Sleeping a few meters from the sea, watching beautiful sunrises over distant islands through coconut trees, my two adoptive village families, laughter, music, singing and dancing in the village hall will forever be my memories of Fiji and my six month internship there…..but there was so much more.
As a mature intern heading off for new experiences, Fiji was a perfect place to start. A newly acquired TEFL qualification gave a little confidence, but the reality of holding the interest of a lively, challenging group of youngsters for the full length of lessons in PE, Art and Music required a new set of skills, patience and enthusiasm. One to one teaching, helping those struggling in Maths and English was a quieter affair and definitely rewarding seeing progress made and the delight students showed as they achieved each small step.
Three months living and working with other volunteers and project staff, learning all I could from them, was followed by 3 months in a different school and group of villages as the only volunteer, where no-one had preceded me. It was nerve wracking going to live with a Fijian family away from the support and companionship of the other volunteers, but I needn’t have worried, the Headmaster, his wife (Deputy Head Teacher) and their two children were so lovely and my time with them was filled with laughter and fun. The school was well run and the children had all the right building blocks to speak English but lacked the courage to start; reassurance that mistakes didn’t matter was all that was needed for the flood gates to open. Thus followed much laughter, noisy classrooms playing charades and other games to encourage speaking English, quieter one to one sessions, plus the massive task of sorting through boxes of old books, setting up a library and initiating weekly library sessions for all the children.
All too soon my six months was over. The thing I was least prepared for was how hard it would be to leave, to say goodbye to two schools, my two adopted families, the staff and other interns and of course all the villagers - a massive emotional wrench but so worth it for the joy and memories which will last forever.