Friday July 5, 2019
A big Bula from the GLA Fiji Marine Staff! All students have arrived and are settled. Although tired, everyone is in good spirits. We spent the afternoon playing games and getting to know each other at the beautiful Wailoaloa beach. Everyone is super excited to get into the program tomorrow with a lesson on Fiji culture and a trip to some botanical gardens and healing mud pools.
*Emily not pictured due to late arrival
Saturday July 6, 2019
Today we started our day with a presentation on Fijian culture, given by our awesome local director gabbi. He told us all about the chiefly system in Fiji and important cultural ideas that we need to know before jumping into help save coral reefs with rural Fijian communities. Then one of our international mentors Elle, who has lived in Fiji taught us some important Fijian phrases.
Then we were off to our first activity. A walk through the Sleeping Giant Botanical Gardens. After the hike we took, one of the students said “this was one of the best views I’ve ever seen.” Then we went to some ancient exfoliating mud baths and washed off in a sacred volcanic hot spring. We finished off the night with a performance by a world traveling fire dance group, and some of us even joined in!!
We are excited to be off to our home base in the Yasawa Islands tomorrow for the rest of session.
Sunday July 7, 2019
We started off the day with a presentation on coral reef ecology from Elle. She taught us how coral ecosystems work and why reefs are so important and need to be protected. Then we split into two service groups for our first day of service work.
Group 1 started our coral planting project work with a snorkel to previously planted corals. We did this so we could see what we would be working towards. We then attached pieces of salvaged coral to coral cookies ( concrete circles that are attached to metal grids and placed on degraded reefs) and planted them. We ended our service day making our own cookies out of cement for the next group to use.
Group 2 spent their service work performing a Reef Check survey. As Gabbi taught us, Reef Check is a globally recognized citizen science data project where participants can keep track of important species that indicate reef health. We split into snorkeling pairs, each assigned a type of species to count and take tallies on how many they see. We stopped for lunch on an abandoned beach and soaked up the beauty of the nature around us. They then went to another reef and continued to count the species they were assigned.
We came all together for an evening activity about whaling and cultural rights. We are excited to continue our service adventure tomorrow.
Tuesday July 9, 2019
Today we continued with our service work, with groups swapping what they did yesterday and planting coral and continuing to take reef check surveys. We then went on a sunset walk to pick up mangrove propagules aka baby mangroves for our service work planting mangroves tomorrow. Tonight we will have a bonfire and star gazing and are looking forward to it after a full day of service in the water.
Wednesday July 10, 2019
We started our day with a lecture about the importance of mangrove ecosystems. Then Gabby taught us the correct cultural way to wear our sulus (sarongs) as well as how to respectfully enter a village home.
Next, we took a boat to a Vauki, a local village and greeted the elders in a traditional welcome called a Sevu Sevu. Afterwards we planted red mangrove propagules and continued to look for more to plant later.
We then had a relaxing lunch by the sea before returning to plant black mangrove trees further inland. Although it was hot we all had a very rewarding day of service.
We’re looking forward heading back to the village tomorrow for our second day of service in the community.
Thursday July 11, 2019
Today was an amazing day working in the community. We started with a community survey were we walked around asking community members about their waste management practices. We asked them about their animals, greywater and sewage systems and about the impact of improper waste management.
After lunch in the community we made a map of the village with our information and came up with a plan of action to address some of the waste issues. We also learnt more about the village history from elders. Finally we had tea and snacks with the villagers and played with some local kids.
We are headed back to the village tomorrow to work further on waste management and participate in a beach clean up with the locals.
Friday July 12, 2019
We started off the day with a boat ride to the community to continue our service. We began our service with a beach clean-up that included recording the trash collected. The data was uploaded on to a online data-base. Next we took lunch on the beach along with a short nap.
After lunch we continued service by building soap pits to help the community manage waste water. We came back and enjoyed freetime snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Afterwords we went to the other side of the island to enjoy dinner with a traditional Fijian Meke performance. Tomorrow we are going a scared sea cave and continue our service by removing harmful starfish from the environment.
Monday July 15, 2019
Today we went to a local school for our service work. While we were there we engaged in various beautification projects. We improved students learning environment by painting murals with educational content about marine conservation. We also installed painted tyres to better outline paths through the school. Finally we painted a water tank with a coral reef scene with important messages about plastic use. We also taught a fun song about coral and how to care for it to the local fijian school children. We also had the opportunity to play games with the kids and learn how much Fijians love to play sports.
This afternoon we got ready to give our final presentation to the community tomorrow. We are all very excited to share what we learned and hope that GLA continues its partnership with the wonderful community of Vuake, who have opened their hearts and homes to us and without whom it would be impossible to protect our beautiful marine ecosystems.
Tuesday July 16, 2019
Today we said goodbye to the beautiful community of Vuake. It was a sad day filled with joyous moments. We began by helping the community prepare food for a traditional Earth oven Lovo. We chopped up fish, octopus and helped prepare chicken and cassava. We helped weave flower necklaces and decorate the community hall for our special farewell meal. We played with all the children of the village whose enthusiasm and excitement wore us out.
Finally it was lunch time! And what a lunch it was. We were presented with a feast fit for kings. Plate after plate of delicious food was laid out before us and we ate until we couldn’t stand the sight of another delicious treat. After lunch we were able to present our data and recommendations to the community. After having spent 10 days working on marine conservation we were excited to share all that we learnt with our friends from Vuake. The community loved our presentations and we are excited that GLA will continue to foster relationships with these local communties.
Tomorrow we will leave out beautiful homebase on Nanuya island to return to Nadi for our final night before heading back to the U.S.A. Although we are excited to see our family and friends we leave Fiji knowing that we have left a little piece of hearts here.
It was tough for GLA staff to say goodbye to this group of amazing students. We spent our final day in Nadi together doing some great souvenir shopping and having an awesome pizza lunch together. We said goodbye to each other having spent 2 weeks learning about marine ecology together and growing as leaders as we undertook service projects. All students are safely aboard their flights and on their long journey home. A big thank you from all the GLA staff to our wonderful students and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.
GLA Fiji Staff