Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Ni Sa Bula Vinaka!!
We hope that life is treating you well and that you continue to share what you learned from your GLA Fiji trip. As we reflect on our summer in Fiji we have fond memories of each session and are overwhelmed with satisfaction at all that we were able to accomplish because of your efforts. A total of nine water tanks were installed in both Gunu and the neighboring village of Nasoqo. During session three it rained seven days and we were able to see the tanks fill with water, some to the point of overflowing! What a huge blessing to see the village supplied with over 70,000 liters of drinkable rainwater! At the conclusion of session three we were able to witness the official declaration of the Marine Protected Area at Gunu which the villagers agreed to extend for the next five years! The area was marked with buoys so all who enter that bay will know not to fish there. A grand total of 7,164 mangroves were planted throughout all three sessions. So far the mangroves we planted have thrived at a survival rate of 85%. We were able to provide invaluable one-on-one support for students at Guanavou Primary School and we saw improvement as the students practiced spelling, reading, speaking, and writing in English.
It was a memorable summer, that’s for sure. How could we forget Abeeku and Bryn rap blasting everyone or Sergey just rapping all the time (literally)? Kenzie got fired up on the volleyball court while many of you hiked relentlessly up and down our little mountain. We had cold, saltwater showers and lots of rice and roti. Everything was “lit” and Donovan was always late (probably because he was taking a nap). Rileigh rocked that Celtic song at the talent show and Rachel sang and played guitar beautifully. Porter finally got her voice back but Alejandra never got her Taqis. You conquered some challenging hikes, mixed cement like animals, and made friends that will last a lifetime. We swam with manta rays (well some of us did) and played countless games with the children of Gunu. You learned how to weave, make jewelry, speak in Fijian, and sing the Isa Lei. Semi drove the boat fearlessly, Gabby begged us to “Shut up!”, Tema shared her passion for teaching, and Jim showed us incredible patience.
You have taught us all such important lessons and we are grateful that you chose to give three weeks of your summer to GLA Fiji. You made a difference and we hope you took home important life lessons.
All the best!
Amber and the GLA Fiji Team
Summer Blog Posts
July 7, 2016
Bula from Fiji!
As I write this, 21 of our 24 students have arrived and are settled in at our home base in Nadi. We have had the day to do some orientation, relaxation, and ice-breaker activities. We just got back from a walk to Wailoaloa Beach where we played some games (and where this photo was taken).
We can’t wait to meet our last three team members (Rebecca Rafalowski, Mackenzie Gibbons and Emmanuelle Hanna) and for all the adventures that lay ahead of us!
GLA Fiji Team
July 8, 2016
It is our second day here in Fiji and the whole team is here now! Currently staying at a hotel in Nadi, the crew did some team bonding to prepare for their upcoming service. Accompanied by our Fijian friend, Gabby, and an awesome tour guide, the squad visited the gorgeous botanical gardens for a hike, followed by some lounging and enjoying delicious papaya-guava juice. Next, we made our way to visit the rejuvenating mud bath and hot springs for a swim. Here, we were able to meet some English speaking locals and even shop for handmade products.
July 9, 2016
Bula! It was a beautiful and sunny Saturday here in Fiji! We started off our morning with breakfast followed by a lesson on Indo-Fijian culture from Gabby. At 10, we left the hotel and made our way to the Anand church in Nalovo where we spent the rest of the morning preparing a traditional Indian meal. Some took a few hacks to coconuts and firewood while others played with children, helped roll Roti, chop up garlic, ginger, eggplant, pumpkin and other ingredients for the dishes. Cooking the food over wood burning fires the final result a delicious assembly of coconut chili chutney, pumpkin curry, eggplant and potato curry, rice, roti and dhal. On our way back to the hotel we stopped in downtown Nadi to walk around, take in some of the fruit and craft markets, and shop for souvenirs. Tonight is our final night in Nadi before traveling to the island of Naviti to begin service, so we’re all looking forward to getting a good nights sleep to prepare for our adventures in Naviti to come.
July 10 – Day 4
Today, everyone woke up much earlier when the sun was still not out in order to get breakfast and then head on to the boat to Botaira Resort, where we will stay for most of our time in Fiji. On our boat ride, we saw many tiny and breathtaking islands that exemplified the beauty of Fiji. The boat ride was about three hours long and went pretty smoothly with most of us sleeping on the floor. When we arrived at our destination, we were greeted by the resort staff, their welcome song, and the hibiscus flowers that they gave us.
After we were given our rooms, we took the GLA swim test that involved swimming to and from the dock. Then, those who did not know how to snorkel were taught the basics of snorkeling by Gabby. The group was able to see fish and many different coral reefs when they were snorkeling.
At 5 P.M., there was a sunset hike that involved hiking up the hills of the island. It was difficult, but the view of the sun setting was worth the toil. When we climbed down the hills, it was already dark and we used our flashlights to lead the way. Honestly, when I was going down, I ended up going past the path and onto a very steep hill that proved to be a challenge for me to get down from. However, thankfully, Ayia saved the day and helped me down the hill. The hike was very tiring, but I am pretty sure everyone thought it was worth it.
The day ended with a dinner at Botaira and some information about Naviti Island and its customs. It was a long and tiring day, but it will be a day that we will remember forever.
-Lucy L. & photos by Emily
July 11 – Day 5
“Today we took a boat ride around the island of Naviti to the village called Gunu (New-New) to start our service work. My group did village sustainability we we were briefed on our project for the next four days and welcomed by the locals of the village with a kava ceremony. My group worked on gathering supplies for a water tank for the villagers. We collected sand from the nearby beach and gravel from outskirts of the village. (to make cement)
Our lunch was provided by both GLA and the locals who served us a collection of their own dishes. Once our work was done for the day we were able to hang out with the villagers and play with the kids. That was nice and it helped give perspective to who we were helping. After our boat ride back to the resort, we were given time to do whatever we wanted.
Some people and I wrote this blog.
July 12, 2016
First we woke up on the island and we had a short breakfast. The we got on the boat to go to the village. We then split up into our groups and did our parts.
We had a very good lunch and then we talked about things, listened to music, and played games.
After service some went home on the first boat while others stayed back and played soccer with some village boys. Some hiked up to see the sunset when they got back.
Today’s morning consisted of a lesson on the importance of mangroves to the environment and the protection they can give. After, we headed out to the village and began to plant mangroves. The eight of us in the group gathered 400 mangrove plants to start off. The work was divided into different roles. Some dug holes, planted the mangroves in the holes, and others gathered more mangroves. Our goal was to plant 800 mangroves, but once we got in the groove we set a goal of 1,000. After reaching the goal of 1,000, we decided we wanted to double the first session’s score. At the end, we ended up planting 1,032 mangrove plants.
The sustainability group mixed the cement to build a base for the water tank. The education group played a game with the children based on the alphabet and also played different games with them during recess.
July 13, 2016
The slow morning started with about a third of the group crawling out of bed and eating pieces of toast with empty looks on their faces. The education and sustainability groups departed a little late as usual (Fiji time) as we headed out to begin our final day in out respective work areas. In education, we each gave our students a final spelling test and noticed a clear improvement across the board. The sustainability group made their finishing touches on the first of three water tanks that we hope to implement for the community. Staying behind at Botaira, the marine group started the long process of coral planting by making “coral cookies” with cement. Tomorrow, sustainably will go to marine, marine will go to education, and education will go to sustainability. With the first week coming to an end, we are all looking forward to filling in our new roles around the island.
July 14, 2016
Bula! Well to start I would like to say that we had the absolute yummiest dinner tonight. Also, we had eggs for breakfast which is a great way to start the day. The groups switched today for the first time. We all gave each other helpful tips beforehand. In education I got to meet a few of my students that I will be working with next week. Im very excited to get to know them better and watch them improve hopefully.
Today was a very exciting and adventurous day. The 24 of us were split up into three groups to do separate activities.
Group 1 began the day taking a Fijian language class from Ms. Tema, a native Fijian woman. We learned words and phrases that will help us communicate in the village where serve and in other places we may travel to in Fiji. We also learned a phrase that is probably not best to use. Watch out parents and siblings that don’t know Fijian!
Group 2 left in the morning to take a hiker for half the day. It was tiring, but any hike is worth the scenery in Fiji! Group 3 started the day learning how to make jewelry from coconuts. A skill that they will retain and bring back to share in America.
After a delicious lunch of fish and chips group 3 went off to learn Fijian with Ms. Tema as group 1 geared up for an amazing adventure. Group 2 returned form their half day hike.
As group 1 climbed into the boat nerves were tingling and hearts were racing in anticipation: we were off to swim with the underwater angels known as manta rays! After a short boat ride we all geared up and jumped in. The first time we saw one of the gentle giants ecstasy bloomed throughout all of us. As we swam with these unequivocally beautiful creatures we snapped photos and took videos that will remind us of this astounding experience. I know these resplendent beings struck my heart and it was difficult to leave our new friends, alas we had swam for a longer time than anticipated.
After our return everyone gathered to play an exhilarating tournament of volleyball. Today was definitely a day we will always remember and cherish!
July 17, 2016
Bula GLA Families!
O vaka cava tika? That means how are you in Fijian. Thank you to Ms. Tema for teaching most of us how to speak some Fijian today.
Today is 7/17 and officially marks the 11th day of our program in Fiji. We have hit our half way point in this journey. My group started the day with a snorkel tour with Gabby. He pointed out multiple fish species and coral in the water off of the beach of Botaira. Liz and I also got to pick up and hold a giant clam as seen in the photos. Gabby also showed us these invertebrates that are called Christmas Tree Lights, because they live on coral but when they feel something touch them they will pop back into their holes in the coral. During this time, the other groups were getting language lessons from Ms. Tema or sanding down a shard of coconut shell to create a necklace.
After our lunch break, each group attended their second class of the day. My group learned how to weave palm fronds together to make a bookmark, thanks to Semi’s instruction. We were given 2 fronds that were torn into 3 strands. We then had to fold and weave over and under the frond strands together to create the bookmarks. Other groups got to snorkel with Gabby or learn a traditional song with Ms. Tema. The song was a island song that is traditionally sang when they are saying goodbye to someone.
After our second class we started the sand castle building contest. The four teams of 3 people created sand sculptures including a mermaid shrine, the pyramids of Fiji, a sand castle, and throne staircase combination. The mermaid shrine featured Ayia as the mermaid was built by Raechel, Sho, and Ben and won with a 2-1 vote from the judges, with the pyramids of Fiji coming in a close second.
Moce Families! See you in 10 days!
Today was our 2nd to last day of service. Marine planted coral and dug a new trash pit while teaching the villager kids how, Education is still improving the students English, and Sustainability laid the concrete for the last water tank. It got a little stormy today with scattered showers in the afternoon, but we still had a great game of volleyball and rugby. We are looking forward to our last day of service and are planning on ending off strong! -Ben
July 19, 2016
New photos below:
July 21, 2016
Today was our 2nd to last day of service. Marine planted coral and dug a new trash pit while teaching the villager kids how, Education is still improving the students English, and Sustainability laid the concrete for the last water tank. It got a little stormy today with scattered showers in the afternoon, but we still had a great game of volleyball and rugby. We are looking forward to our last day of service and are planning on ending off strong!
July 21, 2016
Being able to see the satisfaction in a child’s eyes as they learn one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world is one of the most gratifying experiences. Today my group and I had 5 individual tutoring sessions with the local children who struggle with the language. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. Some of the kids barely understand us, and that’s an understatement. Simple words that we never think twice about spelling are so foreign to their vocabulary that their written words are unrecognizable. Being able to see a visible difference in their english vocabulary and spelling abilities makes me appreciate my country and GLAs efforts so much more. These children love learning, and they love all of the GLA students who give their all every second of the day to make a change. Today was a great day to say the least, and I can’t wait for tomorrow.
July 22, 2016
Today was a great day in Fiji, full of surprises. Despite the fact that today was supposed to be our last day of service in the village, the weather got the better of GLA students and staff. The turbulence on the boat due to the high wind speed was too dangerous and the last day of service was altered to fit service at the resort. The innovation on behalf of the GLA staff was impeccable. All of the groups spent their last day working hard even though we didn’t travel to the village, working on projects respective to what their work would have been in the village; education made flash cards for students, marine planted coral, and sustainability worked on the gardening techniques. Although it was disappointing not being able to go see all of the villagers on our last day of service, it was nice knowing we all put our best foot forward in making Gunu a better village even from the other side of Naviti. We ended the day well with a birthday celebration for Rileigh, who turned 17 today.
July 23, 2016
Today we split into our weekend groups. Group 1 and 3 went on a hike, but had to take a different route than the original because today was too windy. We still made it to the top. Group 2 went to go snorkeling with manta rays, but then there was no manta rays so they ended up hanging at the beach at botaira. In the afternoon groups 1 and 3 got back from their hike and group 2 did weaving. Later today there was a spear throwing competition and and volleyball game against the Brits/ Fijians and the Americans/Fijians. Despite the wind issues, we are really enjoying this last weekend at Botaira.
July 24, 2016
Today, we started off the morning with a hike, then one group of students took off to see the manta rays at a nearby beach. Although no one saw any mantas, a few of the students were able to see a reef shark. While that was going on, the other group of kids were at Home Base doing other cultural activities. When we got back we had a few hours of free time, and after tea time we all had another activity then more free time. Despite the fact that the power went out for a while during the day, we, along with the staff, were able to push through and still make things work. Over all it was a busy but great day.
Today was our last day visiting Gunu. Naturally we all had mixed emotions of homesickness and sadness saying goodbye to all of our friends on the island. The boat ride there was full of splashes and laughter due to the high wind, but once we got to the village we split up into Sustainability, education, and marine. Sustainability finished putting the final touches on the water tank they installed, education read with second grade students, and marine helped prepare for the lovo ceremony. It was bitter sweet and full of yummy food. Later in the night we had our traditional bonfire and stargazed into the night.
Today was our last day at Botaira. It seemed like we all had the same bittersweet feelings of being excited for pizza and wifi, but also knowing that were all going to miss each other and our time in Fiji. After breakfast this morning we packed up our stuff then presented our capstone projects. Capstone projects are a way for us to take what we learned on our trip back to our communities to make a change. After that we had some free time, some of us took advantage of our last chance to swim, kayak and snorkel. Others opted to relax in the hammocks or tan on the beach. After lunch we were serenaded with the farewell song from the Botaira staff. Emotions were running high as we waved goodbye to the place we called home for the last 2 weeks. Once docked back in Nadi, people had creative ideas of what they needed in the 15 minutes we had; whether it was a tub of ice cream or a burger bigger than their head from Hard Rock Cafe, we were generally happy to be back. After dinner back at Nadi Bay we had the pleasure of watching fijian dancers who danced with fire. After all that we wrapped up the trip with a rooftop reflection session of memories and take-aways. We are all so sad to leave but can’t wait to get home to our families and FOOD. Vinaka Fiji.