Past volunteers

Volunteer stories: Scott Hooker


Scott Hooker

Today marks the three week anniversary of our arrival here in Naicabecabe. Sixteen of us packed into two boats and shipped off to our new home. I had been well briefed for this moment and my stay in a Fijian village many times over. Yet, no matter how ready I thought I was it still couldn’t truly prepare me for what I’ve experienced so far.

Humbling would be the most fitting way to explain the hospitality and friendship offered to us volunteers. I was told how Fijians would give you their bed and sleep on the floor, feed you till you fell over in a food induced coma, accept you into their home with open arms and always offer you a smile or Bula when passing. This all sounded amazing and was part of the reason I was persuaded to come. But in a way seemed too good to be true. Safe to say my expectations have been exceeded beyond anything I could have imagined.

Village life is like nothing I’ve seen or lived in before. Every day I walk from my house to the volleyball court which is in front of the Church. My Fijian Mum sees me off and we swap goodbyes, most of which I understand but she always throws in some Fijian which I still don’t quite. The route I go takes me past Adam’s house where there’s always the oldest lady in the village sitting outside doing some cooking. I was told she doesn’t speak a word of English so I say good morning and she extends a ‘Yandra Vinaka’ my way. This is also the house where they decapitated a beautiful turtle for all to see. Not comfortable viewing I must say, but everyones got to eat.

Every week day starts with a quick brief to make sure we all know where we’re off to that day. Some head to school, either via the jungle/plantation route or the beach way depending on the tide. Some to set up Kindi and the rest of us stay behind and get stuck into the build. The brief lasts two minutes, yet I still find myself opting for a shady spot because the sun is already cooking me alive. The rain on Caqalai was something I savoured, knowing that my ginger hair and fair skin would suffer in the weeks to come. Being English I really wasn’t prepared for the Fiji sun in any way. Working in the village hall offers light shade and relief from the height of the day’s heat. We all mix in with the guys from Naicabecabe doing whatever jobs are required under the watchful eye of our resident carpenter Jack. A guy with forearms thicker than a coconut tree but one of the greatest senses of humour I’ve come across since I’ve been here.

Shortly after lunch we head to the neighbouring village to take P.E lessons or organised chaos, as they should be called. Only when we return can I take my shower finally. The bathing situation was something I must admit I was anxious about. But the jug bath behind a flimsy curtain is now something I look forward to, maybe not so much on windy days due to the risk of flashing anyone passing by.

The hours of sunlight here are something I haven’t got used to. It looks like midnight by 6:30 everyday, which pretty much sent me to sleep by nine during the first week. We’re all getting better at late nights, always helped by the grog parties or DVD nights round Holly, Alice & Fiona’s.

Walking though the village, you always bump into the locals who somehow all know your name and will ask how you are or where you’re off to. Only three weeks in and I quite comfortably call Naicabecabe home. And already dread saying goodbye.

‘Fiji Time’ was another concept Harry & Simon told me plenty about. But also something that has to be witnessed to realise how stupid the rest of the world is living life in the fast lane. The best representation of this in my opinion are the many nights spent sat around drinking Kava. I love how it’s banned for two weeks a month, so the other two are just a massive grog session every night. I like the notion that it’s not just the British who are binge drinkers. I get there shortly after dinner around eight but these things easily run to the early hours. The idea of sitting around a bowl full of muddy tasting water may not seem inviting. But throw in the drowsy light headed feeling after five bowls, three guitars and some late night dancing… and you’ve got yourself the most laidback party ever. Genius if you ask me. The Fijians take it in turns sitting in front of the grog and serving up the next round, which the other night was nothing short of thirty people.

People sit around under dim light quietly talking and passing the Kava between the crowd. As soon as the guitars start you know you’ve got mere seconds before one of the ladies taps you on the leg and pulls you up for a dance. The best nights involve a nice balance between sitting drinking and being pulled up for more dancing to the same song. Or quite possibly the only song the house band knows.

Last night I had about eight bowls after a two week absence from the kava. I became pretty rooted and quite content where I was sitting and just enjoyed watching others dance and swap stories. When my eyes became heavy and I ran out of energy to lift myself up to dance, I knew it was time to go to bed. After avoiding the frogs on the way home I climbed into bed, with my head still rather light and a grin on my face. I pulled out my ipod from under the pillow and turned on some pink floyd. Looked up to the top of my mosquito net and must of been asleep within minutes thinking, I could definitely get used to this.

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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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