I have been in Fiji since Wednesday so that is about 4 days now and it has honestly been the most amazing experience of my life! This is my first time overseas and to be brutally honest the most scary part wasn’t even going to another country for 3 and a half months without my family and friends, the part I was truly terrified about was going through customs in Sydney airport without anyone to help me through it. And needless to say something went wrong when I went through, on my flight from Canberra to Sydney we got given water in tiny little bottles I didn’t finish all of my water so I just stuck it in my bag, stupid move Kaitlin! With everything else going on around me and everything I needed to do I completely forgot I had it in my bag and so I didn’t throw it out. When my bag went through the scanner at airport the lady held it up and yelled “Who’s is this?” I reluctantly owned up said I was sorry and that I simply forgot about it and she basically scolded me, I felt like a small child being yelled at. It was so so so embarrassing! But then I made it through and was able to find my departure gate and settled in for like 20 minutes before leaving Australia for the next 3 and a half months. Just before I got on the plane I was able to find a fellow volunteer called Blaise, we met at a pre departure briefing in Sydney earlier this year, it was really nice to see her again and just to know I wasn’t alone.
The plane trip was actually really good and took a far shorter time than I thought it would, only 3 and a half hours’. I had an adorable little boy next to me, he was 10 months old and called Marius, he was absolutely adorable!
When I arrived in Nadi Blaise and I got off the plane together and went through the line at immigration together as well then when we went through to get our bags we met another volunteer called Alison, Blaise and Alison are actually volunteering together on Motoriki Island. We got all our bags except one, Alison’s bag full of donations didn’t come through, we waited for a solid 45 minutes and still nothing. We reported it and it actually showed up on Thursday night, thank goodness.
The hotel we are at is actually really really nice, better than I thought it was going to be. It is called the Capricorn International Hotel. It has a pool and all the rooms are air conditioned. The Bure is where we have most of our talks and where we meet before we do anything or go anywhere. It is simply an opened air hut, complete with a thatched roof. I am in room 248 and my two roommates are the lovely ladies I have mentioned before, Blaise and Alison.
I get on so well with them it is going to be weird when they go off to their placement and I go off to mine. Actually everyone here is absolutely amazing, we are all so like minded and it really helps us all get along. There are only two boys that are here, Tom and Eldiflor (yes that is his name, he is Canadian), and Tom isn’t even doing a teaching placement he is doing a building placement it must be super boring for him listening to us talk all about teaching. There are 25 of us girls volunteering, 21 of us are from Australia, 2 are from Canada there are super nice (Heather and Mia) and then there is 1 from the UK (Cathrine) and 1 from New Zealand (Hope). Hope has just been to India for the past 6 months volunteering with latitude over there in a orphanage and a school I think that it is amazing that she has chosen to come here and well and do 2 different placements in 2 different countries in the same year.
The country of Fiji is absolutely beautiful! We went into a town called Lautoka on Thursday morning to do some fact finding and pretty much see what a town in Fiji is really like. It took us around 45 minutes by bus and the whole time all I could think was 1. How stunning the country side was with its rolling hills and rocky mountains as well as all the green everywhere, literally everywhere you look green! And 2. HOW CRAZY THE ROADS WERE!!! The bus driver had to stick his hand out the window to indicate that he was pulling out, people were stepping off the bus as it was still moving, the door or the bus was left open at all times. I know it is the norm here and I will just have to be like, oh ok cool not so big on the road safety, but for now it just seems absolutely bizarre and super unsafe!
The trip into Lautoka was pretty good, we were all very rushed which I wasn’t too pleased about I would have preferred to have taken a bit more time to just have a better look around. We were 2 hours late to leave because the guides who were going to take us we involved in a car accident that morning and hence leaving late, see what I said about the roads, that shit cray! The guides didn’t even end up coming with us because they were to shaking up by the whole incident, our guides were actually 6 girls from a local high school called Jasper Williams High School it is an all girls boarding school and the 2 Canadian girls are actually volunteering there, so it is understandable why there didn’t come. Instead our guide was a teacher from the school called Aqulea, she showed us around Lautoka.
While in Lautoka we brought our Sulu Chambas (if I can I will post a picture of me in mine). They are a formal dress in Fiji, they are worn to church and on formal/special occasion. It is basically a long skirt and top all made out of what feels like quite a heavy material. Mine is Pink with orange and white flowers, I think it doesn’t actually look to bad. I am actually super excited to wear it tomorrow when we go to a village and a church service.
We had our first real experience of religion in Fiji last night at our Indo-Fijian night. It was an absolutely incredible night. It started off by Tom climbing up the side of a coconut tree and collecting a mango and ended with Tom, Eldiflor and David (the old country manager) all in saris! When we first arrived we were greeted by our host for the evening, Vindi, she showed us around her house and that is when Tom climbed the coconut tree. The house was home to a lot of animals as well, 5 dogs (one that acted just like Ceba!), 3 cows and one huge pig! We also tried unripe mini mangoes, which were very sour, it was pretty much just like eating a lemon with a different texture. Besides the sour mango the food was some of the best food I have ever eaten!! (sorry mum) But there was so so so so so much food! It started off with a small course of I don’t even know what but it was delicious, it was some kind of donut and some savoury thing with tea. Then we had prayer time, we walked down the street to a local temple before heading back to the house for more prayer and food, more food! This time it was more dessert based food so it was really sweet. During the prayer at the house Vindi went around and put a smudge on our forehead to say we had blessed by god, the whole ceremony was amazingly beautiful, all the Indians sung so well and just the words just sounded like they were out of a fairytale even though we couldn’t understand it. The music that was played was so much fun to dance to and just get involved; I played these like mini symbols and a tambourine at one point. But the best part of the entire night would of had to have been the dancing! We all danced, every single one of us! It was so much fun, we were trying to do the stereotypical Indian dance moves but there were only a few people who could pull those moves off (needless to say I was not one of them). However a close contender for the best part of the night would of had to have been seeing all the guys in saris! It was hilarious, Tom had a bright pink one and Eldiflor had a gold one on. But the gentleman that rocked the sari was definitely David, he is the old country he is retiring at the end of this year, it was just really good to see him enjoying himself and dancing and just being silly because so far all we have seen is David being more serious and strict.
Today we went to a school and were taught some Fijian language and teaching skills by Aquela, the lady who took us to Lautoka on Thursday. The Fijian language is actually really easy to learn, it is simply all about getting the right sounds. And the teaching skills were all things that I have done before or it is a lot of common sense. As Aquela kept saying, “A tea spoon of common sense goes a long way.” My favourite part of today was however the end of the lessons because Aquela said a little speech about how the work we are doing here actually means a great deal to the Fijian people and how much they truly love having us because the teachers often don’t have time to individually help the children so having us there gives the children more attention so their understanding of not just the English language but a whole range of topics can increase. Okay now I wrote that very poorly but oh well, you get the picture. It just made me really want to get to my placement and start teaching and doing good work here.
It is crazy to think I only have one more day of orientation. I think I am really going miss all these people but we will be venturing out into the real Fiji and that is what I am truly excited for!
Well I am about to go and wash my clothes in the shower for the first time, better get used to it but that is what I am going to be doing for the next 3 months! wish me luck, especially mum, you know how much I love to do my washing!
Sorry this was such a long post, I probably won’t write in the this much detail in the future but I promise to write as much as I can!
Also Happy Fathers day for tomorrow Dad!!! I hope you enjoy the bike helmet! 😀
Vinaka for reading this right to the end!
LOVE YOU ALL!!!