Posted by: Alicia Phillips | June 2, 2011

Staying Healthy (or trying to) in Fiji

Staying healthy in Fiji is a struggle. Most Americans think Fiji is nothing but fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and swimming in the ocean everyday………NOT so much!

There are a lot of health issues here; diabetes is a big deal here, as is hypertension and heart disease. And a large portion of the population is obese or morbidly obese. And diet is a big part of that. Most do not eat enough fruits or vegetables, instead they eat a lot of processed foods, drink sugary drinks, and add large amounts of salt and sugar to everything. Peace Corps staff told us that the average Fijian takes in a POUND of sugar a WEEK! And this does not include sugar already included in their soft drinks and cookies. Here it is normal to have coffee or tea at breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner.

I, like I said in my last post, have hit the jackpot and got placed with an amazing host family. They do not put sugar in any of their drinks, use skim milk (VERY rare here, most people drink full cream milk), eat a ton of vegetables, and very little red meat. This is very rare. Like I said….jackpot.

They have been teaching me how to make yummy Indian dishes (ex. Pumpkin curry, okra curry, French and long bean curry, potato and chicken curry, fish curry) and I made roti from scratch this weekend! Roti is like a tortilla, and it is used instead of silverware so you can eat with your hands. So I have been getting my fair share of vegetables!

I have also been drinking my weight in boiled filtered water. Seriously, I probably drink 6 or 7 liters a day. I like to think this is the reason I have not gotten sick yet, but who knows.  

A lot of the volunteers are not as lucky as I am. They do not have a balanced diet in their host villages and have not been drinking a lot of water.  Almost everyone is either suffering from diarrhea or constipation.

Another health issue among the trainees is skin infections. The climate here is so hot and humid; it is a breeding ground for bacteria. A few volunteers have already gotten boils, staff infections, and other skin rashes from bed bugs, infected mosquito bites, or other environmental factors. No bueno.

Unfortunately we have already had one trainee ET (early terminate). He decided this wasn’t what he wanted for the next 2 years of his life. Sad day, but it happens. Peace Corps said 10% of trainees will drop out before swearing in on July 4th. So that means 2 more people will probably drop out in the next month, hopefully not though.

So, how do I prevent myself from getting sick or hurt? I take 2 showers a day with anti-bacterial soap, I treat small cuts like they are 10 times more serious than they are, I eat a balanced diet, I drink ridiculous amounts of water, I sleep under a mosquito net, use bug spray, get plenty of sleep, and I try to be active and sweat a lot.

Sorry there are no pictures in this post, these internet cafes take FOR-EV-ERR. But, if you are not my friend on facebook, check out this link to my Peace Corps Training photo album:


Okay, until next time, Fir milegga!!


  1. Keep up the good work.. ie taking care of yourself ..Preventive medicine, I believe it’s called. They’ll learn by seeing what you do and (as a result are hale and hearty) Do you stress washing your hands.. at least rinsing them off more often. That’s one of the biggies! So they have running water there in the house. Guess the no furniture (tables) is a drastic change. Lots of exercise! LOL.. just getting up and squatting…. Don’t think these old bones could stand much of that any more. Tho I guess if you grow up with it it becomes second nature to do so.
    Love the pictures on FB. Glad I’m your FRIEND .lol.. Hope all goes well for you there.. and you don’t get sick. You’ve been pretty lucky, so far! A lot of the things you’re doing are just common sense but takes some effort and routine. You are your mother’s daughter!! a smart girl with a good head on her shoulders!! Bless you in your adventure over there!! Hugs Aunt LouAnn n Uncle Herb

  2. Alicia, it’s amazing for me to read your post. I was a volunteer in Fiji over thirty years ago, and, in those days, everyone considered Fiji to be one of the healthiest nations in the world where one could be a PCV. And we were absolutely right.

    I lived in an area that, at that time at least, was considered very remote, with no electricity or running water and hours away from any hospital or even stores. And neither I, nor, really, any other volunteers I knew, ever had much of a problem with diarrhea. Those of us who lived in the towns all drank tap water, and I drank water from a communal free-standing faucet. Indeed, we were told by PC administration before we began that drinking water was pretty much safe everywhere. (Yes, cuts needed to be attended to, but that is true in any climate that is warm year-round.)

    By the time I left Fiji after three years, I knew that I had lived there during something of a Golden Age, and after the coup of 1987, I knew the decline there would accelerate, but I am sorry to hear what you have described.

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