Unfortunately, like all good things, our time in Namarai had to come to an end. The last two days in Namarai gave us a last chance to enjoy the village and to spend time with our new families. Thursday was family day and the plan was to spend the day at the beach with our families. To get there, some of the more adventurous families took bamboo rafts; others took the more comfortable option of a boat with an engine.
Once at the beach, there were a variety of different activities undertaken including football, rugby, snorkelling and fishing (very relaxing indeed). We then had a spot of lunch which included some freshly caught fish which was very pleasant.
Getting home was a little more difficult than we may have thought. Some took bamboo rafts, one of which broke its paddle half way back meaning they had to get out and push (well, jump in and push).They say a broken clock is right twice a day…in Fiji, a broken clock can be right all day and, true to form, the boat was an hour and a half late. Still, there are worse places to be stuck on than a beautifully sandy beach in Fiji!
In the evening, we had our official leaving ceremony, it was a day early due to the next day being the sabbath. The whole village gathered in the community hall to celebrate the occasion. There were passionate speeches from both the village elders and the think pacific leaders thanking each other for everything that had been done over the last few weeks. Then everyone sat down to have a meal together, each family preparing and contributing dishes to the overall platter.
Once the meal was finished, it was the volunteers’ time to shine. We all went to get changed into our traditional Fijian garb consisting of plant skirts, bracelets, anklets and head decorations. We then performed our meke (a traditional Fijian dance) we had been rehearsing over the past few days which went down very well. There was an unexpected ‘freestyle’ which slightly flummoxed some. However two members in particularly grabbed the opportunity with both hands, delighting the crowd with their, shall we say ‘unorthodox’ moves. We finished the evening drinking kava and dancing with the villagers.
Friday was our last day in the village so we chose to visit the waterfall nearby as we had earlier in the trip. A swim there was very refreshing after the half an hour walk up on a hot day. We returned to our village to finish packing and relax in the afternoon before our final evening spent with our families. Half the group had a big dinner together where it got very emotional when it became clear how much we and our families would miss each other. After dinner we returned for a final evening of kava drinking, and then to bed before our departure day. The other half of the group experienced a dinner cooked in a lovo oven – a traditional Fijian underground oven. The chicken gave KFC a run for their money! Their evening was also followed by kava drinking lasting until 2am.
Saturday morning was the most emotional time as our final farewells were said to our families before our bus departed Namarai for the last time. We have all had an incredible time in Fiji and will remember the memories of our experience of Fijian culture forever. Finally, a big thank you to our leaders Saki and Solo for keeping us laughing, and to Namarai village for the amazing hospitality and making our trip so memorable.
By Holly and Tom