Disclaimer: This blog is divided into 4 sections because it's really long. For being such a short month, much has happened in February. I have divided it into 4 sections so you won't tire your eyes by reading it all at one time. For those of you who are truly devoted fans, grab a cup of coffee and saddle up.
I. Imagine that every year for school, instead of every student in the district going to his or her own doctor for a check-up, the doc comes to them. Crazy! The logistics would be a nightmare. Or so you think. But this is exactly what the doctors and nurses in Fiji do.
This year, another volunteer and myself decided to tag along to see how this feat could possibly be accomplished. We also went along to add what help we could.
In the 3 days I helped, 400+ students were weighed, measured, received and overall health inspection to check for eye or skin disease, etc, had an eye check up, and a dentist checked every mouth. Plus the older grades got a basic (and when I say basic, I mean basic) sex talk. Grades 1 and 8 also got immunizations. Mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) and tetanus for the scared, 6-year old cherubs and for the older kids, just another tetanus. Then if anyone needed a filling or a tooth pulled, they came back after lunch to face the evil portable drill and pliers. I'm probably scarred for life due to the wailing kids and their hysterically laughing parents at the pain of their children. My PCV buddy kept saying "oh my, oh my. Just brush your teeth" to all the panic-stricken children watching their peers undergo operations. Needless to say, we cut out early that day.
But not before we informed the older kids about such important life sills as asking for help, effective communication, self-confidence, and decision-making. We rocked it.
II. The English teacher at the secondary school asked me to be a guest speaker. "I get to read a poem, speak in english the entire time, and dress up? Yeah, I'm there!" We read a poem about a laborer, a construction worker who is forgotten after the road he is building is finished. Luckily I could really bring home the lessons because our road is being worked on right now. Talk about practical application!
We discussed important life themes like "working hard toward your goals," "doing your best even if no one notices," and "everyone is human, so treat everyone with respect." I got to wear a big blue jumpsuit with yellow flourescent tape across the chest, too. Those outfits are pretty comfy.
Then we had extra time so we went through the steps of good-decision making. We had some good laughs about my pretend boyfriend, Jale, and how spending too much time with him was ruining my life. Poor Jale! We all ragged on him, but we learned some important skills as well.
III. The goal was simple: stress the importance of exercise and prove that it could be fun. Who knew the electric slide could be such a good workout? Not me, but boy did I sweat when teaching the women and teenage girls of my village.
When the CD player kept saying "No Disc" when clearly there was a disc, we almost had to throw in the towel. That would've been a shame because I already had to spend 2 weeks advertising this and then talking 2 teens into walking in the rain to the next village to buy fuel for the generator and boombox. Luckily, our DJ was tenacious and she opened and closed that drawer until the CD player surrendered to playing, ugh, American music!
Then, in that low-ceilinged sauna they call a house, we got down and dirty. We blared SRV's 'Pride & Joy' while scootin our boots (aka bare feet) to the rhythms of his guitar. Next we tried som swing dancing. We were spinning and bouncing and dipping all around that sauna.
Not only did we have fun, but we learned something new together. Later that day, some of the women were out weeding together. "Amy! Amy! Look, we're training!" I beamed with pride while I watched her machete glistening in the sunlight.
IV. Small children are ruthless. What with their tiny hands and tiny hands. Underneath that lovable exterior of curious chocolate eyes and baby teeth is a stinker of a tot whose ultimate goal is to make this PCV's life miserable. At least that's how it feels when I'm trying to explain that the number one has a symbol that looks like a stick. Oh, is it my Fijian that isn't clear? Ah, it's probably my lack of language skills not your impish soul that is causing you to ignore me. I guess we're all doing our best here, huh?
So far though, the kindergarten (kindy) has been going well. We've had 4 days and we have 4 students (just a coincidence). We sang songs about frying fish and the days of the week, played with blocks and puzzles and trains, had storytime (which they love best) played frisbee, and sort of learned to write the number one.
Luckily my co-teacher is incredible. She also speaks fluent Fijian which is an asset to our partnership, and proves effective with Fijian children.
This year we only have 4 kids, but I shudder to think about them going to first grade without knowing their ABCs or how to write their names or how to hold a pencil (which is a problem we've encountered).
We're taking baby steps, but when we look back in 4 months at all the papers that say "11111111111" I think our baby steps will have transformed into on big giant step.
If you made it all the way here, I congratulate you. Thanks for reading. And thank you for being interested in our lives half a world away.