Last weekend Elenoa and I took the 2 Week Special Volunteers to Mana Island for the night, and what a treat it was!!
I've only been in Fiji a short while myself and had not yet managed to fit in an Island trip, so it was a first for me too. I was blown away by the beauty and tranquillity which lies so close to Nadi’s coast!
On Saturday morning all 10 2WS volunteers plus Elenoa and myself waddled through the dark waters of Wailoaloa beach to a speed boat, and an hour later we left the speed boat and stepped into the translucent waters of Mana Island beach.
We were welcomed at Mana Lagoon with a traditional welcome song, each of us found ourselves a bunk in the dorm and then we hit the beach. Some of the volunteers made the most of the activities available on Mana Island – a couple of them went snorkelling and saw a sea-snake!! Rebecca and Euan rented a kayak and Bo, Steven and Zoe went for a long walk all around the island! The rest of us just parked ourselves in the sand and let the tanning begin!
We were recommended to take a walk over to the other side of the island to Sunset beach to watch, well, the sunset… which some of our group decided to do. The walk there was longer than expected however and they missed it! So everyone gathered at Mana Lagoon again and we enjoyed an absolute feast! The staff had cooked us a Lovo – the Fijian bbq – in which the food is slowly cooked in a deep whole in ground. In true Fijian style we all got a mountain of food consisting of lovo fish, pumpkin and sausages; there was some spinach-like green, dalo, noodles and salad! Too much for any of us!
After dinner we were entertained by some traditional dancing – which was part impressive, part hilarious due to a new dancer who didn’t know the routine and quite the clumsy announcer who kept introducing the dances in a way which non of us understood!! The infamous knife dance and fire dance were also performed. All of this was followed by a traditional kava ceremony. Kava is a traditional Fijian brew made of the yaquoa root. Kava, in short, looks and tastes like muddy water, but we all tried it and made faces and laughed and had quite a fun time!
The next day we chilled on the beach again, and before getting on our boat back to Nadi I led Meriel, Melissa, Jasmine, Genevieve, Zoe and Tess in a little yoga session which was quite hilarious!! Us attempting to do head stands really had the Lagoon stall amused!!
And then it was time to leave Mana Island behind and head back to reality, each of us a tiny bit browner than before J!
Last Thursday all the volunteers and staff in Fiji gathered together for our monthly social at Mama's Pizza in downtown Nadi! With all of our regular volunteers, plus the 2 Week Special volunteers we were almost 30!!!! It was a very large group and we took over most of the restaurant!
We gorged on veggie pizza’s with everything, Mama’s infamous chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza and of course the overloaded meat feast pizza… Yummo. As ever there were tons of leftovers again, but that’s half the fun!
A couple of our volunteers who have been here for almost two months are on their way out again, so it was great to catch up with them and hear some of their stories of volunteering and travelling… I think all of them have planned to miss their planes and never leave ;)
We also had a large number of new volunteers there, so it was fun to see them all getting along and planning their weekends together… the islands really do have great pulling power and no matter how many islands the volunteers manage to see, there are always more they haven’t discovered!!
At about 10pm the staff more or less asked us to leave (!) and we all dispersed to our homes away from home!!
Our 10 2 Week Special Volunteers who arrived over the weekend started their placements today.
They had an early start, and went straight to Namaka Methodist Kindergarten, where they spent the morning doing activites with the kiddies. The kids each coloured in a picture for a colouring competition which the volunteers then judged. They also played ball games outside and at the end of the day watched the kids say their afternoon prayers!
After lunch the volunteers headed to Treasure House Children's Home to start their painting work there. Mr Khan was there to supervise the work. The first task was to paint the fence posts in the base colour. It is amazing how fast 10 enthusiastic teenagers can get a job done!!
After ensuring all the posts got two good coats of paint the volunteers relaxed a bit and played with the kids!
Everyone was exhausted by the end of the day, but I hope excited about tomorrow!
Time is flying! The first 2 Week Special group arrived safely over the weekend and have spent their first day getting to know their host families and familiarize themselves with their immediate surroundings
Tessa, Zoe, Bo and Steven, Melissa, Meriel, Jasmine, Rebecca, Euan and Genevieve all came into Nadi town this morning for Induction and I felt like a tour guide as all 10 of them followed me around town!!
After sorting out passport photos and sim cards we all had yummo thalis and dossas at Shakti, and then headed out in our group bus to show the volunteers where they will be volunteering for the next two weeks.
First we went to Treasure House Children's Home to so they could see where they'll be spending their afternoons and completing the construction element of their project. Then we went to Namaka Methodist Kindergarten to meet Mrs Donu, the Head Mistress and get a feel of what is awaiting them tomorrow morning!
We've had lots of new volunteers arrive here in Fiji in the past week so we all met at Smuggler's Cove at Wailoaloa beach for a bit of a get together and to watch Smuggler's Cove's infamous Fire Dancers!!
Smuggler's Cove is actually a backpacker hostel, so the place is buzzing with excited people who have just arrived or those who are on their way out who have lots of great travelling stories and tips.
The volunteers all got along great! Our one boy volunteer was largely outnumbered by the 13 or so girls here at the moment, but quite enjoyed it I think.
The Fire Dancers came on and performed a number of amazing different traditional dances. Each dance originates from a different one of Fiji's many islands, and most of them are interpretive of the activities which are part of every day life. There were also some female dances who could really shake their hips at intense speeds, which really blew us away!
The male dancers also did a stomach churning Knife Dance, during which they did some impressing twirling and tossing of enormous machetes!
For the grand finale everyone had to walk down to the beach, away from the lights to watch the Fire Dancing. The show was great and the dancers pulled off some very tricky (and dangerous) looking moves with ease!
At the end of the evening the audience is invited to step on to the sandy stage and join in with the dancing - at his point the machetes and fire are kept far away!! A couple of our volunteers really got into the groove and danced a funny looking dance with the pros, much to the rest of the group's amusement!
Bula from Fiji!!!!!
I'm the new Country Assistant Manager for the Fiji Projects Abroad office and thought I'd start off Fiji's tripblog with some of my own first impressions!
First and foremost - Everything here so far is GREAT. I don't even know what to say about it. For one thing, everything is extremely chilled to the max... :) life happens in 'Fiji Time' ie, slow. People are so friendly. I can't walk anywhere without every other person on the street greeting me with Bula! (hello in Fijian!)
My work is really enjoyable - not the rush and deadlines and constant emailing back and forth and urgency as with my corporate job in London, but it is not without its challenges. I really have to take every day as it comes. Any event can restucture my entire day! A large part of what I do is running around town to visit volunteers at their placements or their host families. I love spending time with the volunteers and hearing their stories and experiences - each and every person who arrives here has a unique trip and sees Fiji through different eyes.
I'm also loving the host family I'm living with, the Khans! They are Indo-Fijians and fabulous. They have two children, a shy and awkward 14 year boy and a precious 6 year old girl, Sanaa - who is probably my 'best friend forever' in Fiji. She is also my constant entertainment! She is always smiling like crazy, wanting to sing to me, telling me ghost stories about the strangest creatures (such as ''a big bear that releases smoke from it's tail and if you smell it, it stink and you die''!!). Maureen, the mom spends all day cooking delicious curries and cakes and believe it or not there is actually a coconut tree in their garden!! They hire a local boy to pick the coconuts, and then Mr Khan slices them open with a machete, sticks a straw in and I have a cool afternoon drink!! No joke!!
The room I have here is the funniest little thing... it's separate from the house with it's own entrance and kitchen area (not that I've cooked at all what with Maureen's curries beign served every day!!) and little notices and house rules everywhere such as, 'If you talk on your fone after 10pm, please try to speak slowly'! and, my favourite - 'If you went out dating or picnic come back home have bath same time please follow'!!??
Nadi itself, the little town we're based in, is wonderful. It consists of one main road which is probably 10-15 miles long or so and lined on either side with anything you need - supermarkets, gift shops, internet cafes, Saree shops, book stores, curry stands, a 'Western' cafe or two, illeagal DVD stores, all night BBQ stands (the Fijian midnight, post-night-out snack, yet to be sampled) and Kava shops - this is the traditional drink here: it's made of the yaquoa root and looks and tasted of muddy water, but mellows you out and makes your tongue tickle. Rusty buses race along this road all day long, as well as dilapidated taxis, door-less mini vans and beat-up cars. The closest beach is about 10 minute drive away - and although everyone here says it's an 'ugly' beach, it's still pretty darn nice! Not too shabby for Pia... :) There is however a stunning beach (the most beautiful on this main island, Viti Levu) about a 40 minute drive away, but that too is apparently nothing compared to the smaller islands, as close as a 15 minute boat ride away. Still haven't made it to the smaller islands yet but hoping to do so soon.
And the weather - although ridiculously hot and humid for the first week I was here, it's perfect now. We are in Fiji's deepest winter nights so days are only at 28 degrees and the nights are cool(er) and every once in a while i need a light sweater, but nothing more. Perfection :)
I'm completely excited about the year to come - I think this will be a wonderful place to spend some time....
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