The village of Mua is unlike any community I have ever experience before. It is that word ‘community’ that is important, as it has come to perfectly encapsulate every aspect of Fijian life that I have encountered during my short time here. Fijian hospitality is famous, but nothing can quite prepare you for the sacrifices that Fijians are willing to make to accommodate your stay, from the giving up of a bed to the sharing of food. It has taken just a matter of days to feel completely comfortable within the environment I now live, a testament to the family I live with, but also to the Fijians as whole.
For the past week I have been helping to repair the church building. Definite progress has been made, with large sections of plastering having been completed and old timbers removed. However much is still left to do, especially on the roof which requires giant wooden structures of scaffolding to be built which require a lot of time and energy. The building phase has been a baptism of fire for many of the volunteers, myself included, however most are starting to relish the new challenges as they progressively become more comfortable with the new skills and knowledge they are quickly acquiring.
The nature of the work means that the church has inadvertently become the centre of attention for the villagers, but it is important to remember that work going on in school and in kindi. At the end of each day the builders see exhausted volunteers walking back to the village being followed by ecstatic children, evidence of the hard work being done in both sections. Saki, the ten-year old that I live with, said that he loves having volunteers in the class as it makes school less boring, which I guess is exactly the point of why we are here.
The sports coaching has been a mixed bag of carnage and learning in healthy measures of both. Alternating days between the younger and older children, definite progress has been seen by the volunteers. I have been coaching rugby with Matt and Struan and we have been amazed at how quickly the children pick up some of the concepts. Simply by organising them into drills, a novelty for most of them, their natural talents flourish and we can coach them things they would have never have picked up on otherwise.
On a personal note, being able to play touch-rugby everyday with the locals from Mua and other villages has been a great to way to let off steam and bond with the villagers at the end of the day. Keeping up can be tough at times, where more often than not tactics are replaced with out-and-out flare, but it’s been fun.
Fijian customs are experienced everyday, from the saying of Grace to the drinking of Grog. Throughout however there has been the constant guiding hand of the Fijians. Both humble and helpful, it has been touching to see how eager they are to ingratiate us into society, always quick to explain procedures and to get us involved in daily activities. The past weekend saw members of the team cooking, line and spear fishing, visiting the copra plantations and celebrating Palm Sunday, all under the supervision of the Fijians.
I cannot think of how I could get more involved in the community, which is another testament to the way the Fijians treat visitors. Sinking to cliché, we are one big family, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.