Bula! We’ve been in Fiji for nearly two weeks now and absolutely loved our stay in Nakuku. We were able to get to know such a unique part of the world that we didn’t even know existed. We dove into new cultural practices, including eating all of our meals while sitting on the floor, wearing traditional Fijian attire, and participating in local practices. On Sunday, we went to a neighboring village to attend a church service, spoken primarily in Fijian. It was beautiful to see different villages come together to celebrate their faith. It was very central to their community. Everyone was surprised and honored to wear the formal traditional attire provided by their host family for the church service. Another tradition we were able to be a part of was a cava circle. Cava is a locally grown plant, from which the root is used to make a drink central to Fijian ceremonies. Today however, it is often used as a social event in which people from villages around come together to mingle, dance, and drink cava. Word had quickly spread that a group of Americans was staying at Nakuku, and neighboring villagers came to celebrate our stay in Fiji.
Our main project throughout our time in Nakuku was the pathways we built leading between homes. From 9am-noon we would begin our days work by shoveling dirt, collecting wood, and transporting gravel and cement. One day, as if the work wasn’t hard enough, Tom, Doug, JJ, Nils, and some of the locals decided to race with the wheelbarrows to speed up the progress. After lunch, we spent the afternoons bending wire and pouring cement. George lent a large helping hand due to his background in manual labour. A highlight for most of our group during this time was how well we were able to get to know the villagers. Everyone lent a helping hand and we created special memories with many of them. Similarly, we interacted with the village children every day when they came home from school. JJ made a new best friend with Paulo, a village child who was full of personality.
On Friday, we had an amazing day at a secluded and seemingly abandoned beach. We were thrilled to lounge on the trees that tapered over the water. It was also a special occasion because we were celebrating Kate and Mollys’ birthdays. Originally, when realizing their birthdays fell during our time in Fiji, we wondered if we’d even be able to have cake. Our expectations were shattered when they planned the most epic birthday bash of all time. Kate and Molly wore beautiful Fijian dresses and handmade flower necklaces and each had their own personalized cake. The decor behind their places at the table was a work of art that made us feel like true members of the community. Members of the group also made the day special for Molly and Kate by signing cards. Nora and Aislinn even created a birthday banner! After dinner, we had an amazing night of live music, dancing, and cava. Caroline showed off her groovy moves when she was the first one to take the dancing stage. Miranda, Lucy, and Olivia quickly joined her when they saw how much fun she was having.
To celebrate our departure, the villagers planned a special dinner for our final evening. We spent Saturday preparing for our final feast. We helped them harvest food and witnessed the unique methods of cooking they use. We didn’t think it would be possible to have a more enjoyable evening than Friday night, but they proved us wrong. Once again, the kindness we felt from the villagers was indescribable. To have a community share their clothes, beds, and traditions so willingly was absolutely beautiful. On Sunday we woke up with heavy hearts. We attended our final church service in Nakuku village and said an emotional goodbye to the village. The moment we drove away and waved goodbye a final time will remain in our hearts forever.
Molly and Nils