Man, I’m gonna miss Fiji Fiji Volunteering

There aren’t a lot of settings where you can say “I worked overseas with 30 other university students to create a social impact in a developing country.” Nor is it really something you ever thought you would say. Lo and behold, 74 students are able to say that after they fly home for the Christmas holidays after spending a month on project.

Less than 12 months ago, I was this un-travelled angsty first-year commerce student, sitting in the international terminal of Sydney for the first time. I had never been overseas before. Not for a holiday, and certainly not for work.

I landed in Nadi, Fiji, to the welcome of a never-ending cycle of dampness from a never-ending cycle of sweat. Deciding to trail my way around the ‘local’ way, I hopped on a what looked like a reasonably empty bus.

…I quickly found out there is no such thing as an ’empty’ bus in Fiji

As the bus stopped every few metres (as a bus stop is to the interpretation of the driver), the bus got fuller

…and fuller Fiji Volunteering 

and fuller

My bags were piled up on top of me, cutting the circulation off from my legs, compressing my lungs into my spinal cord and all I could tell myself was this is part of the experience.

(only after measuring whether or not I would fit through the bus window…).

After having team led in Cambodia and now back to my trekker-roots in Fiji, I have been to over 15 villages and drunk

One of the many friends I made along the way. Polina giving it a big thumbs up.

more than 47 bowls of kava in my time, for the uncultured, kava is a Polynesian root crop when crushed turns into a hallucinogenic beverage that Fijians LOVE and continue to associate with tradition. I have sat in the tray of the ute, of a vehicle that probably should not be on the road anymore, with a village chief across 49km of dirt road singing “Amazing Grace”. I have flown a drone through the mountains of Fiji, mapping out acres of lush agrarian farmland. Fiji volunteering

 

 I can now see the difference between visiting a country as a tourist and visiting a country as a community member.

As Moses, a local farmer from Qereqere village has told me time and time again “when in Fiji, you eat like the Fijians do!”. I now
tell my own team this, with a cheeky grin
as I crush my 5 crackers with one hand into a soup bowl of
hot tea and add 4 soup spoons of sugar.

More than just the strange friends you make in villages, the people that come on project give you a sense of belonging unlike many others. Project can be hard, and investing in new cultures can easily be draining. However, the people that come through Project Everest are all there for similar reasons to you, and they’re going through the same growth alongside you.

In Australia, my immediate family that I live with doesn’t consist of 40 members. But, when I’m in country, that’s the standard. Each and every student that comes on project integrates themselves into a great big family.

After work, these people are those that you rely on for comfort or stress relief. You spend your weekends together, your meals together, and you share the same tiny bathroom. I don’t know the toileting schedule of my mates back home, but in country, that’s the standard.

Venture on Fiji Volunteering 

Blake Pearson, Team Leader (Fiji)

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