When we were on our way to Fiji, I didn’t know exactly what our stay would be like. Really, the biggest thing I knew about Fiji was that they had tasty bottled water, which is like their standard bottled water here. I knew that it was tropical, and that it had sunny weather and rainforests, but that was about it. I wanted to know what Fiji was really about. What lay within those vast rainforests, and upon those beautiful beaches. 

Our first day was hot and dry, which was a big change from what we’d been experiencing in New Zealand. No more sweats and sweatshirts. We met our first contact, Nazil, and he brought us to our first hostel, “Tropic of Capricorn”. It was right on the beach, so the first thing we all did was jump into the ocean which was really warm. It was a really beautiful and peaceful place to just sit in a hammock and watch the sun set. 

The next day, we traveled with Nazil to Suva, the capitol of Fiji, where we would stay the night. It was a very packed and bustling city. The next day we got on the overnight ferry to Savusavu, where we met with our second contact, Kali, who would be bringing us to the village of Nakuku for our welcoming ceremony. At first, I was uncomfortable, not because of how things were, but just because it was a whole village of new faces. It was a bit overwhelming. But as the days went by, I felt myself connecting to many of the villagers, especially many of the kids, who would always be asking us if we could play volleyball with them. 

After the first day of getting settled in, we began working right away on the footpath. The days were full of hard work, but didn’t feel that way because all the while we’d be cracking jokes with all of the villagers working with us. I found that I grew the closest to them during the time that we were working because we were all helping each other to reach the same goal. It was very special to gain that connection with the people that were hosting us so generously. And I always felt welcome in any of the houses, whether it was my own family or a different one. They would always ask me to come inside and have tea with them. 

The day I left Nakuku was a sad one. There were tears shed from both sides, and I didn’t want to leave so many people that I now would easily call my friends. So many special memories made in such short time. So many lasting relationships formed from such a brief encounter. To the people of Nakuku, I say vinaka! And to Fiji, I say that I will never forget you. 

Austin