Another Day in the Life

This was not a particularly exceptional or unique day, neither a real upper nor a downer, but it was pretty busy, and so it is perhaps a good example of a day to convey what kind of things I get up to on the regular.

Woke up this morning, planning on having French toast for breakfast, but my last two eggs had both gone off. So instead I made a grilled pb & j and a cup of coffee, breaking my fast as I caught up on news. Took a quick bucket bath, threw on my pocket sulu and button-down just in time for the Monday morning assembly. Get outside, we do the greetings – each teacher bellows out a morning greeting in their chosen language and the children synchronize a response – and we have the usual church songs and flag parade. Religion and nationalism, just what the doctor ordered.

Then I went to check up with a student of mine who I’m helping prepare for an oratory contest. She hadn’t brought it to school, no problem, try to find a kid in a younger class for a separate age-grouping of oratory contests. And the photocopy for the topic has gone missing, so there is the requisite asking of each teacher before finding a copy, and then I wrote out the speech for the class 6 kid. Typically, teachers write the speeches, so I compromised, having Vere of class eight write her own while I wrote the one for class six.

Next, into the village, to meet with the Turaga ni Koro[1] and Mata ni Tikina[2] about starting on the US history memorial project. We have all the materials and have had them for a good two weeks now, yet everyday they say “we’ll start tomorrow”. So I go and surprise surprise, they are going off to a meeting and we will be starting tomorrow.

So I go back to the school and catch up with Don, talk about how best to approach Master Meli, a trusted local expert on Sabeto, to help us edit and write a historical introduction to the dictionary. Send a text to M Meli, find a phone number for one of our elder editors who took a few copies, call him, he’ll be coming later.

Back to the school, I’ve got a half-hour til lunch, perfect for a computer class, so I grab the most bored-looking class (today, Class Seven) and do a quick computer class with them. This typically is Microsoft Word – knowing how to do basic things like underline, bold, select things, save etc. Then the kids that finish quick can do Mavis Beacon, an old school but good typing program.

Lunch mada. No onions, so I got into the village, buy some onions, get back, realize I have no eggs, so I just ate a cucumber and made a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.[3] Kana,[4] read a bit, get the call from Peace Corps staff to meet them on the roadside on the way to a potential site up the road. Go out there, and as I’m waiting for the bus a young Indian woman starts talking to me.[5] She is not quite flirtatious, but she is married, so I’m quite surprised because there are other Indians around who would likely tell her husband about this encounter. It turns out she grew up in Lautoka and only married here, which makes sense. Not the first time an urban transplanted married woman has struck up eager conversation with me, likely seeing my whiteness/Westernness as a haven from her rural conservative surroundings.[6]

Staff come, we go to the site. Nothing interesting, the Principal says he wants a person, I think it’s a meh, alright situation. We go to the nearby village to find a place, but the TK isn’t around. So they take me home and we arrange to meet tomorrow. It’s already three, and I need to go the farm and get cabbage I promised people and also go shopping.

At my place there is Ilisoni Galala, my elder editor, waiting for me, and he goes over a few words I’ve missed, though he hasn’t actually edited what we’ve done. And he tells me he’s dropped off two and will drop off two more sheaths of translations. Set, thanks. Change quickly, water my newly planted beans and marigolds, move to the farm.

At the farm, Chodhtu gives me a plastic (bag) of cabbage from his own farm. Not what I came for, but welcome nonetheless. When I go to Janet and Semis place[7] I talk to Kula, and we check out the cabbage. It’s been sprayed this morning, no good, so I just grab some cucumbers. On the way back I water my tomato seedlings in Livai’s nursery, which aren’t looking great. Need to transplant those pronto.

Get back, drop things, grab wallet, head for the bridge. On the way I see my Yaca, the one dating Nita Lu, and give him the cabbage and cucumbers to take to their house. Then I see a kid throwing a rock for no good reason so I pick him up and threaten to throw him in the village. These are the rare moments of physical contact I have to sneak in to stave off psychopathy – picking up and kissing kids (everyone does it, you’re weird if you don’t) and pulling Don or Seru into the occasional hug. Get on the bus, lako sara I Namaka.[8]

In Namaka, go to the ATM, then the market because it’s getting a bit late (past five) and they start closing then. Get some tomatoes, lettuce, two little apples, cilantro and carrots. Go to the supermarket, get onions (85 cents for five, as compared to a dollar for two in the village – fucks going on), jam, cheap linguine. Finally, bread and a coke. Back on the bus.

Get here, Vere has her speech, I type it up. Plenty grammatical errors, which mostly confirms my perspective on English vs. Fijian, that the propositions are so fundamentally different they make Latin languages all look like the same language. She is one of the sharpest in the class, but she still makes basic mistakes like “we are so asleep for the safety of our environment” and “the other one has badly effect from the human activities”. There is no Fijian[9] translation of “for”, there is no common way in Fijian to say “effect”, nonetheless any distinction from “effected”. Tenses in Sabeto are mostly reflected in pronouns – muru (present) vs. miri (future), never really touching the verb.

And then I mix the coke with some duty-free rum and write this blog post.

Dinner time. Spaghetti ro,[10] thanks be to those farmers that replanted tomatoes after Cyclone Winston and whatever market forces are responsible for such cheap linguine in Rajendras supermarket in Namaka.[11]

[1] Village headman, but literally Man of the Village in Bauan (we would say Momo ni Rara but hey, colonialism and Bauanization).

[2] District Representative, also a carpenter

[3] Cheese I brought back from the US, tomatoes are finally getting cheap again in the market.

[4] eat

[5] This is noteworthy because in Fiji, especially in rural areas, young women very rarely approach young men they don’t know. And then I remember how much I miss Knox, and liberal America in general.

[6] Forgive my pontificating.

[7] Janet and Semi Lotawa, an American-Fijian couple that run Rise Beyond the Reef, a very cool couple.

[8] Go to Namaka.

[9] When I say Fijian I mean the national dialect Bauan and TatavaSabeto. I cannot account for the other 200+ dialects.

[10] “ro” is our equivalent of “mada”, meaning a soft command, or a thing I am about to do.

[11] A packet for 3.50 FJD, less than 2 USD

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The Last Six Months

Recently I was at my cousins wedding, a glorious Peace Corps affair – her and her husband served together in Kyrgyzstan – and her husband was asking me about my last six months. He pointed out that many volunteers kind of zone out when it comes to the end, as they start focusing on planning for life stateside and thinking about the things they miss from the states (cheese, feminism etc.).

I assured him I wasn’t zoning out, that I was super excited to get back to site and get back to work and life here. And while this is largely true, I still feel more ambivalent about being back than I thought I would. A large part of this is general second-year-syndrome.

This sickness is largely a liberating feeling – that I no longer care as much what my neighbors think of my odd American habits, and I don’t beat myself up as much as I used to about say, not going to church or passing on a grog circle. These are everyday experiences, and not particularly exciting. I find the main thing is just not spending too much time alone – I may not be going out to the village on a particular night, but I have students over and we cook and talk and play Connect 4.

I’m determined to make the most of the rest of my time here, but to me, making the most of it means enjoying myself. The many, many losses we’ve had this year have taught me that if one is to live, one must live joyfully, to the extent possible and responsible. So while Wednesday night I gave a speech on drinking and violence at the school and then grogged all night with some Suva folks, I went out Thursday night (Friday was a national holiday – Sports Day, I shit you not) with a mixed crew of fellow volunteers and site friends. And of course, Ruth, Belena and I ended up carrying a drunk, knocked out, bleeding stranger into a taxi after other folks stopped a fight. The night after I’d talked at the school about drinking and violence. Classic.

 

* Also, to be more clear on my timeline itself – our close-of-service date is Nov. 6, four and a half months from now. My current plan is to stay out through the end of the school year and my birthday, leaving at the end of November/early December. Our COS conference is exactly one month from now.

 

Achebe, Thiong’o and the Politics of TatavaSabeto

I have occasionally referred to the national dialect Bauan as a colonial language, because it was imposed on people here without their consent by a central authority (the British and the Bauans) with the desire to unify under a more central Fijian identity. And I talk about the need for folks to speak, know, and use TatavaSabeto as a means of having an independent, indigenous identity, rather than one imposed from Suva.

But yesterday I revisited an intellectual debate I’ve always found compelling – Chinua Achebe vs. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, on the politics of language. In Decolonising the Mind, an excellent read, Thiong’o argued that African writers must write in their indigenous languages, that to write in European languages is to continue and reinforce the legacy of colonialism and the shackling of African minds.

He writes about how when he was a child in the early 1950s, when the Mau Mau rebellion resulted in British concentration camps and martial law, the colonial government forced schools in his area to start teaching in English, rather than his native Gikuyu. Thiong’o himself went on to spend years in prison in his native Kenya, before going into exile in the West. And ever since, he has written his books in Gikuyu, and then had them translated to English. He makes the excellent point that something expressed in an indigenous language will be more, for lack of a better word, authentic, than that written in a tongue that is foreign to the content of it’s speech.

Chinua Achebe, on the other hand, defends his usage of English in The Education of a British-Protected Child. He notes that English is the unifying language in his native Nigeria, that were the government to endorse one of the three main language groups (Igbo, Hausa-Fulani or Yoruba) it would inflame ethnic tensions and marginalize most of the country. Achebe also points out that in Thiong’os Kenya, the missionaries most often argued for teaching in native languages, while many Kenyan-led missions wanted to teach English, as a modernizing force. The picture became much murkier by the time the post-WWII era rolled around though, when ethnic/indigenous identity began to be seen as a threat to colonial governments.

Language is thus an incredibly potent flashpoint in discussions on identity and nationalism, and for no reason more so than that nationality is a made-up concept, especially to all of the colonized nations, whose borders were drawn by some white asshats in a boardroom in Berlin. Even Fiji, whose indigenous population is slightly more ethnically homogenous than Nigeria or Kenya, has an incredible diversity of tongues (commonly estimated at 300 dialects, doubtless less by now, and probably divisible into two main branches or languages – Western and Central).

But as made up as nation-states may be, they are the most common, powerful and important form of governance on Earth. They are not going away, and they will do anything they can – namely, state violence – to remain as they are, resisting/oppressing any indigenous breakaway movements (see: the UK resisting Scottish independence, the Biafran conflict in Nigeria of the 60s, and the coup-plotting chiefs in Fiji of last year). The Fijian government can arrest chiefs, and has done so quite a few times, but chiefs cannot arrest or command government officials. Local, indigenous authority has taken a major hit, and associated identities have thus struggled.

On top of all this, it is quite impractical to expect the government to teach everyone their own dialect, at least here in Fiji. It would require a massive effort, the training of hundreds of teachers who would ostensibly only know to teach their own dialect (training strangers to teach a dialect simply would not do). And Bauan unites iTaukei people, allows koiSabeto to talk to kaiCicia people in a language that feels much more Fijian than English does.

A good friend of mine at home, a linguistic type (speaks Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish) that will be visiting in October, asked if this was not perhaps a slightly conservative or backward initiative to undertake, to try to revive a local dialect when it’s 2016 and nation-states are the order of the day (not quite how he framed it, but how I see it). So, in the face of modernity, these are the reasons this dictionary is still important:

  1. Identity exists at multiple levels: local, national, regional. Strengthening local identity does not necessarily detract from the other two. There is no contradiction in being proudly koiSabeto, Fijian and a Pacific Islander.
  2. Sabeto is in a very rapidly urbanizing region, next to the airport, between Nadi and Lautoka, meaning that Bauan and English are making very strong inroads into households here. Nonetheless, many parents would like their children to also know the language of their tuqwaqwa (ancestors), and they have no tool to teach them as such.
  3. Students here do very poorly in Bauan as taught in schools. Providing this three-way dictionary will help teachers explain local concepts they may not know (not being from Sabeto).
  4. This language has not been recorded, and if it is not now it is extremely likely to ever be (about 4 out of 300 dialects have been recorded). Without this, this dialect, this language will simply be lost to time.

2016 Rolls Relentlessly Onwards

I just returned from a quick trip home to attend my cousin’s wedding in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My cousin, Maryn Lewallen, who is now one year into a Masters of Public Health, met her – pretty cool – husband Luke Willson while they were both PCVs in Kyrgyzstan, where they both extended for a third year. So it was a very Peace Corps wedding, between Maryn and Luke’s several PCV friends who came out, my dad (who served in South Korea, I think 1979-1981), my brother Jim (in his third year in Senegal) and myself in Fiji.

It was a blast, at a beautiful county park, and Jim, Brynn, Maryn and I and all the young folks danced until they shut down the dancefloor. It’s always fun to swap stories with PCVs of other places, and I got moments to chat with Luke[1] and another RPCV Kyrgyz pal of theirs[2] which I really enjoyed. Luke struck me as a compassionate, grounded, genuine, bright, forward-thinking guy – and it filled me with joy that Maryn has founded such a suitable partner.

Flying using miles meant taking the long way home, though. I spent 30 hours flying each way and as much in transit, instead of the 15 were I to fly first to California then on to Chicago, going 2/3 ‘round the world, rather than 1/3 the other way. I also took a six-hour Megabus from Chicago to Ann Arbor and back again. My first night back I went to a packed church service and between jet lag, a long first day back, exercise and a good meal I kept nodding off in the back row. So partly, it’s nice just to rest and not have to think about the next plane I’ll get on.

Back in Sabeto barely 36 hours, I’m hustling around to kick both my projects (the WWII monuments + the dictionary) into high gear. I am planning to have the monuments done by mid-July, and the dictionary printed and distributed by mid-August. I think this is reasonable, though I still expect those deadlines to get kicked at least a little further back. Originally, the dictionary was to be finished in mid-July, before COS conference at the end of the month, and the monuments were supposed to be done by mid-March.

The plan Tai Samu and I drew up for completing the monuments before Christmas was supposed to be take two months, not six.[3] I’d say at least one month of that is due to the US Embassy’s slow response and mistakes in filing paperwork, one would be Tai Samu’s insistence he could just drop by the chief’s house for his signature on a letter of support because they’re cousins,[4] and two would be the vast and often seemingly meaningless meanderings of life itself.

To address the title of this blog more, here is a quick wrap-up of what has happened before the halfway mark of this year

  • Stephen, a kind, generous man and good friend from Knox, died while teaching English in China. I visited his grave with Forrest, and I couldn’t cry, so she did for me.
  • Cyclone Winston, the second-strongest storm in historical record globally smashed through Fiji, killing fourty-four people, making around ten thousand homeless, turning off the electricity for tens of thousands more.
  • Then Sabeto was flooded in early April, and a schoolgirl and old Tai Vilive both drowned.
  • The Republican party nominated a crude entertainer who spouts the racist, sexist thoughts we all have in pursuit of a voting base, who is governed not by even any sort of ideology or coherent worldview but a boasting personal ego, with all its whims and feuds. The scariest part, perhaps, is that enough people could plausibly be scared into his voting corral. Democrats, on the other hand, have chosen (I played my part in this support) the “safe choice” of the first female presidential candidate of a major party.
  • Went by the farm earlier today, and Chodhtu told me about coming across the body of a boy in Sabeto who had been thrown from the back of his dad’s pickup when he was speeding, and showed me the pictures.
  • A gunman/terrorist[5] walked into a gay club in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people, wounded 53 and died in a hail of bullets this past weekend, in the worst mass shooting the US has seen. This unfortunately coincided with Maryn’s wedding night, and it’s what we read about the morning after. Nonetheless, love must shine through, and so I send extra love to those I know in the LGBT community. I do not know what it feels like to be oppressed or targeted because of who I love, but I do know love and grief and so I send the former to all those who’ve lost people recently or are struggling to make sense of this hateful crime.
  • Other people we have lost so far in 2016: Mrs. Beveridge, the college counselor and wife of the chemistry teacher; Alan’s host mom, a sweet lady; five or so elderly folks from the village; Lissie’s mom; Carissa’s dad; Monty’s brother.

Also though

  • Everyone else, which is most of us, is still alive and kicking.
  • I have six months left in Fiji, I am three-quarters through. It has been hard in many unexpected ways I am still trying to understand.
  • Though I feel there are many ways in which I could have been a better PCV, namely in integration to my community, I am fairly content with the work I am doing. Despite a wide variety of obstacles we are still plowing ahead, and I look forward to the opening/completion ceremonies we will have over the next few months.
  • This is also six months I have in which I need to figure out the next step. Currently, I’m thinking of a back-to-Africa trip, at it’s basic including visiting fellow Knox PCVs Charlie & Erin Megenity in Ethiopia and going back home to Moshi and Tanzania with Jim; some WWOOFing[6] in Latin America, hopefully with fellow Fiji PCVs; and then finding a gig, maybe teaching English, to sustain myself in a Latin American city (Medellin, Colombia is the strongest and only candidate for now) for a year or so, depending if I can find good work.

[1] at the marriage brunch thing that I didn’t know was a Western marriage tradition. He also grew up overseas, especially New Delhi, where he was from 2nd to 12th grade, and there were two other pals of his who had been together that whole time (what a thing, we both said; international schools have such turnover rates.)

[2] Sat at the wedding dinner with one fellow whose name I of course forget, who lived at the edge of a lake and helped a local museum in their quest to protect a historical site from vandals and litterbugs. It was cool to hear of other PCVs helping host nations with cultural preservation.

[3] Peace Corps Lyfe.

[4] Everyone’s cousins. Eventually, I got the guy from the chief’s circle of advisors who arranges meetings with the chief to make it happen.

[5] Other people who fit this description are Anders Brevik, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, etc.

[6] Volunteering at organic farms

Jokes/Viwali

Recently I’ve slowly but surely been getting more proficient at joking in Fijian. How this differs from joking in America is two-fold;

  1. Most of my joking is with middle-aged women here, compared to same-age mixed gender in America.
  2. Most, if not all of the joking here is quite simple and implicitly sexual, as compared to whatever cleverer-than-thou satire and witticisms that liberal arts colleges are full of.

So yeah, basically it’s a lot of implicitly sexual joking with middle-aged women, which when you put it that way sounds kind of weird, but it’s actually totally normal here. Also it would probably sound weirder in English, which is exactly why I don’t joke in English. Mostly I’ve gotten better at joking in order to reply to the women, who say things like “I’m coming over later” or “have you tried the breadfruit?” or “where’s your horse?” when I pass by. Horses are the yacavuti, totem, of Nadroga region, meaning she was asking where my girlfriend from Nadroga is (hint: nonexistent). Breadfruit, kulu, are of course yacavuti for Sabeto, and will get you one big bowl of grog if you joke about it in the wrong place.

Two examples from today;

I was biking back from upper Sabeto when I passed Ima, one of the women who consistently jokes with me. She tells me to come back, so I do, and she asks if we can ride together, if she can ride on my handlebars. The other lady with her was laughing, so I took a second to formulate my response then told her “vagonocia e lia leqwa na tawane me lem baisakeli” – find another boy to be your bicycle. They both laughed, success.

Walking back, one of the women sitting around chatting calls out at me that she will be coming over later, so I responded “kau me na lem tutuvi, e rui driwadriwa” – bring your own blanket, it’s too cold. Laughs.

My main man Don is from Nawake, so their yacavuti is the moli – citrus fruit, which can more explicitly imply (???) testicles. And when I am around in the village with him, people will always rib him about moli, and they’ll ask me how the moli is doing, so I’ve come up with a related set of jokes about lime/lemons relative bitterness and sweetness.

This being said, I’ve thought about whether any of this is sexist, but I think it largely avoids that trap, especially considering it is the women who initiate the joking. Sometimes others make jokes about qauris – gay men – at which point I tend to disengage, or make a point of not laughing. Sometimes someone will notice and try explaining it to me, at which point I just ask them why it’s funny, and they give up quickly and probably chalk it up to a cultural difference.

Generally speaking, I find it to be pretty hard to go from jokes to serious discussions on gay rights, especially in group situations and when qauris themselves are seemingly in on the joke. Sometimes groups of older men will be talking about something and maybe calling someone girly. Then the whole age-veneration thing makes it difficult to talk about it, not to mention my own still-quite-limited vocabulary. I do engage in actual discussions on sexism and homophobia though, so ethically speaking my avoidance of these situations is a toss-up.

Mostly, though, people clearly like hearing me joke in TatavaSabeto, because they tell me so. They give me breathing space when I am trying to put together a cohesive joke, and laugh heartily when I pull off something that makes sense. And my day is improved.

Wawa Mada (Wait)

It’s the end of May, and despite assurances on grant money being approved for the dictionary and the historical monuments, I’ve spent the last two weeks waiting for it to show up.

Not just waiting though – I’ve also started teaching again, poetry and computer, and really quite enjoying it. With poetry I can teach anything I want, brainwash them with silly notions like descriptive writing and women’s liberation. Which makes me a little more interested in potentially teaching English next year in Latin America.

Don and I have also started the editing phase of the dictionary (weeee!), and have been distributing four or five pages of the dictionary to each elder so as not to overload them. Today was the first day I went around to collect them (Don was busy, he’s always in demand), which was quite satisfying, for a couple of reasons.

  1. Most everyone had done it, though one or two elders were elsewhere and another had been sick. Participation is nice.
  2. There was a lot less Bauan (national dialect) mixed in than I thought there would be. Perhaps I should fearmonger less about the loss of language.
  3. Generally, there were not an overwhelming number of mistakes.
  4. I conducted 90% of the conversations with elders, going over the pages I’d given them each, in TatavaSabeto itself, which is always deeply satisfying.

Nonetheless, a few things have been pretty delayed. One is that the village of Korobebe, the farthest interior village of Sabeto and one whose language differs more significantly because of intermarriages with the neighboring district of Yakete, has yet to be visited by us. At first, there were cyclones and floods, but over the past few weeks we’ve simply been unable to get in contact with the TK (village headman). He wasn’t picking up his phone for weeks, so I sent a letter home with his son last week with my number and a request to call, but he still hasn’t. So, come Wednesday, I’ll probably just bike up there so we can talk. That way we can sit down with their elders and collect their unique words.

The reason that Naboutini, Natalau, Narokorokoyawa and Koroiaca all have nearly identical language is mostly geography (they are a bit closer) and also that Naboutini is essentially an extension of Koroiaca, founded around WWII.

I had a good day, however, with a nice afternoon ride and the installation of an old file cabinet in my room – I’ve not had drawers or anything of the like and have been sorely in need.

Recently I’ve found a good method (so far) of taking care of my emotional health. I found it on The Atlantic in an article on Self-Compassion vs. Self-Esteem, and it helps me stop myself from beating myself up over small things, keep my ego in check and extend compassion and gratefulness to others. I spent far too much emotional energy feeling bad about myself my first year of service, feeling like I was underperforming as a volunteer or making insufficient efforts at integration. And also sometimes letting my ego go a bit.

My yaca (namesake) who lives in Moala summed it up very well for me late last year, when I told him I felt like I was making a lot of mistakes and not learning from them. He replied “oh like, being human?”

This isn’t, of course, to excuse or minimize the mistakes that I have made, but to put them in perspective and continue to work towards bettering myself.

Plus, I’ve got some great things coming up. A week from now I’ll be flying stateside for my cousin Maryn’s wedding (she served 3 years as a PCV in Kyrgyzstan and is now marrying a fellow PCV from there), rushing through Chicago and friends on the way. Friends and family, very nice. Then when I get back, we should finally have the embassy money, and we’ll erect the historical monuments and have some opening ceremony. Then we finish editing the dictionary, print it and distribute it, hopefully before COS conference, the last week of July. The weekend after COS conference I’ll be leading a group of fellow PCVs up Koroyanitu, the upper Sleeping Giant and second highest peak in Fiji.

After that, I’m basically in the free and clear to do whatever the f*** I want – within limitations, of course. What I currently plan on doing between early August and December, when I COS, is helping the 8th grade students get into the schools they want and doing all the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the time to yet, including visiting Moala for a week, maybe going back out to the islands, going back to the interior etc. And there’s a pretty decent chance I’ll have David and/or Levi, from Knox College days, visiting in October, which is one of the best possible ways I can think of leaving here.

Toso mada.

Make moves.

 

things i have gained in Fiji

  1. a flawless tan, but only from my kneecaps to my toes
  2. an appreciation for sharing food, be it neighbors kind dinner deliveries or learning to always invite passersby to tea and meals
  3. more than a year and a half in age, with six more months to go. I am now an old man at 23 1/2, compared to my spry youth of 21 and 3/4 when I began this adventure.
  4. a very nice Fijian mat, complete with colorful yarn edging, which my turaga ni koro gave me after I hinted heavily that I was looking for one
  5. dad jokes, which I now make all the time
  6. the ability to cook chilli, which is like the American version of curry, insofar as that it can be made from nearly anything. it’s basically beans, spices and whatever the f*ck you have on your counter/in your garden/at your neighbors
  7. very limited skills in an extremely localized dialect, which will get me precisely nowhere as soon as I leave the 2,000 people of Sabeto
  8. a personal-sized French press, a most gorgeous instrument and utterly necessary to my morning routine
  9. a mysterious (possibly fungal?) skin condition, known to a few volunteers up north, which is creating light spotting
  10. a little more patience for the everyday bullshit. of course no one has showed up to the meeting half an hour after the start time; and no, I’m sorry, I’m not going to marry your niece.
  11. the capacity to explain the Confederate flag to non-Americans, after I found that my headteacher had one up in his house, the meaning of which he was unfamiliar. “It’s a nice flag”, he said.
  12. much tougher feet, as a result of going barefoot all day, every day, on gravel, grass and riverbeds. the most recent person to tell me to wear shoes was the doctor, but the last time I stepped on the sharp end of a tack it just bent under my heel.
  13. an interest in climate change, after Cyclone Winston battered the living shit out of Fiji, from Savusavu to Ra to Nadarivatu, and floods killed two people in my area.
  14. half of a moustache, because apparently we can’t all be our facial hair endowed fathers.
  15. a love for Rewa butter, which is so rich and so salty that the Ministry of Health recommends margarine over it.