Hello from paradise! This is our 6th day on the beautiful island of Vanua Levu, one of the two largest Fijian islands. Last Tuesday we said our bittersweet goodbyes to New Zealand, and were excited to embark on the next leg of our journey. After a brief flight from Christchurch to Auckland, we boarded our next plane heading off to Nadi, Fiji, on the island of Viti Levu. We were greeted on the other end of our flight with tropical music and custom lines! We were very excited to be stuffed into another van with our 14 packs. JJ might have suffered some slight hearing damage from the one working speaker next to his head for the long drive. The drive was absolutely breathtaking, the landscapes blew us all away, from the banana trees to the rolling green hills. We were all captivated by the beauty of this country and became eager to settle in and make this our home for the next couple weeks. That night we stayed at the lovely South Seas Private Hotel in Suva, expertly booked by Nora. It was an early night for most, recuperating from our time in transit and anticipating the overnight ferry we would be taking the next day. In the morning we strolled through the streets of Suva and soaked in as much culture as we could in one day. As Pierce pointed out, Fijian culture has made it customary to greet passing strangers with a friendly “Bula!” This word acknowledges strangers and says hello. Suva was our first time to soak in the nuances of this wonderful culture and we learned a lot from visiting the Fiji Museum during the day. That night, we boarded our final mode of transportation, the overnight ferry! Fully equipped with plenty of air conditioning and lifetime movies, the accommodations couldn’t have been more comfortable. We all especially enjoyed Aislinn’s constant commentary on the movies and Miranda’s advanced hair braiding skills. The ferry also had a open roof top deck that provided Olivia, Nora, and Lucy with hours of amazing star gazing. The time passed quickly and before we knew it, we had docked in Savu Savu on the island of Vanua Levu. We greeted our Fijian contact, Kali at 8:30 Fijian time, and took a quick drive to the village. In the village we are living in home stays. For the most part families are hosting two students per house, with the exception of JJ (who is alone) and Lucy, Caroline, and Molly who are being hosted by a single family. Despite the cultural differences and slight language barrier the village people are very warm and welcoming, going above and beyond to make us feel at home. We worry that George might never leave because loves it so much here. Even the children have become close with us, they’re so excited that we’re here and at times it’s hard to get Pierce and Molly away from them. Kate has even started teaching the local kids yoga!
We’ve done some great work so far and hope to keep it up. We have mainly focused on making concrete pathways through the village for safety purposes. Without these pathways, it’s very easy to slip and fall especially in the rainy season when it downpours several times a day; the ground becomes very muddy and slick. In addition to the paths, we have helped harvesting crops, cooking, and the general beautification throughout the village, with the occasional swimming break where Nils has always dove in head first with enthusiasm. The work has been immensely rewarding, despite the challenges of labor under the blazing Fijian sun with an enormous amount of humidity. The whole group has been especially impressed by Thomas and Caroline’s work ethic in the heat of the day. We hope our last couple days in Fiji continue to be as amazing as the past week week. Signing off for now!!! -Aislinn and Lucy!