Archive for May, 2010

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Popsters first week in Fiji!

blog profile pic - poppy



I find it hard to believe that we have only been in Fiji for one week- what a week it’s been!! Landing in Nadi, I was totally unaware of what lay ahead of me, and in all honesty, I was really quite nervous! Nothing can prepare you for the smiles and “Bula’s” that hit you on arrival. Lucy and I have been backpacking around Australia, Thailand and New Zealand for over 4 months and even to be greeted by one friendly face was an overwhelming treat!

Meeting the team was easier than I thought…Although it was a VERY early start from Smuggler’s Cove, the leaders made it relaxed and fun for the few of us already there. We waited in the airport for a while, knowing that the plane from the UK had landed, guessing which people were on the team with us. Classic commentary from Georgia and Soph, ‘he’s got too many bags’, ‘she’s not smiley enough’.  Even though the team must have been half dead from jet lag and fatigue, they made such a great effort to meet and greet; even managing to memorise a couple of names!

The journey to Caqalai was a long one: VJ-(lad)-bus driver was brilliant, and even though we were pulled over for speeding by a fairly terrifying looking Fijian policeman, the journey was a smooth one! After a rapid boat journey (including a game of ‘Down in the jungle…’), we arrived on the ‘Shipwrecked’-esque island, and it was at that moment when the boat brushed up against the golden sands, that it hit me just how lucky I was to be there! Kitty and co made the next few days ones that I will always treasure, and again, I can’t believe how quickly they went by! The food was delicious, the people were wonderful to us, and the grog..well…it was plentiful! Hop-Hop was one of my favourite parts of the Caqalai experience. The Fijian men just jump up and grab you by the arm to come and dance. For me, the most refreshing part of my experience so far, is that no Fijian is ever embarrassed or at all self-conscious. They literally just go with the flow and do everything with a smile!

The sevu-sevu was awesome- we met our ‘mothers’ and did a bit more hop-hop (Oh God!) The standard of singing was unbelievable…they unite in one massive chorus and once they’ve started, they won’t stop! I found the Fijian people (and their singing) humbling and gracious, and on more than one occasion, quite emotional. When Harry said that there is nothing quite as special as a Fijian village, he couldn’t have been more right! There isn’t much more to say, other than seeing is believing!

Our time on the island was spent relaxing, messing around and most importantly, getting to know each other! We played a ‘friendly’ game of spoons which rapidly digressed into absolute carnage! I have never seen more people as enthused and revved up at the thought of picking up a piece of cutlery! Thankfully it was quickly banned, but I’m sure that won’t be the last of it! Sharon took us snorkelling along the reef which was again, fantastic! A beautiful array of multicoloured fish, and even turtles and sharks to be spotted!

The volleyball competition was an opportunity for everyone to go crazy, and I’m quite liking my new game name- ‘Popster’! The standard of the sport was awesome, but Tim’s umpiring had to be the funniest part! Thank you to all the Fijians who got involved and didn’t get too angry and my inability to play volleyball!

Moving to Niubasaga village was a huge commitment, and definitely a bit of a culture shock; but I have never been so excited to get involved and be a part of something  as I am with the Think Pacific Team. I am living with Eva, Amossi, Charlotte (5), Jamie (18 months), Abraham (4 months) and of course, Sophie(10)!, and I could not have asked for friendlier or more family-orientated people than this beautiful Fijian family. Although we have only been in the village for 3 nights, our work in the local school, and indeed on the building project has begun, and it looks extremely promising!! Being called ‘Madam’ is bizarre, but the children in Class 4 are just awesome, and I can’t wait to write about the amazing times I have ahead of me in my next blog.

Vinaka vaka levu!


Sunday, May 30th, 2010

May 2010 team arrive in Niubasaga Village

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Monday 24th May –

After a relaxed morning enjoying some sunshine on the beach and playing some volleyball, the team packed up their kit and got ready to head across to Niubasaga, our project village for the May 2010 expedition. As ever we went dressed to impress, with the guys in sulus and bula shirts and the ladies in skirts, shirts and dresses. Arriving into the village we were once again greeted by smiling faces, and the team enjoyed some tea in the community hall as it is still tabu for drinking grog, before once again meeting their new families and making their way to their new homes. After a little time to unpack and settle in the team were quickly out and about, with volleyball kicking off quickly with the village guys and kids everywhere wanting to play games, tell stories and run around like crazy, it felt great to be in the village!

After dinner the team attended church as a welcoming service into the community, with the youth singing “I Know the Lord”, the Vakatawa preaching on the prophesy given for Moses, and some fantastic hymns being sung. Faith and religion plays a central role in Fijian life, and it is something that is therefore very special to become a part of during the project weeks ahead.

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Tuesday 25th May –

This morning was our first team briefing, as we went through the plans for the build before mapping out the rest of the day. Meeting back at 9am we set off across the island to the Moturiki District School and kindergarten, where our teaching and kindi placements shall be based, to meet the teachers, see the classrooms and of course meet the crazy kids! The walk in itself proved to be a mini expedition, with the road a little wet causing people to slip and slide their way along! Whilst in the school we also had the chance to chat through the sports programme, and with Cassie looking to introduce kickboxing Master Mika, the headmaster, was very excited!

The afternoon was a relaxed one, with the team spending some time with different families as Tim and Benjy, our expedition leaders, pulled them aside for their “ppp’s”. (personal project planning) There was of course some volleyball being played, and a mini game of touch rugby also kicked off. At the de-brief we came together to prep for the start of the projects tomorrow, and the huge amount of interest in the school and kindi placements was fantastic to see. With two rotas there was the chance to give everyone the opportunity to be involved, and heading into school for the first week were Lucy Lomax into class 3, Poppy into class 4, Becky G into class 5, Lucy Price into class 6 and Nathan into class 8. Sophie, Anna, Georgia and Cassa were also ready and waiting for the little angels in kindi, with ideas for arts and crafts and the play area already floating around. Whilst the build can often steal the glory of the project, the school and kindi are a massive part of the holistic development that the Ministry of Health and Lomaiviti Council are keen for us to implement, and the children really do make it such an incredibly worthwhile experience.

Tuesday night is also “Movie Night on the project, and after some discussion, with Bad Boys 2 and 300 being thrown out there, it was Taken which won the day…it is certainly a crowd pleaser!

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Wednesday 26th May –

This morning the project work began, with Benjy taking the school and kindi team across and Tim ready to rumble on the build. On the build the foundations are the name of the game, and with the build site being covered by a dead tree the first job was for that to be cut up by the chainsaw and the pieces removed. Another boulder then had to be cut away and rolled, and finally we were set to make the profile. The team then confirmed the measurements, with some class 8 maths being needed, squared the corners and put up the string as the marker for the ground as level. With the profile completed the team then began to dig around the perimeter for the blocks, and by lunch we were there, with just some flattening out when we got back. Others also measured and cut the rods to be put in the foundations, and it was then time to start mixing the concrete for the first layer of blocks. With no cement mixers in sight it can take some hard graft as you load the sand and gravel into the barrel, with the water and cement inside, keep it turning and then pour it on, and it was a fantastic team effort by all those on the build to help each other and get the job done well. As we finished for the day a layer of cement had been completed around 2 sides, and with Jack and Luke continuing until 3 oclock we arrived back in the afternoon to see two layers of blocks had been completed ready for us to do the third tomorrow.

In kindi the team were very quick to settle into the routine and start to throw ideas out there to encourage the kids, both in the group work that they do but also during outdoor play time. They also chatted to Benjy about their ideas for making the play area even bigger and better, with a slide for the kids, it is a fun few days ahead!

In school they were also enjoying the challenge of teaching in what is a very different setting to the classrooms back at home, but whilst resources may be more limited the kids have an enthusiasm and excitement to learn that the volunteers can really feed off. And of course in the afternoon it was time for sports coaching to begin, and that is always a fun part of project life. With the team having a huge amount of sporting interest we have seven sports up and running as: Rugby – James + Joe, Netball – Lucy + Lucy, Football – Graham + Ronan, Rounders –Poppy, Georgia, Becky G, Greg and Anna, Hockey – Nathan + Becky S, Badminton – Jason + Jamie, Kickboxing – Cassie + Sophie. There is also interest in beginning swimming classes for classes 1 and 2 which is great, and with house sports on Friday afternoon there are games for the coaches to be working towards.

After sports the guys from the villages were out for a big game of touch, with Ronan, Jamie, James, Graham, Jason, Benjy, Tim and myself also joining in and showing some kaivalagi magic! It was then back across to Niubasaga for the de-brief, and after talking through an excellent start to the projects we looked to finalise the committees, including “Fancy Dress”, “Kindi Fundraiser” and “Fun Day”. With the team expressing their interests the committees are: Fancy Dress – James, Jason, Cassie, Anna and Greg; Kindi Fundraiser – Becky, Becky, Joe, Georgia and Sophie; Fun Day – Lucy, Lucy, Poppy, Jamie, Ronan, Nathan and Graham. The fancy dress committee will need to be quick choosing their theme, as the big event is all set for this Saturday night!

And of course Wednesday night is “Quiz Night”, with last weeks winning team of Nathan, Becky S, Graham and Anna writing the brain teasers. There was a range of topics to say the least, including Pokemon, Neighbours and the Periodic Table, and in a low scoring contest it was the leaders (named “I like to eat worms” after Tim’s exploits on the build….)who won the day!

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Thursday 27th May –

On the build this morning the team were quick to crack on with mixing the cement to cover the second layer of blocks so that the third and final layer could be set. The team then had to dig, shovel and carry mud, coral and sand to fill in the centre of the foundations to near ground level, and once again it was a huge team effort with Ronan and Jason running around with wheel barrows, Becky, Greg and James shovelling to flatten it and Benjy, Jamie, Graham and Joe doing some hard digging. By the end of the day the rods had been laid and all that is now left for the foundations is the concreting tomorrow.

In kindi it was another action packed day for the team, starting with the name game before teaching colours and basic numbers with lego pieces. In arts and crafts there was some celebrity fun, as the children cut out famous faces and then cut out or drew clothes for their bodies and stuck them all onto card. There were some big names on show, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie having a makeover! They also introduced “finger flick” painting which the kids loved, its fair to say there are some artists amongst them in an abstract kind of way!

In school the volunteers continued to find their feet in the classroom, and found themselves enjoying the opportunity to teach when it came up. In the after noon Tim and Lucy Lomax were also lucky enough to enjoy a Fijian lesson with classes 7 & 8, learning a few key pharses along the way! And sports coaching was once again in full swing, with Graham and Ronan having some dribbling races with class 3 & 4 in football, some big hits in class 7 & 8 rugby, and a hilarious game of rounders with classes 1 & 2, with no one really knowing where to run and when!

This evening, back in the village, there was a “games night” for the team and village, with card games, pick up sticks, snakes and ladders and “Down in the jungle” keeping us entertained.

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Friday 28th May –

With everything set this morning the team mixed and laid the cement for the flooring and final layer of blocks, and by lunch the job was done. It will now be left to dry over the weekend before we begin to construct the frame on Monday.

There was more fun and games in kindi this morning. After morning worship for the kids and learning their colours the team sat everyone in a circle to sing songs, with old favourites “Ba ba black sheep” and “Old Macdonald” popping up. Each person then had to go into the centre of the circle and make animal noises for everyone else to guess…Georgia’s impression on a god was most excellent! And with “Monsters” being chosen as the theme for the fancy dress party tomorrow night, during arts and crafts the kids were busy making masks and claws to hang around the community hall for the big event!

In school Becky was overseeing a maths test for class 5, whilst Lucy P was also helping with maths in class 6. In class 4 Poppy was helping the children with their story books, whilst in class 3 Lucy L helped with English comprehension. In sports this afternoon it was game time, with matches all over the place and the team getting themselves fully involved. And with sports coaching finished and the kids heading home, the team came together for a big game of rounders, splitting into ppp groups. It was an epic encounter, with catches off trees, some almighty hits and some cheeky run outs, and with Benjy’s team in the field and leading 14 ½ to 13 with just two bats left for Tim’s team the ball was launched high and long….and as Nathan tried to throw it back it was lost in the undergrowth. With the search party having no luck the two captains shook hands on a very good draw, and the teams are ready to battle it out once again next Friday afternoon!

This evening saw the end of tabu on grog, and so the team and village made their way to the community hall to enjoy a few bowls, tell stories and of course “hop hop”, and with grog set for tomorrow night I imagine there will be a party spirit in the hall for the fancy dress party!

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Sunday, May 30th, 2010

More gap year briefing photos from Caqalai Island..

Saturday 22nd May –

This morning we were back on the boats as we made our way around Ovalau to Levuka town, the old capital of Fiji, for a day trip. Levuka is a small place, but it has a charm about it and offers the team the opportunity to send some emails, pick up sulus, dresses and bula shirts for the village and grab a smoothy.

Today was also a very special day for the team as Lucy Price celebrated her 19th birthday. We had a sulu for the whole team and Caqalai staff to sign, and Ma and Avo baked a fantastic cake which we came together to enjoy at afternoon tea. The Caqalai band were also there to sing happy birthday on her big day!

Back on Caqalai in the afternoon Kiti had also arranged for a “hat making” competition, with everyone using what they could find on the island to create their masterpiece. It was a labour of love for many, and after offering the inspiration behind their creation, after dinner the catwalk was set up for everyone to model their design. We had the Turaga ni koro from Niubasaga across to judge alongside the expedition leaders, and with so many putting in such a huge effort it proved an extremely difficult one to call. With Becky and Sophie claiming 4th place, Ronan 3rd and Graham 2nd, it was left to the Turaga to choose the winner…and it was Lucy Price who claimed the top spot for her very fashionable design, winning a Caqalai sulu and some treats. The grog then kicked off and the “hop hop” began, with Lucy drinking 19 bowls to celebrate and the team all up on their feet dancing!

Sunday 23rd May –

This morning was our snorkelling trip, and we started by making our way out to the Ulibau drop off out past snake island. The coral and fish in the area are absolutely stunning, and with lots of talk of sharks James, Tim and Jamie were lucky enough to spot a white tipped reef shark swimming below them. We then hopped back in the boats and went across to the snake island drop off, and it was one again Tim and James who were the lucky ones as they saw a turtle pop out from the reef and into the deep. As they called for others to catch a glimpse of the beautiful creature Lucy Price also saw the turtle as it made its way past the team.

In the afternoon it was time for the biggest sporting event in 2010 so far…the TP volleyball competition! The four teams ready for battle were: James, Sophie, Lucy P, Joe and Tim; Jason, Jamie, Lucy L, Georgia and Becky G; Nathan, Anna, Becky, Graham and Benjy and Poppy, Ronan, Cassandra, Greg and myself. After some epic contests in the group stages it was Nathan’s team who sat top of the pile with 3 wins out of 3, however with semi-final play offs there was still lots to fight for. With second playing fourth the as yet winless team “Tiger Sharks” (James’s team) pulled off the upset and knocked Poppy’s team our to reach the final, where they would meet the still un-defeated Nathan’s team after their semi-final victory. Despite and dramatic late surge at 7-14 down to draw it back to 12-14, ultimately the champions were too strong, and Nathan, Graham, Becky, Anna and Benjy were left to celebrate.

After some card games, a rather competitive game of “spoons” and dinner it was then time for the big fat tp quiz of the year. Once again the team split into their volleyball teams fot he battle of the minds, and as tradition the leaders had written the first quiz for the expedition, touching on all sorts including Jordan, Champagne, Cricket and Julius Ceaser.  After a close contest, with 4 marks separating all four teams, it was once again Anna, Becky, Nathan and Graham who were celebrating, and they have the honour of writing the next quiz, as well as a pack of Oreos to enjoy!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Latest gap year photos from Fiji

For all friends and family following the Think Pacific volunteer project, here are the first photos from our current Fiji gap year and career break team as they relax into life on their castaway island, take a first snorkelling trip to the reefs, sample drinking some ceremonial Kava, and enjoy a day trip to introduce themselves to their new Fijian friends and family on Moturiki island. We document all our gap year projects at least weekly, with regular photos, diaries and stories from our volunteers themselves, so keep dropping by for more pics and details as our expedition gets underway in Fiji! (click each photo in our gallery to see a larger image)




Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

The first few days in Fiji for our May volunteer team

May 2010 gap year Fiji

Thursday 20th May –

With the sun just starting to rise the May 2010 team arrived safely and loaded onto the TP bus to begin the journey along the coral coast. As ever they were met with smiling kids and villagers waving along the way, and after a short stop off in Suva the team made their way to waidalice bridge, where the Caqalai boats were ready and waiting. In the beautiful Fiji sunshine the bags were onto the outboards and we set off down the river, through the mangroves and out into the ocean to our castaway island where the team shall spend the next 5 days before village life begins.

After lunch, and a quick swim, we were once again onto the boats to make our way over to Niubasaga to present the sevusevu to the Ratu of Moturiki, and with Niubasaga being the project village the visit had even greater significance. Walking into the village the villagers were there to sing a welcoming song, and we were then into the hall to make our presentation of the sevusevu. With it being the tabu period no grog was being drunk, however some extremely kind and touching words were spoken by the Ratu, with the community seemingly moved to meet their new friends and family from Think Pacific. There was also the opportunity for the team to introduce themselves to the community, after which the families presented a salusalu to their volunteers and, of course, the “hop hop” began. The team were fantastic in jumping to their feet to get the village up dancing, and there was lots of cheering, wooping, and laughing. As we walked back out to the boats the whole team were massively moved, and hugely excited, to be heading back on Monday, it is a very exciting 4 weeks ahead!

Friday 21st May –

This morning a few of the team took the opportunity to have a snorkel out to snake island, whilst others relaxed on the beach as we waited for Philip Komai and Seruwaia Beci, our local partners from the Ministry of Health, to come across from the mainland for the briefing. With the briefing underway just after 11am, Philip Komai once again gave a great presentation to the team on how the action plans that they shall be working towards were formed, and the impact and development that we hope to achieve in the weeks ahead. Komai has been a massive presence for Think Pacific since we first met back in 2006, and if our team is able to carry with them just a small bit of his passion for the projects and development in the villages then they shall go a very long way! He also offers perspective and purpose to the work that our volunteer teams do, and we are very lucky to have his continued support. The briefing is also an opportunity for the expedition leaders to talk through village life, Fijian culture and customs, and the project aims in a little more detail.

The afternoon was then free for the team to relax, with a group heading out with Tim and Benjy to spot and remove the crown of thorns along the reefs which kill and damage the coral and sea life, whilst others read on the beach and had a swim. In the early evening we then came together once again to have a chat and get to know eachother a little better. Expeditions rely on a sense of team spirit and a strong team ethos, and that starts from these first few days, so it was great to get everyone chatting and sharing a little bit, all that was missing was the group hug!

In the evening Caqalai had arranged for the youth group from Daku village to come across to perform mekes as entertainment, and with it being our first ever village it was lovely to see some friends and family from Daku and for them to meet our latest team. They also invited myself and Benjy to join them to perform the meke we learnt for the Daku fun day, and it is amazing how quickly it all comes back! The mekes also show the team what they shall be learning ready for the Niubasaga fun day in just 3 weeks time! They also threw in some fun dances to entertain, after which the grog was mixed and there was lots of “hop hop”…a taste of things to come in the weeks ahead.

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

A few thank you’s to Moturiki

Hannah's gap year in Fiji

Our last Thursday in Navuti was marked by the community holding a special church service in order to bid us farewell. I was given the opportunity to say a few small words of thanks on behalf of the team along with Tim who would be leaving Fiji after 10 months of volunteering. The following is what was said…

Bula Vinaka Navuti. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few ‘thank yous’. A huge part of the project other than the build/sports was working in the kindy and Motoruki District School. Elisa- a huge vinaka from all the girls who helped in the former…and Nial. They would also like to thank a certain Little Miss Lodi for all the fashion tips she inadvertently gave to us all, wearing several different dresses a day, sometimes wearing no dresses at all and personifying a ‘diva’ – ‘booyakasha’.

Regarding school, a huge vinaka to Master Meka, Master Simi, Master Saki, Madame Meg, Mrs Khan and Master Khan. Your guidance during the last three weeks has been brilliant, and I know everyone who helped in school is amazed by the hard work you all put in there, day in, day out. And Master Meka, that ice cream the other day was, just, beautiful – rai rai vinaka. We hope you enjoyed our efforts at the talent show, from the ladies in black to the boys bearing their flesh, and we similarly hope our contribution to the school will help continue the great work you have already begun there. Our jungle dress up night was another hit, and a huge vinaka to my little sister, Liko, for showing us Brits how it is done. I have seen a baby dinosaur so convincing. 

Now, on the subject of evenings, I do not think any bar, club or social event space can compare to the ‘hop hop bar’, even in Scotland. For everyone who strummed a guitar, did a little ‘wana taki taki’, ground some yagona and sang, vinaka vakalevu. Our nights at hop hop truly added another dimension to our time here in Navuti. But just remember, you’ll never find a Kavalangi girl like me. 

Nial and Smith would also like to thank all you Fijian lads for showing them how to serve kava – properly. The girls, on the other hand, would sincerely like to thank everyone at the bakery. Your bread is divine. Bali – you cheeky girl – thank you for hosting several ‘bread sessions’, for charging all our mobiles phones, for taking us fishing, and indeed, thank you to anyone who captained our boats out at sea. Another thanks must go to the women who taught us to weave – here’s one I made earlier (presents amazing bookmark).

Now, tomorrow is a huge, momentous day. Tomorrow, the whole of Motoruki will watch and judge as Think Pacific Team April 2010 do….THE MEKE. We do not only hope to wow you all with our moves, but we hope to make proud our several, very patient meke teachers. We thank you for giving up your time to share this rhythmic, traditional dance with us. I have no doubt that the girls will, as ever, excel in this activity, but we wish the boys all the very best of luck. They need it!

One thing I think the whole team are thankful for is the buying in of oreos and crisps into the shop. Dimbow and Kinai Senior – vinaka. Talking about food, I only want to say two words – KANA VAKALEVU. Food, food – glorious food. Tavioka, dalo, ovi, kawai, tiboli – au tali taka!

On this note, I would like to finish up by thanking all our adopted families. To all you Mums, Dads, sisters, brothers, cousins – to all of you who opened up your homes to us, who shared your food, gave up your beds, massaged us (Mirren – vinaka), cleaned our clothes, put up with our sickness and moaning about Navuti’s vicious mosquitos, put aftersun on our sunburn…..thank you. Ako – my chica, Luke, Tarusila, baby Egg, Liko, Grandpa Jo, Nau – all my new family, vinaka. Thank you for everything you have taught me about sharing, caring and loving others, no questions asked. Your example puts me to shame. I will never forget my time with you. Thank you. Thank you Think Pacific April 2010 team – Harry, Tim and Benji, and all of Navuti for making my time here so special. Vinaka Vakalevu. Hakuna Matata. God Bless.

Cue rapturous applause ;)