Fiji

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Airmail leaving Suva takes about six to 10 days to make it to its U.S. destination. However, it sometimes takes twice that for U.S. mail to reach Suva. If possible, items from the States should be mailed in padded envelopes instead of boxes. During pre-service training, you may use the following address: “Your Name,” PCT, Peace Corps/Fiji, Private Mail Bag Suva, Fiji Islands South Pacific. 

Telephones

All Peace Corps Volunteers in Fiji have mobile phones. If you choose to bring a phone from the U.S., ensure that it is unlocked and GSM capable. You can receive phone calls on your local mobile phone at no charge to you. You can call mobile phones or landlines in the U.S. for about 20–90 Fijian cents per minute depending on your local phone carrier’s plan. Also, many Volunteers who have Internet access use Skype or FaceTime to make calls from a computer at no or minimal charge.

Internet

There are several Internet cafes in Suva and other urban centers. You will probably not have regular access during pre-service training and it may be very limited at your site unless you are in a larger town. It is recommended that you insure any devices, such as laptops, that you decide to bring to country. Many Volunteers are able to purchase mobile Wi-Fi devices, which can be used to access the Internet from most sites.

Housing and Site Location

You will be living with a host family during your eight weeks of pre-service training in Fiji. You will soon discover that families are very important to the people of Fiji and that living with a host family can be both enjoyable and challenging. Going into the experience, you should definitely set some learning goals and make sure you are getting the most out of your host family experience—including language, culture, and other adjustment issues. Village houses may be constructed of palm fronds (bures) or may be made of wood, concrete block, or corrugated iron. Volunteers live in various settings, including rural areas, villages, towns, or urban areas. While rainfall is plentiful in most parts of Fiji, there may be periods where drinking water is scarce. Some Volunteers may have to walk short distances to carry water to their house. Traditional houses usually have separate kitchen and toilet facilities. Many rural communities do not have access to electricity, but most have at least a few hours of electricity a day provided by a generator. Electric current is wired at 220-240 volts, 50 hertz. Outlets take plugs with two or three flat pins (as in Australia). Some Volunteers may be placed on outer islands and/or in interior villages where transportation is by small plane, boat, and pickup truck.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

The staple foods in Fijian villages are starchy root crops, namely, dalo (taro root) and cassava. Flour, tinned fish, rice, curry spices, and dalo are usually available everywhere. In addition to dalo, cassava is one of the more pervasive root crops found in Fiji. There is plenty of fish available: fresh, frozen, and canned. Mutton is imported from New Zealand, while chicken is raised locally. Most fresh fruits (mangoes, bananas, pineapples, oranges, passion fruit, guavas, papaya, etc.) and vegetables (cassava, dalo, beans, squash, jack fruit, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, Chinese cabbage, English cabbage, chilies, tomatoes, etc.) can be purchased from local open-air markets. Depending upon where your site is located, you may find yourself cooking on a small two-burner gas stove, by kerosene, or over an open fire. Yaqona is the Fijian name for kava, a non-alcoholic drink made from the roots of the kava plant. The roots are ground and made into a drink that looks like muddy water. It numbs your tongue temporarily and has something of an “earthy” taste. It has a pleasant, relaxing effect on the body and may make some people slightly drowsy or even “drunk” if consumed in large amounts.

Transportation

Most of the time, you will travel on foot. Look to the right! Fiji is a former British colony and everyone drives on the left side of the road. There is bus transportation to nearly every community in Fiji, except for the outer islands. The bus prices are relatively inexpensive. Local buses (the ones that travel in and around town, or those that stop at every stop along a longer route) may not have glass windows. If it rains, you unroll a plastic flap that’s designed to keep most of the rain out of the bus. Express buses that connect urban areas usually have glass windows and may have air conditioning. There are also mini-buses (small vans) that carry passengers along the main urban centers and around villages. Until recently, they have not been regulated and have tended to be overcrowded and poorly maintained. Volunteers are strongly advised not to ride in them unless this is the only mode of transportation to your site. Taxis are numerous in Suva and they seem to make up the bulk of the traffic on city streets. Rides within town are usually governed by meter (the flag falls and starts the hire rate at $1.50 from 6 a.m.–10 p.m. and $2 from 10 p.m.–6 a.m.), whereas longer trips are negotiable. Most rides in town will cost $2–$5, depending on how far you are going. In rural areas, you may travel by carrier truck (lorry). These are large trucks with tarp-covered backs for passengers. Each side of the truck bed is lined with a bench that can usually carry up to 25 people comfortably. These are most often used by local residents bringing their agricultural products to market, in addition to passengers. Prices usually match the local bus rates. Fiji is a country comprised of islands. Chances are very high that you will travel by boat at some point during your service. The larger islands have regularly scheduled service, but all schedules in Fiji are subject to last-minute changes. Many of the villages on outer islands have local boat captains to bring villagers into the larger centers for shopping or to catch a ferry to Suva. There are also punts in some areas for crossing rivers. Volunteers serving in Fiji should be comfortable both on and in the water, as many assignments will require periodic boat travel. If you are uncomfortable with your swimming skills or have a fear of water, please contact the Fiji country desk officer or your placement officer at Peace Corps headquarters to further discuss this issue prior to accepting your invitation to serve in Fiji. There are two international airports, Nadi International Airport on western Viti Levu and Nausori International Airport outside Suva. Many of the outer islands have airstrips for periodic Pacific Sun flights and/or private planes.

Social Activities

Fiji has an absolutely beautiful natural environment, which draws many tourists to the resorts that are located throughout the islands. Villages and settlements usually have social and cultural events nearly every weekend, in which Volunteers may choose to participate. Often there is a traditional dance performed, called a meke, or an all-night dance party, called a taralala. Many Volunteers jog or walk for exercise. While exercising, women generally wear wraparound skirts (sulus), skirts, or knee-length shorts, depending upon their site. Sports are year-round and there is something for everyone. If you think you might want to play a sport, bring cleats or other equipment. Rugby and soccer are very popular here. There are many activities available to fill your leisure time in your community. Volunteers may also find themselves learning some of the local handiwork skills, such as mat weaving. The reefs that surround most of the islands here are teeming with marine life, offering excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. If you own your own snorkeling equipment, you may consider bringing it along or sending it to yourself. There are also many dive shops that offer scuba training, certification, and equipment rental.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

For women, dress is conservative and women cover up a lot more in Fiji than in the U.S. Ankle-length skirts are recommended. It is best to have them wide enough to sit comfortably on the floor with legs covered. Full dresses or skirts with modest tops and sleeves are appropriate. One-piece, loose-fitting dresses with no waistband are also very good for hot weather. Wearing shorts in public is inappropriate, except at resorts or other tourist areas. Miniskirts, short-shorts, tank tops, plunging necklines, midriff shirts that expose your belly, and strapless tops are inappropriate. Men are also expected to dress conservatively. Long hair or untrimmed facial hair on men is considered unprofessional to Fijians. Nice slacks and shirts are the most appropriate attire. Men often wear long pants in public, and long shorts are worn when doing outdoor activities in the village, such as gardening, or for sports and hiking. Nice-looking sandals are appropriate for both men and women. For those Volunteers who may work in an office setting, especially in urban locations, flip-flops are not acceptable at work. It is considered very rude to wear any type of hat inside buildings or in a village.