Saturday, October 18, 2008
During the first week of October all 57 of the volunteers here in Fiji were brought into Nadi for our annual All Volunteer conference. Immedietely following my group stayed in Nadi for our Middle of Service conference. These two conferences have not traditionally been run consecutively (in the past All Vol. was done over Thanksgiving), but due to budget cuts back home and the depreciation of the dollar in conjunction with rising transportation costs have forced us to tighten the belt a bit and combine trips; the result was all of us being in Nadi for about a week. It was good to see some of the volunteers I do not get a chance to that often, however I'm not a huge fan of Nadi (international airport is there as are several of Fiji's larger resorts, as such it is expensive and tacky; not to mention seeing the sterotypical tourist from our country that comes to Fiji, spends two weeks at a resort that they never leave and is strikingly similar to one they might find in Virgina Beach, and then goes home feeling like they got the Fiji experience bumms me out a bit), and I truthfully would have rathered spent my time elsewhere. That being said, the conference was one of the better run ones we have had since I have been here and it is good to see out post growing up a bit and improving as time goes by.
This past week I spent three days in my province's chiefly village, Naduri. The first two were for our bi-annual provincial council meeting, and the third was for the annual Macuata Day celebration. The council meeting lagged on a bit as I was not involved in it as much this time around, but the Macuata Day celebration was a pretty good time. The main purpose of the event is for the provincil office to raise the 40% of its operating budget that comes from the communities they serve. In that sense it was quite successful in my opinion, the final figure I saw was $65,000 raised, which I believe to be a significant amount. Each tikina (think county) set up a stall on the village grounds that their representative delegation sat and drank kava in throughout the day. Each tikina also brought local dishes for a shared lunch and preformed a meke (a fijian tradition dance) or other item for general entertainment. Aside from the tikina that illegally brought a dozen sea turtles for the feast, it was a nice event and it was great to see people from all over the province celebrating together.
My work on the park here in Labasa has stalled a little bit. The Town Council is in the process of reconfiguring their lease on the park's land, and they have asked us to delay our renovations until they have finalized that (which will probably take about 3 weeks or so). We did however receive some more funding from the Festival Committee and are in the process of panning some other environmental/beautification projects around town.
We have had some funding and transportation problems over at the Ministry of Fisheries office that have kept us from getting out into the field as much as we need to. We have about half-a-dozen fish ponds that are ready to be harvested, so hopefully that will all rectify itself here in the next week or so and we can get back out there. I am trying to set up a better working relationship between our office here in Labasa and the local resturants and hotels so that we have a fixed market for the tilipia the local farmers are producing. I am also working on creating a manual that the ministry can use to help train interested communities on small scale aquaculture. These have kept me busy, but it's mostly office/town work and I'm itching to get in the field more.
My big success for the past 7 weeks or so has been my garden; it is starting to get pretty respectable. I have 4ft high long bean plants, a couple rows of broccoli, 3 rows of spinach, a couple nice squash plants, about a dozen good looking tomato vines, and a mint plant that is getting out of control. Those added to the preexisting papaya, mango, lemon, chili, and coconut trees on the property are working to make it a nice little oasis here in town. I hoping to get some more beans in this weekend along with a few other things. I am a little concerned on how some of these plants will fare during the upcoming raining season (about a month away), but it is still pretty exciting to walk back there everyday.
Thats about all I have for the time being. I will do all I can to get up here next week. I hope all is well...