Project life is in full flow and what a week it has been! The second full week of volunteering on our remote paradise island has left our team hammock feeling very lonely.
An eventful seven days kicked off with another day of all hands on deck on the build. A Fiji bank holiday meant school was out, adding further frustration for the team to kick off teaching and sports coaching. Everyone pitched in to ensure the foundations were finished and filled, in preparation for the rest of the main frame to be assembled. With no school the village was bustling with excited children.
On Tuesday the leaders let loose the School, and Kindi teachers. Sarah, Ellen, Alice and Caroline fired straight into Kindi, accepting the task of controlling the island’s 3-5 year olds they acted as human climbing frames and jukeboxes in great form. With the help of Tara, already the daily routine is set in place and the girls have begun to make their mark on the kids in the most influential of kindi ways – a new song!! Sarah’s bunny song has lifted the roof every day and will no doubt do so for the remainder of project.
On the school front, Will brushed up on his ABC’s in class 1&2, Hannah has made display posters with 3&4, Rachel led lessons in class 5&6 and Amber led Social Science and Maths lessons for the senior kids in 7&8.
Think Pacific’s extra-curricular activities are where the chaos is at for the children of Batiki District School and they know it. Having waited patiently for a week they made up for lost time with a manic house art and booming sports. A house art topic of ‘The Future’ saw Vono pip the headmasters judging by one point to take a 1-0 lead over Longolongo in the house cup.
Having chosen to coach sessions of Rugby, Netball, Football, Athletics and Rounders the team split to conduct their structured warm ups, practise drills and modified games. From 3 – 4pm the beach front school pitch has been a sea of kids playing to their hearts content.
From Tuesday onwards the build has involved Mike, Rory, Tommy, Phil, George, Tom with Jay and Semi supervising. Despite MC hammer pants, Russian powerlifting, Nige’s measuring and the odd stray hammer the boys have ended the week with an almost complete frame for our community hall. A remarkable feat with so many distractions!! Add to that Philism’s, with special mention to the conquering of his fear of heights. A great moment!
Around our daily project works has been occasions to attend, most memorable of which was Hannah’s birthday. The village treated Hannah to a traditional Fijian birthday celebration with a monstrous feast, tapa clothing and a warrior escort to the hall. Followed by a grog party which brought about a sing off between the team’s newly found choir and village band, needless to say it was a birthday we shall all remember, never mind Hannah.
The weekend saw the second of our evening adventures around the villages of Batiki. On Friday we made our way straight to Yavu after sports coaching. After enjoying a second feast in as many days we relaxed with the families we were staying with before an evening’s entertainment in the Yavu hall. The highlight of which was a Meke performance from the children of the village!
Following breakfast Saturday morning in Yavu the team relaxed their bodies on Mua’s private beach in preparation for the afternoons community sports matches of Rugby and Netball. In the netball, the TP girls got together to face a Batiki select side. With a bare seven players the girls gave it their all in sweltering heat. A sterling performance saw each player run their blood to water against the experienced Fijian ladies, losing the match 14-4. In the match: Ellen was Chizley, Hannah was a head the ball, Sarah was stylish, Rachel was nimble, Caroline was quick, Alice was constant, and Amber was unquestionable.
On the Rugby field, the TP boys mixed with villagers to play an extraordinary lengthy match of 7’s, thirty minutes long!! The warm up set the tone for a crowd pleaser, as Will’s drop kick swerved its way towards Tommy’s face. Sneaky George crashed his way over to wrap up a fine performance from himself and Tom’s debut rugby match produced a try worthy of Twickenham’s turf. As remembered it goes a little something like…Tom receives the ball in his own half from the ruck, Tom steps off his left foot to beat one man, confronted by two huge forwards he grubbers between the legs of one in his way and scoots around to retrieve the ball, in open space he races 40 metres until he reaches the full back, who he disposes off with a right fend and a skip out of his clutches to place the ball down. And…the crowd go nuts!
Sunday’s sabbath provided some well-deserved and much needed hammock time for the team to recuperate and restore their energies ready for the coming week of project…
One traditional ceremony rarely seen by Fijians, two sleep overs and a historical sunset trek has complemented the roaring project elements in a whirlwind of a week three.
Losing themselves in their work the boys on the build have continued in their efforts to complete Naigani’s community hall as quickly as possible. Fortunately, some bad weather has pulled the reins on them a little. Replacing two mornings work with two much deserved and well indulged tea parties.
Nailing the first piece of roofing iron on Wednesday brought a traditional ceremony whereby the women decorated the building as they sang and danced. Those working and those not were served Kava throughout the day, Mike ‘the president’ worked his way around all of the households to ensure he personally handed a bowl of Kava to every villager. Least to say, it was a laboured walk to sports that day!!
Our first rota in school has massively impressed the new headmaster at BDS and for that the team have Will, Rachel, Hannah and Amber to thank. Working as teaching assistants and taking the odd class themselves they have set high standards for the rest to follow. In particularly Rachel, who with a bright teaching career ahead of her has had a huge impact in class four and has been requested by Master Saki to ‘please stay?’.
Waking the ‘beat baby’ in Kindi, to find out what activity the fluffy monkey has in store for the kids has transformed learning time. The activity Sarah has brought from her nursery work in London has found itself a permanent place within the daily routine for the remainder of the project and most certainly a spot in the TP volunteer bible. Likewise with school, the start to Kindi has been outstanding and huge thanks must go to Alice, Caroline, Ellen and Sarah.
The extracurricular classes this week have taught and practised public speaking. The younger kids have worked on presenting very basic sentences in front of their peers and those in class 6, 7 & 8 rehearsed speeches for Fridays final. In the final, Vono house performed a piece from Coach Carter and Logologo the ‘Tell me lies about Vietnam’ poem. In grasping the poems meaning, the Logologo performance had a touch of sincerity you would not expect from a 13 year old Fijian girl. However, Vono’s animated and slick performance took the spoils, giving Vono a 2-0 lead in the house cup.
Making their mark in Yavu the week before, it was clear the impression the team had left. A few days gone and we were invited back for another party, to witness a traditional ceremony. An eldest son had returned to his mother’s village for the 1st time. Being a rare occasion we were incredibly fortunate to witness the presentation of Fiji’s most prestigious gift…the whales tooth! The team showed their appreciation by partying the night away after the huge feast which saw us make light work of the ‘one big pig’!!
Shaking off the grog over from the previous night, we were onto our third and final village visit, this time to our neighbours Manuku. The team were in fine form as they were quickly acquainted and educated on how they were related to this village. Again we were treated to a feast fit for a king and for many of us, our first taste of goat, which was a fan’s favourite amongst the team. With our stomachs full, it was only our appetite for grog which remained, which was easily satisfied as the grog party continued into the early hours of the morning.
Nursing a ‘grog over’ the following day, we had a great excuse to relax and kick back in Manuku village. After restoring our energy levels we took on a trek to the highest peak in Batiki. Scrambling through the bush we made it to the summit to witness the breath taking views of the whole Lomaiviti province. Up there we were treated to a visit to the old Manuku village where the first settlers lived over two hundred years ago, and told stories about the villager’s ancestors. Returning to the peak we then chilled out and watched the sunset which featured predominantly in Sunday’s highlight of the week, and will certainly remain one of the team’s fondest memories of Batiki. However…watching the sunset at the top of the peak meant the decline was in darkness, in that surreal experience was the head torches 15 minutes of fame. Arriving back in Manuku, we jumped into a packed out boat for our journey home under the star filled sky, capping a great end to another amazing week.
Approaching in week four we have the eagerly anticipated Nairai trip – 3 teams, one island, it’s going off!!