In July I started out on my first volunteer trip abroad, by travelling across the world to the South Pacific island of Fiji. Although I was initially apprehensive about travelling this far, I soon felt relaxed as I had a precise itinerary telling me which flight to catch and when. This had been arranged by the Projects Abroad travel team prior to my departure. As I arrived 24 hours later, I was greeted by two members of the Projects Abroad team who sorted out my visa there and then and arranged for a one night stay at a local host family. Here I met Kristina, the first local Fijian I had contact with. Straight away she was a hopeful indication towards the welcoming nature of the rest of the nation who I was yet to meet. The following morning, she woke up with me in the early hours and took me to the bus stop where we waiting, until the bus arrived. Here I started the four hour journey across the island to Suva, the countries capital city. Stepping off the bus I heard my name being called by Karishma, Projects Abroad staff member and friendly face. Karishma began my orientation around the surrounding areas and took me to my host home to meet my family.
With hugs and kisses my new "Auntie" and "Uncle" welcomed me into their family. They gave me a warm welcome party where I was quickly introduced to their Indian culture of using my hands when eating the warm roti and curry. This was a daily staple for my time in Fiji. The location of the house was close enough to school that I could walk, and a bus ride away from the capital. I shared a room with my Austrian roommate, as well as projects abroad being kind enough to allocate the same house to me and my travel friend from home. The house had everything I would need for my month. One important aspect of Fijian culture is that they like to make you feel comfortable, this includes feeding you three times your normal intake of food, which made me feel extremely comfortable.
I quickly got stuck into my project at a local primary school where I taught English to children from ages 5 to 16. I worked with slow readers and managed to graduate 14 children from my class, who now have the gift of reading. After a week in my placement staff members quickly asked me to cover their craft classes and P.E which gave me a taster of other areas of the curriculum. The most memorable lesson I taught was dance to 50 sixteen year olds. As a stereo player was non-existent, I played songs such as “Jai Ho” from my iPhone and improvised a Bollywood dance lesson. I think the smiles all around indicated the success. Staff from the school also invited me to social activities such as volleyball and cava sessions, which allowed me to really feel part of the team.
After a rainy first weekend in Suva, I quickly made myself known to other volunteers so that I could get in on their social plans! Following the advice to save the paradise island until the last weekend, I travelled to Safari Lodge in Nananu-I-Ri for the first trip away. Here I could snorkel and relax on the beach and think about the previous week. Every Thursday all volunteers would meet for a social meal and a workshop, followed by the weekly trip to Delaines, an Irish bar I where would stay and dance until closing time. Every week I asked for karaoke, which was granted on my leaving social. The final weekend I went to Leleuvia, the paradise island that dreams are made of. The serene coastlines and stunning white sands felt unreal as the electric blue fish darted around my feet. I looked out onto the sunset and felt had one of those moments where I appreciated the natural beauty of this part of the world. It was the perfect location for my last few days of my perfect trip.
To the Fijian people I thank them, for their generous nature despite having few material items. I thank them for being so friendly and happy, and having their priorities in the right order by watching out and helping each other. If I could give anybody considering volunteering with projects abroad, I would suggest they grab the opportunity with both hands and do not let go!