Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

25th September 2015

Michael Sleeman final footprinter report from Fiji

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Seven and a Half Month (Final) Report

Bula everyone for the final time! Crazy as it seems, my time in Fiji has come to an end and I am now in the process of adapting back to a Western way of living (and a rather cooler climate) in New Zealand before returning to the UK to start uni. Im not entirely sure where this last two and a half months have gone but they have certainly been jam packed in one way or another. As ever, I couldnt begin to summarise it all into a report of a readable length but I will try and pick out some of the highlights and most memorable moments.

When I wrote my last report back in June, we were in the middle of a drive to get through the whole years coverage before the term-end exams began which, when you are teaching Maths and Physics (two of the subjects that the students struggle with the most), is no mean feat. However, I can happily say that, by borrowing classes from other subjects and conducting extra classes in the night and on Saturdays, we managed to do it with all of our exam forms (and almost with our non-exam forms as well). As you can probably imagine, it was fairly hard work for us and for the students as well. There was one day when the year twelves had three Maths classes in a row and another where I took five year thirteen Physics classes in one day!

Ah yes, year thirteen Physics. Thats new since my last report. About three weeks before the coverage was due for completion, it came to my attention that a girl who had joined year thirteen about a month and a half previously was in fact a Physics student (until that point, we had had none) but had decided to stop going to her classes. I had a few firm (but necessary) words with her and she agreed to resume classes on the condition that I would be her teacher. This left me with the near-impossible task of smashing through about nine weeks worth of content in just three and putting together an exam paper for her to sit. I did very nearly succeed in the end but then she was taken ill just before the exams, went home and didnt bother coming back to school for the rest of the term. I just hope my efforts pay off when it comes to her final exams this term!

The other thing that I was working on back when I wrote my last report was coordinating the Duke of Edinburgh programme in the school. Sadly, with the students being increasingly required to spend every spare minute in the classroom and negative attitude of the students towards any extracurricular activity that involved more than simply being allowed to play, the programme ground to a halt and I failed to sign off anyone for any of their sections (community service, skills, physical recreation and expedition).

When it came to the term-end exams, the results were similarly discouraging; none of my year eleven Physics students passed and only two in the whole year passed Maths (although to be fair, this is still an improvement on term 1 when only one passed). It would be quite easy to look at the results and conclude that this placement has shown me that Im not really cut out to be a teacher and that may well be the case but realistically I think I would need experience of teaching in a number of different schools before I can jump to conclusions like that. And I certainly feel that I have been able to contribute to the life of the school in other ways. Its just a little bit frustrating to have nothing to show for all the hard work and effort that has gone in over the course of my placement.

The term finished on a high note though with the annual fundraising carnival. The two day event consisted of a sevens tournament and a netball tournament accompanied by excessive amounts of grog (pretty much non-stop from the night before it started to the morning after it finished). On the night before, I was asked if I would be the Chief Guest for the opening ceremony which was a really great honour and an excellent way of bringing my service at Naiyala to a close. I finished writing my speech minutes before the ceremony began and I was more than a bit nervous that I would do the wrong thing in the wrong place (all the formalities were conducted in Fijian so I didnt really know what was going on half the time) but in the end it all went very smoothly. Both tournaments were won my non-local teams and the Naiyala teams fared pretty badly but it didnt matter everyone had a good time.

Outside of school, what time I had was mostly spent at church in Suva or with friends from church. I was quite lucky to experience a range of highlights in the church calendar over the last few months, from a visit by a Samoan choir/orchestra to a workshop with a group of visiting Australian youth from a gap year organisation called Year 13, to the annual fundraising bazaar, to a visit by the Archbishop of York who I even got a chance to talk with. In my last weeks, I also managed to visit a couple of other churches in the archdeaconry and meet a whole load more wonderful people. It did feel a bit of a shame making new friends and knowing that I would only be around for one or two more weeks but Im sure Ill be back in Fiji before too long

My final week in Fiji was spent frantically running around tying up loose ends; visiting as many people as possible to say goodbye; and seeing as much as I could of the area before I left. Amongst other things, I spent a night on Ovalau, another nearby island, where I was able to visit Levuka, the old capital (or the first capital as they like to say over there) and, of course, drink plenty of grog. I also managed to get a badly infected mosquito bite and so I was on a knockout course of eight tablets a day by the time I left. Fun!

Leaving the country was sad and I really didnt feel very ready to go. It didnt really sink in that I wouldnt be returning for at least a few years as I got on the plane and, to be honest, it still hasnt properly sunk in. I now feel very far away and detached from the whole experience and have been surprised at how fast I have readjusted to Western living. Of course, I will have changed in many ways and some habits are taking a while to get out of but I am certainly not struggling with the culture shock as much as I expected to. Maybe I should wait until I get back to the UK to say that! If possible, I will definitely try and return sometime in the not-too-distant future and can certainly recommend the real Fiji experience to anyone considering going. I also urge anyone considering taking a gap year to go for it it has honestly been one of the best decisions I have ever made and has been truly life changing in a very positive way.

Thank you to Lattitude Global Volunteering for giving me such a great time. Thank you to everyone back at home for all your support. Thank you to the Lord God for being my constant source of strength and guidance. And thank you to all of you for reading this.

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