroom /
guest quarters / study / entertainment room / workout area / and wasp
slaughtering grounds.  I like to
refer to it as our multi-function room. 
I removed the door to the wash area and converted it to a work
surface.  The sink is also a custom


The eve is open at the top of the walls and the windows have
security mesh.  The mesh does well
at keeping the pesky birds out but they have discovered the gap at the top of
the wall and sneak in during naps. 
I baited a mousetrap with peanut butter and placed it on top of the wall
at their point of entry.  The
clever devils picked the peanut butter clean without activating the industrial
strength mouse assassinator.  This
mousetrap is perhaps the most well built piece of merchandise I have purchased
in Fiji, other than my cane knife. 
It has jagged teeth carved into the business end of the thick metal
frame and an adjustable trigger mechanism.  This feature came in handy as I re-armed my trap.  This time I wedged a breakfast cracker
piece into the bait area and set the trigger on ultra sensitive. 


We went to the office and then Samalu invited me for the
closing ceremonies for the men’s labor force group’s work on the sea wall at
the west end of the village.  They
have been working for two days on extending the sea wall to prevent
erosion.  The material was donated
by a non-profit 7th day Adventist group from America.  The labor force needs about F$3,000
more to finish up the wall to the far end of the village.  Here is a view of the work crew.  The pastor, in red, is obviously the
most enthusiastic!  He is also a
very good dancer.






When the labor force starts a project every male from 18 to
50 must work or they risk being ridiculed in the next monthly community meeting
at the Falekapule.  Work is more of
a festivity, as are most things on this island, and the men sing songs and laugh
while working very hard.  The women
make them colorful flower garlands for their heads and prepare teas, lunches,
and dinners for them.  With today’s
lunch being the final meal and marking the completion of the project the ladies
pulled out all the stops.  They
performed a full fatele with five songs and four dancers.  Between songs the women would speak and
some would suddenly jump up screaming while running in an irregular patter
towards the group of men holding a large plate of food wrapped in banana
leaves.  A male from the group
would respond with equal shrieks of joy and catch the women where she would
relinquish her grub.  This occurred
three or four times.


After the dancing and speeches each group of 3-4 men got a
bundle of food and tea.  We all ate
and then several gave speeches at the end of the feast.  I spoke on how I was honored to witness
the teamwork and congenial sprit of unity they displayed with the laborious
project.  I also commented on how
rare their strong communal bonds are and they should treasure it as a precious
and rare gift.


We wrapped up the festivities and everyone departed to their
fale’s.  On the way back my
neighbor, Filo, asked if I had set a trap for a bird.  At first I was puzzled and then remembered the snare set earlier.  She apparently heard the trap go off
and the commotion caused by the winged trespasser outside our fale.  She investigated and was able to
release the bird from the snare and it flew off.  Both encouraged that the bait was successful and discouraged
that the result wasn’t terminal I headed back to survey the damage.  Sure enough the trap had sprung and was
on the ground.  I think the
experience scared the two-legged vagrants because they haven’t been back this


O.k. enough with my pest control rant, here is the rest of
our palace.




This is our washroom / clothes drying area / shower /
restroom / and closet.  Pink
wouldn’t have been my first color but Kelly has made the best of it with the
yellow curtains.  I think pink must
be the cheapest paint available. 
This addition was added on right before our arrival to comply with the
Peace Corps safety and security standards.  I installed the washbasin, closet, and security mesh. 


We were just interrupted by the boat captain’s son who
brought us a huge package from Bob complete with coffee, fly swatters, garlic
press, head phones, cookies!, vegetable peeler, recipes, calculator, artwork
from Jackson, hiking pants, pens, pictures, sewing kit, oven mitt, and did I say
coffee!!??  We just ran out of
coffee this morning.  Thanks Bob,
great timing!  You are #1.  Getting packages is like Christmas.


Outside is the most valuable water catchment tank.




The water is very tasty and it especially comes in handy
during water rationing.  Even the
kids love it!





Here is our humble garden.




And our even more humble nursery.  This seems to be the easiest stage.  After graduation to the big garden,
though, things tend to go down hill. 
We are trying to grow papaya and orange trees in the containers.  The only problem is we have no idea
what these trees look like when sprouting and can’t tell if we are nourishing
young saplings or weeds.  I’ve
asked a few passers by if they no what the heck is sprouting in our used oil
bottles and it is a mystery to them as well.




The garden has progressed in phases.  Phase one is on the far side and phase
two is starting to blossom.  Here
is a picture of phase one about two months ago.




About the only thing I’ve had success with so far is
cucumber and Chinese lettuce. 
Nothing has been harvested as of yet.  The wood crossing the top is to support the coconut palms
that shade the vegetation during the intense sunny days.  Currently I’m using them to kill the
weeds on the rest of the compound so it will be easier to cultivate in the




The area next to the red bucket is my compost bin.  I use the bucket, which was repurposed
after a bottom blow out three seconds into carrying its first load, as my
vegetation storage bin.  We knew
absolutely nothing about composting prior to coming to Fiji and after talking with
several much wiser volunteers and reading a book on it we found out it is
actually pretty simple.  All you
have to do is layer food and vegetation and let it sit.  It is best to have full air circulation
on all sides but in Fiji you make do with what you have.  This box is a combination of tree
branches and odd shaped scrapes of wood from below our house.  The only thing holding it together is
chicken wire and tie wire. 


After several iterations I finally found a palm
configuration that repelled the many dog assaults on the tasty contents.  Even with chicken wire, three palms,
and several pieces of hardwood, they still chew on the wire at night trying to
get in.  If I had it to do over
again I wouldn’t put it so close to the garden.  But I was running out of material and had to use it as a
fourth wall to the garden.


The fire pit is where I burn weeds, paper, and
cardboard.  There are a few
pineapple plants and pumpkin vines growing closer to the footpath not shown in
this picture.


Phase three will probably involve planting some root crops
such as dalo and cassava but I haven’t mustered up the energy to clear any more
brush.  It looks pretty easy but
when all you have is a cane knife it takes a bit.  Of course the easiest method is burning but this will
involve half of the community as everyone comes and watches a bush burning and
I’m not sure if I’m ready for that kind of pressure.


Just in case you’re wondering, this is how a real village
garden looks…




This is my fancy fire pit.  I may attempt to cook bread on it soon.  That should make for a good story! 




Here is the local store where we buy most of our staples
such as oil, flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and onions.




Here is a typical gathering of the useless mutts that roam
the island pooping in our lawn and brawling at all hours of the night.  I’ve heard they can hunt pigs but they
seem too scrawny to me to hunt anything other than they’re own tail.  As you can see, I’m not a fan.






Every afternoon the youth of the village engage in an
intense game of volleyball. 
They’re very good and could probably give most high school teams a run
for their money.




On the way back from the school one day I caught some boys
making a game of jumping off the bridge. 
Who needs a Wii when you have a bridge and sand?




Here is the community library project in progress.  There are approximately 1400 books that
we are sorting and arranging to make a library in the council’s conference room
(refer to earlier blog for the details). 
We hope to get approval for shelving during next week’s council meeting.










Some of the books had severe water damage or we had 10
copies of it so we placed them on the council’s porch for villagers to
take.  So far we’ve had a good
response and most of the books are gone.


And here is Kelly’s pet project, working in the kindi.  I tried one day but it is a little too
intense for my taste.  They all
attack me and hang from appendages for 30 minutes transferring germs, snot, and
slobber to my body. 




As you can see they are all very interested in world
peace.  One of my secondary
projects will be training them how to give the Aggie thumbs up gig ‘em sign for
a little variety as hand gestures are a must during photo poses.

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