Living and working in Suva

Posted on 13 August 2007

I spent most of my time in Suva, the capital of the Fiji Islands. My work for the Climate Change Programme with the WWF South Pacific Programme gave me the possibility to use my skills in communication work and also the chance to learn a lot about working in the Pacific, improve my English and of course to learn much about the theoretical and practical background of climate change. It was important for me to see how this international NGO works and be a part of it.
I spent most of my time in Fiji Suva, the capital of the Fiji Islands. At daytime I worked in the WWF SPP office, in 5 minutes walking distance to my appartment. My work for the Climate Change Programme gave me the possibility to use my skills in communication work and also the chance to learn a lot about working in the Pacific, train my English and of course to learn much about the theoretical and practical background of climate change. It was important for me to see how this international NGO works and be a part of this system. I was able to use all my experiences I made during the field trips to write reports and stories to share me knowledge with other people. This great combination of learning, realising my projects and coming up with new ideas was characteristic for my internship. The friendly and open minded atmosphere of the whole WWF SPP Team and especially working together with my boss, Diane, made this experience so enriching for me. And it was fun!

Intercultural exchange was very important for me. My German lunch informed my colleagues about the German culture. I did a presentation about Germany and cooked traditional German food for them.

My appartment

I liked my appartment. There was one bedroom and a very nice living room with a kitchen. I decorated the whole apartment with personal things to feel at home. For example I had a poster with a famous castle in Berlin, at Xmas time a self made advent calendar from my sister and photos from my family and friends. In my wardrobe there were only colorful summer cloths and lots of Flip Flops (a must in Fiji). After my field trips even some new things were joining the ones from home: for example a handmade fan from Kabara, other Shells from trips to the beach and a paper knife from the handicraft market in Suva. So this apartment reflects my Fiji experience: I came to Fiji taking my experiences from home with me to enrich them with new ones.

The Indo-Fijian wedding

After spending a lot of time during the Kabara trip with Ash, the Communications Coordinator of WWF SPP, and having exciting conversation she became more than a colleague. Meetings of the Rotaract Club, shopping or just talking was a nice way to get to now Ash and the Indo-Fijian culture (nearly half of the people living in Fiji have an Indian background). The highlight: Ash took me to an Indo-Fijian wedding. Hours before we had to leave we met in her flat. It took some time until we found the perfect clothes for me: a Sari! Wrapped in this lovely dress we had a good time at the wedding that normally lasts three days. We only joined in for the last evening. The ceremonies, Indian music and the vegetarian food made me feel like being in ‘little India’. Even if this cultural differences leads to political problems - I think it is enriching for every country to unite people with various cultural backgrounds.

Suva at the week-end

Suva offers some very nice activities for leisure time and I was more than happy to share lots of them with interesting people I met. We spend the weekends taking a ride to a beach or going to town and do our shopping at the market, watching a movie in the cinema, playing games or sitting in little cafés. I also visited the Fiji Museum that explains the Fijian history with a lot of details. But in the evening it was party time! Most famous: Bad Dog Café and O’Reilly’s as well as the Traps bar! I spend a lot of time dancing with colleagues and new friends. After that we often went for a snack that was sold on the street (barbecue).


The end and a new beginning

When I arrived in Suva everything seemed loud, busy and strange. All these new sounds and smells made me realize: yes I am on the other side of the world. Now, after 3 months everything has changed. The streets are familiar and many people, too. In the city I regularly meet people I know and even some of the taxi drivers stopped asking me for the destination. They just say ‘To work?’ or ‘Home?’. ‘Home’ – yes. After being here and living here it feels like a second home. The nice places: Like the ‘Hairworks’ Café upstairs which no tourist knows or visiting my special friend at the handicraft market who sells me everything for local prices. Even my apartment feels like a part of home. This seems to be strange when I remember my first feelings sitting alone in the apartment without my bag and waiting for my adventure to begin. But most of all: the people made me feel ‘home’. All the nice colleagues and the time we spend together after work: game nights, dinner, partying, talking. And Shinta, the German-Indonesian girl I met. So I leave Fiji with a bad and a good feeling. Leaving all this behind and looking foreword to see my family and friends.

Altogether this was a milestone in my life - personal and job-related. Now I know what working in the field is like and I understand why some things are not like in my home country. It was also very enriching to get to know the Fijian and Indo-Fijian culture. I truly believe that only when you learn to understand different cultures you can understand your own origin. I herewith want to thank WWF International, WWF SPP and WWF Fiji for giving me this wonderful opportunity and supporting me so much. My work for WWF continues when I am back in Germany. I am going to write a part of a brochure as a consultant.