Archive for July, 2009

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

On route to Fiji


Bula Vinaka!

I’m writing this in 30 degree heat, passing time at LA airport, having just taken a very comfortable 10 hour BA flight from London. I’ve been up for 20 hours already and I have another 15 to go!  I’ll be boarding for Fiji in a couple of hours and I can’t wait to arrive in Daku and see the completed projects and the much anticipated ‘Daku-fest’ for myself! The updates from the TP team in Fiji have been fantastic and the amount of project work they’ve completed is truly immense. They’ve built the footbridge, renovated the clinic and kindergarten and built the village kitchen from scratch. Added to this, there have been so many hours of support for the local children through the homework classes, youth clubs and kindi classes,  and a huge amount of sports coaching. The team have gone volleyball mad,  coached the biggest rugby clubs on the island, started grass roots football training, introduced cricket to a great reception and started a revolution in rounders!

The volunteers have had a real learning experience and I’m sure they’ll all confirm that a Think Pacific expedition is definitely not a holiday! There has been culture shock and immersion into Fijian culture and kaiviti life, and they’ve all had to get used to bucket showers and pit toilets, but it’s amazing to see how quickly they’ve adapted and how settled they now seem living and working in a remote Fijian village.  There have been cuts and scrapes, mosquito bites, and upset stomachs and trips to the local clinic as our volunteers battle through the tougher elements of island life.  It’s been an adventure in the truest sense of the word; taking them out of their comfort zone,  experiencing the heart of the South Sea Islands, and overcoming challenges as a team. They’ve been trekking volcanoes in the rain, spear fishing at night and enjoying fancy dress bonfire parties in the evening. They’ve all formed close friendships with their Fijian families and really bonded as a team too, and they can all be very proud about what they’ve achieved over the last few eye-opening weeks.

Our volunteers now have their final couple of days  in the village and i’m sure it will be sad goodbyes to the people of Daku on Monday morning as they depart. Then it’s time for the adventure stage! Next week involves white water kayaking through the river canyons of the Namosi Highlands, camping in the jungle, a grog party on a castaway island and a well deserved beach bonfire, rest and relaxation by the pool in Nadi Bay.

It’s going to be a fabulous two weeks ahead.  I’ll make sure we’ve got lots of photo’s of Daku fest and the activities in Fiji to post when I get back in Mid August. Then it will be time for the Fiji team to focus upon the September expedition, and we have even bigger project aims, including a huge and much anticipated sports and youth festival, and even more adventures, including the fantastic tall ship sailing safari awaiting our three month team!

Loloma for now,

Simon

p.s. As it was such a nice email, I thought i’d share a comment from Robert’s family too..

…………………………………………….

Hi Simon

Before you head off to Fiji I thought I would take this opportunity to congratulate you and your colleagues on the great achievements of the TP team in the village of Daku. We have all followed the blog with great interest and have both enjoyed reading the comments and been extremely proud of having Robert a part of the wonderful work that you have been doing. Although the stay in the village has not yet finished, we are sure that the villagers will be very grateful for all you have been doing for them. We, Robert’s family, would like him to bring home the name and address of his ‘family’ so that,we can keep in touch with them.  Have a safe journey Simon, and once again many thanks for all your help with organising Robert’s trip. Lots of luck for your future ventures.

Love to all the Think Pacific members.

Glenis and the Livesley family.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Fiji volunteer project – Week three in Daku


Sunshine on Daku beach

 

Monday 20th July

It’s amazing how quickly Monday morning comes around, and after another very relaxed Sabbath there was lots of energy from the tp team. And after a weekend of storms the sun had put it’s south pacific hat on and come out to play! Jack was quick to get the guys working on the chimney so that the walling and top part could be completed, whilst Marianna, Sophie, Alexandra and Jessie started painting the window frames and beams in white…it’s the little touches that make all the difference! In the afternoon Patrick, Oli, Matty and Joe turned their attentions to the walkway, with more sand to be carried, gravel to be brought, and cement to be mixed by hand! The two posts on either side were measured, dug and set in concrete…hot work for the guys and a fantastic effort.

 The kitchen nears completion

Laying the bridge  first start on the bridge

 finishing touches   the kitchen almost complete

 

In the Kindergarten Hannah, Karen, Nicola and Abi were back in and ready for song time at 9am, with lots of ideas to keep the little ones entertained, including a 3-D box about the human body, with the kids faces, hand prints, foot prints and more all over. The afternoon saw the tp team start the much anticipated swimming lessons, with Rob, Abi, Nicola and Jessie setting of with the kids with arm bands, floats and goggles in hand! Despite a couple of nervous moments as kids struggled with the idea of staying on top of the water, and others trying to make a quick getaway, the lessons were a huge success and we are really hoping to get more kids out in the next few days. The team were also successful in getting Jessie wet, despite her best attempts to stay dry whilst in the sea!:). The washing club began in the afternoon, this is part of the educational programmes that the kindi teams have set up, from the laughter and giggling the kids seemed to be having fun.

 

kindi week 3  kindi class

Practicing dance routines for Daku fest 

 

After Tp vs Fiji volleyball match, which saw Matty, Patrick, Benjy, Sophie, Joe and Oli reign supreme, we geared up for a night of spear fishing! Sadly the night fishing with lines couldn’t happen as there was no bait, which left it up to Matty, Oli, Joe, Robert and Sophie, Benjy and myself to catch tomorrow’s lunch, and with spear guns in hand, and Pai and Simoni to guide, we set off into the darkness. As experiences in Fiji go, spear fishing at night is up there with the best of them and the night did not disappoint! Matty, Oli, Benjy and myself were massively excited to see sharks circle beneath and beside us, and i will forever laugh hearing Oli tell the story of trying to hide behind coral so that the shark could not see him! Sophie and Joe also saw sting rays which is a fantastic sight, and Pai and Simoni were quick to hand over the spear guns for us to take our catch of fish, and it seems the tp team has a keen eye! Whilst some would dive the others with sit under the stars on the boat and chat about their epic spear gun adventure, a hugely surreal evening for those with us and there will be plenty more trips for the rest of the team to enjoy this awesome experience!

 

The tp team take to the ocean!

 

Tuesday 21st July

This morning saw some tired but smiling faces after the fishing adventure so we eased into the mornings work. The guys set about putting in all the louvre frames and windows into the community kitchen, and in the afternoon the storm that had been slowly brewing decided to show us it’s might, and the wind and rain meant that we were not able to achieve much on the walkway, although Jack and Robert did brave the conditions to get the side plates nailed on! Today Robert, Jessie and Marianna were also able to paint second coats onto the doors and wooden windows inside the community hall which was great so it looks really smart. After another good morning in the kindi the girls also took the opportunity of a rainy afternoon to clean it from top to bottom, with displays being put up and paper chains hung. 

Fiixing the window frames

After a request from the Turaga ni Koro to do some artwork in the community hall Sophie had taken time to sketch different designs, and this morning showed her drawings to Waisake before beginning the stencilling in pencil. It is a huge compliment to Sophie that the community are so excited to see her artwork, and as she began painting this afternoon, with a little Frank Sinatra in the background, the villagers and kids would come to sit and watch for some time, it was like the village had come to a stop!

The afternoon also saw Karen and Hannah begin their aerobics classes, and after gathering a crowd practicing on the beach yesterday i was not surprised to see the kids ready and waiting and raring to go at 4pm! The Mata ni Vanua will be announcing the classes to the community this evening so we are hoping that the ladies and youths in the village will join up, and after following Karen and Hannah over the next 10 days they will then sustain the classes long after the team head home. It’s a great way to exercise and the kids were having lots of fun so I imagine it will take off really well!  At our de-brief this evening we were also informed today that the village will hold their religious cleansing ceremony tomorrow, so it will be a leisurely day as the village comes to a stand still and as part of the community here in Daku we were invited to attend for those who would like to. It’s also a chance to get their final entries for the July 09 logo competition sketched…good times!

 

Sophies murial  An art request from the chief

Daku aerobics!

 

Wednesday 22nd July

As the team prepared for a day off with the religious cleansing taking place the Turaga ni koro called me over to let me know that the Ratu (Chief) was more than happy for us to continue the building project which was great as we were very keen to crack on with the walkway. But with the kindi not running and the community hall being used, and with the team expecting a lazy day in the sunshine, we let them choose to work through the day as they pleased…and what a day it turned out to be! In the morning Sophie built an immense sand castle that had a spinning track for a ball all around the side, and Oli, Joe, Jessie and Matty set up a game of beach cricket with a coconut leaf stalk for a bat…it wasn’t quite the ashes but there was plenty of sporting prowess!

 

Cricket takes off on Daku!  

sandcastles on Daku beach  sandcastles

 

Patrick, inspired by events on the beach, set about fashioning a cricket bat from a piece of discarded timber, and with excellent dedication and perseverance he has revolutionised beach cricket in the small south pacific island of Moturiki! The morning also saw the village kill and gut a pig ready for the evening feast, and it proved a great insight for the team to see how the villages prepare the animals for the lovo earth oven on big special occasions.

 

Pig hunting on Moturiki

 

Meanwhile Jack got Jessie and Rob laying the concrete foundations for the walkway steps, before we nailed on the side plates and began laying the timber for the walkway itself. Measuring and tacking the first timbers along the walkway took allot of balance and patience from myself and Benjy, with just a small ledge to perch on, but with Jacks encouragement we navigated our way through! Nicola and Rob then carried the timber across and got themselves set for a big afternoon of hammering nails…they went from novice handymen to skilled carpenters in a blink of an eye, and with Jack enjoying a rest under a palm tree they nailed on each and every beam for the walkway, keeping the measurements all the way along! As they were working away one of the little kids in the village fell of the coconut log that lies a few feet down stream as the current means to cross over, and whilst one kid fished her out and the others had a giggle it was a timely reminder of just why we are putting the walkway in!
The afternoon was free as ever and it was great to see allot of team bonding in the air with games of cards and chats in the mosquito nets. At the de-brief we also got everyone’s favoured committee roles for “Daku-Fest” next  Saturday so tomorrow we will draw up the committees and the team can start to plan and prepare, it should be a fantastic event. Seru Rabeni, our Ambassador for Sports Development, was also in touch to confirm that he will visit the team tomorrow and meet the community and see the projects which is great, it is a huge privilege to have someone like Seru supporting us and it should be a really fun day for everyone here in Daku…happy days!

 

   fun times on the builidng project

 

Thursday 23rd July

What a day! Seru Rabeni came for the day which caused lots of excitement in the village, and the ladies put on the most incredible feast of food! It really was so so good for Seru to have the chance to come across to meet the team, talanoa with the community and see the different projects that i had been telling him so much about. And with a plane to catch at 3am back to the Uk he showed allot of love and commitment for tp!  It was great for the team to meet him as he came into the village, with the boys telling stories of rugby and Matty’s epic spear throwing abilities in shallow waters! There was also talk of grog parties in Gloucester this year, a little bit of “Fiji time” back home! Seru had a look at the community kitchen and walkway before the girls took him into the community hall and clinic, he was saying just how impressive it was to see how much has been done. He also took a wander into the kindi where the kids were quick to jump all over him to say hello and have their photos taken. Seru then presented the traditional sevusevu to the Turaga ni Koro, and after the ladies presented a salusalu we wandered through the village so that he could meet the families. Naturally we ended up at the volleyball court, and it was game on!

 

Vollyball on Daku beach with seru    signing autographs

 

And then it was lunch time…and wow! We had seen Simeli coming back from the nets with some unbelievably big fish just an hour earlier, and i have never tasted anything so good. We all sat together in the community hall, with fish, cassava, dalo, roro, bele, meat parcels, bread fruit, polisami and lots more…it’s fair to say it was a long lunch, with Matty and Seru bringing it home for the team! After lunch the ladies had their photos taken with the big man, and Seru signed some of the kids shirts. Seru also signed a Fiji rugby ball and his think pacific t shirt for us to raffle at the “Daku-fest” fundraiser next Saturday…i think there will be allot of people keeping their fingers crossed!:) And just as importantly, Karen and Abi were quick to mention this evening at the de-brief how good he smelt…:) The village massively appreciated Seru taking time to visit, as did myself and the tp team, i feel it is a day that will be talked about in the village for a long long time to come!

 

seru and tp 

 

Today also saw lots of project work being done, with the platforms to the walkway cut and nailed by Jessie, Marianna, Rob and Nicola, a drainage trench dug by Patrick, Oli, Matty and Joe and Sophie began the stencil for her second piece of artwork in the community hall. The committees for Daku fest were also confirmed, and are: Sports – Oli, Joe and Alexandra, Entertainment – Karen, Marianna, Patrick and Matty, Fundraising – Sophie, Rob and Jessie, Church – Nicola, Hannah and Abi, it will be a big week of planning, promoting and organising ahead but the team are definitely up for the challenge! Cannot quite believe it’s Friday tomorrow, and with the walkway to be completed and the “tp Olympics” all set for the afternoon, with the trophy to be handed out at the weekly beach bonfire, it should be quite a day!

 

The TP olympics trophy    ploughing on with the new bridge

 

Friday 23rd July

Today was a big day for the tp projects, as the morning saw the completion of the walkway! Wirth Jack as the foreman as ever he had Marianna and Jessie hammering nails and cutting timber. They then levelled the points on the posts and the hand rails were put into place, with three along the main frame of the walkway and one on the approach, and the whole team were massively proud.

 

A good days work!    A job well done 

 

The morning also saw Joe and Patrick make a notice board for the community hall as the Turaga ni Koro had said that this would be a huge help, and i think it was a mini project that took some thought and careful sawing. It will be hung in the hall so that all major village notices and meetings can be advertised, including the up-coming “Daku’s Got Talent” next Friday night! In the Kindi Nicola, Karen, Hannah and Abi had the kids help in making their flyers for “Daku-fest” on our last weekend in the village, so they will be going out to Uilibau and Naicabebe to show case the big day. And Sophie was painting away on the flower stencil in the hall, and with the colours being added it is really starting to look so good. And as the team were working hard in the Fiji sunshine the ladies, who are from Daku originally but who live with husbands in different villages on the island, came to make a huge feast of tea, buns, cakes and biscuits…it was unbelievable, almost one full plate per person with even more in the pots! It is fair to say that the team enjoyed the “morning tea”, but snapped back into action to complete the days objectives before lunch time…as it was our half day and the tp Olympics were on the horizon!

 

Cakes galore! 

 

Oli and Robert had spent the morning hidden away with off cuts of timber to create the tp Olympics trophy….and it is quite an award! With the Olympic rings as smiley faces, and tp chiselled into a coconut sat on the top of its three tier frame the winners were sure to have a huge sense of pride and achievement…the “coconut cup” will certainly go down in tp history! And so after lunch the games began with a warm up game of rounders with mixed teams, and some excellent bowling from Nicola, a hat-trick of catches from Benjy, and a demon throw from Sophie saw our team come out on top. The football was next to follow, and now it was competition time. With my team of me, Patrick, Alexandra, Karen and Rob defeated twice in the humid south pacific afternoon, the final was to be played out by “The Tigers” (Oli, Matty, Jessie, Marianna and Hannah) and “The Tropics” (Benjy, Joe, Abi, Sophie and Nicola). It was quite a contest, and after a stunning long range strike from Hannah had levelled the game with 2 mins to go, it was left to Sophie and Abi to have one of those moments that will live long in football history….stood a yard apart, and with Abi the goalkeeper, Sophie tried to roll it back as no one pressed….however Abi’s foot didn’t quite make contact, and the game was lost in rather comical fashion! We were then hoping to move onto the volleyball as the tp Olympics finale…however the football had attracted quite a crowd in the village, and the Fijian lads were quick to throw down the gauntlet in a Fiji vs the rest of the world match! With our watch missing it was decided to play first to 5…and Fiji came home the winners 5-4, it was allot of fun and you could see a little of their rugby roots shining through in the tackles!:) Sport is never finished in Fiji whilst there is day light to be enjoyed, and we then had a huge game of rounders with everybody in, and lots of volleyball matches on the sand…what a way to spend a day!

 

cricket on daku  

 

The Friday night bonfire is burning bright on the beach as i write this, and Pai and Ili are playing the guitars and singing for everyone to have a dance and have some fun, it has been a big week, and we are all looking forward to the goligoli fishing tomorrow morning..a chance to show the village just how good our “kaivalagi” team is at using the nets! And then it’s the big movie night as a fund raiser for the kindergarten…i think there is talk of Top Gun!

 

The new Daku footridge

Monday, July 27th, 2009

A Fijian village has it’s first aerobics workout!


   Daku aerobics!

 

I’m going to start this blog the same way we started Kindi this morning, “Today is a SUNNY day!” which, contrary to popular belief is not always the case in Fiji. So give or take a tropic storm or two the past couple of weeks have gone insanely fast and I’ve enjoyed every minute! I can’t believe my last blog was 2 weeks ago, the fancy dress party was one week ago and the jungle trek was…well the fear is still pretty fresh to be honest. To be clear people with vertigo and a dislike for getting soaked (me) that trek is tough. However, after a good 3 hours of pouring rain the path down was just one massive mud flume and completely worth the tears! Not sure my Fijian Mum was so happy about it though as she insisted on washing my clothes afterwards… Back on solid ground I am proud to be co-founder of Daku’s first aerobics class and I think our unique mix of breeze block step ups and classic dance tunes is only the beginning. I would love the older woman to get involved next week and think given the many hours I’ve spent trying to improve my volleyball skills they owe me! This week we were also vistited by Fijian rugby captain, Seru Rabeni, which I think the girls and boys here enjoyed for very different reasons. He was lovely though and it was just an added bonus that his arrival meant the village went into over drive to create the biggest feast I’ve seen in quite some time! Follow this with a tea and cake party this morning and I reckon my Fijian family will achieve their goal of “fattening me up” by the end of next week! On a last note I am currently trying to psych myself up for some night spear fishing this evening and I’ll let you know in the next blog if I’ve managed to pluck up the courage!

 

    Karen and Patrick enjoy some fresh coconut   Karen ready for spear fishing!

    wow! it's Seru Rabeni

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Seru Rabeni visits Daku


Seru and the tp boys

 

Bula!!

What an amazing third week in Daku, best week yet!!!! We had an eventful bonfire night on Friday, followed by a hilarious fancy dress party on Saturday!! Monday night gave the highlight of the trip so far!! Going spear fishing until one in the morning, in what was a cold night for Fiji, in shark infested waters doesn’t sound much but it was one of the amazing things I have ever done. I caught three fish (all the size of my leg!!) with the spear gun. Saw barracudas, lobsters and had a six foot reef shark follow and encircle us for about fifteen minutes!!! Thursday gave another unique memory, the Fijian rugby captain, Seru Rabeni, visited Daku!! It was amazing to meet a rugby star who was so laid back and talkative. After the initial meeting and a couple of autographs he agreed to play volleyball. Not going to lie, team T.P dominated!!! All in all week three has been incredible and with all that next week has to offer I cannot wait for it to continue!!!!!

Vinaku!!

Oli

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Night spear fishing with sharks!


Matty's Fijian family

First off I’ve lost all sense of time or of what the date is. With this in mind I’m going to take a guess that today is Friday, although I cannot be sure as the days and weeks have been flying by now. This can only mean one thing which is, that our time in Daku is quickly coming to an end.

The major thing to mention is the epic adventure of the spear fishing at night in the shark infested waters in a small boat with no engine, which was sinking. Under the clearest sky I’ve ever witnessed, with infinitely more stars visible than back at home, me and harry were the first to jump into the water along with our two Fijian guides. After being let loose with the spear gun and diving down to spear an unknowing fish, Pai (the Fijian i was teamed with) shone his torch over a remarkably shark like silhouette. After watching the shark swim around us and coming within a meter of us we decided to move on. As we made our way back to the boat we came across another shark which was swimming below us. Both sharks where easily 5ft +

That has got to be one of the best nights of my life;  swimming with wild sharks at night.

Matty Floweday

   Benjy helps with the spear fishing

The Pacific Ocean  Sun Sets over Moturiki

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Jessie’s expedition update..


Jessie on the building site

Bula back home!

Im sitting here in a tent next to the first aid kit I’ve so often had to use and overlooking the south pacific writing my first ever blog. I suppose i’m going to put this down to ‘fiji time’, you literally have no concept of time and everything is so chilled out; a big contrast to life back home.

My first few days in the village were the hardest, the culture shock, village life and getting back to basics are the initial things that I needed to overcome. The people on the other hand are so welcoming, ever eager to please and ensure we are made at home. I can honestly say that the past few weeks have flown by and thinking now we have only just over a week left in the village when you’ve just started to settle in and get to know not only the group I’ve come out with but the locals too.

Today we had TP Olympics, consisting of volleyball, football and rounders. I was put in Oli’s team and for those of you who know Oli and how competitive he is,  the name of the game was to win basically! The games are to be continued..

The past few weeks have been full of memories and its o hard to pinpoint all of them. What i can say is that this trip has exceeded my expectations and it literally is an experience of a life time. The people are great, the cakes are amazing here, the projects are all going to plan , the only thing I’m missing is a Nandos!

Jessie Kundi

Jessie and her family