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 Jessie’s amazing snort/laugh, or John-Jack’s dance to Bye Bye Bye? You conquered some challenging hikes, mixed cement like animals, and thankfully didn’t get deported. The boys rocked the Fijian haka and Tommy knew pretty much everything there was to know. (We hope you are enjoying Baylor). Adam made an ‘impact’ with his essay, Sanami made us all laugh just by being herself, and Mary had a never-ending supply of facemasks. Jenna was the least “pamphlet” vegan any of us have met. Georgia was wicked awesome, and Kat grew some wicked armpit hair. Your capstone projects were inspired and thoughtful. We swam with manta rays, ate lots of roti, 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 as well.
All the best!
Amber and the GLA Fiji Team
Summer Blog Posts
Day 1 – Bula from Fiji!
All 25 students have arrived and are settled in at our home base in Nadi. We are looking forward to a day of rest, relaxation, and getting to know each other. Later today we will walk to Wailoaloa beach and play some games. We can’t wait for the adventures that lay ahead of us!
GLA Fiji Team
Day 2 – Garden of the Sleeping Giant / Mud-pools
This morning was met with the beautiful view of the Fijian sunrise. After breakfast we attended a presentation by our awesome mentor, Gabi, where he showed us the cultural norms of the Fijian people.
Our first excursion of the day was to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. The garden is surrounded by high peaks that are said to look like a sleeping giant when viewed from far away. The garden contained all manner of plant-life from hibiscus , orchids, bamboo trees, pine trees, and many more species. It was truly beautiful, and after a short hike up to one of the smaller peaks surrounding the garden we were able to take some photos of the ocean and surrounding islands.
Enjoying some fruit juice at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant
Our second excursion was to the mud-pools. There we slathered mud on ourselves that was dug up from the bottom of a volcanic spring. While we waited for the mud to dry we played a few games led by the locals. The first game was an egg toss that ended with a few people getting eggs smashed on their heads. The second game was musical chairs and the third game was a relay sack race. Finally when the games were over we were allowed to wade into the mud-pool to rinse all the dried mud. To end our awesome mud-filled adventure some of us bought 10 to 20 minute massages while others relaxed by the mud-pools. Before we set off to the resort all the workers at the mud-pools sang us a beautiful Fijian farewell song.
– Alex Kitchens
Hiking at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant
Nothing says “team builder” like slathering ourselves in mud
Finally clean after our mud baths
Sunset in Nadi Fiji
Day 3 – Our last day in Nadi!
Today was a very eventful day. Although we didn’t cover ourselves in mud like yesterday, we helped create an Indian cuisine that was absolutely amazing. We cut some coconuts, peeled the insides of the coconut, chopped firewood, made curry, covered pans in mud, and made dough for roti (traditional Indian bread/tortillas).
Trying to cut the husk off of a coconut.
Grating coconut flesh to make chutney.
Tommy ripped the coconut in half with his bare hands!
Grating coconut flesh to make chutney.
Rolling out dough to make roti.
After working tirelessly in the heat we got to enjoy it, and may I just say it was delicious. We had so many amazing dishes I can’t even begin to say. After we enjoyed our Indian cuisine, we had the honor of touring the garden and the church. With our bellies full and ready to go we decided to hit the shops. We started in a souvenir store named Jacks where the Fijian people welcomed us by singing. Later, we broke up into groups and went to different markets and stores. Some people bought clothing, others bought food, and the occasional got henna tattoos and even a buzz cut. Looking back on these first three days I can’t even put into words how amazing it has been. Starting at the airport, every single one of us has gotten so close it feels like we have known each other for years. And if any of you wonder if Fiji time is a real thing, let me just tell you it is so true. I have forgotten the time and day so many times I have lost count. Overall, just by these three days I know for sure this trip is going to be amazing and life-changing. We are all so excited to move to Naviti tomorrow as we take on the next part of our journey in Fiji.
Moce! (Mo-thay aka goodnight)
Day 4 – Yasawa Islands
After just 4 days, our group of 25 strangers has quickly turned into a group of 25 friends. We ventured to Naviti Island on a 3 hour boat ride through the most amazing turquoise water. The rest of the day was spent in pure awe that this is where we will be spending the next 16 days. The beauty is unexplainable and no pictures do it justice.
We gathered under our custom-made GLA hut for lunch and afterward had a swim test. We swam to a floating platform and back to shore, which proved to be very exhausting. After retrieving our flippers and snorkels, we were given a snorkel lesson and were able to see beautiful coral and schools of fish. Some spent time snorkeling while others jumped off of the very tall wobbly platform.
To finish the day off right, we hiked over 6,000 steps to the top of a mountain to watch the sunset. It was completely breathtaking, although we didn’t have much time to take it in due to the fact that we had to venture back down the mountain before dark. We made it just in time and were able to enjoy a delicious dinner and stargaze before heading to bed.
Our view from the top of the island
Sunset on the island.
We are staying in these huts called bures (bourays).
It was a great first day in the Yasawa Islands and we’re all very eager to begin service tomorrow!
Day 5 (June 17) – Gunu Village
Today was the first of our service days in the village of Gunu, and it was my favorite by far. We were split into three groups, rainwater capture, reading literacy, and marine conservation.
I was in the rainwater capture group, and we spent the day building a wooden base filled with concrete which we had to mix ourselves. The base will be used for a 10,200 liter water container, so that in the dry season the village would have enough water to grow crops without having to ship water from the mainland.
The education group read one-on-one with some of the kids in the village, and once their school day was over, played with some of the kindergarten/early childhood students. The school program has been used to help increase the literacy rate on the island for all students.
The marine restoration group spoke to the village in order to establish plans for a protected area so that future fijians would have a healthy livelihood.
Everyone is having a great time and are dreading when we have to leave.
Today was an interesting day in the pacific paradise of Fiji. We woke up at 7 and ate breakfast at 8, awaiting our pre-assigned adventures…until the counsellors decided that it would be interesting to mix up all of the groups (group 1: snorkeling with manta rays, group 2: Hiking to Kese, group 3: Learning Fijian Language).
I was assigned to the hiking group and left for the hike at 9:30 via boat (led by a native named Semi). The hike was challenging yet rewarding as we sweated our way up a steep mountain, but halfway, got to see a 360 degree view of the surrounding environment and islands. At the end of the hike, we stumbled upon the village of Kese and visited Semi’s house and family.
After visiting the village hospital and playing soccer with children, we headed back to the home base of Botiara. Other groups (from the talk of the town) had lots of fun swimming with five giant manta rays and diving into the Fijian language.
So here I am, beachside drinking an awesome cup of joe, reflecting on how this day went…today was a good day.
Hi friends and family of our Fiji travelers! Can you believe it’s been a week of new experiences in Fiji already? We don’t have any new blog post or photos today, but we’ll have a new update for you as soon as we can. All is well with the group, but internet service is down at the group’s location at the moment, so we will post an update as soon as service is restored. Plenty more exciting days of volunteering and adventure ahead – stay tuned for updates once we have them.
Today is our second day doing service! Unlike yesterday, we got up much earlier and had our breakfast at 7 and for construction and education we were off by 7:45. We arrived at Gunu by 9 o’ clock and got straight to work. For construction we moved in the large water tank onto our cement block that we made on friday and then took out all of the old pipe holders on the roof and installed new ones so that when we add in the gutter it is alot more stable and wont break easly. In education today we helped teach the kids how to read by reading to them and helping them pronounce certain words. The marine biology got a quick lesson about the different types of mangroves and coral. After the lesson they went snorkeling to specify different types of coral to find out what is left or the reefs. Then they planted over 200 new mangroves. After everyone was finished with their different services we all came back to the village and played with the beautiful and playful kids of Gunu. All in all I would say that we had a very succesful day today.
The marine group surrounded by newly planted mangrove seedlings.
Georgia with a few of the kids in Gunu
Sustainability working on the gutters
Hi again friends and family of our Fiji travelers! The internet is still down on the Fiji program, but our Program Administrator has sent us a handful of photos taken during her last visit to the outer islands with the group.
Bula! We started the day with a breakfast of eggs & toast. Then the 3 service groups separated for their activities.
In construction today, the team put up gutters in roofs to catch rain water
They also moved a 10,000 liter rain barrel into place to hold all of the caught water!
In education, the GLA team helped the students with reading and the alphabet. They also used puzzles to make everything more fun & engaging!
Finally, in honor of today being National Environmental Day, the marine group took a survey of Gunu (pictured below)
to determine how the villagers disposed of liquid, solid, and organic waste. For the houses that didn’t have proper liquid waste disposals, they dug holes and created filtration systems! After finishing that, the marine team combed the beaches for trash to collect, and made a few friends along the way
The real MVP for the day, however, is Stephanie who cut her foot while picking up garbage, but was able to be totally strong through the situation! (her foot is alright in case you are wondering).
All in all, it was another successful day in Fiji!
First day at service – education group
Introductions into the community – first day of service
Sustainability service group photo
Sustainability service group
Taking a break at service with community members
Community visit – Marine Service group
Meeting new friends after beach cleanup.
June 22, 2016
Greetings from Fiji where we want to wish all the GLA dads a belated Happy Father’s Day.
Today was very windy and rainy day in Fiji, but it didn’t stop us from having fun! It was the last day of service before we switched groups so that everyone can get a taste of all the projects. To end the night, some of us hiked up the mountain again to watch the sunset.
The marine group decided to stay at the resort due to choppy waters and give back to Botaira by planting coral. In the morning the collected broken coral and replanted in the ocean in the afternoon. The coral will grow in about 3 months and make the resorts marine protected area even more colorful.
The education group did their usual job helping children read as well as giving spelling tests. They are also helping the village celebrate anti-drug week by preparing a skit to present to the children tomorrow.
The sustainability group finished the first water catchment system today. It will hold 10000 liters, which will benefit the community immensely, especially in the dry season. They felt very accomplished and tomorrow the next group will begin the next catchment barrel.
All in all it was another great day in Fiji.
Today was just another day in paradise here on Naviti Island. The marine group continued their coastal cleaning by picking up trash along the beaches of the Botaira Resort in the morning. They then traveled back to the village of Gu Nu where they collected and disposed of 130 batteries, plastic, glass, and other solid wastes. After a long day in the hot sun, the construction group successfully laid out the cement foundation for the second water tank. The education group spent the day bonding and playing with the children in the village since the school was closed due to a holiday. After enjoying our first full week of service, we are excited to embark on our weekend adventures of snorkeling, hiking, and immersing ourselves in the Fijian culture.
June 29, 2016
Today was another beautiful day at Gunu for service. The sustainability group made cement and completed the base for a 5,200 liter water tank. The education group did their regular reading lessons with primary school students, and the marine group planted coconut trees and spent a solid two hours picking up trash from the beach, which was later buried at a six foot depth. At the completion of service hours, many chose to go out to Somalia (the floating pontoon at the resort) for a sunset swim. An intense game of zombie apocalypse followed our traditional Fijian dinner. Overall, the long day of service and the fun evening activities were satisfying. The upcoming days are expected to be filled with many goodbyes and tears, but the lasting memories will be all the more special when they get to be shared with our friends and family waiting for us back home.
June 30, 2016