If you’d asked me a couple days into Fijian life if I thought I’d ever miss a compost toilet, I probably would have laughed in your face. And though yes, I have been enjoying the novelty of a clean, flushing toilet, I am missing village life so much that even the compost toilet is included in these feelings.
I had such a routine in the village. Up at 6:30am, breakfast, clinic, briefing, trek to school, kindi until 12, lunch, sports/house cup, trek home, debrief, dinner and then finally at 8pm that days evening activity where you’d turn up already exhausted for the day. Afterwards you’d fall straight into bed and be out until the morning (or you’d go to wherever the kava was at that night). It was always a productive day, we made use of all the sunlight and it set my body clock into a perfect rhythm.
Life was simple, content and always fun. That’s how they live out there 24:7, 365 days of the year. There is always something to do and people to spend time with, plenty of food and generally very good weather (despite it being their winter). It was the definition of basic living but it was so fulfilling and I have come away appreciating the little, and the most important, things in life.
There’s so many things that I miss and if I wrote a list then this post would go on forever. I miss my Fijian mum, who loved to tell me of her trip to the UK in 2016 and all the things she did (as it turned out she had visited Windsor, my home-town while here). What a small world! I miss the village children – so SO much! I miss my kindi class and all the funny moments we’d have with the children despite them speaking barely a world in English – they were such characters. I miss how welcoming everybody was and how the women would always put flowers in your hair or leaves around your neck. I miss their music, how they could play the most amazing songs on out of tune guitars that were missing at least one if not several strings and I miss hop-hop (who would’ve thought!). I miss living on the ocean and hearing the waves lap against the rocks as I fell asleep each night, even when it as loud. I miss the ocean in general despite the fact I cut my feet walking to and from the boats on more than one occasion. I miss the little motorboats and the crazy trips we had on them every single day. I miss the stars at night, how they lit up the whole sky and the Milky Way was just there, visible with your eyes. I miss the trek to and from school and how we would play music and sing along while trudging (and slipping) through the jungle. I miss San Mario, the hand-clapping game the children taught us that became a team favourite and always got way too competitive. I miss so so much from my trip, like I said the list really is endless. What I miss most of all is how in a few short weeks this tiny little island, home to a particular small village became my family and my second home.
Nothing anyone says or tells you can truly prepare you for what village life will be like. Everyone has a wildly different experience regardless but even so nothing will be as you expect it and I mean that in the most amazing way.
You will come away with stories that sound like fantasy. They sound like they’ve come straight off the page of a tropical adventure book. Every little detail you tell will be gasped at and marvelled over but to you, that’s just home. That was just what life became, the daily routing you slipped into. All the wild adventures and crazy experiences became normal. Don’t get me wrong, they will always be magical but they were just the sort of amazing things you would do in Fiji. You want to jump off the boat in your clothes and swim around in crystal clear turquoise waters in the middle of the ocean – sure go ahead! To anyone that may sound crazy, but that’s just Fiji life!
I miss the lessons it taught me. It taught me so much about love, strength, courage, confidence, positivity and resilience. I miss the way I felt so at ease there in a place that was at first so foreign from everything I’ve ever known. I miss how it tested me every single day and how there was a challenge around every corner. I miss how it pushed me to fight through any fears and worry and just get on with it.
If living in Fiji taught me anything, it was that you should always take hold on whatever opportunity is in front of you and throw yourself into it completely and utterly because as cliche as it sounds you only get one shot at life, so why not try everything? Anytime I had a worry or anxiety popped up telling me to not jump into the sea because my clothes would be soaked, would I have time to wash them, would I sink too deep when I jump and struggle back up, was I a strong enough swimmer, how would I get back in the boat etc etc… I immediately threw them to the back of my mind because the one thing I knew was I had to give my all in everything and just take part in every moment and enjoy everything I have out there because it won’t last forever.
I did it. I still can’t believe I really did it but here I am. Back in my western life. Flushing toilets and all.
I turned around 2 weeks into the project and told my team, ‘If you had asked me a couple days ago whether I would do this again I would have told you that I have had the most amazing time but I don’t know if I could or would, but if you asked me now I would tell you that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.’
You go through so many emotions on the trip. Your body gets physically messed up and sick. You are tired and always dirty. Hot and sweaty a lot of the time. You never feel truly clean even when you have a bucket shower. There’s a lot of things that really are hard. But having done it all and realised that actually this life isn’t too bad, in fact, its pretty amazing, I can’t imagine not wanting to go back to Fiji.
I thought I would have struggled more than I did. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t exactly easy, it wasn’t a quick change in environment and culture. It wasn’t the simplest adjustment whatsoever. But… without tooting my own horn too much, I dealt with it well. As someone who usually doesn’t deal well with anything that involves the slightest bit of change or stress, I shocked myself. There wasn’t any breakdowns or moments where I felt like I wouldn’t be able to do it (like I expected from myself). I just did it. I just took everything on the chin and embraced the whole experience and did it. I completely shocked myself and I taught myself that I can cope and I can do things. I learnt that obstacles aren’t something to lose my mind over, they are something to find a solution to. I learnt that I am strong enough and capable enough to overcome worry just by doing things. I guess there wasn’t an easy way out so I had to.
But I miss that fact I had to. I miss the fact everything was a ‘have to’ situation but how in the end, there were no ‘have to’s’ just ‘want to’s’. Everything became second nature, everything became your life.
It still blows me away how you can slip into something so drastically different from everything you’ve ever known in the short space of a few weeks, but when a situation is so intense and demanding and all-consuming, it just happens.
So yes, you can probably tell by now just how much I am missing Fiji and my village, my second home. You can probably also tell just how much it means to me.
I urge anyone and everyone who has any chance to see the world, challenge themselves and make a difference, whether it be to yourself, to others or both, to grab that opportunity by the hand and throw yourself into it with everything you have. Don’t let things pass you by, don’t hesitate. Just do it. I promise you won’t regret it. There is so much out there for us all to do and see, so let’s just do it, let’s do it all!