The past few weekends our volunteers have been busy exploring the beaches of Viti Levu and their surrounding Islands. Last weekend was spent relaxing at the beautiful Tubakulu Resort on the Coral Coast for two nights.
So on Friday afternoon, after bartering a reasonable price for the local bus we crammed ourselves on (all 20 of us!) alongside what seemed like hundreds of other Fijians. The cool breeze was welcomed as we made our way down the only main road in Fiji, the Queens highway towards the Coral Coast. Offloading at Sigatoka we stocked up on supplies for the weekend then, squeezed into the back of a pickup truck for the final 10 mins of the journey. On arrival, despite the murky green questionable looking pool and the farm animals wandering along the beach from the nearby village, we were welcomed with four thatched huts 20 metres from the sand, a beach with crystal clear water to which we had completely to ourselves, chops and sausages on the barbeque, star gazing in the evenings, and excellent company. Who needs a swimming pool anyway when you have all of that? This quick getaway was greatly enjoyed by all. Not only was it a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of Nadi, but it was also a nice way to get to know, and welcome the new volunteers who had arrived during the week. We returned feeling refreshed, relaxed and some a little sunburnt!
This Sunday a sailing trip to Modriki Island had been planned – we were doubly excited because it was the island that the movie Castaway was filmed.... Wilsoooon! On arrival the sailing boat anchored 100m off shore, and those game enough were allowed to jump into the turquoise lagoon and swim to shore. Despite being way out of my depth, I could see the bottom perfectly through the crystal clear water. True to its form, Modriki was one of the most beautiful islands I have visited. Apart from being uninhabited, the sand was so fine and white, and was backed by a small forest of palm trees, to which I managed to find a coconut and crack it open with my bare hands!
From the point of the island where Tom Hanks looks out in despair and sees nothing but ocean, in reality, you can see six other islands from here! The afternoon was spent exploring the Island, feasting on a delicious BBQ lunch, and jumping, diving (and some belly flopping) off the sailing boat into the water as often as time permitted. As we sailed back to Port Denarau in the late afternoon, we were made to feel at home by the crew members, who even let me steer the boat for while! As they played their guitars and had us all singing along to Waltzing Matilda – the Fiji version (unfamiliar to me!), we all agreed what a wonderful way this had been to spend a Sunday.
The small delicate temples and green and white mosques scattered around Nadi and the countryside remind me of the religious diversity of Fiji’s Indian population. The main two religions are Hinduism and Islam, and just this Friday gone, all Muslims around the world, including those here in Fiji celebrated one of the most important festivals of the year – Eid ul-Fitr, a celebration to mark the end of Ramadan. The sighting of the crescent moon of the 10th month on the Islamic calendar marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid celebrations, which involves breaking the fast and eating lots of delicious home cooked food and sweets for three days.
Before the day of Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, each Muslim family gives a donation to the poor. This donation is actual food – rice, barley, dates etc. This is to ensure poor people can also celebrate in the festivities. On the day of Eid, Muslims gather early in the morning in outdoor locations or mosques to perform the Eid prayer. This is followed by visits to families and friends, giving gifts, and eating lots of tasty home cooked foods. In Fiji a majority of the celebrations take place on the first day, and I was privileged enough to be invited to not one, but two hot families houses for lunch and dinner!
The traditional dish served by Fijian Muslims on Eid is samai, a dish of fine, sweet vermicelli rice noodles mixed with warm milk, cinnamon, almonds and sultanas. It is tradition to offer this to guests when they arrive. Lunch was a delicious meal of rice and chicken, then platefuls of Indian sweets on offer for dessert. I left here with a full stomach, only to go straight to the next party where the evening was spent learning how to cook Dhal and chicken curry, dressing up in beautiful Indian clothes, helping myself to platefuls of gulab jamun and other sweets, trying to control kids running around high on sugar, and listening reggae music blasting somewhere in the distance. It was a great day had by all! Eid Mubarak everyone!
For the past week some of our volunteers have been getting their hands dirty in the afternoons by helping us renovate a kindergarten in Nawaka village, 10 mins out of Nadi town.
Turns out, half the fun always proved to be getting there; each day we packed ourselves into the back of a pickup truck and made our way out to the village. With the help of Mr Khan, the staff at the kindergarten and the locals we transformed the grounds into a colourful wonderland, first sanding, then painting the slide, swings, turn table, see-saw, and some of the building itself red, yellow, orange, blue and green!
Thanks to the this year’s two week special volunteers, there was already a beautiful mural on the wall. The teachers at the kindergarten and the chief of the village were extremely happy with the work the volunteers have done up there, so well done to all.
Friday was the last day of Projects Abroad Summer School 2010. We would like to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers who have helped out over the last two weeks and also to Nadi Airport School for hosting it. The support our volunteers offered is really very much appreciated by the parents and teachers.
We celebrated on Friday with some fun and games - a well deserved, country themed party , dividing the kids up into four teams; Fiji (of course!), Germany, the UK and the US. Unfortunately Australia didn’t make the cut this time! The day involved games, a scavenger hunt , a poster presentation on their country , and some outdoor activities in the heat of the sun, including octopus, tunnel ball and a paper aeroplane competition!
Some would argue home court advantage – but the Fiji team ended up winning the day by a mere two points! Well done Fiji!! In true Fijian style, we celebrated with a big lunch - sandwiches, fruit, cakes and biscuits, and juice. I was even lucky enough to find some Vegemite to put on the sandwiches though unfortunately there were no other Aussies there to share/understand my excitement!
Bula all the way from sunny Fiji! I’m Kathryn, Fiji’s new Projects Abroad Assistant Country Manager. I arrived over a week ago and wanted to give you an idea of my first impressions of Fiji and the work Projects Abroad volunteers are doing here in Nadi......
Five hours after saying goodbye to my friends and family and a very cold Australian winter’s day, I found myself stepping onto the steaming hot tarmac at Nadi International Airport. I was greeted not only by the humidity and sunshine, but also by the big smiles of Fijians in their Hawaiian shirts playing the ukulele and singing as I was welcomed through customs. I smiled and thought to myself, I think I am going to like this place. And luckily, in this instance my first impressions were r
Getting to know the volunteers was easier than I expected as a Social had been organised within the first few days of me being there. A mixture of volunteers from all over the world makes a recipe for very interesting conversations and a fun night. At the end of the evening we celebrated Mark’s birthday by surprising (and embarrassing!) him with a big birthday cake, yum!!
I am proud of the work our volunteer are involved in at the moment - Summer School is in full swing at Nadi Airport School. In many Fijian families parents have to work long hours, and the Projects Abroad Summer School offers the parents with a place their kids can go throughout the day when it is school holidays. Our volunteers have been doing a fantastic job organising a mixture of challenging educational a
ctivities and also fun games for the kids throughout the day. We are in the preparation for a big party on Friday to celebrate the end of Summer School, but also to thank the volunteers for all the hard work they have put in these last two weeks. Once Summer School is over, everyone will be heading back to their separate placements working in the orphanage, kindergartens and teaching in primary schools around Nadi town.
While Nadi itself isn’t the most picturesque town one thinks of when they think of Fiji –cars that have to dodge the potholes on the road, old busses that spurt out thick black smoke, and stray dogs scavenging for food in the drains and rubbish heaps; if you look past that and can appreciate the
little things – the sunsets on Wailoaloa beach, the amazingly sweet pineapple you can buy at the markets, the women strolling down the street dressed in bright sparkling saris, or the smell of burning incense as that encapsulates your senses as you walk past shop fronts, you will learn to love and appreciate this little town for what it really is.
Overall the warmth and generosity displayed by Fijians has been very humbling, particularly by my host mum Kay, who has gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and welcomed. Even with the little time I have been here , I think one of the biggest thing I will learn is to live on Fiji time and not sweat the small stuff. The relaxed lifestyle and the laid back atmosphere will be greatly welcomed coming from my life back in Adelaide. Vinaka Fiji!
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