Winter is Coming

I’ve just been hearing reports that all my friends and family in California are dying of heatstroke, and you know what that means- it must be winter! In Fiji, that is. Fijians in the PCEG office at IUCN are all talking about how cold it’s getting here in Suva, but today is the first day I wore a light sweater, and I had to take it off halfway through the day after I got overheated. I actually had to learn how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius from a Polish guy at my hostel when I visited the tourist town of Nadi, in order to tell people about the vast temperature range in my hometown. Something apparently pretty foreign to Fijians.

To achieve the conversion:

  1. Take Fahrenheit temperature, ex: 60 degrees F
  2. Subtract 32, ex: 60-32 = 28
  3. Multiply by 5, ex: 28*5 = 140
  4. Divide by 9, ex: 140/9 = about 15.5 degrees Celsius

…and that’s it! We’ve had a lot more rain here in Suva, and a few sunny days in between. Alex and I decided to head up to Nadi a few weekends ago to enjoy some nice weather- since it’s on the west side of Viti Levu and the storms come in from the east, Suva gets all the rain and Nadi is perpetually sunny.

Nadi (pronounced Nahn-dee) sunset- not too shabby

Unfortunately, though sunny, Nadi’s beaches are not very pleasant and a boat ride is needed to get to any good snorkeling or SCUBA locations. But I did rent an ocean kayak and did a lot of swimming and beach-combing!

As for my fellowship research with IUCN, we’ve finally settled on dates for our “talanoa” (conversation, or pow-pow) during which we will present our papers and have a multi-stakeholder discussion about ocean-related issues and solutions. A lot of the time we would have been in the PCEG office doing research is actually spent going to conferences, symposiums, and cultural events with other IUCN staff members. Though it means I have slightly less time to write my paper, attending these activities is greatly beneficial to my research since my paper will contain sections on cultural ecosystem services as well as the threats to these services from sea level rise and other climate-change-induced impacts. The fact that we are sometimes served traditional Pacific Islands cuisine during these activities doesn’t hurt either. Yesterday we were privileged to attend the TBA21 symposium, where we enjoyed the performances of multiple Pacific Island dance groups and poets. We saw performances from Fijian, Kiribati, and Tuvaluan dance groups which were all different and had their own unique cultural style and music. Unfortunately, I had to leave before the poetry and dinner to attend my first beginning Fijian language class. We learned Fijian pronunciation of the Latin alphabet as well as some basic vocabulary and phrases, and of course the all important word: “valelailai” (bathroom). “Vale”, pronounced vah-lay, actually means “house”, and “lailai” means small- this is because bathrooms were generally built in a separate building from the main house when the word was created, and it never changed even when building styles did. Interestingly, the vowels in Fijian are pronounced pretty much the exact same way as in Spanish and Japanese, and in fact Fijian sounds so similar to Japanese sometimes (since all consonants end are followed by a vowel in both languages, except for “n” in Japanese) that it has been difficult for me to avoid replying to the teacher’s questions in Japanese at times with a clipped, “hai!” (yes! in Japanese).

This past weekend we attended yet another event, the Fellowship of the Oceans Black Tie Gala evening at which IUCN had a table with just enough empty seats for us!

Neon blue light and shiny fish everywhere!

My illustrious and respectable IUCN co-workers.

As Alex mentioned in her first blog post, we were also able to attend the Pacific Voices for a Global Ocean Challenge in June, a conference meant to run concurrently with the first UN Oceans Conference in New York, lead by Fiji and supported by Sweden, which centered around Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Pacific Voices for a Global Ocean Challenge (I’m next to one of the columns- click to see larger)

Fittingly, the first UN Oceans Conference was hosted by a Pacific Island nation- it’s definitely a step in the right direction as these nations depend so much on our oceans and have the most to lose to climate change, though their contribution to climate change is relatively tiny compared to the rest of the world. Even so, Fiji seems ready to take on the challenge of climate change- since we’ve arrived in Fiji, we have seen countless banners, billboards, newspaper articles and community outreach events centering around climate change and oceans. Even the previews before movies like Wonder Woman contained short clips stressing the importance of environmental stewardship.

Compare this with the billboards you see in San Francisco…

Maybe the US could take a good hard look at how much Fiji cares about their oceans- after all, a big chunk of our economy/population is also located on coastlines.

In other news, the green-orange mandarins that have been all over the place at the local market are going out of season, and watermelons are starting to show up all over the place. Mason, who was just appointed as IUCN’s new Regional Director, picked some passionfruit from his backyard so I could try them fresh from the vine instead of concentrated and frozen like I find it in California.

Fresh Passionfruit!

I’ve also been feasting on guava and the juice from young coconuts sold at the local markets. You know what they say- a coconut a day keeps the doctor away! Or something like that. One of these days I’ll be taking a field trip to the Suva municipal market with my Fijian class and attempting to speak Fijian with the produce sellers. Wish me luck!

Stay tuned for more, including: Aimee’s dad visits Fiji!

2 thoughts on “Winter is Coming

  1. I meant to comment when I read this the first time–just getting to it! Love this post! It really puts me in your shoes. I’m so surprised that Fijian sounds like Japanese! Thanks for all the good writing–you are a good story teller!

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