Journey to Wainadiro
The group woke up at 8am Friday morning to prepare for our journey to the highlands village of Wainadiro. We made a few stops in Nadi for our cook crews to buy the food for the breakfasts and dinners they had planned to cook. After grocery shopping, we went to the Nadi Market – an open air farmer’s market in the center of town. Carson, our leader of the day, helped us buy kava – a root plant that is traditionally presented to the village chief to ask for permission to enter a village. We made one more stop to purchase sulus, which are floor-length skirts worn by men and women at all traditional Fijian ceremonies. We then set out on a beautiful drive along the Coral Coast in the south of Fiji. At the end of the paved road we met Joe, a resident of Wainadiro and our guide for the next few days. We then loaded our bags into a truck and drove 20 kilometers down dirt roads through the jungle to reach the village. Upon arrival, we all donned our sulus and went to present kava to the chief. The chief accepted our offering, so the whole village came to participate in a sevu sevu ceremony with our group, where everyone was served a traditional drink made from ground up kava. After the ceremony, our first cook crew (Greg, Claire, Carolyn, and Carson) prepared a delicious dinner of pineapple chicken curry for the group. We went to bed early to be well rested for our day of service tomorrow.
Service work and fun in Wainadiro
Saturday morning we helped the villagers begin work on a medical dispensary center that will improve helathcare in Wainadiro for years to come. Carolyn and Lillie went with Katie and our guide Joe to go gather some sand from a beach down the river while Dan and Sadie helped the village carpenter mix concrete. Our teamwork and collaboration with the villagers paid off – by lunchtime we had finished laying the foundation for the dispensary. After lunch, we helped Joe and several of the local kids on a different project – building a billy billy raft to transport crops down the river to the market in town. Joe showed Paige and Greg how to lash together long stalks of bamboo to build the body of the raft, while Abe led some of us to look for thick sticks to make the crossbars to sit on. After we finished, we all got to take a test ride down the river on the raft we had just built. Dinner Saturday night was barbecue chicken, vegetable stir fry, and potatoes, provided by our second cook crew (Abe, Juliana, Sadie, and Lillie). Sunday is traditionally a day of rest in Fiji, so we did not work on the dispensary and spent the day relaxing, exploring the area, and getting to know more of the villagers. Tiffany, Claire, Julianna, and several others went to a Fijian church service led by a member of the local community. Katie took Dan and another group on a hike up to a spectacular point overlooking the jungle and distant mountains. Sadie played cards and rugby with a group of village kids and knew every single person in the village’s name by the end of the day. Abe befriended a retired teacher who cooked us a delicious lunch after he helped fix her broken toilet. Sunday night, the village prepared a delicious dinner for our farewell banquet – dalo leaves, chicken, cassava, rice, and vegetables cooked in a handmade underground oven. We presented the village chief with more kava and the school supplies we brought to donate at the closing ceremony to thank the village for their hospitality. In return, they presented us with handmade flower necklaces. After a night of dancing and goodbyes, we went to sleep to prepare for our early departure for surfing in Mango Bay. It is tough to say what we will remember the most from Wainadiro: the big things, like the stars at night, the kava ceremonies, or the amazing mountain views; or the little things, like the roosters waking us up in the morning or the faded pastel paint on the walls of the buildings. I think ultimately the biggest thing we will remember is the people – the friendly people who took us in and taught us the ways of their culture.
River Boats and Waves
The road out of the village was too muddy to drive on, so instead we all loaded onto two small river boats to head home. The ride out was wet but beautiful, with views of magnificent waterfalls and lovely villages on the banks of the river. We said goodbye to Joe in the town of Navua and got in a van to head to Mango Bay Resort for Surf School. Justin, our head surf instructor, gave us a few lessons on the beach before we hopped on a boat to head out to surf. We surfed underneath a beautiful Fijian sunset for a few hours before heading back to the resort for dinner. The next morning, we woke up early to catch some waves before the tide receded. Everyone was standing up and riding waves by the end of the day, but Carson, Isabella, and Julianna were the champions of our surfing competition. After surfing, Carolyn won the resort’s blindfolded pineapple smashing competition on the beach. Wednesday, we did some souvenir shopping and then headed back to Nadi for our last night in Fiji. Tomorrow we will wake up early to board a flight for Australia, sad to be leaving the island paradise and friendly people of Fiji but excited for the adventures that await us in the land down under.