Thursday, January 13, 2011

TRAVEL WEEK: service and culture in fiji


Welcome to Fiji!  Bula means “hello and warm wishes” in Fijian, and it is a phrase we used much during our time on the Fiji Islands. Thirty students accompanied by chaperones Rajeshri Gandhi, Jesse Shaw, and Michael Wheeler departed for service work in Fiji Sunday, January 2nd and returned Saturday, January 8th. Nestled in the Momi Hills and looking out over Momi Bay on the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu, the Rustic Pathways Eco-Lodge was our base for the week and served as a quiet respite from our days of service work. Our week began with a catamaran trip to a small island offshore where students enjoyed swimming and snorkeling in the warm South Pacific waters. That evening, we experienced a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony led by a local village chief.  Normally, this ceremony is reserved for visits by other village chiefs and heads of state, so we elected our own Ms. Rajeshri Gandhi chief!  

The next day, groups provided service in local communities including repainting a public school, cooking meals for locals and seniors, and doing some plumbing and masonry work. The conditions were hot and humid and occasionally our work was interrupted by rain. 

At night, a cool breeze helped students and chaperones relax.  As we continued our service projects throughout the week, students also had a chance to interact with village children and eat and visit in people’s homes.  It wasn’t all work, however. Interspersed throughout the days was a trip to a five-star resort for swimming, a trip to mud baths and hot springs, shopping in Nadi, and a pizza dinner. The trip was capped off by a closing ceremony in which students shared their best memories and dinner at an Indian restaurant in town. Although it was pouring rain the day we left and road conditions were almost impassable, we made it safely to the airport, but not before we made some tearful goodbyes. We learned so much about this interesting culture and its people, and many students vowed someday to return. It was a great experience overall, and the students were able to make a positive impact in a remote part of the world.  

- Contributed by Mr. Michael Wheeler, Prep English Teacher

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