Posted by: Alicia Phillips | June 7, 2012

Saying goodbye!!

COS (close of service) season is upon us in Peace Corps Fiji. This is that time of year when the volunteers who are finishing up their 2 years of service start packing up and saying their goodbyes, leaving Fiji to go back home. This is an exciting time, a scary time, a hectic time, and above all a sad time. Not only are these volunteers leaving their communities and their projects behind, but also friends, family, and a country they have come to call home.

I remember when my group first flew in to Fiji on a hot humid May morning, some of the first people we saw were the volunteers who had already been in country for a year, who had woke up early to come and greet us. I remember during my pre-service training there was always the  volunteers coming in and teaching lessons or giving presentations on waste management, backyard gardening, MPAs, or holding a rural/urban panel where we could ask questions about day to day life. Through them we got a glimpse of what we were in for. I remember thinking how integrated and adjusted they all were, some were fluent in Fijian, some in Hindi, they had done all sorts of amazing things that at that time I never imagined I’d be able to do. I remember how comfortable they all seemed in the heat and at ease they were in the towns that made me nervous.

I also remember thinking they all seemed a bit weird…….they were all just so darn excited to see us, none of them had ever seen an ipad, they kept complimenting me on how clean my clothes looked, they got excited playing the game snake on their ancient cell phones. I remember thinking I didn’t want to ever get to that point. But now, here I am, at the same place in my service as they were when I first met them, and now I can honestly say that they are some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life and if I can finish my service and be in the same place as they are now I will consider myself lucky.

It is so exciting to hear about what their future plans are. Some are backpacking around the world for a few months, a lot are going back to graduate school, a few have jobs lined up, a few have more volunteering gigs lined up, some people are taking cross country roads trips across America, a few are moving to different countries to go to school or work, and then a few are staying here in Fiji, either extending their service another year or because they have found legitimate employment opportunities here. Quite an ambitious group.

I honestly don’t think I would have made it through my first 6 months of service in Lautoka if not for the other volunteers who lived there, Megan, Janis, and Sara. These girls helped me through some rough times, whatever I was going through they had already experienced and they gave me pointers on how to deal. And my very best friend, Megan, showed me how to make the most of my time here with a positive attitude and a creative way to spend our free time. She introduced me to the tourist haven that is Port Denarau where we could eat delicious western food and swim at each and every one of the 5 star resort pools every weekend. She showed me how easy it is to cook delicious uber-healthy food, and she is THE best workout partner ever.  These lovely Lautoka ladies were the ONLY thing I missed when I made my move to Suva.

And then when I got to Suva and was at one of my lowest points, my roommate Claudia was there for me. She was like my stand in mother those first few months when I was getting back on my feet, always giving me advice or showing me a different way of looking at things.  I would not be the volunteer I am today if not for the volunteers here before me. I have learned so much about Fiji and they things that work and don’t work here through their experiences and stories. We have a new group of volunteers coming to Fiji in September, I just hope I can be as cool to them as the group before me was to me.

In the Fijian language Isa lei is a term that doesn’t translate very well to English. It has many different meanings, it could mean I’m sorry, or express sadness, it’s an expression of deep sorrow or sympathy, or it could simply mean so sad to see you leave. A lot of times Fijians will sing “Isa Lei” to you as you leave a village or resort, it is their farewell song.

So, Fiji Fre-8s Vinaka Vakalevu for all you have done, Isa Lei big time, good luck and moce mada!









  1. Nice commentry…love your blogs!

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