About two and a half years ago, I was part of the TP8 team in Yanuca, Moturiki from January until March 2011. I can honestly say that the 10 weeks I spent in Fiji, particularly the 8 weeks spent in Yanuca, were some of the best of my life. It was an amazing and memorable experience, one that I am extremely grateful for. Teammate Laura and I stayed with a young family, who we both became really attached to and, like the rest of our team, had an extremely hard time leaving.
The build, sports and teaching were all great experiences, although if I’m being honest, my heart was in kindi, despite (or maybe because of?) its craziness. I distinctly remember the moment near the beginning of our time in the village, stargazing from the seawall, that I realized how difficult it was going to be to leave Yanuca. Planning my trip in high school a year prior, I wasn’t expecting to become so tied to a tiny village in the South Pacific, but I did. Before our team had even left the village I was thinking about how and when I could get back. After leaving Yanuca, I kept regular contact with my Fijian family and others from the village by phone and mail. Finally, after 2 years of missing Yanuca and my na, ta (Fijian mother & father) and sister beyond words, I was able to return to the village.
A few months ago I finished writing my final exams and was Fiji-bound a few days later. I was able to spend a month back in the village loved every second. Being back in the village with out Think Pacific was obviously a totally different experience but equally great. Simon and Harry were incredibly helpful in the logistics of getting back to the village and it was nice to know I could contact them if something came up during my stay (so keep this in mind if you’re thinking about going back). It was really neat to be able to do things that I didn’t get the chance to do during the expedition because we kept busy. This included all sorts of everyday things such as going out to the farm, fishing, cooking… I also learned heaps more Fijian, everyone loved speaking to me in Fijian and we all had some good laughs at my errors. People happily brought me all over Moturiki for all sorts of events and ceremonies. And while it was by no means planned, it was great that the kids were on holiday from school the first 2 weeks I was back, I loved being able to play with them all day!
Everyone in the village bent over backwards to ensure my safety, which I have to say I really appreciated. I did manage to require a trip to the Bureta hospital to get my finger stitched up (my Na will likely never let me cut cassava again) but after all was said and done we drank grog there and had a good laugh about it, and now I have a great scar and story to go along with it. I didn’t think it was possible, but leaving the village this time was even harder than before, especially after being able to spend so much time with everyone.
I became even more attached to everyone in Yanuca. Every evening I feel like I should still be there playing cards with the kids or drinking copious amounts of grog in the hall. What struck me most about my return to Yanuca was that despite the many changes that had occurred in the years since our project- new houses, new children, a second TP expedition- it still felt like a second home. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go back to Yanuca and to see my Fijian family again and hopefully I’ll get back to see them again soon (I don’t think I can stay away for another 2 years).