My last week in Niubasaga Village, Moturiki island is now over. Yesterday we left the village and, honestly, I wasn’t ready to leave! The final week on project was the craziest and the quickest – if you can believe that’s even possible after the insane few weeks I’ve had!
Things were shaken up a lot on Monday. We had our last day teaching at one of the schools. Moturiki District School (the trek school) where I was teaching, decided that due to their exams we weren’t going to go in the final week since the headteacher changed her mind. We were gutted as we wouldn’t get to finish off our work with the children and they weren’t going to let us do sports day either. It was also the start of kindi week and I was so excited, we got to do the opening ceremony but it sucks we can’t carry on all week as the plan was brilliant. It was frustrating and sad but it meant we could join the other 6 at Uluibau Primary (the boat school) and smash out the last week there, giving the kids all we could for our final few days. To shake things up further, what seemed to be a bug hit the team Monday. We had people throwing up left right and centre. The evening activity however was Bilo making! A bilo is the coconut shell cup used to drink cava. It was a lot of fun and I now have my very own bilo with my name carved into it!
Of course, I ended up getting the bug Tuesday morning and had to have a day staying home in the village. It was pretty gross but not as bad as how I’d felt the first week. The others all went to their first day at Uluibau and I stayed home reading. I actually finished the whole book in one day, it’s called Good Me Bad Me if anyone is interested and it was very good! It had been passed round our team during the project and we have all loved it! In the afternoon I spent time with one of the little village girls who was swimming in the water as I was reading on our veranda by the ocean. The evening was a family night so we played some cards and spent time together which was really nice.
Wednesday was my first day at Uluibau. I went into the kindi there and the contrast between the two schools is crazy. Here the class is 10 children as opposed to our 23 at Moturiki District (MDS). They also all do work, sit down orderly and can all write, read and work out mathematical pattern problems. It’s completely different. The children there were all so sweet. We also got to join our houses at that school to take part in house cup, although they merge two houses together due to how small the school is (only 60 children). Blue & Yellow house (my house) are doing Happy for Song & Dance. It was a very different day to an MDS day but it was nice still. The evening activity was basket-weaving which was SUCH a challenge but a laugh. I had finally worked out my basket and just needed the spine to be machete-d. Or so I thought. I took it to the villager who was helping us, one of the dads who was also the village spokesperson, and he redid the whole thing. Clearly I’m not destined to be a basket-weaver.
Thursday was our final day of teaching at Uluibau (UPS). We did advocacy presentations in the morning assembly and my groups was on Keeping the Planet Healthy with a large focus on Animal Welfare due to the Fijian culture being quite harsh on animals. It was an average school day but it ended on a high note with sports day! We set up loads of fun obstacle races, a relay race and ended with a tug of war! Blue and Yellow ended in front and the tug of war win was a huge celebration. We did a fun volunteers tug of war too and even though we had more volunteers in our house, the win was a lot of fun. The kids absolutely adored sports day and it was tonnes of fun for us too. In the evening we learnt our girls and boys meke and ours is so cute and fun! A meke is a traditional Fijian dance and we learnt a variation that symbolises Fijian National Pride.
Friday was our last day at UPS and also the end of kindi week. There was a big all school/village ceremony and leaving celebration all day. I was chosen along with the 3 other kindi girls to do a speech as the chief guests too. Surprisingly I wasn’t too nervous and it was really nice. We were given leaves round our neck and performed the leaving sevu sevu (official welcome/leaving ceremony) with the village and once the kindi week celebrations were over (a lot of meke dances by the kids and some kindi songs and drama) we had dinner as a group before cava and hop hop with the villagers. The journey home was the final walk through the swamp (thank god!) The evening activity was spear-fishing. I made the decision to not jump into the cold night sea and instead hopped on the viewing boat. It was windy and chilly and we didn’t end up being able to see much so headed back to bed around 11. The others were out in the water watching two villages with the spear guns until past midnight.
Saturday was village FUN DAY aka a whole day of fun and games with the whole village! It comprised of face painting, personalised bracelet making, a coconut shy and welly throw, a cake stand and of course, a raffle! I was in the raffle group and it was amazing! We raised so much money and donated over 100 items to the village. All the villagers loved it! We also did a ‘health hour’ where we presented talks on key aspects of healthcare to the village i.e. how to deal with cuts, CPR and importance of handwashing etc… Before dinner we spent the early evening playing a game of volleyball with the village. All our faces were painted and we were not very good but it was a good laugh and the perfect end to fun day!
For our last Sunday in the village me and 3 other girls got up for the 5am church service. It turned out that it was actually at 5:30am so we were stood around in the dark for half an hour but it was a really sweet service. For our last group church, and our farewell service, we all performed Stand By Me, which was pretty emotional. My family also sang a Fijian hymn together which my mum chose and taught us at breakfast that morning. It was a lovely service and they even did some readings in English. The rest of the day we spent resting, journaling and enjoying our last family dinner together.
Monday was our last day in the village and we were up early to head to MDS for our farewell to their school. It was our last trek too and everybody came which made it even more fun. At school we got to spend time with the kids which was amazing. Despite not having the last week with them at least we got to go and say goodbye. We danced on the field, played a couple games of San Mario and ran riot around the school for an hour before they provided us with cakes as a goodbye. We weren’t able to stay long and it was nothing like the emotional goodbye at UPS but just seeing our kids again made it worth it! We were back in the village for lunch which was our last family meal together – so of course we had some chillis! And then the long night began… we had a communal meal in the chiefs house and then our official goodbye to the village where we gave our donations. This was followed by our meke performances. The mums had plaited the girls leaves to wear around their ankles, wrists and waist and the boys had grass skirts. They went amazingly but ended with us covered in talcum powder (a Fijian tradition during a meke). After changing back into our formal clothes we did our farewell speeches to the village. The power had stopped working the night before so we had a few torches hung up in the chiefs house for the evening as lighting. Our family farewell was emotional as expected and then the evening cava and hop hop started and didn’t end until 6:30am Tuesday when we left the island. I made it until 4am with no naps and then crashed for a couple hours, but it was a long night and a fun one.
Leaving the village Tuesday morning was more emotional than I expected and yes, I cried a lot. I wasn’t ready to leave. It’s hard to explain how incredible this experience has been. Our time there wasn’t long enough and I wish I didn’t have to leave. As we boarded the boats and waved goodbye to our new families there were floods of tears. Nobody wanted to go.
People tell you that you get a new family when you take part in a Think Pacific project and it seems crazy that after only a few weeks you’d feel so at home somewhere so otherworld to your home. But it’s true. I have a second family and a second home now, and it’s all the way across the world in Fiji. If I could I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat, I cannot recommend Think Pacific enough. You really do have the experience of a lifetime here.
We are now back on the mainland at a resort for R&R. Tomorrow we head back towards Nadi so we are by the airport for the end of project and on Friday I leave Fiji – for now. I’ll definitely be back.
Vinaka Vaka Levu Niubasaga, you’ll always be a home to me.