I’m in FIJI!

Bula everyone! (Bula means “hello” in Fiji) Wow, Fiji was absolutely amazing…I can’t believe I was only there three weeks…it felt like two months! I had so many fun adventures there.

First off, the weather is really really hot. I’m a upper midwest girl, so this place was SCORCHING hot! About 85-95 degrees every day, and extremely high humidity. You know it’s bad when even the locals are sweating and desperately seeking shade. I’ve never sweat so much in my entire life…honestly! But it was all part of the experience, lol. I learned to immensely appreciate even the slightest of breezes…they felt like a piece of heaven in the hot tropical sun.

The people of Fiji are so wonderful. I’ve never met such genuinely kind, generous and selfless people. They have so little and are so poor, yet they are so happy. What they lack in resources/money, they make up for in their big and open hearts. Music is really strong there…you can’t help but be moved by their beautiful harmonies and the intricate rhythms of their drums.

It’s hard to summarize three weeks there, but here’s a list of some of the things I did:

1. I crawled thru a tiny hole to enter the famous Cannibal Cave, where the Fijians used to (not anymore!) perform ancient dances before killing then eating their opponent. Cannibalism mainly existed when you captured your warrior opponent, for it was seen as the ultimate victory to not only kill, but to eat him, too. Humans were also sacrificed to the various gods and ancestors, prior to the Europeans’ arrival and conversion to Christianity.

2. I trekked up some pretty steep and sandy hills to see their Sigatoka Sand Dunes. They’ve found human remains and pottery that dates back over 3,000 years! The scenery of the dunes and the ocean was breathtaking.

3. I visited their one and only psychiatric hospital, called St. Giles. The field of psychology is really behind there, definitely not up to western advancements. As a psychology major, I was really interested in this. They have only two psychiatric doctors for the whole country! To treat patients, they mainly use medication; counseling the patients is very very rare. They give them their pills and that’s about it. Although, ECT (shock therapy) is still very prevalent there. They even let me and a couple other students witness a schizophrenic patient receive shock treatment! Although I felt guilty to be invading the patient’s privacy, I knew I had to watch because it was a once in a lifetime oppourtunity. It was very strange – they only use shock therapy in the U.S. for extreme cases, but here, they use it with many patients frequently. Also, people with eating disorders are not seen as having a mental illness. Rather, they are checked into the general hospital for “dietary malnutrition” and forced to eat enough to leave the hospital. They receive no counseling for their disorder, because most people view it as merely an eating problem, not a psychological issue. That was very disheartening to hear.

4. I stayed overnight in a local village and spent two days there. Votua Village had about 300 people and everyone was so nice and welcoming. I stayed with a young family – a couple with a 6-year old boy named Abel. He was the most adorable thing ever! Just the cutest, sweetest little boy ever. He loved giving me hugs and decorating my hair with hibiscus flowers from the trees surrounding their house. The house was just a 4-wall cement building, flat roof. No electricity (so no tv, radio, lights, etc) a bucket for a shower, and straw mats for the floor. We would just talk in the dark, lit by only one kerosene lamp. I drank lots of “kava” at the house – kava is water mixed with powder , which is ground up dried roots from the yaquana plant. It tastes like dirty water, and since it is a mild narcotic, your lips and tongue go numb for a little bit. But don’t worry, its very MILD, I had no hallucinations or anything freaky! But I did drink 10 full cups of it…I started to feel pretty tired and lethargic, lol. My “dad” for the evening speared a fish for me from the ocean, and my mom, Tema, cooked it whole, eyeballs and everything! Although I don’t like eating meat that still looks exactly like it did when alive…I ate it anyways to respect their culture. It tasted delicious actually! Little did I know, that a day later, I would throw up 4 times, have a fever, and feel really faint/weak – my professors are pretty sure it was food poisoning, because my sickness lasted only a day. But it’s all good…it was worth it, because I had an amazing time in the village.

Well there is so much more I could say, but this is getting to be pretty long! I will save it for another day, another entry. I will also try to scan some pics soon here, so you can see a taste of Fiji! I hope you all are having a great start to your new year. Don’t forget to pray for all the tsunami victims. Take care everyone!

Rachel 🙂

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