Today I went to Nacedreudreu (Nathendrewndrew) Village with the health center to help with outreach. The dietician here is probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, so she had a super cool complementary foods lesson for the members of the Women’s Group. The village has a high rate of malnutrition, so she’s using it as a focus village for teaching to see if that helps. We all hope it does.
My self-appointed job was to take the kids somewhere and occupy them while she taught the mothers. In Fijian villages, moms never really get away from their small children, especially on school break. This way they could focus on what they were doing and hopefully learn to feed the young ones healthily, rather than get distracted and attempt to quiet their four year olds with sugared Milo and Bongos (crap junk food I’ve only ever seen here. Spelled Bogo on the package, so I assume it’s Fijian.)
I had a great time teaching hand washing; I did the glitter method, the picture method, and then we all marched over to a pipe and practiced. Scabies is rampant in this village, so the kids seemed to understand that what I was telling them in broken Fijian might stop the mila mila (itching), and they listened well. I also told them the soap I used was from America (SHOUT OUT, SICU STAFF! VINAKA!) and they really went bananas. We also covered the obligatory “brush your teeth” and “take a shower to avoid boils” health talks, too. The school-aged girls perked up, especially. They really did well. Smart kids make a teacher’s life very easy.
After that, I still wanted to keep them busy, so I went into free-day-care-mode and told them I’d teach them a game. “RUGBY?? RUGBY!?” No, this was a new game. Boys and girls can play this game together. (BAM GENDER EQUALITY!) I told them to sit in a circle and they did, and then I set about explaining the rules of Duck, Duck, GOOSE! This isn’t as easy as it might seem, especially in broken Fijian. I ended up resorting to translation by the village health worker, whom I suppose was present to supervise the kaivalagi (white lady.)
This is where it really got interesting. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to teach Duck Duck Goose in a collectivist society before, but what happened was truly astounding. The kids who stood up and touched heads (only after a toolou levu was issued to all present, otherwise touching heads in Fiji is a big no-no) didn’t say anything. Not one word. All of the kids on the ground automatically started chanting “Duck! Duck! Duck! GOOSE!” The standing kid just listened and followed along with their chanting. When the appropriate time came, he or she ran, with the permission of the group. The ground-sitters were completely in charge of choosing who was goose, and the duck-er had no say in the matter! And that was just fine with everyone!
I’ve been out of the States for a few months now, but I can’t imagine American kids playing this way. It’s always about who is “it,” the one who stands out and makes decisions about how the game will go. Kids fight over who gets to be “it” all the time. Never have I seen children unanimously choose that the majority will act as a governing body, without any dissent whatsoever. Even after I kept repeating (in my pushy, American way) that the duck-er gets to choose the goose, they continued. This way just came naturally to them. It just makes sense! This is how you keep your village alive! You make decisions as a group. You share everything, you look out for everyone. The individual doesn’t matter, you do what you feel will benefit the group. …And so, we, the ground-sitters have decided that you will chase this child, because we feel that you are a good match of strength and speed. Or because we feel you are so inadequately matched you will provide the ground-sitters with entertainment. Either is fine. CICI! (thee thee) (RUN!)
This is just another concept that I do not get as an American. We are so individualistic it’s hard to even conceive of belonging to a collectivist group. Individual freedoms are the basis for our entire country. The basis for almost every value I’ve ever been taught. And the way Fiji does things isn’t bad because it isn’t our way, it’s just different. Maybe this engrained collectivism is what’s holding Fiji back as the country attempts to move into what I see as an individualistic societal framework. It’s just not what they’ve been doing for thousands of years. (Probably also explains why Fijians of Indian Dissent seemingly adjust so much better to competition and what westerners view as productivity. They’re relatively new to this country.)
Enough rambling. I have a long way to go in my Fijian education. God willing, I’ll be lucky enough to learn more while having the time of my life playing Duck Duck Goose with some kids. It’s been a great day.