Archive for February, 2010

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Tsunami warning cancelled for Fiji

Just a note to advise all family and friends of our gap year students out in Fiji at the moment.  The Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand have all been on alert for Tsunami warnings this evening following the earthquake in Chile. The warnings for Fiji have now officially been cancelled so there is no threat at all for our island. 

We’ve been in touch with our team throughout this evening and we’re happy to report that all is well on sleepy little Moturiki. Our teams are getting ready for a sabbath feast and an afternoon of relaxing in the sunshine after spending yesterday on a tough trek to Mount Ruku Ruku,  followed by a big night organising ‘Fiji’s got talent’ for the local kids. Blogs and pictures to follow in the week.

Our thoughts go to the people of Chile during this difficult time.


Simon, Harry, and the Team.

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Morning Michelle, how are you?

Netball in LevukaMorning Michelle how are you?

Morning Michelle how are you?

Morning Michelle how are you?

How are you today?” 

This ‘Morning Song’ that we taught in Kindie has become established routine in the village and although I have now finished working in the Kindie I still get sung the words throughout the day by my 4 year old sister Gina, often chorused by the thousands  of children gathered in our house.

If I think back I remember how in the first 2 weeks Gina wouldn’t even communicate in Fijian to her mum if she knew myself or Fi (my lovely TP roomie) were in the house. She would shy away, cheekily grinning if we gave her a quick glance. Now she will yatter away in Fijian or shout the few words of English she knows at us, whilst clinging on to our legs. Gina is the true definition of ‘tree monkey’ and as our mum Nainasa calls her: “cheeky, naughty, funny”.

I can’t explain how much I feel like part of a family here. From playing with the kids, to getting sloppy kisses from our grandmother (who we call ‘Mama’, and she calls us ‘Baby’) to getting long cuddles from Nainasa. Only last night Nainasa was in tears saying how she will miss us, I don’t want to even think about leaving yet.

But unfortunately now as we approach the end of the sixth week, our departure is ever looming. Time really has just flown by. They do say after all that ‘time flies when you are having fun’. Until now I have managed to postpone writing a blog but thought now that my time was up.

michelle blogIt seems strange that I am on the other side of the world and yet feel so at home, and not just with my family but the whole village and pretty much Moturiki Island. The Fijian nature is just so contagiously friendly, I can’t walk through the village without being shouted at: ‘yandra’, ‘bula’, ‘Kana’  or ‘want tea?’.

The lifestyle is far from similar, small things that you take for granted in England aren’t quite as easy here. Every shower time you have to fetch buckets of water from the well, at dinner there is a constant fight with shooing away the flies-and trust me eating cross-legged on the floor for long periods of time can get interesting.

Chickens regularly walk in and out of my room; frogs swarm the ground at night time whilst mosquitoes are relentless, attacking 24 hours a day. All these things just seem to add to the experience and Fiji life.

I love Fiji (despite the mosquitoes and flies) due to the loving people, the beautiful surrounding, and generally the relaxed ‘Fiji time’ way of life. They have definitely mastered both hard work and how to ‘take it easy’ over here. Work hard, play hard.

Playing here varies from running around playing games on the field, singing meke (traditional Fijian songs), swimming in the sea with the kids to laughing with the locals. Of course though there is grog/kava drinking accompanied with dancing into the night. The boys particularly have perfected entertaining dancing. I think Rob, Tom and Mr Bean (Chris) are up there as the favourite dancers, saying that if a boy is in the grog shed there is a slim chance that when the music starts that any of them will still be sitting down.

The taste of Kava I would describe as pretty much muddy water with a splash of grit. Funny how even Kava is growing on me…The tongue tingling and drowsy happy feeling is something to remember. Gives you one good night’s sleep at the very least!

MichelleLooking over the laptop now I can see the roof of our impressive community hall. The Fijians showed us the ropes on the build without delay. Only 5 weeks ago in intense heat we were scrambling around on all floors digging out foundation halls we our bare hands, lugging gravel and sand (from the beach) over our shoulders and learning why we have cement mixers over in England. Some hard graft and impressive hand blisters by the end of it. But seeing the building now and seeing the indescribable Jack (the build big man himself) and a handful of Fijian men lying topless on the half finished hall flooring; is more than worth it. And the fact we now have a floor to stand on and steps to climb makes me so happy, balancing on the studs to pass the one and only pencil wasn’t my favourite activity. With a floor in place it can only be uphill from here. And thank you to Cat’s kind mum, as we now have background music as well as the 1-10 chants from the Kindie kids to set the mood.

This Sunday, in honour of Valentine’s Day, the entertainment committee set up a blind date special. Tim’s contribution was very erm wooing…I think Paskey is going to have one interesting date. Too much has happened over the past weeks: Ted the crab is still a dear memory of mine whilst tiger dog and inappropriate dog are currently competing for the ‘happiest’ dog title. I now realise why castration is such a popular choice in England.

team TP poseIt is the Levuka netball and rugby tournament tomorrow and Saturday. I am really looking forward to heading over to support the rugby and try to play a little bit of netball (in this case I’m so glad I’m a girl-rugby here is tough). The boys this week have been upping their game and having an early morning 6am training sessions. Rob and Will have made the competitive squad and shown impressive dedication there, Fijian’s don’t show a lot of mercy…Good luck boys!

Love to family and hope you are all alive and kicking over there,



Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Rob gears up to play against Fijian Internationals at the Lomaiviti Rugby Sevens Tournament

Rob aka the Fijian climbing frame!


Having spent the past month or so on the build I’ve swapped bashing nails into walls to bashing my head against the wall having been in kindi for the last week. The main drive of the kindi is preparing the 2 to 5 year olds for their first year of school along with essential life skills such as polite manners and basic hygiene.

Our daily programme starts with singing the “Morning song” followed by the Lord’s Prayer then we head outside for Duck, Duck, Goose and various other relay games. After all the kids have exhausted themselves we reach for the lego blocks and paper digits to teach numbers. The children find it extremely hard to grasp the concept of relating a physical number of lego bricks to a figure on a piece of paper. Not knowing what the number 2 is in Fijian let alone English makes the job twice as difficult but when they get it right, it’s like Christmas. Not only do they get a gold star (much sought after in Kindi!) but for the four of us working with the kids, it’s so rewarding seeing all our sweat and hard working benefiting no end. Although it seems so simple learning numbers 1 to 10 the difference it makes is huge in their first few years of schooling, giving them an essential head start in a continual up-hill battle in English and Maths.

Music, arts and crafts, dance and drama take up the time after break. With activities from mask making to musical statues loved by all the kids with constant calls of “Dua talle” (again again!) it gets extremely tiring. By the time 11.15 arrives  we are all more than ready for our final last activities of Sleeping Lions and story time finishing at 11.30.

Previously to this past week working in the Kindergarten I spent the whole morning working on the build- a mammoth community hall sitting just back from the sea front. Cries of “SET SQUARE!” or “SAW!” along with hammering and sawing fill the vast room with constant noise and a real team atmosphere. All the build work is led by our resident Demi-God Jack: carpenter/builder/joker extraordinaire. You know you’ve done well when Jack pipes up behind you with his trade mark “Riiiiight”. Joking aside Jack is one of friendliest Fijians I have met, and there are some seriously nice Fijians around so that’s saying something! I didn’t know what to expect from the build but from day one it has always been an absolute laugh: from slogging away making real cement without the aid of a cement mixer, digging through suspicious looking sloppy brown mud with our bare hands, leaping around the beams 25 ft off the ground, clambering over the roof hammering in the roofing irons, bashing in the walling and my new found skill FLOORING! I think I can safely say everyone on the team has improved tenfold on their DIY skills- I can’t wait to build my very own log cabin when I get home (lookout parents). Today we had tea and cakes made by the village ladies in the hall as a mini celebration of the flooring being 98% complete, even though we are still 3 weeks or so away from completion it feels like such an achievement to have built this structure so essential to village life in just 5 weeks.

Every afternoon all the guys from the local villages come together for an afternoon of sevens on the school field. In the beginning it was just a casual toss around but as this coming weekend drew nearer the training intensified. Fijians insist on stretching at the end of a session and I know that even my granny would be stretched at the end of 2 hours rugby so these sessions have been quirky to say the least. They really struggle with simple 3 on 1 drills but what the Fijians lack in basic skills they make up for in natural flare and pace. Regular “speed training” sessions at 6 in the morning have left me and Will (my awesome and ‘loving’ roomie-for expedition crowd only!) with a massive appetite for breakfast often devouring a bowl of porridge followed by ten or twelve pancakes each.

The tournament in the local town of Levuka this weekend is sure to be an experience of a lifetime for both me and Will. Having been picked to play for the Island Team in a Sevens tournament with 40 teams competing and rumours of some of the Fiji National 7’s team to be turning up to play it should be a very memorable day. Hopefully we will return tomorrow night (in one piece) after a successful day progressing through our pool of 4 and reaching the finals day on Saturday.

Wish us luck!


Friday, February 19th, 2010

Week 6 Gap Year Fiji: Moturiki adjusts to a new time zone and our volunteers start their new roles..


scenic 26


Monday 15th February –

The start of another big week on the projects and this morning we were all caught out by the rather surprising news that our tiny island has a new time zone. “Moturiki time” has been introduced by the village elders as a measure to help the school kids who were trekking to school in the dark. As the Ministry of Education prevents changes to the school timetable, the villagers decided to change the clocks for everyone on the island instead.  We are an hour behind the rest of the country…i love Fiji!

And so we kicked off the week, with many volunteers rotating to different roles on the project – leaving the building site for the kindi or swapping their piece of chalk for a hammer. On the build, we started bright and early at 7:30am (moturiki time!), and the team were quickly into pods and smashing down the flooring. The building is looking fantastic but there’s still lots of work ahead. Jack completed the main set of stairs, and after lunch Rob, Vicky, Fi and Cat primered them ready for the undercoat to go on tomorrow. After lunch Ashleigh Dexter, Tom and Steve also completed the new composting box ready for the environment workshop with classes 5,6,7 & 8 tomorrow afternoon.


week 6 - build (13)


In kindi it was the start of a new dawn, with Rob, Sam, Vicky and Hannah looking to carry on the fantastic work done by the teams before them. Cat also joined them to show them the ropes, and after playing the name game they were straight into singing songs and music class…I think the guys were brushing up on their nursery rhymes! Before break they also practiced numbers, although the kids had that “Monday feeling” and were not concentrating quite as well as hoped. After break time they had play time with the lego, and then had colouring in for arts and crafts and then finished with the famous fish book where the kids make noises as the team open the different pages and tell the story…fun times.


week 6 - kindi (17)


In school Paskey, Will, Ashleigh C and Gavlar continued in their classes, with Paskey setting class 3 a spelling test for tomorrow…not a popular choice! In the afternoon sports coaching continued for the second week with our new rota, with Volleyball, Frisbee and Football being coached alongside Rugby, Netball and Hockey.

The guys were also back at rugby training in the afternoon, with touch being played to warm up before some fitness sprints and very basic hand drills. With just a few days to go I think the tp lads are feeling a little frustrated that so much time is dedicated to fitness whilst the skill sets are relatively ignored, and adapting to the different style of play will be one of the major challenges when they run out on Friday.


Rob and Will Rugby Training with the Fiji Team


With the two week tabu on grog beginning today the evening was a relaxed one, as people chatted around the houses, listened to music and told stories.

Tuesday 16th February –

On the build today Jack completed the second set of steps for the doorway on the village side, and Fi and Cat then put the primer to ensure the timbers do not crack and bend. And of course more flooring was laid, the target is to complete the floor by Thursday afternoon when we break for the 7s tournament in Levuka.


week 6 - build (6)


In kindi the new team started to find their rhythm and introduce their own ideas, playing the game where you pass the ball over your head in outdoor sports, having teams to find the correct numbers, and starting to learn a dance meke to R Kelly’s song “The World’s Greatest”!

In school it was the start of the environment workshops, with Tom and Steve introducing and explaining recycling to classes 5 & 6 through a table where the class had to put different items into a “recycle” and “non-recycle” column, and a game of hang man with “composting box” being the key word. Lal and Ashleigh Dexter also did a fantastic job in looking at composting with classes 7 & 8, running through how to make it and maintain it and its uses before going outside for the kids to set up the newly built composting box. The kids cut the grass away so that there was direct contact with the soil, found the leaves, grass and saw dust to add, and practiced turning it and adding the water. They were also shown the produce from the composting box set up last term so they know what they are aiming for. Lal and Ashleigh also arranged with Master Mika for two “Composting monitors” to be in charge of turning and adding water each week to the compost so that it can be maintained properly. The kids seemed to really respond to the workshops, and tomorrow it will the turn of classes 1 & 2 and 3 & 4.


week 6 - environment week (7)


Sports coaching continued at full speed ahead today, hockey is proving very popular, and Frisbee for classes 1 & 2 is always a funny time of the day. And the rugby guys were back at training in the afternoon with Will, Rob and Tom there with them. The village guys are doing fitness three times a day in the days now leading up to the start…lets hope it pays off at game time!


week 6 - sports coaching (2)  week 6 - sports coaching (1)


At the de-brief this afternoon it was once again time to choose the movie, and with Con Air, 300 and Sherlock Holmes in the running it was 300 that finally won the day. And so after another very busy homework club in the evening the team headed over the Jesse’s for movie night.

Wednesday 17th February –

With the team continuing with the flooring today Jack set about making the double doors for the main entrance to the hall, and with the frames completed by lunch in the afternoon he hung them to ensure they fitted correctly.

In kindi it was another busy day with the little ones, playing outdoor games and having real success with numbers as the kids recognised numbers by sight, something the team had been really working on over the last few weeks. After break time they also had allot of fun in arts and crafts, using the different papers and grass and all sorts in their artwork!


week 6 - kindi (2)


In school the environment team were once again running their class workshops, with Gareth and Becky taking class 1 & 2 in the morning for a little pick, and they then drew pictures of “Keeping Fiji Fab” that were stuck on the wall in a display. In the afternoon they took class 3 & 4, talking through endangered animals and using posters to show how to protect the wildlife.  The kids then went on a litter pick before being shown the composting boxes so that they have an idea of composting before learning more about it in the higher classes. The environment programme has been hugely successful, and the team and kids are now looking forward to “Health Week” starting on Monday.


week 6 - environment week (15)


In sports coaching Frisbee finally showed a good contest with classes 7 & 8 involved, and the kids taking hockey showed some fantastic natural talent and understanding. And in the afternoon training took place, and with Rob and Will selected in the squad yesterday it is now focusing upon forwards drill and backs moves as they look to sharpen up for Friday.

In the evening it was quiz time, and with the expedition leaders writing the quiz this week we tried to make sure there was something for everyone! It was an epic contest once again, with “Team Gavlar” coming out winners.


week 6 - teaching (6)


Thursday 18th February –

With the team heading into Levuka tomorrow for the rugby and netball tournaments today was the last day on the projects for the week, and on the build we came ever so close to finishing the flooring. With the team working towards the walling it was a slow process as the timbers were to be cut around the direct posts, and on Monday the flooring will be complete. Jack meanwhile put hand rails on the main steps to the hall, which were then primered by Cat and Fi, and he also completed the third door ready to be hung when the flooring is complete.


week 6 - build (15)


Kindi absolutely rocked today, with outside games before numbers, with the kids responding really well to the games to help them learn. There was hand washing club before break time, and a hilarious tooth brushing club after break. After lego play time the team practiced their new meke, and the kids were brilliant in their dance to “The World’s Greatest”, you cannot help but smile watching it! And the dancing was not done, with the team and kids playing musical statues and musical chairs, and every time the kids were shouting Dua tale, which means “one more”…they are clearly loving kindi! And there was even time for story time, with Hannah reading the fish book and Rob and Sam adding the voices…what a morning!


week 6 - kindi (11)


It was also an absolute blast in school today, with Gareth and Megan arranging a “birthday party” for their class as part of their English comprehension. There were hats made, food brought in and music playing which had Gareth putting in a sensational air guitar/singing performance that had everyone clapping and cheering! The kids of course loved the party, cheering and jumping and having allot of fun. And I think they learnt lots too!


week 6 - teaching (16)


In sports coaching, attention turned to the netball court, where the class 7 & 8 kids challenged the tp ladies to a match…and what a match it was! After “Team Fiji” started strongly in the first quarter to be leading 5-2, “Team TP” dominated the second, to go in 7-8 and with all to play for. Fiji then came out fighting again, stretching their lead to 13-9 with just one quarter to play…and as the clock ticked into the final minute team Fiji were shooting to score already leading 15-14 and it seemed like the celebrations were a moment away. But then the ref (who was one of the kids), spotted their GK offside and tp had one last throw of the dice. They worked the ball to Immi as Goal Shooter and she had one shot with the last play of the game…in it went to level the scores at 15-15! There was of course immediate talk of the re-match, but on the day netball was definitely the winner!


week 6 - tp vs kids 


At the de-brief it was another funny occasion with the funniest moments of the week popping up, and after another busy homework club there was tea and cakes as a fundraiser for the netball team, in which 6 of the tp team have been selected! Ashliegh C, Immi, Fi, Lal, Ashliegh D and Hannah also set off into the darkness to go fishing with a huge amount of excitement, and a small amount of fear…it’s what night spear fishing under the stars is all about!


week 6 - tp vs kids (4)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Teaching in Fiji by Hannah

Fijian flowers  Hannah Sports Coaching  Team hike to the plantations

Teaching class five for 2 weeks was absolutely amazing. Even though the language barrier is quite difficult to overcome, all the kids are so enthusiastic and eager to please. The classroom was very basic and not very well equipped, so me and Tom, who was also teaching, had to be very creative. We played lots of English and maths games to make the lessons more fun.

It was very rewarding to see improvement, especially in English. I can’t believe I contributed to their education for a period of time. If think pacific volunteers weren’t here; class 5 wouldn’t have had a teacher at all! I remember every child came in with a smile, keen to learn and with immaculate behaviour. I do miss my class now and hope I can return.

I’m back on the build now, nailing in the floor. It’s good to be working as a team and helping each other. I’ve never done anything like this before; I’ve always dismissed my DIY skills as rubbish at home. But at the moment I’ve got a good rhythm going with the chiselling and nailing, and I have to say, I’m doing quality work! 

I’m getting used to village life; I love walking around and being invited in for tea by everyone! It’s something that I’m going to miss when at home. I’m also enjoying the little naps I have after a meal! My family are amazing, I live with my Aunty La, and 3 cousins who go to the school, but we have hundreds over at meals. My family are all very talkative and always eager to hear what we’ve been doing on the build and at school. I’ve really warmed to them all; they are so welcoming and friendly. Having discussions about Fijian culture is fascinating! 

The sport in the school and village is brilliant! All the kids at the school are so talented. Rugby and netball are the main sports, and then we’ve introduced football, cricket and hockey. I coach football with Lal. The kid’s hadn’t really played football here before, but they are so good! Everyone gets stuck in, they are not afraid to try anything! I’ve recently discovered the joys of touch rugby. I like to play on the wing, so I can gas it past Sam and score a try. To be fair, I started slightly “ahead” of him, which enabled me to run to victory, hard to bare, I know.

I can’t believe that we are halfway through village life now; time has gone by so quickly. I’m enjoying every second of this amazing experience. Well, I’m off for my nap now as I’m spear fishing in the early hours of morning, catch you later!!!

Hannah x

Hannah Teaching  Hannah Building

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Stephen Chick; week five volunteering in the Fiji Islands

week 5 - build (12)  week 4 - teaching (12)

Well it’s been five weeks in Fiji now and I can’t say I’m missing home too much! Although I’ve been ill a couple of times and been stuck in bed not being able to move, the last few weeks have been a lot of fun.

I’ve experienced what it is like to teach a class of 8 year olds during my time spent in the school. Although I can’t say that I now want to be a teacher, what I can say is that my two weeks in the school were very enjoyable and the kids were a great bunch! Their enthusiasm in everything they do and their constant smiling still amazes me.

Teaching sports to the children in the afternoon is a lot of fun, if not very tiring! This week, ‘Ultimate Frisbee’ has been introduced to the curriculum-why the word ‘Ultimate’ is in its title I do not know, but it has been welcomed by the kids and their non-stop energy and enthusiasm makes watching them quite a spectacle!

I’ve really enjoyed getting back on the build this week with the final wall panels going up and the flooring being put down. Rob and I were motoring yesterday with my hammering skills improving with every nail that went in. I don’t think my thumb would agree with that last comment however after I pretty much demolished it today.

Really enjoyed playing in the village football match last Saturday and the weather made it feel
just like home as the heavens opened and pretty much drowned us throughout the game. It’s safe to say that Fijians are better at Rugby than Football, however it was good to see a lot of them get involved make it a very enjoyable game.

The time is flying by over here and I’m really not looking forward to the day we have to leave as I think we all feel part of the community now and have made so many friends.

Anyway, that’s a while off and there’s snorkelling to look forward to this Saturday!!
That’s it for now I think and I can only hope the next five weeks I’ve got here are as good as the five I’ve just had!