Finding Love in Fiji: My First Peace Corps Experiences

December 24, 2013
culture, fiji, volunteer
Finding Love in Fiji: My First Peace Corps Experiences

Finding Love in Fiji: My First Peace Corps Experiences

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, there were things that I thought I was prepared for, but it was the unexpected in my Peace Corps experiences that taught me the most.

I was prepared to integrate, learn, appreciate, and observe a new culture. I was prepared to live in conditions drastically different than my privileged American lifestyle, and to abandon the comfortable.

I was ready to listen. The best advice I received from a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer was to simply listen–not speak, but listen. I was instructed to listen and to go in without expectations, so that everything would surprise me. This was the best wisdom imparted to me before I left, and I carried that mentality with me every step of the way.

For the first time in my life I was fully invested in listening.

For the first time in my life I was fully invested in listening. I think as Americans, we get so caught up in hearing, but not truly listening, because we, as far as my observations go, are so focused on what we are going to say in response that we are not really listening. I learned to listen with intent and with purpose.

When I received my site announcement, which is a Peace Corps term for where you will live and work during your time in a country, I was ecstatic. My site was perfect for me, and it was everything I wanted out of my Peace Corps experience. I was in a little village of about 200 people, without electricity, in a little shack on stilts. I collected rainwater for drinking and for taking bucket baths, and I was able to walk from my village to my work site, which was only a couple of kilometers from my home.  It was a three-hour bus ride to the nearest market and to where I could check my email.

Overcoming the daily challenges of living in Fiji became my reality–killing cockroaches like a champ, and using the sasa broom to sweep out ants, rats, and lizards was no problem. I could scrap and milk a coconut and hand wash my clothes with a bucket of water and a board like a pro.  Children no longer laughed at my ignorance to their way of life. I became an equal. In fact, I had a name–I was no longer “that” kavalagi (white person).

I had a two new families: my Peace Corps family and my Fijian family.

I became Fijian. And, I could carry on conversations with my Fijian counterparts and was known throughout my province of Tailevu on the island of Viti Levu (Big Fiji). In fact, I was recognized in the streets, the marketplace, and buses, and also known as the volunteer who drank kava and danced, which is how I became comfortable in my own skin and integrated into Fijian life.

Not only did I fall in love with myself, I fell in love with the people who surrounded me on a daily basis. I had a two new families: my Peace Corps family and my Fijian family. And, I discovered an element that I had not expected: love. Love is what I found in Fiji.  Love was all around me.  Everywhere I went in Fiji, love followed me.

And even though I am no longer in Fiji, I know that when I return, I will be welcomed with open arms and a big bilo (bowl) of kava.  I have been back in the States now for longer than I lived in Fiji, but I still feel such a deep and thriving connection to the people in Fiji that our contact remains consistent. It is through this lens that I stare adversity in the face and have the fortitude to begin my Peace Corps experience all over again–this time in Azerbaijan.  I am ready and open to receive and give the love I found in Fiji to the rest of the world.

Peace corps experiences
Peace Corps Experiences

Finding Love in Fiji: My First Peace Corps Experiences

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Have you volunteered with the Peace Corps? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Finding Love in Fiji: My First Peace Corps Experiences top photo credit: unplash.com

Finding Love in Fiji: My First Peace Corps Experiences

About Mollie Munro

Mollie MunroMollie Munro is a professional friend. She has an insatiable hunger for new culture, perspectives, and ideas. With a powerful mentality for inner development she is ever changing. Refining the core of her traveling spirit remains a constant. Her greatest desire is to empower others to be themselves, no matter what risk may be involved.

3 thoughts on “Finding Love in Fiji: My First Peace Corps Experiences

  1. Anna
    Anna
    June 28, 2014
    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I found it be rather inspiring and an interesting and unique perspective of a Peace Corps experience. I am in the application process right now. I was nominated for a health position in Tanzania, and am waiting/crossing my fingers for an invitation. So as you can imagine I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, reading blogs and reaching out to past PCVs. Anyway, I found this post very helpful and enjoyed reading about your time in Fiji. The part about the kava made me smile because I studied abroad there briefly a few years back and drank quite a few obligatory bowls of it myself (but I couldn’t imagine drinking it for 2 years).

  2. Avatar
    Mollie
    March 7, 2014
    Reply

    Alyssa,
    Thank you so much for your kind words! Find your space and thrive in the uncomfortable. The more you do it, even when not traveling, the easier it gets! Start out small, I wasn’t even able to go to the movie theatre by myself before and now here I am about to leave for Peace Corps Azerbaijan!
    Happy travels!
    -Mollie

  3. Avatar
    Alyssa
    February 14, 2014
    Reply

    This definitely inspires me to just go for what I want, instead of hesitating and worrying that I’m not doing it right. It’s such a battle for me to get out of my comfort zone and forget about my pride and simply DO.

    Good on you for figuring that lesson out so quickly and sharing it with the world!

    Keep writing, Mollie 🙂

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