Posted by: Alicia Phillips | November 27, 2011

First Thanksgiving in Fiji = Epic Celebration

It would have been easy to forget Thanksgiving or to not celebrate it this year. No one in Fiji knows about it, it’s obviously not celebrated here, it’s 90 degrees and so humid you feel like you’re breathing water most of the time, most volunteers live hours away from the next closest volunteer and it takes hours on a un-air conditioned bus to get anywhere here, and cooking in Fiji is already hard so trying to cook American food in Fiji is even harder. But, if we don’t hang on to our traditions it would be too easy to lose ourselves and lose our identities here. So, my fellow PCV and town mate – Megan, and I decided we would not allow this Thanksgiving to go un-celebrated; in fact we would do the opposite and throw a huge Thanksgiving Bash!

Megan and Me excited for Thanksgiving

First order of business: Invitations. We wrote, drew, colored, stamped and mailed 25 Thanksgiving invites to all the PCV’s on the big island. Then, as the RSVP’s started rolling in, we requested people to claim a dish to prepare and to claim a bed to sleep in for the weekend. Anyone who has ever thrown a big potluck party knows how much of a fustercluck this can turn in to; and indeed it did. Rural volunteers’ lack of electricity and transportation to the closest town made reliable communication between everyone a little difficult.

There were 3 houses available to sleep at, one can sleep 10 people somewhat comfortably but doesn’t have running water past 8PM, one can sleep about that many but it has no furniture so everyone had to sleep on the floor, and then there was my flat, which can barely slept 4 (it’s tiny…).  So, the day came when all the village volunteers made their way to the big city (big for Fiji, small for America) for the weekend. I had 3 girls staying with me, so the first night we did what any girls would do on their first girls night in months….we had a spa day! We  read magazines and ate and talked about how awesome Target was all night.

Oatmeal masks, cucumber eye covers, Crest white strips and Nail Polish!

The next day was Thanksgiving back in the States (it was the day after here) so we all made Skype dates with our people back home. And we all took turns saying hi to each other families and wishing them all a Happy Thanksgiving. I even got a family portrait with mine!  Oh technology… Made me a little homesick, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

My mom, my nephew, my two big brothers, and me on the iPad!

That night we were celebrating a few volunteer’s birthdays and almost everyone had made it to town. The local people were probably utterly confused seeing so many kai valgi (white-skinned people) walking around in their town. I bet they got even more confused when we all spoke to them in their local language! Ha! We had almost the whole island show up! For dinner we had “make your own pizza” with rotis (Indian tortillas), tomato paste and local veggies; and I made a chocolate cake (I found a box of Betty Crocker mix in our market for $18 and HAD to buy it! It even came with frosting!!) and we all sang Happy Birthday! Fun times!

Roti Pizza! Yum!!!

Birthday Cake for the birthday kids!!

The next day was chaos. We cooked all day! We only had 2 ovens at our disposal, and one of those is a toaster oven. But we made it work and everyone chipped and made their own Fiji-fied versions of their favorite American dishes from back home. We had roasted chicken because there isn’t any turkey here, kumala casserole in place of sweet potato, mac and cheese made with pasta and local dairy cheese, mashed potatoes, and cheese biscuits. We also had a few new dishes like pumpkin, raisin and coconut milk soup, fresh pineapple and melon salad, and one volunteer brought vegetables he grew in his own garden and made a ballin’ salad for us. Two volunteers just recently returned home from visiting the states and surprised us all with cranberry sauce and stuffing mix and pecans for pecan pie!!!!   Of course, there is always the one or two volunteers who will show up with nothing to contribute and expect to eat everyone else’s food and drink their beer, however, we expected this and made sure there was enough to feed everyone. Most everyone chipped in and made something though and it made the dinner so much more fun because you knew just how hard everyone worked to make this dinner successful; it made the food that much better!

Megan and the FOOD!!

Dan and his delicious salad

We made a place setting in true Fijian style and ate cross legged on floor sitting on iba’s (woven straw mats), eating with our hands.

Dinner on the porch

The rest of the night got a little crazy like it always does when PCV’s get together after being away from each other for a while. But it was all in good fun. It was great to have everyone together in one place, hearing their stories and frustrations and successes. The next day everyone said their goodbyes and got on buses headed back to their sites, uncertain when/if we will see everyone again.

Everyone together, catching up.

Dance Party?

So that was my Thanksgiving in a nutshell, not what I am used to, but definitely something I will never forget. Eating good food with good friends thousands of miles away from home really made me realize what I am thankful for, and isn’t that the whole point?

Until next time, moce!


  1. Great post, Alicia. Sounds like y’all had a great time, even without my bread stuffing :-).

  2. Alicia!! That is so great! I am so glad you were still able to have a thanksgiving, even if it’s not what you’re used to. I LOVE the family portrait you were in on skype! That is genius and so sweet!! You’re amazing and I hope you are still having a great time! Miss yoU!

  3. Totally awesome, as usual. I can nearly feel the heat and enjoyed so much your beautifulloy descriptive narration of events. You folks seem to have a wonderful attitude and i sure wish I could be there with you. YOU, Alicia, are a true Berry offspring. You’ve apparently inherited the best qualities of your Mom and Grandparents.. I know they are mighty proud of you. Go for it, Gal.. We all have things to be thankful for, how good to see it as a ‘work in progress’..

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