Welcome to Auckland!

Hello from New Zealand! We have made it safe and sound, despite all the stress of travel. We are so excited to be here, though we do miss our Fijian family terribly. Our last week in Nananu was wonderful: chock full of family time, kava, and mangoes. We spent our days continuing work on the community center (or doing the best we could, the Fijians bested us a bit), with breaks for a few field trips. We spent a day visiting the Fiji water plant, grilling them about their shady, secret policies, and then hit the beach. We visited a beautiful resort called Voli Voli where we swam in the ocean, relaxed on the beach, spent far too much money on food, and just got some much needed rest. There was also a day this week during which we all went up to the school to visit the kids and classes. It was incredible to see how committed and brilliant the teachers were-it definitely instills hope that SOME do care about the importance of education. Not to mention, we got to play games with the little ones, which is always a blast. Our last day in Fiji was “family day”. We all spent the day with each of our respective families, in our pairs of 2. Family day largely involves feasting on some of the most delicious, home cooked meals you will ever consume, and drinking kava from dusk until dawn. In the evening, we had a fantastic dinner with the chief and minister, representing the town elders, followed by a goodbye “Sevu Sevu” ceremony, and an all-night dance party. For the occasion, our Naus (mothers) made us traditional outfits; a skirt, shirt pair for girls (which are made of the same pattern and referred to as a dress despite the lack of article attachment) and button downs for the guys. Each family pair had matching outfits. We were also given hand-made garlands out of beautiful flowers, such as the Bua (pronounced Mbua), a lovely, white flower found on the trees. The generosity never ends-despite how little they may have, they always did everything they could to make us feel welcome and respected. The ceremony and dinner were wonderful, and the party a blast. It was an all night deal, and threats were made to tie us to a tree if we tried to sneak off. Some of us took a brief star-gazing break here and there, because it was too perfect to pass up. They are so bright and stunning-it’s like they are painted on your retina. Personally, I called it a night around 4am, though some left earlier and later. The next morning, we said goodbye to Nananu and it’s people and set of; on to the next adventure. I was caught off guard at how sad I truly was-as we pulled out, smushed into the back of a truck with all our bags, watching them wave and yell “moce! (pronounced moTHe, meaning “goodbye”) many of us, myself included, couldn’t help but cry. These kind, beautiful people really DID become our families, opening their homes, lives, and hearts to us. The day involved bus after bus until we reached our hostel in Nadi. As sad as we were to leave Nananu, I can’t deny our excitement upon seeing that we were staying ON the beach, with access to the full amenities of the next door resort. Beach, pool, food, hammocks, everything. They had performances, at night, including fire dancing. As impressive as it was, I couldn’t help but feel fraudulent: after such an authentic, real Fiji experience, it was clearly such a farce put on for tourist entertainment. We had fun with it, though, and appreciated the varying aspects of our Fiji stay. It was a pretty great 2 days, even though we left a bit (or a lot) sunburned. Yesterday morning, we woke up bright and early to head to Auckland! We had a bit of a roundabout trip-flight to Sydney, layover, flight to Auckland-and there was some visa debacle, but it all got worked out and we arrived around 10:00pm. We were wiped when we reached our hostel, but the excitement of being in a city, not to mention a city in NEW ZEALAND, overtook our exhaustion and we headed out for a bit of exploring. Today is our first full day and were all itching to get going! More to come soon!

Cheers, Mate!