After a night of fun and games last night there were some sleepy faces this morning as we set off for the waterfall trek, and as we made our way through the bush, crossing the river as we went, I think everyone was very happy to be sitting under the waterfall and paddling in the rock pool when we reached the top, the water is very very fresh!
Reaching the resort it was another afternoon of relaxing, whilst Paskey, Cat, Rob, Ashleigh D, Immi, Will and Michelle took a horse ride along the beach on horses from the local village. In the pool a little bit later on an epic shoulder war broke out, with Paskey (and myself) reigning supreme….although Rob and Tom will claim victory we were the peoples champions! And then a big game of pool rugby kicked off, and with lots of mass huddles and feet and arms all over the place it was quite the spectacle!
In the evening the team enjoyed a few drinks together, and with Tom’s birthday celebrations tomorrow night the theme was decided, with each member of the team picking a name out of the hat (which has all the team names) and then having to dress up as that person for the night…it should be a funny one!
As we loaded into the boats to leave Caqalai Isoa and all the family of Sam and Tom arrived from the village for a final goodbye. We were then on our way in the wind and rain, and as we headed into the river Moturiki faded into the distance as the team waved goodbye to their tiny home in the south pacific. At Waidalice we were straight onto the bus and making our way to Pacific Harbour, with a 5 minute stop at a dvd store and an hour break in Suva to grab some food and email home. By mid afternoon we had arrived at the lovely Safari Lodge resort, and whilst the sun was not shining that did not dampen spirits as the team were straight into the pool for a game of Marco Polo. After a first hot shower in 3 months we enjoyed dinner together, and then came the party time, with a few beers, some classic tunes and dancing on the tables. The “Stevie Chick” song was an absolute highlight!
Monday 22nd March –
With the rain still falling this morning, and with it being a day off for the team, there was lots of lounging around reading books and writing diaries, and of course the team reflected on the night before and all that had unfolded! Everyone is looking forward to getting on the river tomorrow for the river rafting excursion.
Tuesday 23rd March –
With an early start the team loaded into the back of the Rivers Fiji truck to head into the Namosi highlands and the Upper Navua river. After two days of rain, which made the river nice and high and quick, the sun had put his big hat back on and it was the perfect day for rafting. After reaching the rafts the team split down into teams of 4 and set off. Whilst the rafting is of course the heart and soul of the day, the “pirating” of other rafts always brings the humour, with Michelle being dragged in, opthers being thrown off and, with the rapids high, there were also some accidental swimmers along the way. The team stopped for lunch at a beautiful spot on the rocks beside the river, and on the final stretch stopped at a fantastic waterfall. Arriving back at Safari Lodge in the afternoon there were lots of smiles and tales to tell of the adventure!
Wednesday 24th March –
Leaving Safari Lodge this morning we were back on the tp bus, with Vijay the driver becoming a folk hero, as we wound our way down the coral coast to the beachouse. The day was then spent relaxing on the stunning beach, swimming in the pool and having a go at sea kayaking….its a hard life out here in the world of a tp expedition!
A big vinaka vaka levu (thank you) to Gareth’s father and his company, MYPEC Limited, for their kind donation of £200, which has been used to fund sports equipment for the newly formed Moturiki sports teams. The kids on Moturiki have gained so much from the time and effort our volunteers have put into developing a sports coaching programme over the past months and their new sports timetable is now complemented with some brand new kit and equipment. As Gareth explains;
‘While the kids in school certainly don’t lack enthusiasm in sports, they are sometimes short on sports gear such as rugby balls, tackle bags, kit, and the like, so my decision, with the guidance of Harry, was to use the money to purchase rugby jerseys for the Under 14 team for Moturiki District School, as well as the girls’ netball jerseys, as well as various rugby supplies. I’ve come to know many of these kids over the past few months very well, and their dedication, commitment and enthusiasm is unlike I have ever seen around the world. I have an enormous amount of respect for these little terrors and I hope this small gift will go a long way to making Moturiki a netball powerhouse, and putting an MDS kid on a far-flung rugby field somewhere around the world, lining up for the Fijian Sevens team one day. Vinakavakalevu for your friendship kids, enjoy!’ Gareth.
With the sun shining again this morning after cyclone Thomas the team enjoyed a relaxed morning around the village as the families moved their stuff back to their homes and settled back into the daily routine of village life. In the afternoon the team were due to visit Daku, however as they were just about to leave the heavens opened in true tropical fashion and it was decided that it may be better both for the team, and Daku for us to stay back. Instead the team looked to get the community netball match underway, and in very high spirits the team, the village and the kids headed onto the field where a huge game of touch had already kicked off. With Paskey and Ashleigh picking the teams it was evenly matched, with Steve proving a deadly force as goal shooter (he is 6ft 5 after all), and Tom struggling with the no contact rule as Goal Defence! The wet ground made it a slippery affair which added to the fun, and heading into the last quarter the game was locked at 14-14. It was however to be Paskey’s teams day, coming out winners 18-16! A few of the guys then went to play some touch. Although it was more a time for splashing in puddles than playing rugby!
Thursday 18th March –
This morning a few off the team headed off for picnics with their families, with Isoa and Mata ni taking Sam and Tom off to celebrate Tom’s birthday in 10 days time, whilst Jesse also took Gareth, Lal, Cat and Ashleigh for a mini adventure. Those left back in the village set about making their very own bilo (the cup used to drink grog), with Mele and Benjy there to help them as they scrape the coconut, sand it down and bury it in mud. The bilo is of course a huge part of Fijian culture as grog is central to their customs, and it is great for the team to have the opportunity to learn how to make them.
In the afternoon it was the much anticipated re-match in the rugby between the Think Pacific Koroloaloa (Nasauvuki) team and the Ulibau/Daku team, and the philosophy on the day was to run out as friends and enjoy one last chance to play together. There were some great moments, including a football style volley from Dadi which very nearly paid off as he chased through, and Chris making it onto the pitch for the last 10 minutes. It was also good to see Rob, Sam, Tim, Chris and Will all on the pitch together in the second half, and the spirit throughout with the boys was fantastic. On the day it was Think Pacific Koroloaloa who triumphed 14-5, and as the two teams came into the huddle at the end to have a word of prayer and sing there was a real sense of sadness after all the weeks of training and playing together.
In the evening it was “Juice Party” time in the hall, with buckets of Tang being mixed and some pop tunes blasting out much to the delight of the crowds. There were also a few bowls of grog being enjoyed at Sam and Toms’ house, as the Vakatawa gave permission for them to enjoy a family send off before the village party tomorrow night. Time has just gone so fast, I imagine it will be an emotional last day for everybody tomorrow.
Friday 19th March –
After the final morning briefing for the team they had the morning to pack up their stuff and spend a little more time with their families. After lunch the leaving party began at the school, with live music, the kids performing mekes, singing songs and the mums making an incredible selection of tea, cakes, buns and pies. The time the volunteers spend in the school is a huge highlight of the project and we are very grateful for the support shown by the headmaster Master Mika and all the teachers and parents. And of course the grog started in the afternoon as we had a sing along together.
After a short rest the team and village made their way to the community hall for a huge feast all together, and the kana was unbelievable, with pork, chicken, roro, stew and lots more. Food is a massive part of life in Fiji, and our final dinner together was testament to that! The Church service that then followed was also a very special time, as it has been a privilege to worship together with the community during our stay in the village. Alex, Sam and Chris had been very keen to say a few words on behalf of the team to thank the village for all their kindness, and it was an emotional service for all as the rugby team also sang “I Know the Lord”, a hymn that will forever be associated with the January 2010 expedition.
And of course there was only going to be one way to spend our last night in Nasauvuki…drinking grog in the hall with lots and lots of “hop hop” (dancing)! The whole community came together for the night, as well as visitors from across Moturiki, and the grog went until the boats arrived in the morning. Seeing the whole village and team embracing with such emotion as they made their way out to the boats is very humbling, as yet again you come to appreciate that beyond all the project work that we do it is the friendships created that are lasting legacy of the expedition! From the tp team here in Fiji I want to take this chance to say a big vinaka vaka levu to the community of Nasauvuki and the people of Moturiki, and of course to our January 2010 team, for everything they have accomplished. Loloma yani.
Saturday 20th March –
Arriving onto Caqalai this morning the thoughts of the team were naturally still with their friends and family back in Nasauvuki, and the day was to be a relaxed one lying on the beach, having a swim and playing a little volleyball. In the afternoon it was also time for our final de-brief, where the team came up with their funniest moments of the last week, but also their highlight of the whole time spent in the village. Some classic stories came up, including spear fishing adventures, Jack on the build and sports fun and games. In the evening the Caqalai band played a few Nasauvuki classics which had the whole team up on their feet dancing one last time, and then the guys lit a bonfire on the beach, and as we stood around it there was time to reflect on the friends and family back in the village. With the adventure stage to look forward to I am sure there will be lots more reminiscing in the days ahead!
So, the build is finished and the hall is completed. Nine weeks work has come to an end. It really doesn’t feel like we’ll be leaving in six days. Perhaps it’s just denial; I can safely say that none of the team wants to leave in six days time. I think for most of us yesterday signalled the beginning of the end. The fun day started with an unexpected and emotional meeting with the elders in which thank yous were said and speeches were made. This was followed by the grand opening of the hall. The village has spent all morning putting in mats, curtains, a few pot plants and decorating the entrance with palm leaves and balloons. As we were walking in I turned to Steve ‘wouldn’t it be funny if one of the balloons pops as they’re all walking in’. (Bear in mind a slight loud noise causes any Fijian to first jump and then yell ‘oh!’ at the top of their voice, providing an amusing spectacle. Sure enough, as we sit down we suddenly hear a loud bang outside followed by a sudden wave of panic lasting approximately one second then an ensuing chuckle at the realisation it was just a balloon popping.
After this came the opening of our stalls and the commencement of the fun day. I was in charge of the cracker and cinnamon challenge with Fi, which was good fun although several of the Fijians failed to get the point of trying to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon, saying that it tastes unpleasant and is really dry in your mouth; prompting Harry to respond ‘hence the challenge’. In the evening we all went back to the hall. At one point Master Mika asked if each volunteer could stand up and say a few of their highlights and things they were going to miss, triggering a moving 15 minutes in which we tried to get across how much their friendship, hospitality and kindness mean to us. A quick group dinner at Esavas (Becky and Paskys) and the night was finished off by a long grog session.
On a different note, my name is no longer Sam, nor Samu, nor Wilkinson. I am now known simply as Turani. (The town-spokesperson happens to be my ‘namesake’). The sheer mention of this name sends the Fijians into fits of hysterics and prompts the questions ‘you have a bald head, yes?’ Even as I write this I can hear the wonderful sound that is Fijian laughter, a sound that we kaivalagis (literally means white person) have become more and more accustomed to these past 9 weeks. Jesse is floating past in his boat outside, Agu has just come in to the Bure to say thank you for the hall and there’s currently a battle going on between Steve and Esoa to decide who doesn’t get to sit in the chair, as Esoa is too polite to let Steve sit on the floor. That’s the thing: wherever you are in Nasavuki, there are always people who want to come and say hi and just spend some time with you. It really has become our home away from home. I’m going to miss that buzz when I wake up each morning and walk to the shed and every single person you see is smiling and saying good morning to you. That’s what’s so unique about life here, everyone knows everyone; without wanting to sound cheesy, it is one big family. And it’s a family I’m certainly going to miss.
PS Steve has just won his battle with Esoa and is currently basking in his glory on the floor.
With the project work completed yesterday this morning the gapyear team were up early and onto the outboards for a day trip to Levuka, one last glimpse of the old capital and a chance to catch up on emails, have a smoothie and also get everything that we need for the fun day on Saturday. Arriving back into the village in the afternoon there was meke practice for both the guys and girls, and then after a quick dinner we came together for tea and cakes to celebrate our very special Mata ni Vanuas 21st birthday. Solo has been an absolute hero for us over the past 9 weeks and we were very lucky to share his big day with him. Tom also gave him his England 7s shirt, and Sam gave him his boots, as signs of the whole teams appreciation and affection for the guy. With the cakes all gone we headed down to Navuti for some grog and “hop hop”, as they had visited us last week. And what a night it proved to be, with Will and Chris getting the party started by getting the ladies on their feet dancing, and with lots of grog and a hall full to the brim it was quite the party atmosphere.
Friday 12th March –
After the party the night before I think the whole team enjoyed the revised 9am briefing time, and after a quick chat we split into 3 groups and made our way to Daku, Naicabecabe and Navuti to spread the word of the Fun Day, selling raffle tickets as we went. Immi and Michelle meanwhile were busy painting the logo onto the community hall wall so that it can be ready for the opening tomorrow, although sadly our local partners from Suva are unable to come across due to a storm weather warning for the region being put out today. After lunch it was once again meke practice with Ruci before the team gathered in Michelle and Fis’ house for a surprise party for Paskey’s 19 Birthday. It’s her birthday tomorrow, but with tomorrow being a busy one the team were very keen to give her a moment that is her own.
Saturday 13th March –
Today was a very big day, as not only was it Paskey’s birthday, but after all the hard work over the last 10 weeks, it was time to open the community hall! With volunteers dressed in sulus and juba dresses and with more than 20 relatives returning to the village from as far away as Australia for the day it was a huge moment for all of us.
The Vakatawa (Methodist preacher) said a word of prayer in the shed before a sevusevu of Yaqona roots was presented, followed by the offering of a tabua (the tooth of a sperm whale – the highest offering in Fiji) from the Chief. This was a very special ceremony for the team to experience. We then made our way to the hall, where the scissors for the ribbon were held by Marina in traditional masi dress.
With the ribbon cut the village, team and visitors made their way inside to enjoy what is a beautiful building, and weeks of hard work have certainly been well worth it! Everyone then enjoyed an incredible selection of cakes and tea, and then it was meke time. The village ladies began with a meke of their own, before the kindi kids arrived in full traditional dress to perform a Fijian meke, followed by the medlay of spice girls, grease and the makerena that Cat, Fi, Immi and Becky had taught them. It was a great show by the little ones. It was then the tp girls who performed what was an incredibly intricate meke extremely well, with the crowd wooping and cheering along with them, and lots of talcum powder being poured on the heads of faces as a celebration! The final mekes came from the tp boys, and with the traditional grass skirts and warrior paints they looked an intimidating force for the spear meke, with some of the village kids along side them which was great. The lads also did a sitting down meke which they had learnt from our very own mata ni vanua, Solo.
With the mekes over the team kicked into action leading a village fun day for the children and visiting guests. Earlier in the day everyone had been up and setting up the stalls, getting face paints and games ready. Will had created a “whack the rat” game, Lal using chalk to create a goal on the side of the concrete water tank for shooting practice, and Gareth hammering bits of bamboo into the grass for the coconut shy. There was a raffle to fundraise for the school, cakes, juice and popcorn being sold, it was every bit a summer village fete!
Kids from all over the island came to enjoy the event. Rob and Becky were fantastic sports in having water and flour thrown all over them in the name of fun, whilst Sam and Fi saw some interesting faces in the cracker eating races and cinnamon challenge! At the coconut shy Sarome showed a keen eye in claiming a prize, whilst little Jope from class 3 was not quite quick enough at bat the rat! Face painting is always a popular one with the kids, and Immi and Ashleigh doing a very artistic job! There was some serious competition in the sack race.
The team were then back into sulus and juba dresses as we headed into the hall for the raffle draw and grog party. In the raffle there were three prizes, with the Ratu of Moturiki drawing the names, and with Apo (our architect for our projects) having his name drawn first he was quick to choose the 1st XV rugby shirt from Gresham’s school that Rob had kindly given to the cause. The Think Pacific sulus were then claimed by Paulini and Jerry. The team were then asked to each stand up and say a few words about their time in Nasauvuki, and with the time to leave on the horizon it was an emotional few moments, before Master Mika offered thanks on behalf of the village.
And with the formalities of the fun day over it was grog party time, and when our gapyear team went to have a birthday dinner for Paskey the band from Navuti arrived in the hall, meaning that suddenly there were two bands playing alternate songs and even more hop hop for the crowds! By the time the last dance was called with Sabbath approaching it is fair to say that it was quite the party in the hall, with dancing, cheering, singing and lots of laughter! The day had been an amazing success, raising $350 for the village, but more importantly as a time when we were all together as a community and as a family, it’s what makes a Fijian village so very special!