My Life as Paleni

Monday, August 21, 2006

Finally an update

Hello to everyone who is still reading this blog. Sorry for the lack of updates. This blog is for my life as Paleni and I'm reverting back to just Blaine since I am now back in the states.

Well, since I left Fiji, I have been just hanging out at my parents' place. In late June, my parents and I drove out to Norfolk, Virginia, to visit old friends of theirs. I lived out there when I was a kid. It's crazy how everything is different with so many new condos and such going up.

In mid-July, I took a roadtrip by myself around the Midwest to visit a college friend in Chicago, Peace Corps friends in Ohio and Pittsburgh, and old work friends in Des Moines.

At the start of this month, I started looking for a job. And, the big news is: I now have a job! I got lucky. I sent out 10 cold resumes and got back only 2 responses. The second one didn't pan out. I had a phone interview with the first company and then they wanted to fly me out for an in-person interview. Last Friday was the interview, and the next day they offered me the job. I accepted today and it's official. I did get a lot of emails and phone calls from headhunters looking for contract-only positions, but I only wanted fulltime positions (more stable). I focused my search on the Denver area, as I really love that area. I did get some contacts from companies in other cities.

The new job is with Amadeus Consulting in Boulder, Colorado. Amadeus is great company from what I saw and with whom I met. They are a custom software development shop using .Net. I'm ready to start as soon as possible. I got 2 weeks to find an apartment and move out there. I start on September 5.

While I was out there, they gave me a couple more days before flying out, so I was able to see a couple old work friends out there. But, now I'm going back, so I will definitely see them again.

I'll give you another update when I get out there.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

T Minus One Week

I have one week left before I leave Fiji. Last Friday was my last day at work. The company treated everyone to a free lunch at a fancy restaurant. The boss gave a small speech for my leaving. Earlier in the week, I sat down with the boss and told him all of the issues I've had and why I'm leaving the company. Hopefully, he will act on some of my suggestions.

Yesterday was the final of the Super 14 rugby competition. I posted when the season started that we were running a betting pool at work. We had a huge party at one guy's place last night. We put in half of the bet money for the party. We had BBQ and lots of beer. The match was between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes. I was going for the Crusaders. It was extremely foggy in Christchurch and could barely see anything on the TV. There was only one try in the match and the Crusaders won by 7 points. One of the guys won the betting pool and won $160.

In this final week, I will be doing some final shopping, packing my bags and cleaning up the house. My flatmate is moving into another flat with another co-worker. I'm looking forward to getting back. This chapter of my life is now closing. I've definitely had many experiences that I won't forget living in the South Pacific for 4 years.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Fiji Election Results

Two weeks ago, the 2006 General Election started with a week of casting votes and a week of counting. Voting didn't start out too well with almost every polling station opening 2 to 6 hours late on the opening day due to the ballot papers showing up late or the wrong ballot papers being delivered to some stations. There were also a lot of complaints of registered voters not appearing on the ballot roll, so most were not allowed to vote, or their vote was held for later validation. I don't know the total number of people that voted, but I believe it is less than the last election in 2001. The disturbing number is that there were 16,000 invalid votes. Luckily, there was no hanging chad fiasco, as there are no chads, but just ticks. Those votes would have probably changed the results. But, the incumbent SDL party won the majority and is the first party in Fiji history to win a second term. There are 71 Parliament seats. The majority votes in each division wins that seat. The party with at least 36 seats take control of the government and the party decides who will be the Prime Minister. The previous PM, Laisenia Qarase, has remained in that position. The great news is that the PM has offered Cabinet seats to the opposition party and they have accepted. They are still working out the details. The Cabinet will be sworn in on Tuesday. This is the first time in Fiji history to have a multi-party Cabinet. This is a very positive sign for the Fiji government.

Friday, April 14, 2006

New office building

The day after I got back from Samoa, my company was moving to a new building. I come to the, now old, office and everthing is gone except the desks and the servers. I turn off all of the servers and we use the company truck to move it to the new office. The movers came and moved all of the furniture. We were outgrowing the old office. We got an entire building to ourselves in one of the campuses of USP (the local university). They are slowly converting the campus to an IT campus. We got one of the tutorial buildings. Another IT company moved in before us, and I assume others are coming soon. It's not in downtown as the old office, and it's harder to get to places and has less restaurants nearby. Hopefully they will add a coffeeshop or restaurant eventually when more companies move in. The building is nice. We need to add data and voice lines and do some small remodeling. Hopefully over the next week, we'll get everything unpacked and settle in.

Back from Samoa

I arrived back in Fiji from Samoa on Wednesday morning of this week. It was a good, relaxing trip. Didn't think about work much. I did everything that I wanted to do. I caught up with the few remaining volunteers I know who are still in the country. Also met a few of the newbie volunteers. I visited my old workplace. I had lunch with my counterpart who I trained while I was there. I had lunch at my favorite places. I had a small scare when I first arrived into town and found that Pinati's building was leveled to the ground. I thought it had closed. Luckily, it just moved down the street into a new building, which is much better than the old one. I had the very good grilled fish and oka (raw fish) at Seafood Gourmet. I, of course, had Vailima on many of the days while I was there. I brought back 2 full bottles to save for some future occasion. On the first Sunday, I went to see a movie with some of the volunteers. They were showing Sione's Wedding in both theaters the entire day. It's made by the same New Zealand Samoans that make Bro'Town. It was very funny and amusing seeing the Samoan culture in New Zealand. After a few days in Apia, I traveled to the big island of Savaii and stayed at a beach fale resort in Manase, the same place we stayed when my parents visited me 2 years ago. I just hung out on the beach and did nothing. I went back to Apia for one night and then headed out to the village of my Samoan family for the last weekend. All of the kids were bigger, including Paleni, my namesake. I believe he has never seen a palagi (white person) and he would instantly cry when he saw me. He finally got used to me the night before I was heading back to Apia. I just hung out like I always do in the village. Went to church on Sunday. Had to'ona'i (the Sunday meal) with my Samoans parents. I headed back to Apia and bought an ava bowl that I'll keep as a souvenir. I went out to dinner at a fancy seafood restaurant with the work friends who are still in Samoa and had a few drinks before taking the shuttle to the airport and flying out. I enjoyed my trip and am happy that I got a chance to get back.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Back to Samoa one more time

Tonight I'm flying to Samoa, probably for the last time. I took the last of my annual leave and visiting Samoa for 10 days. I'm happy to go back when I still have the chance. There are only a few volunteers left that I know. I'll meet some of the new ones who have come in after I left. I'll stop in at the Peace Corps office and suprise the staff. The main reason for going back is to have Vailima, the world's best beer, one more time. And to eat at Pinati's, the world's "best" restaurant. That line can only be fully understood by those who have lived in Samoa. I'll visit my Samoan family and see my namesake and see, I'm sure, how he is living up to the name (i.e. getting pudgy). I'll find out how much of the language I still remember, which wasn't perfect to start with. I'll visit some friends at the bank I used to work at. I'll try to get to Savaii and stay at one of the beach fales (Samoan huts). I'll let you know how it goes when I get back.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

This post is dedicated in honor of the great Silao Kasiano. Today, which is Saturday in Samoa, is the going away party for Silao. Silao has worked at the Peace Corps Samoa office for the last 25 years. He was kinda forced to resign by the central Peace Corps office. Either it was him or his wife, who also works at the Samoa office. Apparently Peace Corps has a nepotism policy. Silao and his wife, Ana, have worked together for many years in different sections of the office. He is the training manager and she is the head of administration. Peace Corps has known about it since they married, but decided to enforce it now. I hear they discussed it and they decided Silao will resign. He is content with the decision and I hear he has gained employment with the SIT program. I forget what the acronym stands for, but, basically, it's where students come on a study abroad program.
I wish Silao the best in his future endeavors. I know Peace Corps Samoa will be very different without him. He is one of the greatest people I know. Every volunteer first goes through training for 2 months, and it was Silao who was the father-figure to many a trainee during those 2 months. I know he has had an impact on many volunteers. He has treated us to many rounds of Vailima. And anyone who knows him will immediately know the title I gave this blog entry. "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" is Silao's most favorite song of all time. I'm sure every Samoa volunteer has heard Silao sing it karaoke. Everytime I hear that song, I will always think of Silao and the great memories I've had while in Samoa. The Samoa office is giving him a scrapbook and giving a slideshow of all of the pictures of him throughout the years. I wish I could have been there. There was email going around about donations and letters to send him. I hope they gave him the present that I donated some money for. Silao absolutely loves playing golf and the staff and volunteers were going to give him some new clubs.
Here is a photo of Silao and Ana that I took 3 years ago this month.

Update (March 8): I got an email today with an update. Over $3500 tala was raised from staff and from current and past volunteers. They did get him new golf clubs and a cash gift. They said he was lost for words when they presented him with the clubs. Here's a photo from the night when they presented the clubs. Silao is standing far left. The ones presenting are Matt, the IT guy, and Teuila, the medical officer. Here is a blog entry from a current volunteer who attended.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fiji goes to the polls in May

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that the 2006 General Election will be held from May 6 to 11 [Fiji Times article]. Political parties are concerned the Elections Office is not ready. They say the fairness and impartiality of the votes could be compromised. Parliament is being dissolved later this month and some controversial bills will not be debated until the new Parliament reconvenes after the election [Fiji Times article].

This will be interesting to watch, to say the least. The campaigning will kick in full force and I'm sure more mud-slinging will come out in the media from the candidates. They have already been doing that without a secured poll date. And when the ballots are counted, that will be the most interesting. I'm sure which ever party wins, the other major party will surely contest it. Let's just hope that everyone can respect everyone else and accept the decision of the citizens and not take it in their own hands.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Last months in Fiji

After much consideration last week, I have decided to leave Fiji and return to America. I gave my resignation letter yesterday. I gave 3 months notice as required by my contract. It's much more than the usual 2 week notice required in America. Three months is good because it gives me time to document everything and make sure everyone here at work knows what I know before I leave. And also it won't be cold in America when I return as it will be end of spring by then. I want to get used to winter gradually. And the Super 14 rugby will be over. My last day of work will be May 27. My plan right now is to fly back sometime in the week after Memorial Day.

My work visa expires in January 2008. I'm sure you're wondering why I have decided to leave now. I'm sure some of you thought I may never come back. There are many reasons. I'll mention the main points here. I turn 30 in August and I'd like to be able to start settling down somewhere. Get a steady job and buy a house. And eventually find a wife. Given the state of everything here in Fiji, which I can get into in other posts, I won't be able to live here permanently. The longer I live here, the more it will hurt me financially if I return to America to live. I still have school loans to pay off for one. If I work here and stay here long term, I would be fine financially with the low cost of living here. But, given I am a temporary resident and given the state of the economy and government here, there are many reasons why it will not be feasible for me to live here permanently. It is in my best interest to leave now and have more time to settle somewhere in the states.

I will admit that the main reason for leaving now is my unhappiness with my job. I mentioned this to my boss when I gave my resignation letter yesterday. I won't get into the details. Before I leave I will have a long discussion, I'm sure, with my boss about my grievances. Even if work got better, I would still leave given the stuff I just mentioned above. In my 8 years of working professionally, I have learned some things that drive me insane at work. I've always said I want to work for a small company, but I think I've reversed that decision. I want a job where I can work 9 to 5 with no excessive or forced overtime and be able to focus on just programming. In my jobs at small companies, I've always done everything under the sun, because of the small number of staff. I have learned that doing systems work drives me frickin' insane. I can do systems work, but I just don't want to do systems work. I enjoy programming and want to stick with that in my next job.

So, in early June, I will be returning to America. My plan currently is to crash at my parents' place, visit my brother, and hang out and do nothing for a little while. Then I will start applying for jobs. I'm open to move anywhere. I read an article that .Net programmers are still saught after even though tech job hirings have gone down. So, I'm sure I'll find a job without too much trouble if I'm flexible.

I'll let you know on here how my last 3 months in Fiji go.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

First Contact

... or, should it be "First Contacts"?
It's both. It's first contacts as, yesterday, I got contacts for the first time. And, first contact, as the first time my finger came in direct contact with my eyeball.
The last time I inquired about contacts, the doctor said with my stigmatism, I could only get hard contacts, and I didn't want to mess with that. Now, the technology has advanced, so I can get soft, disposable contacts now.
I ordered a starter pair a couple weeks ago and they arrived yesterday. I went and they showed me how to get them in and out. They were impressed with how fast I picked it up. I took them in and out a couple times to get used to it. I was hesitant at first to lightly press against my eyeball with my thumb to get the contact out. They showed me the cleaning and all that stuff. I've see all my friends do it, so it was just refresher. I wore them for 6 hours to break them in. I definitely felt them in there. It was interesting to be able to see and not feeling the weight of the glasses on my face. I kept blinking and stuff to re-gain focus. My computer screen was bit fuzzy and it wasn't with the glasses. Everything else was fine. I'll see how it goes over the next few days.
This morning I woke up and added a new task into my normal morning routine. Basically, I'm not wearing the contacts today. I spent 30 minutes trying to put the damn thing into my eye. It didn't work like it did yesterday. The thing kept sticking to my finger and wouldn't stay in my eye. I was doing the whole forcing-my-eye-open-with-the-fingers thing and pressing it to my eye and moving the eye left and right to get it to settle in there, but it wasn't doing it today. I got frustrated and gave up. I'll try again tomorrow morning. I still have to get the hang of it, I guess. If everything goes well, I'll order more to have on hand when these wear out.