My first month in my village, Taviya,Ovalau island
Trip Start Jan 16, 2011
6Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
I have now been in Fiji over a month and have spent the last 3 weeks living in the village Taviya on Ovalau island, after spending my first week and a half with the other volunteers in Nadi, Suva and Levuka. The past 3 weeks have been the most testing so far in which I've had to face cockroaches, lizards, ants eating all my food, mosquitoes,coral cuts, illness, a language barrier and homesickness. However, I've had some wonderful experiences too - seeing my school and host family for the first time, playing with the kids, kava drinking with the locals, enjoying the beautiful views and just generally experiencing the 'real Fiji' - village life and extremely friendly people.
Before I tell all about my Ovalau adventures so far I wanted to thank everyone who sponsored me for my multi-terrain run I did in November to raise money to volunteer here in Fiji. I managed to raise £650 and Sainsbury's sponsored me £200 so I raised £850 in total. This helped massively towards the £3800 I needed for all costs to volunteer here. The £1200 bursary I received and working endless hours full time got me the rest of the way. It was worth it. You can read more about the run I did at www.justgiving.com/hayleyrathbone. This helped to pay for everything which made it possible for me to be here to teach in Fiji and help the children and the local community - the fee to the non-Profit, UK registered charity I'm volunteering with, Lattitude Global Volunteering, flights etc and I have also bought supplies to help the school such as toys, games, school equipment etc.
I've added lots of photos too but unfortunately only 2 of my videos uploaded as the internet is very slow here. I'll upload the other videos when next in the capital, Suva, as some of them are of me showing around my house/school and of the kids climbing cocunut trees.
After flying and hanging around airports for over 30 hrs, spending 5 nights in Nadi for orientation, 2 nights in Suva and 2 nights in Levuka, I finally arrived in my village of Taviya on Ovalau. Ovalau is a cosy little island, 13km long and has 9000 people on it. I was dropped off at my school, Taviya District School where I was met by the Headmaster, Master Kevu. He then called several children from their classes to carry my bags into the school. I said I was fine carrying them in but he insisted and I found it funny watching the kids try to lift my 22kg rucksack and various other big bags! They all seemed eager to help me and lots of smiles and stares were about. The headmaster introduced me to all the teachers and sat me down to have an informal chat about anything and everything. We also discussed what my role would be within the school, originally helping with the library, assisting teachers with lessons and helping to improve the children's English. Children here speak Fijian but as a young child but are then made to learn English at school from 4 yrs old and all lessons are supposed to be taught in English.
A lot of the students have good English, but understandably mostly the older ones. The school is arranged into 4 classrooms, each with 2 classes in. So one classroom has Class 1 & 2 in it, another 3 & 4, 5 & 6 and 7 & 8. Their ages vary from 4-16 and students are arranged by ability, not by age. The first thing which hit me was the language barrier as I asked students questions and they blankly stared at me. On my second day I taught Class 3 & 4, aged about 6-9yrs old. They didn't understand much of my English at all as they hadn't learned that much yet. When I asked them to follow the words I was reading aloud in their story books they just stared at me and wouldn't look down at the book. They were fascinated with the way I looked, what I sounded like and even found it interesting watching me eat at recess!
After arriving at the school I was taken by the teachers to the house I was to be living in. It's a 10 minute walk away from my school in the village of Taviya, though a ''village'' in Fiji is not the same as a village back in England. There are no shops, post offices or banks in Taviya. It's made up of houses, a small church and small hall. Lots of greenery and trees surround it, the beach is just 10 seconds away from my house (I can hear the sea at night!) and the only way to more modern civilisation is by daily truck to the only town on the island an hour away, Levuka, which could be compared to a very small town in England - a very pretty place.
My house is one floor and good by Fijian standards. I like it as it has a cosy feel to it. I have my own room with a double bed and a spare single bed, a desk and chair. It's very basic living.....the concrete walls aren't properly sealed, we don't have wallpaper or carpets, the bathroom is a cemented room, with a small wall dividing the shower head/pipe tap and toilet. There is a small TV in the lounge and DVD player though we can't get the two available TV channels so we mostly watch DVDs or listen to CDs. Radio signal cannot be picked up as we are in a dip here. There are no sofas/chairs to sit on as Fijians sit on the floor, on hand-woven mats made from cocunut tree leaves. Cooking is done using firewood and pots. There are no ovens, washing machines, tumble dryers or fridges as the electricity is only turned on for 3hrs a night, between 7.30pm and 10.30pm but can be a bit temperamental so a torch is needed for going to the dark bathroom day or night or incase the electricity cuts off. I was surprised to see food wrappers, newspapers and empty drink bottles being used for decoration around the house on shelves and to find out on my second day that the water had typhoid in it and so had to be boiled for drinking. I wasn't fussed by the basic living conditions as I was prepared for it. In fact it was actually better than I had expected - I didn't expect to be able to watch DVDs on a TV here.
The family I live with are lovely. I live with my host mother, 'Aunty Sala', her 26yr old son, Paul and her 10yr old grandson, Maciu who I teach at school. She greeted me with a big 'BULA!' and hug and gave me lots of food straight away. Sala's English is good so we have nice little chats at mealtimes and of an evening, but Paul's and Maciu's isn't quite as good so unfortunately I don't have many long conversations with them but we all find the same things funny.
One of the many different experiences I've had here are church services which can last from 1hr 10 to 1hr 40! On my first Sunday I attended the village Methodist Church. The pastor introduced me to the whole congregation during the sermon and thanked me for what I was doing in Taviya. I couldn't understand the whole of the service as most of it was in Fijian but the singing was a lot different to that in England. Everyone in the church was singing enthusiastically and in different harmonies. I couldn't understand the words but it sounded lovely. The pastor was very enthusiastic during his sermon, speaking loudly, waving his arms around, hitting his hand on the stand. It was a bit frightening at times, but he seemed to crack a few jokes too as people laughed.
All sorts of bugs and creatures have caused me to fear them even more over the past few weeks, something which the Fijians find hilarious! In my last blog I showed pics of my many mosquito bites.Three gecko lizards like to sit on my bedroom wall by the light for the 3hrs at night when we have electricity, cockroaches like to share showers with me and ants and beetles like to share my bed with me! I tuck my mosquito net in at night very tightly more to keep the lizards and cockroaches out rather than the mosquitoes.
My first incident with a cockroach was when I went into the bathroom and saw a 3-inch cockroach on the wall by the toilet! Normally this calls for Dad or the big brothers' help but they weren't here so I yelled for Sala,who quickly killed it by whacking it with a broom and told everyone who came into our house for the next few days about how much of a wimp I am. Paul had to save me from another cockroach the other day too.
The other night a gecko lizard fell off the ceiling and landed on my leg! Half an hour later another one landed a foot away from my head so I decided to go to bed, only to find a frog sitting in the shower as I then went into the bathroom!
Ants are a nuisance here as they keep getting into food. Putting half eaten biscuits into a tied up plastic bag doesn't work as I found out when I took a bite out of a biscuit only to look down and see loads of ants crawling over my biscuits and even more on the bed where the bag was. So I tried putting half eaten food into my zipped up rucksack which also failed. A plastic container also failed. Wrapping biscuits in brown tape, putting them in a jar with a screw lid and brown tape around the lid also failed. The only method which has worked is eating all my food in one go! I've been told a moat where the ants have to cross water to get to the food in a container works so I may give that a go.....
There's much more I wanted to include in this blog entry about the people, my school, the food etc. but I'll update my blog in bits over the next few weeks so keep an eye out! And I'll hopefully upload more videos. Enjoy all of the photos for now though and feel free to leave comments, especially suggestions on how to keep the ants out of my food!
Moce! Hayley Xx