But you can’t take the Bula out of the girl. Leaving Fiji has certainly been bittersweet, somewhat like that variety of chocolate which you cannot find in Fiji and was my first American food coming home (thanks Jason). My experience at the IUCN was amazing. I’ve never worked with people who were so welcoming and generous, I wasn’t expecting it.
I hope I’ve learned something from this experience. I read this collection of short stories when I first arrived called Tales of the Tikongs by Epeli Hau’ofa which I think anyone planning on working in a “Developing State” should read. It really made me reconsider my actions and expectations and try to look at them from the perspective of Pacific Islanders. Really, you should read it because it’s both insightful and hilarious.
Oh, and if you have read my first post, you may remember Ginger. She was the stray kitten that wandered into the office first week. Well, Kate who works on the Marine Spatial Planning project repeated the words, “I am not adopting that cat!” three times. So of course she adopted it. Ginger grew up and now she is one good looking kitty.
Unfortunately, I got pretty sick and was unable to see as much of Fiji as I hoped. First I got dengue, I think. Everything was pain and I didn’t eat for a few days. I would not recommend it to anyone. And then when I was finally feeling better I got a chest infection and cough. Right now it is winter in Fiji and Suva is in the rainiest part of the country. Being a native Californian, I’m not quite built for the damp. Fortunately, I can afford health care in Fiji (unlike in certain countries). I paid out of pocket about 35 USD for my check up (with an Australian trained physician), antibiotics, cough syrup, and inhaler. If I needed to go back for a chest x-ray I would be out another 25 USD.
Even though I could barely walk, I still headed out to the Yasawas, a chain of islands northwest of Viti Levu, the island we were on. And it was worth it. I only snorkeled but I saw some of the best shallow coral I’ve ever experienced. Just offshore, in a couple meters of water, the coral was vibrant and thriving. I think this is because the island was traditionally uninhabited and had very little land based pollution. I even got to swim with a manta ray.
Fiji comprises of over 330 islands (depending on climate change and sand mining) and I have only visited 2 of them. I am truly grateful to the CBE for making my time there possible and to all of my IUCN ORO colleagues who welcomed me once I arrived. I know I’ll be back soon.