The first month: Footprinter report by Ceri Thomas

Bula! (Hello) From Fiji.

When l arrived at the airport on the 13th of January my face was beeming with excitement – while my stomach was doing ‘somersaults’! As soon as l stepped onto the plane one thought hit me; l was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime!

Ready with backpack

After two days of travelling with only 1 quick stop – l was exhausted. I looked out the window of the plane to a beautiful view of palm trees, green fields and the shiny turquoise sea.

I stepped off the plane and was greeted by a group of young male Fijians dancing, singing and clapping at our arrival, it was so welcoming!

Making my way to orientation was tiring. The whole 5 days of orientation training was hectic, such a lot to fit in to such a small space of time plus the heat and jetlag – it feels like a big blur now, it was physically and emotionally exhausting. At one point l thought I couldn’t continue but l was determined not to give up at the first hurdle. Now I think back and realise some of it was beneficial, getting to meet all the other volunteers. We visited a school to get a taster of what it could be like – there we learnt a little Fijian. We also got to experience a bit of the Indian culture which is strong here especially in the cities-it was a fun night getting to dress up. We also went to a village to experience the Fijian culture and attended church wearing a traditional Sulu Chamba. Here is a picture of me wearing one…

Wearing traditional Sulu

 

After orientation had ended l finally got to meet my volunteer partner who l would be living with and basically spending 24/7 together: it was rather important that we got on. Her name is Marsha and she’s the same age as me. She is from Canada; it will be interesting learning things about Canada, as well as her learning new things about Wales. From first impressions she’s nice, a little shy (but we both were at first) with a sarcastic humour which l like. I hope over the coming months we get to know each other better and become great friends.

We made the journey from orientation to our placement with our local rep Hemen. We used local transport and got a little excited when we realised the bus had air conditioning! It is so hot here.

Pulling up at our new placement was daunting, seeing the big white building in front of me surrounded by palm trees and a swing set – it was nothing like l was expecting. We were to teach at a special needs school and live in the school hostel where some of the children live who come from too far away to attend the school otherwise. Walking through the doors we were greeted by Mamma Jackie, I breathed a sigh of relief as she seemed lovely, full of life and welcomed us with open arms. I remember her telling us to sit down and make ourselves at home as it was our home now too. She took us to our rooms and l was over joyed about how nice it was. We came out of our rooms a while later to find Jackie sat there with three coconuts ready for us to try. From that moment onward l knew I was going to be happy here.

Meeting Momma Jackie with Marsha

My first day of school I was so nervous and shy. So many children came up to me asking what my name was and what l was doing here. The head teacher introduced herself and got one of the other teachers to show me around. She told me to pick a class. I walked into one classroom and the teacher Elenoa said l could stay in hers, from then on her class became our class. I have the opportunity to teach the class and between us we work as part of a team. l am still loving the school, the children are brilliant and always keep me entertained throughout the day. I hope it continues for the rest of my time here.

With some of the schoolchildren

On the second day at hostel we met our host ‘Auntie’ Leilani. And met all the children living at the hostel, all 12 of them smiling and welcoming us into their home. Leilani was staying here with her family ‘Uncle’ Dan and their 3 children. They are a wonderful family and they have become very important to me. Getting to meet all these people has been a blessing. They are now my family.

One thing that has stood out the most is the food. It is an important part of day to day life here. They take great pride in preparing their dishes before eating them. Any event or celebration is greeted with masses of food. Fijians have some unique food such as dalo, rourou and lovo. Preparing a traditional Fijian dish…

Preparing a traditional meal

Preparing a traditional meal 2

I am enjoying the food here but it is very fatty… so I will be starting Zumba soon!

I hope l continue to enjoy every bit of my time here over the following months. So far it has been brilliant – a few hard times but l believe that has just made me stronger now. I couldn’t ask for a better placement or country to do my gap year in.

Will write my next report in a couple of months.

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