Definitely Go Chasing Waterfalls
My home for the next six months was going to be a small rural village called Nausori in the Nausori Highlands. I was staying in Fiji on the Viti Levu Island in Fiji – one of the 488 islands – to spend my gap year teaching English.
The school was located on the edge of the village and catered for the village children as well as those from the local area. It provided boarding for about 60 children. My role was teacher of class five, in which the kids ranged from nine to 15 years old, though the older kids were those retaking. I taught everything from maths, English and art to Fijian history and culture (my guidebook came in handy). The school was basic and facilities very minimal. Teaching electricity theory was especially interesting in a village without any electricity.
Ditch your watch
My days started on Fiji time (which basically means whenever it was decided school would start that day) and finished around 4pm, though the children’s regime was much stricter. Most of my free time was spent playing with the kids, being taken by them to the waterfalls, and learning to weave and cook Fijian food. Oh, and drinking kava, the local intoxicating drink!
The kids and the volunteers caused much amusement in the village when we decided to go to the waterfall by ourselves and saw a ‘spirit’ in the tree. After that we had to be escorted everywhere by the children as it was deemed that the spirits didn’t want us there on our own. We then had to sing and throw rocks before we could enter the waterfall to swim.
Living in the village with a Fijian family gave me the opportunity to experience Fijian warmth first hand. They are such welcoming people and on meeting our family we were immediately instructed to call them Mommu and Nanne (Mum and Dad). Fiji time also plays an important part in Fijian life: nothing is rushed! Some days we would sit by the road for five hours on the off-chance that a truck would drive by to take us to the city.
At weekends and school holidays we had the opportunity to travel around Fiji, visiting other islands and enjoying everything Fiji has to offer: magnificent beaches, cascading waterfalls, and natural waterslides. Being volunteers also meant we were lucky enough to be invited on a government head teachers’ trip to the Yasawas. These stunning islands are normally very expensive to visit but we got to visit them for next to nothing and even visited islands where no tourism will ever be allowed.
My time in Fiji changed how I see the world. Everyone there is so friendly and there is a real sense of kinship, much of which is lost in Britain. My time in Fiji made me realize the importance of being happy over material wealth, and in general has made me a much more rounded person. I have also made friends which I will remember forever. For me Fiji is a land of smiles, happy people, rich culture, and a stunning landscape.