It is Sunday and I am at the Labasa Airport awaiting my flight to Suva for the connect conference. In this trip, which started Friday, I have been constantly reminded of my sinful desire of seeking comfort above all else. Everything in this country points away from my Western framework of comfort. My innate desire for peace and quiet, cool air, freedom from demonic mosquitoes, flies, and critters, wide personal space, nutritious food, cold drinks, and access to information are on trial each day. This trial has ultimately pointed me toward Jesus. As Jesus is the only source of comfort I can find several times during the day. There is simply nowhere else to turn. How hard is it to find such a void of comforts in the Western World! What a great tragedy that my 26 year relationship with Jesus hasn’t transformed my heart beyond such trials. And ultimately how amazing is the grace gift provided to me, despite myself, to know these truths and respond to His love pursuit in kind.
Kelly and I were in Suva to assist with training the FRE-8s (Fiji Re-Entry #8 since coup #1) and decided to check out the movie Prince of Persia. I typically try and avoid the movie theater as it is prime territory for personal space invaders. This time was no exception. Behind us sat five young men most likely in their 20’s. During the entire movie they tap danced on the back of our seats, made jokes at all the sexual references or shots of women scantly clad, and snickered every time a character made a move towards the opposite sex. Nightmares of middle school came rushing back to me as I visualized myself acting the same way when 13. The problem was these blokes were over 20 and acting like they just discovered girls. Strangely my mind then pondered the overall state of Fiji, and for that matter the undeveloped world. I realized that the tremendous amount of aid money funneling into Fiji and the rest of the undeveloped world is severely stunting the maturation process of its citizens.
Just like a 25 year old boy living at his mom’s house doesn’t get a job because he knows he can get away with manhandling his xbox all day, so goes the rest of the world. Why strive and better yourself when someone is around the corner with pockets of cash to take care of your basic needs? What it boils down to is the only time you need to work hard is so you can buy the DVD player or a MP3 capable mobile phone, everything else is handled. I see this played out every day with managing the debts of the islanders. The council is in a constant state of financial struggle as it can’t collect debts for basic services such as electricity and boat rides. At first this drove me crazy. I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t afford a few dollars a week for electricity but had no problem affording mobile phones whose per minute charges are $.50/.70. I now realize the islanders haven’t been given the opportunity mature and change their behavior. Just as the 25 year old has no consequences for sitting around playing video games all day, there are no consequences for the islanders not paying their bills. Even if someone on the council got up enough nerve to cut off electricity, the community peer pressure to turn back on the power would be too much to bear to leave it off. It is interesting that the community bonds that held this island together during the extremely rough days of the early settlers now stunts its ability to develop.
Apologies for the delay, it has been crazy the last 2 months! I have been on other 3 islands training the new volunteers and then doing workshops in other Peace Corps villages. I put together some family budgeting and small business materials and have been sharing that. (We posted them on the blog if you want to see them - vaportrail.typepad.com.) I have loved getting to see other parts of Fiji, meeting lots of new people, and of course keeping busy … makes the time go by faster! ;o) We just finished an All Vol conference and it was great fun seeing all 65 of the volunteers, sleeping in nice beds, and eating amazing food. But tomorrow we head back to Kioa and are actually looking forward to getting back to island time.
We love you! Kelly and Mataio
Leadership is proven, not proclaimed.
Time is elastic, days drain slowly but months fly by.
Faith without action… I can believe in CPR but unless I perform it when it is needed, what good does it do?
I don't want to tip toe through life only to arrive at death safely.
I'd rather live Christianity than study it.
I am surrounded by unbelieving activists and inactive believers, not sure which is worse.
I get asked all the time "How can God allow all of this poverty and hunger?" …. I'm pretty sure He asks us the same thing.
If you think The Church is just a building, then I guess Matt is a 2×4 and I am a cinder block.
visit us online @ http://www.kioaisland.org/
I assisted Melissa and her women's group with opening a bakery.
After we finished with the bakery, the women made their sons come learn about budgeting and money management. ;o)
Selote and her kiddoes!
Business workshop in Jule's village on Ovalau.
Jules is doing a World Map project with her kids… here we are "touching it up"!
Here is what Kelly designed and uses during her workshops at different villages.
The Family Budgeting workshop is two-part, the first part is as a large group and then the second is with the individual family creating a budget and savings plan tailored to their situation.
The Small Business workshop is ideally a 5 day workshop with the end goal being the creation of a business plan.
Often it is hard to describe to Westerners why it is sometimes so frustrating doing work, or sometimes anything productive, in third world countries and especially Fiji. I like describing these events not as a way to bash Fiji or the developing world but to help give perspective to those who have never experienced life without all the conveniences the West takes for granted. These conveniences are not just in water, electricity, infrastructure, and food but also relate to a more general sense the practical awareness of getting things accomplished without having to make every situation difficult. That latter part of that sentence doesnÂ’t make a whole lot of sense so here is the story to help drive home my point.
I am starting up a rain harvesting tank (catchment) inspection program in the village and requested hydrogen sulfide test tubes from the World Health Organization office in Suva. They offer these to start up water testing programs in villages helping prevent the spread of water born pathogens. (Fiji is currently the highest ranked country for Typhoid.) My contact at WHO, Tema, responded immediately to my request and air freighted a box of the tubes to a courierÂ’s office in Taveuni. The problem was she didnÂ’t notify me she did this so I had no idea they were waiting for me there a couple of days after my initial request. The courier also didnÂ’t think it important he advise me they arrived. In his defense my number wasnÂ’t on the box but may have been on the shipping label. Regardless, it sat in his office for quite some time.
When I followed up with Tema about three weeks later she informed me she had shipped them some time ago and gave me the name of the office that received them, CDP. It just so happened the island council was going to that office the same day to send a broken freezer via ship to Suva. Coincidences like this just donÂ’t happen in Fiji and I had a personal mental celebration of this gloriously harmonious event of supreme logistical efficiency. When the boat captain returned from delivering the freezer he informed me the office was closed and is only open during the morning of the day the ship arrives, which is one day a week. So he was forced to leave the freezer outside the office. I quickly told my brain not to try and make sense of how any business can sustain itself on four hours a week and reminded myself I.F.F. , translated: ItÂ’s, FlippinÂ’, Fiji (G-rated edited version).
Plan B, as it is always important to have at least 12 contingency plans while working in Fiji, was to have the boat captain pick the package up the next time he went on a Wednesday morning. Thankfully, the islandÂ’s lack of efficiency in fuel delivery scheduling worked for me here as fuel runs are made on an Â“as-needÂ” basis and could happen any day of the week. I had to leave for training in Suva so I left the situation in the hands of Petueli, the interim chairman while most of the councilors attend one meeting in Tuvalu and do to ship schedules are there for 4-6 weeks.
I got back from training to find out the package had still not been retrieved. To PetueliÂ’s credit he had waited outside the shipping office for an hour trying to get the staff to look for the package. I started thinking the package might be at the Post Office so I grabbed the Yellow Pages, yes Fiji has Yellow Pages, and tried to find the number. The Yellow Pages are organized with White Pages, Yellow Pages, and government directory at the beginning. Since the post office is a government run organization I thought it natural it be in the government section. Nope, not the case, it is in the White Pages. I was slightly amused, however, to find the police department under Â‘FÂ’ for Fiji Police, rather than Â‘PÂ’ for police. I immediately visualized a poor tourist frantically thumbing through the Â‘PÂ’ pages while an angry mob of youth plummet him inside a phone booth.
After finding the Post Office number and getting no answer after several dials, I contacted Tema and she gave me a name and number for the shipping agency. I noticed the shipping agency name had changed from CDP to Venus and suspected this was the root of the confusion. So I contacted Michael at the Venus office and asked him if he had my package. He looked for all of 10 seconds and then said no. He gave me the number of the sea freight office nearby. I called them on the number he gave me and it was disconnected. After calling back and getting another number the lady on the other end also looked for about 10 seconds and said she didnÂ’t have it.
I was almost at the point of giving up but couldnÂ’t waste the monumental amount of time, words, and phone minutes invested in this amazingly simple process. I put on my thinking cap and retraced my steps to the beginning of the process. I started to wonder if WHO had shipped the package at all. But this seemed unlikely as Tema always quickly responded to my emails in a professional manner making me think she probably followed through with her commitments. I then went to the mystery of the two shipping offices. One of them was lying and it was my duty to get to the bottom of it. If I confronted them I knew I would get nowhere but if I made it sound like it was my mistake some progress might be made. Saving face in Fiji is culturally more important than accountability. So I called Michael back and said that I was mistaken and the box may not have my name on it but instead my number. Thus the reason why he couldnÂ’t find it had changed from him not looking for it to me not giving him the correct information. This worked like a charm and this time after actually looking around he found the box. It took all of 15 seconds.
It just so happened Jone was making a fuel run from the island and could pick up the package that same day. I was hoping when I received the box it had been mislabeled so some sense could be made of all this. Nope, it had a 12Â”x12Â” bright white label with my name, address, and Â“US Peace Corps VolunteerÂ” all in 24 point font on BOTH sides of the box. Tema had even liberally taped the sides with a 2Â” wide tape with World Health Organization printed on it in blue letters. I donÂ’t think I have ever received a less inconspicuous package. So what have I learned from this exchange; frankly, nothing, other than I.F.F.
We are back. Things are pretty slow as most of the leaders are in the country of Tuvalu until mid-June but that doesn't mean there aren't any festivities!!! The month of May is dedicated to the moms, as it should be. They have just concluded a week long slumber party in the community hall with lots of feasting, celebrating, and dancing. These ladies let their hair down and it was quite the party!!
In other news, Matt and I are heading to Suva this weekend to prepare for the arrival of the new PC volunteers. Yes, it has been one year. I can hardly believe it!! In celebration of one year down and only one to go I wrote a list of my top things I will or will not miss….
Things I will miss…
1. The kids. If I named them all separately it would take up the entire list, but a special shout out to Lika, Tomu, Caro, Malosi, Sikiti, Bale, Kiti, Faga, Aviu, Gili, Alfi.
2. My Kioan Moms – Filo, Fani, Tealiki, Luisa, Susan, Lima, and Atala.
3. Snorkeling in my backyard.
4. The singing – the fatele's and the church choir.
5. The bluest sky on planet earth.
6. My new PC volunteer friends, obviously.
7. Getting to spend 24/7 with Mataio.
8. Reading a book a day.
9. Filo's homemade bread.
10. Island time.
Things I will most certainly NOT miss…
1. Creepy crawlies. Again, if I named them all separately it would take up the entire list, but to name a few: mosquitos, rats, roaches, ants, chickens, roosters, jellyfish, and wild dogs.
2. Listening to my neighbor beat her children.
3. Wild dog fights and dogs biting kids.
4. 2am fish fries at our neighbors after they killed all the sleeping fish in our reef.
5. The highest humidity on planet earth.
6. Trash and no recycling.
7. Brain rattling bus rides.
8. Being away from family.
9. Dead religion and legalism.
10. Island time.
If you leave your house for too long, the bush will overtake it.
Salvation is immediate, sanctification is a process.
Jesus is my master, not my mascot.
My life isn't to focus on my rights, but rather my responsibilities.
We love and miss you. ~kelly
visit us online @ http://www.kioaisland.org/