Qoli on the menu

All the different fish we eat on Kia and the sundry ways they are prepared…

 Ocean-fresh parrot fish (these guys get sold to high-paying buyers)
 Herring...enjoy smoked or deep fried...bones and all!
 Triggerfish...served boiled
 Barbecued barracuda head with a side of cassava
 Grilled baby barracuda
 Snails and crab in lolo (coconut milk)...with a lemon tree thorn for plucking
 Surgeon fish ready for boiling
 Smoked drau drau
 A sundry assortment of battered and fried fish
 Smoked herring...a solution to no refrigeration
 A massive pot of fish curry on community day

Kia Goings-on

The children had a day off from school and we took that opportunity to conduct a beach-cleanup on the island.  We collected several bags of trash and separated it all into types: plastics, metal, wrappers, glass, etc.  After we sorted all the rubbish we got creative and made some art…
 On the final day of the training some women from the neighboring village came over with hand-made garlands for the workshop participants who completed the training; they were absolutely beautiful!
After 5 long, dry weeks without rain, the rainy season is finally upon us.  Tanks were dry and people were coming from neighboring villages to get water from Yaro’s emergency tanks.  Now that the rainy season has descended upon us water abounds.  The once-dry streams are flowing, the wells are full, and new flowers are blossoming around the island.  Gives new meaning to the phrase ‘life-giving rain.’

Community Leadership Training

Life on Kia is swell; I am currently basking in the success of my magnum opus here on the island.  As of last week, I successfully designed, planned, organized, budgeted, and conducted a workshop for the fishermen and women of the island.  The workshop spanned 3 days and focused on marine conservation and the scientific principles that influence marine resource harvest.  The workshop was entitled: ‘Community Leadership Training’ and promoted our conservation mantra for Kia: ‘Preserving Sustainable Life.’  The fishermen and women here depend on marine resources.  Fishing is a source of protein and sustenance for families, a source of income, and most importantly, a way of life.  Preserving sustainable life encompasses conserving populations of marine organisms to maintain biodiversity and healthy ecosystems as well as preserving a harvestable resource to support a culture and a livelihood.  Workshop participants were christened as ‘Community Conservation Ambassadors’ and were tasked with sharing the message of what they learned to their respective demographic groups within their communities.    

 Day 1 was an introduction to marine conservation.  I talked about the world’s oceans, the people that depend on them, and the current issues and problems plaguing marine ecosystems worldwide: overfishing, coral bleaching, pollution, and climate change.  We talked about the causes of these problems, their impacts on marine ecosystems, and how humans can alter their behavior to reduce the intensity of those impacts. 

Day 2 focused on biodiversity- its meaning, importance, and the natural and human-induced factors that limit its presence and distribution.  We talked about endangered and endemic species in Fiji, the role of producers, consumers and decomposers in ecosystems, the importance of keystone species and indicator species and how everything in natural systems are connected to each other and how a loss in biodiversity compromises all these components.  
Day 3 was the technical day.  We delved into fisheries science and some of the fundamentals of population dynamics.  I stressed the importance of sustainable fishery management and the considerations that must be made when harvesting marine resources.  We covered local fishing regulations, techniques and methodologies, and the importance of using traditional knowledge to provide a baseline for monitoring marine resources. 

Each day consisted of a lecture, interactive activities, discussion sessions, and of course…food.  The ladies of the village specially catered the event and did a fantastic job.  They prepared authentic Fijian dishes for lunch and baked goods for our morning tea breaks.  They dressed up for the occasion, crafted center-pieces out of local, native plants and flowers, and served participants with a smile.   They did such a phenomenal job; their involvement added a special touch to the entire event.  
Even though the event was held for a limited number of participants, the entire community contributed to its facilitation.  One man used his boat to taxi participants from other villages, the children helped set up the community hall, the young men built an easel to hold the white-board, and women volunteered their dishes to be used for lunch.  It was heart-warming to see the entire community coming together to support our event. 
Each intern was responsible for leading a content-enriching activity to reinforce the information covered in lectures.  We constructed a marine food web and toyed with removing and adding components to the web to see how they influenced its flow.  Participants were particularly fond of the role-playing activity where we assigned them roles as different members in the community and gave them a scenario to contemplate that would drastically alter the dynamics of the island, both ecologically and culturally.  We reviewed a case study and had very productive discussion sessions.  Participants were fully engaged and asked many thought-provoking questions.  

Over the 3 days we talked about food webs, trophic cascades, nutrient cycling, recruitment, predator/prey relationships, endemic and endangered species, economics, supply and demand, waste management, ecology, wildlife management,  human dimensions of resource management, stakeholders, ecosystem services, reef formation, keystone and indicator species,  sedimentation, coastal erosion, fisheries science, and strategic planning.
Me with 'George', the chief of the village
I got such positive feedback from all the participants.  Everyone had questions, shared stories, and even asked me to conduct another workshop the following week!  Since this was the first time C3 had conducted an event of this magnitude, the participant list was restricted to 10 invitees, however, there was so much interest in the village, others wandered in and sessions often consisted of upwards of 40 people.  Participants were engaged the entire time and were so interested in the material.  I got compliments and congratulations from everyone in the village and encouragement to continue such endeavors in the future, with requests to conduct more workshops, more often, in more villages.  Overall, I am extremely pleased with the outcome of the workshop and consider it one of my greatest personal and professional successes to date.
C3 interns, local assistants, and newly christened conservation ambassadors
Me with workshop participants

Living the Island Life

It’s the end of the dry season in Fiji and hot as ever.  Next month will begin the rainy season and hopefully cooler temperatures!  I have been frantically busy planning and preparing for the Community Leadership Training workshop that will be held in our village next week.  

 Going to the beach in the afternoons is great fun; I get to see the myriad of colorful fish that the fishermen and women catch.  Everything from striped triggerfish to spotted groupers to speckled cod and streaked sweetlips.  I am amazed at the diversity of fish here.  

Living in the village you never get a break from being around people.  I live in a one-roomed  house with 4 other girls right in the middle of the village.  We have neighbors on all sides and people are constantly coming in to the house to visit with us.  The community is extremely close-knit and everyone knows everyone’s business, not to mention where they are at any given point in the day.  If you take a walk, people always ask you where you are going and why.  Every once in a while I manage to slip away and I hike over a big hill to the other side of the island to a beach sequestered in a little cove.  Whenever I need a break I grab my mask and my journal and spend a few hours writing and snorkeling.  Its peaceful there and I enjoy the solitude.  

 My private beach : )

Days are busy prepping for the workshop so my free time has been limited, but I have managed to find some free time for weaving and quite enjoy it.  I have learned to make a few different things and love experimenting.  The holidays are fast-approaching and the women in the village have been busy weaving new mats for Christmas.  We can hear them in the community hall from our house. They spend all day in there weaving and sharing the village gossip.  Every once in a while one of them says something of particular amusement and the hall will erupt with cackles and giggles.    

 My curious cowrie collection
 Went fishing and caught a grouper!

Some of the girls and I went fishing on the reef with the villagers and had a wonderful time.  The sea was a little rough and we got tossed around but had good fun slipping and sliding all over the boat.  I got to see blue-footed boobies on a nearby island, flying fish jumping and gliding over the water and some beautiful tropical fish in the waters below. 

Living on an island is a double-edged sword.  There are things I love about it…waking up to the ocean every morning, drinking from fresh coconuts on the beach, living in a village, beachcombing, and snorkeling, but I definitely get island fever and long for the conveniences and amenities of the mainland.