Past volunteers

Volunteer stories: Maria De Freitas


Maria

As we are approaching the end of week 8 in the village, I felt this might be a good time to slip in my first blog! These last few weeks have been, as my fellow volunteers will also have put it, absolutely incredible.

Starting from the very beginning…

Although Harry, Tim and Benji assured us we were in Fiji, the torrential downpours during our first week in Caqalai resembled something more off the coast of Cornwall than a paradise pacific island! However, once that passed over and we arrived in Naicabecabe, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that we were indeed surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery that felt like the Fiji that had been advertised! Being welcomed into the village was massively humbling, and watching the mini Fijians rock out their Mekes introduced one of many Fiji moments that were to come!

Settling into village life wasn’t as tough as I had imagined. In fact, pit toilets, cold bucket showers, mozzies and not forgetting my wonderful rodent friends (who like to keep me company in bed at night!) have become part of normal daily life. All of the villagers are incredibly hospitable and friendly. With only a couple of weeks into our stay here, it already felt like home. With that, I think that Fijians are quite possibly the happiest people on the planet! Coming from the hustle and bustle of a city, “Fiji Time” took some getting used to. Needless to say “Fiji Time” has to be the best thing to come from Fiji. It really does take chilling out and doing essentially nothing to a whole new level, it’s great!

Aside from relaxing, building and teaching we has also enjoyed lots of little Fijian adventures!

• Snorkelling in Caqalai – A beautiful introduction into some stunning coral reefs in Fiji. We were told to watch out for the coral because some were poisonous; we just didn’t know which one and despite some hilarious efforts from Emily and I to avoid them, knowing me I ended up sitting on one and getting stuck!

• Snorkelling in Levuka – Again, beautiful reefs with some crazy fish! Even saw a shark!

• Hiking to the “Peak” in Levuka  – A serious test on our fitness but the 2 hour climb/hike was definitely worth the view!

• Fancy dress evening – Such a fun evening, the entertainment committee made their debut with the “Oceana” themed fancy dress evening. The whole village was welcomed to join in, but in the end it turned out that only the TP gang arrived at that evening’s grog sporting some funky outfits! Running low for ideas, I opted for the ‘Ocean’ look; which involved dressing in blue, backcombing and talcum powdering my hair to achieve the crashing wave effect. Boy did I regret that decision the next morning!

• Naicabecabe day – The day we got to bust out our much rehearsed mekes!

• Old Capital Festival – Two days packed with excitement and nerves for the TP team and the kids of MDS in Levuka. Day one was disappointingly cut short by another tsunami warning by which the locals didn’t seemed too fussed about! The next day, however, was the one we had all anxiously been waiting for. An exciting day for everyone, with practically all the kids from MDS competing. The team atmosphere, that day was awesome, everyone went crazy cheering on each other as we came in as the underdogs to make it through to finals despite some hiccups!

• Rukuruku – Another test to our fitness, this time tackling a newfound fear of heights on some ledges. With massive team spirit, we all made it up to witness a spectacular view of Ovalau and safely back down! (Unfortunately for some of us, not in time for swim in the creek but still worth it!)

This Friday marked my last day teaching in Moturiki District School, where I had been teaching a small army of 8th graders for the past nine weeks. It was an emotional last day for all the volunteers in school; celebrated by a mini concert put together by the school with impressive mekes, songs and dramas. All the kids, teachers and villagers put in a tremendous effort decorating, rehearsing and baking. They even went as far as breaking the Tabu and bringing out the good old grog and composing us our very own farewell song! It was again, as I’ve said before massively humbling and for me, emotional to say goodbye!

As I’ve not been on the build it’s been more difficult for me to measure my input, but looking back, moments like Fridays concert and team hugs at the Old Capital Festival were truly heart warming and rewarding.

Initially, I had wanted to get stuck in on both the build and teaching but mainly building. Little did I know just how much fun school would be! Teaching in school for the first two weeks were Helen, Scott and I. As we walked off to our allocated classrooms, I was under the impression I would just be assisting. When headmaster Mika handed me the teaching materials for Class 8 and with a warm Fijian smile said “they’re all yours”, I found myself a little speechless! Here I was, 17, one of the youngest in the group, just graduated from high school now teaching a variety of subjects to 14 year olds by myself. Crazy.

Nerves died down quickly after a quick “get to know” game and I was introduced to thirteen incredible kids, who over the next nine weeks I would become unbelievably attached to. I quickly settled into the teaching routine and established more of a friendship with the kids rather than a teacher-student relationship, along with some memorable “Fiji moments”.

There are so many wonderful memories but just to name a few important ones, I’ll never forget the Bingo before maths, the kids exceeding 50 words in the word game every time, despite my best efforts to make it hard! The singing in morning devotion, the boys in my class performing the Fijian haka to Joe and I and then taking me out, the cheeky laughs and smiles all day long, messy musical chairs with Olly and several sneaky Bob Marley sing alongs during class (at times I had to remind myself I was the teacher!)

It was a definite test, confidence boost and character build standing up there teaching things that I myself had learnt not long ago. A tough but equally rewarding challenge! I was only scheduled to be in school for two weeks but at the end of each week I would find myself unable to leave and asking to stay just one more week! One more week turned into seven more weeks, with a massive thanks to Joe, Olly and Holly who all individually helped me out. It’s safe to say that my time spent in school has exceeded all my expectations of what I wanted to get out of this experience.

As for now, we will shortly be heading over to Nasavuki for a church service, dinner and a much missed grog session after a quiet (well sort of!) two week tabu.

Loloma, Maria

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It was the best experience of my life. I feel like I've come away with some of the closest friends you can ever make.
Lucy Price, Shrewsbury
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