Volunteer Story: Miranda’s Fiji Gap Year Experience
OK so I know you’ve been waiting. But I have FINALLY got round to, attempting to, write a blog. I think I have pretty much forgotten how to write anymore than a postcard since being on my gap year in Fiji but here it goes…
I’m sure every TP blog says the same but no matter how many times you say it, it will never quite be enough to describe Fiji, it is just INCREDIBLE here. It is truly one of the most enchantingly beautiful and friendliest places in the world.
The village we are living in, Nasesara, is just buzzing with activity all day long. You rarely walk anywhere without a hearty “bula!” being thrown your way or a smiley neighbour inviting you in for tea and/or food! Which is endless, let’s just say I am glad the first phrase I learnt in Fijian was “I’m full”. The children are the cutest, most adorable and enthusiastic children I have ever encountered, each one as endearing as the next. As I am writing this little Vakeri is peering nosily round the side of the laptop with a big grin on her face, having just attempted to get any remaining crumbs out of the bottom of a crisp packet, pretty sure she would have eaten the bag itself given half a chance.
After a being in the Kindi in Navuti for two weeks at the beginning of project, and hearing what the next few rotas have said about the progress the children are making, you realise how beneficial and crucial the teaching is at such a young age. It is absolute carnage in there…glitter, paint and glue everywhere, children racing about the place, jumping (most of the time affectionately) all over you, hanging off you as though you were their own personal climbing frame…Singing and dancing galore every morning with the kids and Laisa, their very admiral Fijian teacher!
School I could talk about for ages, but all I really need to say is that the few lessons you get with a class of Fijian kids, I took 6,7 and 8 with Adam, are unlike anything I will ever do. The mix of academic ability and the language barrier can make it challenging at times, but it is so so worth it when you realise the small impact you are making to each individual. Having children write lengthy and descriptive pieces of English is …Wow! Being called “madam” is also quite a novelty!! Everyday after school, build and kindi we do sport, coaching netball was an absolute joy, the girls are just brilliant. Despite playing on what resembles a swamp, with foot deep, smelly mud filling the goal circles at each end when it rains, no markings and scarily uneven ground full of potholes…The Fijian girls continue to astound me with their netballing ability. Barefoot as well! I can’t help but keep thinking how much they could improve with a proper court. ‘Zumba’ classes, courtesy of the lovely Julia, have also been a real hit in Fiji and now Paskey and I are thinking all future TP funds should be put towards “Zumba” and “Bikram Yoga” studios throughout the Lomaiviti provence! haha Every other Saturday we have also had Nasesara/TP netball matches against nearby villages, I was honoured to have been chosen as captain by the Fijian ladies and I hope my support and enthusiasm was enough to match that privilege. We have remained undefeated, which is so exciting, for me in particular as I am so passionate about netball. My description of the netball court before wasn’t an exaggeration, and I have got to say it is the hardest conditions I have ever played in. The ball is generally so caked in mud it feels more like a medicine ball than a netball, and every pass sent your way splatters your face….All part of the joys of Fijian netball… and the authenticity!!
I am going to fill you in on just a few special moments we have had and some of the exciting things we have got up to here. Where to begin….RukuRuku was a massive highlight, I was ecstatic throughout the whole thing, top to bottom. It required exceptional team work and with the love that surrounds our team, that was a doddle …Buddy hugs and the Barney Song are favourites of all team members. (Ann is the best buddy EVERRR!!) The panoramic view from the top was exquisite and being able to share that experience with everyone made it extra special. On our descent we clambered through yet more overgrown plants and roots to the inviting rock pool. Could have swam in that fresh, crystal clear water all day. Was such fun creating dams with our bodies across the rocks, to then release a cascade of water crashing onto our victim below, propelling them into the depths of the pool. Smiles all round I hasten to add…Our tea afterwards was delightful in the picturesque hillside “cabin”, and the CHEESE sandwiches and pineapple were a real hit!
One of my favourite spots, where, however cheesy it sounds I find I can reflect on the whirlwind that is my ThinkPacific experience, is the Sea Wall. At the weekend, when it’s blisteringly hot, whether alone or with a few others, I can sit in the dazzling sunshine beneath the perfect blue sky, write my journal, read a book or just absorb the spectacular view across the still, sparkling blue ocean. Dotted along the horizon in view of our location are seven of the 333 islands in Fiji, and it just doesn’t look real, like something out of ‘Avatar’. “ The other day” (yes actually the other day!) I got to join Julia and her gorgeous Fijian family on a trip to ‘Daku’…it was breathtakingly stunning, a long white sandy beach stretching the length of the coastline, which we had a leisurely stroll along after breakfast, her little siblings climbing palm trees to bring us coconuts and splashing about in the ocean. It was a very special day. I have become very close to her family and will miss them hugely.
I could ramble on forever about the people and their unconditional kindness…our night-time spear fishing excursion and the eerie, rusty shipwreck, poking conspicuously out of the water, where we were to catch fish, with just the aid of a torch and spear…the food and my endless meals containing friggin’ tinned fish, just don’t understand why it is a garnish for all recipes, even banana custard pie!!…The regular “Grog” and “Hophop” sessions in the village, the Fijians LOVE getting “grogged”, which with it being a mild narcotic, is no wonder they go by “Fiji-Time”! Understandably the uniqueness of a bucket shower or a bucket flushing loo wears off pretty quick but the basic, carefree village lifestyle is surprisingly easy to adjust to and I really do feel a part of the Nasesara community and am going to be so sad when we finally have to say our farewells.
It’s such a shame that we are coming to the end of our stay with the lovely people of Nasesara, that we have so warmly been welcomed into. I’m sure it will remain a part of us all forever. The people we live have come to see us as their family and neighbours, and that alone is more than one could ever wish for out of a project like this. It has absolutely flown by, but with the R & R stage ahead of us, at least we still have plenty to look forward to as a group before this incredible adventure ends.
Love to everyone at home,