Australia and Oceania Travelog

FIJI | Tales & Truths

December 1, 2012

The Mysterious Creatures

I have already told you a lot about animals living here, especially in my Fijian home. The following story does not have anything to do with cockroaches for a change. It is more kind of a health issue. It all started on the day when we wore our Sarees for Diwali. We´d borrowed the Sarees from our neighbors as they are Indians and we had to wear traditional Indian clothes to attend all the invitations we had received from our Indian colleagues at school.

The cloth of those Sarees was rough, and it felt very itchy when we wore them. We had to wear them for three days, and we thought that the itching came from the Sarees.

Diwali Fiji

Some Volunteers around Suva in Diwali costumes

However, one evening Julia found tiny little bugs on her skin. You could hardly see them. She got nervous and said it felt like something was crawling on her skin. I started mocking her about being so paranoid until I found a bug on my arm as well. And another one. And another one. And another one. And they kept turning up. First, those bugs were white, but on the next day, as we found more and more of them, they turned brown and even black.

We both had no idea what kind of creatures they were. We thought they were lice. Then we thought it could be fleas, but we were not sure, and we did not have any idea where we had got them from. When we showed them to our host family, we were told they were baby-ants. Yeaah sure. Baby-ants. Why would baby-ants crawl on our skin? We cleaned up everything to make sure they were not coming from our beds or something, but the whole thing became really mysterious, also because we didn´t get any bites.

A couple of days later we went to see a doctor as we didn´t know what else to do and how to get rid of them. Even taking a shower didn´t help. So we made an appointment at the medic center in Suva and had to pay $25 each to talk to this semi-competent doctor who looked at us as if we were some exaggerating European tourists, who were scared and overreacting over every little insect they see. The doctor didn´t even believe us when we told her about those bugs/lice/fleas/mites/baby-ants. I got really annoyed by her and luckily in this moment, one of my bug-friends turned up on my arm.

So I showed the tiny little thing to her and her eyes got wide. She kept on staring at the creature for like two minutes until she said “Oh. I – I – I have never seen this before. These are not lice. These are not flees either. And it´s definitely not baby-ants!!! I dunno. Guess they are not poisonous, though”. Then she gave us a prescription for a creme against mosquito bites even though we didn´t have any and said: “They will go away eventually”.

That whole appointment pissed me off. Firstly, we had to pay $25 each to get a “diagnosis” and secondly, we still had no idea how to get rid of the mites and where they came from. On one of the following days, we discovered many of them crawling on our Sarees, which were placed on the table in Julia´s room. We thought that we had finally found the cause for the appearance of those animals, but even after having returned the Sarees we still had some bugs on our skin.

The Stomach Bug

The second and far worse health problem started on Julia´s last weekend. We both went to Nadi to spend the last couple of days together at a resort, which was literally in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded by mountains and fields. No sea. No beach. No noisy buses. No cars. No network. No internet. Nothing. We wanted to have a relaxed weekend with some hiking, a mountain bike trip and some time to just chill out and read. Luckily, we happened to be the only guests at the resort, which is why we even got a room upgrade for the same price. That was fantastic as we ended up staying in a King Size Deluxe Room instead of a dorm.

Nadi Resort

Our resort sourrounded by mountains, valleys and nature.

However, the entire weekend turned out to be very different. Julia got tap water poisoning (at least that is what we thought in the beginning since I didn´t have any symptoms at all and we had pretty much the same food, but she was the only one who drank tap water). Julia´s condition was pretty bad due to dehydration, but we couldn´t even go to see a doctor or go to a drug store to get some Imodium as there was no bus going and no taxi driving near the resort on Sundays. On Sunday night, I also started to have diarrhea and by Monday morning rien ne va plus – if you know what I mean. 😉 Somehow we managed to get out of bed, and hitched out of the mountains to downtown Nadi (hitchhiking is the fastest way to get back into civilization as buses only go three times a day near the resort). We were able to find a drug store and get some Imodium.

Later that afternoon, I took a coach back to Suva. Two hours into the ride, I did not only feel weak and dehydrated but even febrile. By the time I got home, after 4 hours of bus ride, I was miserable and had cramps, a stomach ache, a headache, diarrhea and high fever. After having arrived back home, I was told that my other roommate stayed home for the weekend. She had also been sick with the same symptoms. Apparently, it was not the tap water in the resort then – which I hadn´t drunk anyway.

On Tuesday, I decided to see a doc in order to get some antibiotics. To cut a long story short, some other volunteers including my roommate, Julia and me, we all had the same symptoms. The week before we had a social in one of those very traditional Fijian villages. They provided loads of food for us. Probably something was poisoned with a tropical bug that, eventually, lead to a virus. Usually, Fijian people never get sick by such bugs as their bodies are immune to that, but people who are not used to eating “village food” can get sick quickly, especially in a time when viruses are likely (e.g. due to changing weather conditions).

Mokani Village

Social at Mokani Village.

The End Of The Term

When You Have To Motivate Teachers

School is still exhausting, especially as it is getting hotter and hotter every day – we even had a couple of hurricane warnings due to low pressure waves. Apart from that, all the exams are over, and the teachers are either busy with writing the final reports or staying at home – “term-end-exhaustion”. Even the head teacher only turns up occasionally.

On Monday morning, we usually have staff meeting for half an hour to discuss certain issues regarding the week. Most times we´d say a prayer, talk for five minutes and then spend the rest of the time relaxing in the staff room. Last Monday, the head teacher had only one important topic to talk about. She was trying to convince the other teachers to keep coming to school until the end of the term even though there´s no work to be done anymore. What she kept saying for about ten minutes was basically “Teachers, it is only two weeks left!! Two weeks, you see? We will make it. I know we all feel exhausted. That´s the typical term-end-exhaustion, but teachers, please, keep on turning up as much as possible. If you are sick and you feel like resting, it´ll be fine to stay home of course, but apart from that, please show up in whatever mood you are in and supervise your students. I know it is hard. It is only two weeks to go…”

It was one of those staff meetings where I was just thinking WHAT THE FUCK??!! This would never happen in Germany. A head teacher would never say to his colleagues “stay home if you feel like resting” and “turn up in whatever mood you are in just to supervise the kids”. Anyways, none of us teachers can really be bothered to teach the kids any more and even the students start to skip lessons. Last week, my teacher came to me and said: “My dear (he always calls me that), you need to look after the class for the whole week this week because I´ll be busy with some other stuff.” So I had to supervise and teach my class for 6hrs/day for five days that week. And believe me, it is not fun to teach a Class 4 for more than 3 hours a day.

Apart from that, Julia and I also conducted a music workshop at our school for several classes. We would teach the older ones a bit of music theory like rhythms and notes and would spend the rest of the time singing and teaching them songs. By the way, isn´t it ironic: although the Fijian people are part of one of the most conservative and religious cultures, most of the kids weren´t able to sing well-known gospel songs like He´s Got The Whole World In His Hands or Go Tell It On The Mountain. On the other hand, they know the lyrics of Blow My Whistle by heart… By the end of the week I was totally ready for a holiday, exhausted and extremely tired.

Music Workshop at Suva Primary School.

When Teachers (And Teaching Assistant) Skip Lessons

On the weekend, we went to Beachhouse, which is a very nicely designed backpacker-resort. At Beachhouse, you can do lots of stuff, such as hiking, surfing, snorkeling, yoga, hand-crafting, swimming or just relaxing at the beach. I had planned to take part in a lot of those activities, which is why I had to leave very early on Saturday morning and came back very late on Sunday night. It was a fantastic weekend, lots of fun, although it was raining cats and dogs. However, since I arrived Suva so late on Sunday, I did not get much sleep and therefore didn´t feel relaxed at all when I started school again on Monday. So after Monday, I was dead tired when I came home from school and decided that I was not the person responsible for looking after the class for six hours a day. On Tuesday, I did a project with my class, which kept them busy for a couple of days. 😛 Plus, I finished school at 12 pm every day as I realized that I had been working long hours the weeks before anyway.

Speaking of the class, I´d also like to mention that, eventually, I have found a good way of maintaining discipline in class without slapping the children. There was one situation a couple of weeks ago: I was tired that day and generally in a pretty bad mood, but tried to keep calm, and teach them normally. The kids were extremely noisy that day for whatever reason and I was asking the kids to remain quiet for a hundred times. Usually, I´m really not that kind of person, but I somehow managed to scream “Now SHUT UP – all of you!!!!” Silence. More silence. Then I thought to myself “Was that me? Can I scream like that? Oh gosh…” Still silence. Then I went on telling them that, even though I am only an assistant teacher, it does not mean that they can run around and scream around and take the piss out of me. (I think those are pretty much the words I used… I know, maybe a bit inappropriate to say in class…)

35 eyes were staring at me and I felt incredibly guilty for being so harsh with those super cute kids, but from that day on, I have never had any problems maintaining discipline. Now, we all get along very well, some students have already given me gifts they´d made for me at home such as bracelets or pictures they painted. Some of the girls run towards me and give me a hug every time they see me walking around in school. Besides, I get along very well with the other teachers, especially with my music teacher, who sometimes even shows me all the hidden gems of Suva. The other weekend, she was performing at a nightclub (she sings in nightclubs regularly) and my roommate and I went to see the performance and ended up spending the whole night with her and friends of hers from the band in several nightclubs in Suva, which tourists would never go into.

  1. Reply

    Silke und Andreas

    December 3, 2012

    Alles Gute zum Geburtstag so weit weg von Daheim!
    Silke und Andreas

    • Reply


      December 5, 2012

      Hallo ihr Zwei,

      vielen lieben Dank – war definitiv mal ein anderer Geburtstag, so bei 30C und unter Palmen, anstatt bei Schnee. 😉


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Hi there, I'm Lena! I love being on the move around the world - travelling, diving or taking pictures. I've recently started dealing with and writing about ways to make diving more affordable. I enjoy sharing my experiences and tips with y'all, fellow budget backpackers and budget divers! Read more

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