…things have been progressing as well as can be expected. Lately I’ve been busy with work, exploring the city where I live, catching up with my fellow volunteers and working on some home gardening projects. Only three weeks into the month and it seems like time has been moving both slowly and quickly. Let me tell you about what I’ve been up to!
At Makoi Health Center I’ve been busy working on a Staff/Patient Survey. This project began in early December while I was trying to learn the in’s and out’s of the health center. Makoi H.C. is a sub-divisional health facility, which means it’s located just outside of the capital and serves a mostly semi-urban population of roughly 27,000 Fijians and Indo-Fijians. In this one building they have a pharmacy, outpatient care, reproductive health services, maternal/child health services, dental care, and a nutritionist. They also have a side room for X-rays but the machine is currently broken and they don’t have an X-ray technician. The health center is staffed with competent, well-trained, positive people and yet when I sat down with a few of them to find out where improvements can be made they were surprisingly tight-lipped. To be fair, I completely understand that I’m a newbie to the health center so some people wouldn’t feel comfortable divulging their inner-most work angst with me. I get it. But, it’s hard to get a grasp of where I could fit in as a volunteer if I don’t have a complete picture of where I’m working.
I thought about it for a while then spoke with my Sister-in-Charge, Sister Mere (pronounced: Mary), to get her input. When I shot her the idea of doing a Staff/Patient Survey she was completely supportive. Yes! The survey would be a tool that I could use to learn about my work environment and the head staff could use as a basis for top-down improvement. Also, the questionnaire would be used to gather information about the health center’s successes and failures when it comes to patient care and community outreach. I spent the next couple of weeks putting together two surveys, one for the Staff the other for Patients. I was careful to make the Staff survey anonymous to encourage direct, honest responses. After both surveys were approved by the Sister-in-Charge and the Medical Officer I went around to each staff member and sat down with them to explain why the survey was important. Once they were all completed I condensed the responses and presented my findings to Sister Mere, the Medical Officer and the Board of Services, a committee of four members who oversee operations at the health center, kindof like a Board of Directors. Actually, it’s exactly like a Board of Directors. One of the biggest issues that stood out on the Staff Survey was teamwork. Many staff members felt there wasn’t a positive environment of communal work and partnership at the health center. As a result tensions were rising. Workplace animosity was breeding.
Solution? Making team-building a focus at Makoi H.C! My first assignment for this was to lead a presentation about team-building at the monthly staff meeting. I had staff come up and write out what they thought teamwork was, why it is important, and some barriers to teamwork. Check out Sister Mere leading by example!
Then we did an interactive activity where one person had to close their eyes and the group had to navigate them in the right direction to stick the word ‘Teamwork’ on a small circle. Like ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ without donkeys or tails but with teamwork and nurses. (That last wording sounds funky but I’ll leave it, lol!) They got really into it. I mean, who doesn’t love games?? Here’s Shaileen, one of my favorite zone nurses, playing.
She makes it look so easy!
Afterwards I presented a poster that I made further explaining teamwork.
In the near future I’ll be planning more team-building exercises and, if things pan out, have a couple of guest speakers come in to Makoi H.C. Teamwork isn’t something that happens overnight so this will be a process. It will also be a process to tackle some of the other issues that came up in the Staff Survey. In addition, I’m still working on getting the results from the Patient Survey together. The great thing is my Sister-in-Charge and the Board are behind it so at least I know I have some backing on improving our health center’s staff and patient services.
Enough work, let’s play!
A couple of weeks ago a group of us went to Colo-i-Suva. Colo-i-Suva (pronounced: Tholo-i-Suva), established in 1872 is a two and a half square kilometer rain-forest renowned for tropical flora and birds. There are about four and a half kilometers of natural trails in the forests and natural water bodies to swim in. (Thanks Wikipedia!) Here are some shots from our hike through the park:
This is one of my favorite shots from the hike. I really wish I could take your hand and walk you right into the picture.
We hiked for about a mile into the park crossing over bamboo bridges and dried mud feeling completely surrounded by wildlife. What really got me was the sound of this place. The water, the wind, the trees, the birds, the little bitty animals that skitter away into the brush when they hear you coming. It was like a symphony. Pure nature.
And then we saw the rope swing.
The water was pretty muddy from recent rain but it was still so much fun!
Best Burger in Suva
One of the things that I love the most about Suva is the food here. It’s definitly a perk to living in an urban site. Strolling around Suva it is easy to find Indian, Japanese, Fijian, Chinese, Thai, and American food if you know where to look. What I enjoy the most about food is its ability to transcend geography. It indulges all of your senses and moves you beyond your immediate surroundings. Speaking of which I recently went to dinner with a few volunteers at a restaurant called Cafe Thirty. I was intrigued by this bad boy on the menu then fell in love with him at first sight :
Now before you say, “Oh, an American, she probably eats hamburgers all the time” let me just say that isn’t true at all. I try to eat food from various cultures as often as possible and enjoy doing so. It just so happens I’m writing about this hamburger because it was just. that. good. It had onions, bacon (BACON!!), an egg, lettuce, tomato, pickles (PICKLES!!), and cheese on a medium-well patty. I hadn’t eaten bacon or pickles since summer of 2012 so this was a real treat. So delicious!
Recently I went to the Fiji Museum with two volunteers, Reagan and Adam, who were visiting Suva. Although I’ve visited Thurston Gardens, the gardens in front of the museum, a couple of times this was my first time walking through the museum. The current building for the Fiji Museum was built in 1955 and has hundreds of artifacts from Fijian and Indo-Fijian culture. It also has exhibits for art, history, and the flora and fauna in Fiji. Here are a few shots from that trip. I’ll include the rest in the ‘About Fiji’ section of my page since I think it fits better there.
The Health Services Department here in Suva is focusing on minimizing waste throughout the city. One of the initiatives they started promotes home composting. Composting is basically recycling kitchen waste, yard clippings and other green waste so it can be used to fertilize soil for gardens and other agricultural projects. When Tricia and I heard about this we were pretty excited because we wanted to begin a compost for the garden we’ll plant but we didn’t know where to find the bins. Two weeks and $30FJD later, problem solved! The Health Services Department even dropped off the bins and gave us a quick overview of how to use the bins and where to place them in our yard. Since Regan and Adam were visiting for the day we got to work installing the bin. Adam knew a lot about composting as well so he was a huge help.
The dogs helped too!
The bin with some leaves and kitchen waste. Looks great, smells awful. Perfect for anaerobic composting!
We haven’t begun to dig our garden yet. Hopefully we’ll begin working on that the coming weekend. In the meantime I took some cuttings from some of the plants outside and placed them in water. In the next few weeks they should start growing some little roots then we’ll transplant them into soil. We also have a decent-sized bag of plant seeds that we got from Dan (remember Dan?) when he came to visit. We’ll work on germinating the seeds in egg cartons filled with soil. When roots start to grow we’ll transplant them into our garden as well.
Rest and Recuperation
I started last week feeling pretty sick. Suva is known for being particularly rainy so I found myself caught in a rainstorm or two without an umbrella. When Monday came around it was full on headache, congestion and coughing.
When I still wasn’t feeling well a couple of days later I went to the Peace Corps headquarters for a medical appointment with Dr. Phina, our medical officer. She ordered a few tests. Turns out I not only had a cold, I also had a lower respiratory bacterial infection that could have lead to pneumonia if left untreated. Great. She gave me a week’s worth of Cipro and recommended getting lots of rest and drinking lots of fluids. I’m feeling a lot better now, but I’m really looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at work.
Let the church say “Amen”!
“Amen!” Or, as the Fijians say, “Ameni!”
Attending church is paramount for many Fijians. For many of them, their social and personal lives are intertwined with their religious beliefs. Fijians and I have that in common though I think they have a religious fervor that I haven’t experienced before, but I admire. I found a new church that I think will be my home church here in Suva. Ever since we arrived in the city I’ve been asking around about the different churches here. I hadn’t been to an English church service since arriving in Fiji so finding a church that I felt comfortable in was very important to me. Although a lot of people advised that I should go to a Fijian-speaking church to immerse myself in the language I really want to attend a church where I can just focus on the message and grow spiritually. Does this mean I won’t attend any Fijian-speaking services while in Suva? Of course not! But, I do want a place of worship where I feel I can grow.
This is Namadi Heights Baptist Church.
I first attended service here two Sundays ago after being invited by the Country Director, Eddie, and his family. Eddie’s son, Chris, recently became a pastor here at the church and invited myself and another volunteer to come and hear him preach. I really like this church because the congregation is about as mixed as Suva itself. On any given Sunday you’ll find Fijians, Indo-Fijians, Chinese, Americans, Australians, and my chocolatey self giving praise to God. I think that’s a beautiful thing! The sermons have been very enlightening. Chris is a powerful preacher and I always feel enriched when I leave.
This past week I got a new letter emailed from my Correspondence Match! Click here to read their latest letter!
Mi casa es su casa
When volunteers come to Suva for official Peace Corps business the Peace Corps fronts the bill to put them up at the Cappricorn Hotel, which is about a minute walk from headquarters. Otherwise, when volunteers are in town to visit or to take care of other things they’ll stay at the house with Tricia and I. We love having house guests! This past week we had two. Miles stayed at the house for a couple of nights and Stewart (aka Siti) stayed for about a week and a half. There were also three other volunteers, Lauren, Adam and Reagan, who were in town. It’s awesome catching up with friends, taking them out to the movies, for drinks, and any of the other perks of living in the city.
Oh, and let me introduce you to our newest house guest! Isn’t he cute? He’s shy…
Hope everyone is enjoying their January thus far!