2014 Summer Student, Bryan, Reflects on His Trip To Fiji!
Fiji Cultural Exchange, 2014
In July of 2014, I went to Fiji with Global Works. I chose to go for a few reasons: I’d always wanted to travel to the South Pacific, and learning about and experiencing a new culture seemed like a perfect topic for my 120-hour senior project; at my high school, everyone has to do a “culminating project” on a topic of their choice in order to graduate. The trip is one I’ll remember for the rest of my life!
When we landed in Nadi, I was hit with a very authentic feeling that I can’t describe. I was finally in the South Pacific! I got off the plane and breathed in the thick, humid air. The hospitality was apparent from then on; everyone was so friendly and welcoming! We bussed to the town of Rakiraki where I had the best pineapple I’ve ever tasted. I got a feel for the culture as we drove around the island. It struck me as different, but I was intrigued by what I saw. Takalana Bay was our first destination; the group bonded as we swam and relaxed in the warm lagoon. We swam with dolphins on a reef, jumped into a pool with a waterfall, and learned about Fijian culture by drinking kava, a traditional tea-like drink. It struck me how happy the Fijian people are, even though they live a much simpler lifestyle compared to my home country, the United States.
Our next place was Nativi Village. We would spend a little over a week there. The villagers greeted us warmly and it felt like a second home! I loved talking to my host family, playing volleyball, and learning about Fiji. The lifestyle amazed me; working all day, eating light amounts of food with little protein, and dancing through the night. I found it tough to keep up, but it was a great experience that built character. We were able to help the people of Nativi by building sidewalks and a kitchen, teaching at the local school, and cooking. Seeing our progress was very rewarding. One of my favorite things we did in the village was swim in a river; the villagers gave us rides on their raft! I definitely miss the people I met in Nativi, and someday I hope to come back and visit!
After Nativi, we stopped at Golden Point Resort for a couple days. I was happy to see the ocean again! We got in some sea kayaking, then continued on to the town of Nadi where we arrived two weeks earlier. Negotiations were made with shop workers to buy souvenirs and get henna tattoos. The next day, we learned to surf and got to experience the thrill of riding a wave! I’ll remember catching my first wave for a long time, it got me into surfing. That night, the group went to the port for what I thought was the best meal on the entire trip: for me, New Zealand prime sirloin and mashed potatoes! We were about to leave for what was my favorite part of the experience, the Yasawa Islands!
Early the next morning, we returned to Port Denarau to catch the ferry to Nacula Island. It was airy on top of the boat, the wind was noticeable as we worked our way through the Yasawa Islands. I listened to music and embraced my surroundings, yet another memory that has stuck with me. Once we got there, we were transferred to smaller vessels to come ashore; we were at the Blue Lagoon! The resort where we stayed, Oarsman’s Bay Lodge, was Fijian-run, and the exceptional hospitality continued. I enjoyed playing the resort’s guitars. Days were spent lazing on the beach, hiking at sunrise, and swimming in the electric blue water. Swimming in the Blue Lagoon Caves was a highlight for sure. I was guided through a completely submerged underwater tunnel into a barely lit cavern! We capped off the trip with a sunset boat ride to a special island and a kava ceremony with locals, into the heart of the night.
Sadly, good things have a way of coming to an end. After 19 incredible days, it was time to go home. The boat ride back to Nadi gave us some final time to take in the Fiji Islands. As our plane climbed out over the ocean and left Fiji behind, I committed to returning someday. Getting back home was bittersweet; it’s difficult to part with something so special, but it was nice to finally take a hot shower and sleep in my own bed! Looking back, I would not be the person I am now if I hadn’t done this trip. I’m more broad-minded, I’ve made friends and connections, and I got to immerse myself in another culture. My trip to Fiji was one of the best times of my life so far, and it left me wanting to experience what the world has to offer!