By Mariella

Hi family and friends! We have finished our time in Australia and have been in Fiji for the past week enjoying the sun, water and local hospitality of the islands. Commencing this part of the trip was a bittersweet moment because we had to part ways with one of our beloved members, Justin (aka J-Wade), in Sydney. We have missed his presence from the humorous comments he makes to his spontaneous hugs; we will never forget the wonderful month we had with him in Australia! On the 15th of October, we took a 4-hour flight from Sydney to Nadi on Sarah’s (aka Mack’s) birthday and arrived at the Fiji airport to locals playing guitar and singing happy birthday in a perfectly harmonized tune. As we waited for our bus to take us to the hostel we would stay at, Cooper, Pete, Latrell and Eric showed the locals how we Americans enjoy inflicting pain on one another by shooting coins at knuckles until they bleed and playing hand tennis until hands become bruised and swollen! When it did arrive, we were driven to a hostel with a beautiful beach and friendly feral cats (Josh befriended one whom he named Richard) and we spent one relaxed night there resting before our next day of full, intense travel.

On the 16th of October, we woke up early, packed our bags and met our tour guide named Nazil who drove us in his party van playing Fijian remixes of 90’s to early 2000’s American pop songs. As we traversed through the islands, he pointed out the sleeping giant carved in the mountains, took us to sand dunes and brought us to a shop to purchase our first ever sulus. It was clear to us from the beginning that Fiji is a beautiful place but the wealth gap between tourists and locals came as somewhat of a culture shock (we knew it existed but to see it is another story). For example, throughout the landscape, we would see gated community ads near local tin-roofed homes which were very much directed towards a tourist audience. Another realization we came across is the privilege we have of not worrying about the cleanliness of drinking water (in Fiji, Americans are not accustomed to the bacteria in the water and therefore, we sterilize it as much as possible). However, Sarah (aka Roman) pointed out how happy the local Fijians are with living such a simple life; it really does put our lives in perspective and give us a reason to be grateful for our own lives. Near the end of the day, Nazil dropped us off at a ferry we would take to SavuSavu. It was a stressful 12 hours of making sure we bought enough food beforehand to last us the long boat ride, making sure that we had enough of our belongings with us since we would have no access to our hiking backpacks and making sure we all boarded the ferry at a certain time (which wasn’t necessary since the boat didn’t take off until 2 hours later – Fiji time is not as reliable as American time). Pete who made sure we all got on the boat did such a great job under pressure and our team leader, Cooper, made sure we all stayed calm. Even with the anxiety of this part of the travel, Josh inspired us all to have a positive outlook on this experience expressing how lucky we are to have this opportunity to travel this way (“it’s part of the journey” as he put it). Another heartwarming moment was watching Eric and Sarah (aka Mack) play with two Fijian children (they are naturals when it comes to interacting with kids). Though many of us did experience homesickness and seasickness, we made it through and finally reached SavuSavu the next morning!

On the 17th of October, we woke up aching and disoriented but relieved. When we got to our hostel, we rested the whole day which was much needed. The only activity we had planned was to have a cultural and health safety talk with Sarah (aka G-Spice) and Matt (aka Paff). For the next week, we learned how to dive from local scuba diving instructors named Rodney, Cava, Gina, Timtam, and Maureen. Diving in Fiji is amazing because the visibility is so clear, the water is warm and the vibrancy of colors and variety of species underwater is bountiful. Everyone loved the experience so much; Caoimhe had a “Finding Nemo” experience of swimming through a school of fish and Josh went diving 8 times! We took a small boat to locations like Dream House (there were sharks and barracuda), Purple Garden (beautiful coral such as ghost coral), Turtle alley and Grotto (many many turtles). On the last day of our time in SavuSavu, we drank Cava with our dive instructors and a couple of NewZealanders we dove with, and we went out for a barbecue where we danced to live music. Though we are sad to be leaving, we are beginning a new chapter heading into a local village where we will be living in home-stays!

To all of our friends and family, we miss you all very much and can’t wait to share these experiences with you when we get home 🙂