Day 14: Headed Home?

The Field Academy trip is almost over. I believe that most of us still love it here, even when we realize the trip is ending. The trip is passing so fast.

In the morning, most people chose to go ATV riding to the local waterfall. The feedback of ATV riding was good, which made me feel very regretful about not going. Anyways, lunch was coming. As usual, we had multiple choices for lunch, which were grilled tuna and fried tofu with some vegetables. After that we had to pack up all of our stuff before 3:00pm. On the bus to the airport most of us looked very tired. The reason why we were very tired was because we did a lot of amazing things, which makes me proud of everyone on this trip.

Personally, I am reluctant to leave, because I’ve gone through a lot of incredible things, such as jumping off from high platform, hanging out with the local kids, doing community service, etc. These things will be remembered in my mind forever. Before this trip, my feelings were very contradictory. One of reasons was that there were only a few people who I knew before and the rest of the people I never communicated with. However, Field Academy was a good platform to start to let us know each other step-by-step, which made this team gradually transform to a harmonious family. Moreover, I really don’t want this trip to be over, because no one wants to lose this kind of “paradise.”

Let’s see how other people are feeling about these two amazing weeks:

“Before the trip began, I had no idea what to expect, but I had a lot of hopes that it would be awesome. Now that the trip is over, I can truly say that my hopes were correct. This trip was awesome; it was the best Field Academy I have ever been on and I am so sad that it is over.” –Rory

“Before the trip I didn’t know what to expect. I thought the trip would just be a generic Field Academy. I also of course thought it would be an awesome trip, but I had no idea how awesome. As the trip slowly went on and progressed, I realized that it was becoming the best Field Academy ever.” –Dualta

“I used to think completely different things about Fiji. I already knew that it was an amazing country, with breathtaking landscapes and environments, but nothing close to what I experienced there. After just a few days in Fiji, I was impressed on how amazing and receptive the Fijians were – always doing there best to make us feel at home. Furthermore, the landscapes and the different environments that we saw were completely different than I expected, they were much more beautiful and exuberant. I can say that Fiji change my life, and I will definitely return to this paradise.” –Joao

“For me, the trip was perfection. Everyone seemed to grow each day and impressed me immensely. I watched the students jump into activities with reluctance and end those activities with triumph. Everyone who met us along the way, were blown away by the maturity and dedication of our students. We were told that we would be stuck in Los Angeles for at least three days, upon our return, and the students took that in great stride and settled in for the long haul. Luckily, we were able to get everyone home in 24 hours. I will cherish the memories of Fiji and this group forever.” –Hailey

“The trip overall was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Meeting new people, learning about a new culture, making friends, and trying things that I would never think of doing before is what made this trip wonderful for me. Nothing feels the same since I have returned to New York. It is great to be home, but Fiji also felt like home.” -Alex S.

As the quotes show, each of us loved Fiji so much. On the way back to New York we met some unexpected episodes. Because of snowstorms, our scheduled Los Angeles to New York flight was canceled. However, Ms. London solved the problem for us. She booked a hotel for us, which provided a warm place to let us stay, and in the evening, got new flights to New York. In conclusion, I really want to thank Field Academy for providing an opportunity that is totally different from my original thoughts. I also want to thank all the teachers who arranged all of the marvelous activities for us, especially Ms. London. Eventually, I want to thank all the participants and everyone who had become part of our Field Academy. I will miss you all.

-Neo

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Day 13: One More Day

Our last day in Fiji. What to say about an amazing trip, with some amazing people, who  I can now call friends? During this trip we all became one single family; having lunch together, playing together and also working a lot together. Sadly, all good things must come to an end.

The last day was pretty much the same as the other ones as people weren’t worried about the trip back home. We were enjoying the sun and the amazing beach here in Fiji. The day started pretty early with the surfers leaving at 6:00AM from the hotel while the others slept. People who were snorkeling left around 9:45AM and I was going to go scuba diving not far from where the surfers were. In that morning dive I was able to see some stingrays and a blue spotted ray, which it looked amazing, and also a moray eel. The people who went snorkeling saw a green turtle coming up for some air. When we came back it was almost an hour until lunch so Pedro and I went kayaking. The water was warm and clear but the conditions were not the best. There was a lot of current and a lot of wind so we came back inside.

Lunch today was amazing. We had an option to choose between chicken, beef, tuna or vegetables to make our burger with fries. It was so good! Later in the afternoon while the rest of the group went to play touch rugby, I went diving again, but in another spot called Channel where we saw some big fish and sharks. We got in the water and saw some big snappers. Later on we spotted a leopard shark right by the wall of the reef. It was a good-sized one, but my instructor told me they grow almost double that size. When we looked back we see this eagle ray following us from behind. We also saw a giant guitar shark in the sand hiding. When we came close, it just swam away very fast. We saw some amazing fish and the corals were amazing. The colors were bright and the fish were even better. Later in the dive, near where the boat was anchored, we saw two white tipped reef sharks.

When I came back the group was returning to the hotel. While I was in the pool relaxing a little, they arrived and we played volleyball. It was really fun to play with Kai. We almost came back from 10-2. The final score was 11-8. After that everyone went to get ready for dinner, which it was amazing! There was chicken curry with rice. It was spicy and my mouth was burning.

Today was a very productive day. I think everybody enjoyed it. As our last day in this paradise, it was amazing. I personally was very happy and excited for today. I feel like the rest of the group was too. This trip went by so fast- it felt like a week, but it was one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on. Thanks to our chaperons for planning and taking care of us this whole trip. Thanks to the Ross School for giving the group and I this amazing opportunity and life lessons. See you back in the Big Apple.

Goodbye Fiji. We are going to have memories of you for a long time and thank you for making this group one big FAMILY!

-Luis

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Day 12: The Dark Truth About Beach Volleyball

Day 12 was the best day ever. Hearts, records, bones, and rules were broken. Just kidding! Today was the first full day we spent at Matanivusi Resort. What does Matanivusi mean, you ask? The direct translation is unclear, so we’re just calling it boundless paradise on earth and sea.

Even though today was supposed to be devoted to relaxation after our service experience, we spent most of the day engaging in one physically demanding activity after another. Whoever didn’t leave for the 5-and-a-half-hour surfing expedition at 6:30 AM stayed behind and did yoga. The yoga studio was really nice. It’s located deeper in the jungle than the beach-side cabanas in which we sleep, and has open walls which allowed the little yogis to practice underneath towering trees which conveniently blocked them from scorching sunlight. Meanwhile, speaking of the sun, the surfers were being charred to crisps as they attempted to catch waves that were even larger than their egos.

Anyway, after yoga, the heavier sleepers who snoozed through all the morning activities joined the non-surfers for a 2-hour snorkeling session. They ventured out into some magical caves. Luis, a notoriously brave member of our group, caught a ride on the snorkeler’s boat to go deep-cave diving. So at this point pretty much everyone was out in the water, except for one of the Benards, who chose to stay back and relax at the poolside, reading a dense non-fiction book which he found lying around. All the snorkelers were excited to take pictures of the innumerable species of fish with the waterproof camera. Of the 200 photos taken, a whopping 3 were pictures of fish, while the remaining 197 were blurry shadows of some badly posed underwater silhouettes.

During the very long, very choppy boat ride back from snorkeling, Louis the Valiant gave the snorkelers a detailed account of his 2 shark sightings and the turtle he found. Luis, being incredibly brave, claimed that he is “not afraid of underwater creatures.” The snorkelers can’t say the same.

When we returned to the hotel we hot-tubbed, back-rubbed, and night-clubbed, or in other words, we went in a hot tub, scheduled massages with the on-site masseuse, and someone was blasting techno music on a portable speaker. Oh, and also—even though Fiji’s national sport is rugby—for some reason everyone’s gotten really into volleyball on this trip, so there was an intense two-hour-long session that started after lunch. We decided to investigate the volleyball obsession. Here are some quotes I’ve collected.

“My volley-partner is Rainier. Rainier and I are undefeated. Rainier and I are…we’re…we’re a dynamic duo. We’re unstoppable. And I’ve found a new passion. I’ve found volleyball. -Augie

“I had a nightmare about it last night so I don’t trust it anymore” -Alex L

“It’s pretty much the [second] most important thing in my life now”—Jonas

“I think it’s stupid. They all start out as friends and then they take it too seriously and then they get so angry for rest of the day. I think it’s stupid.” -Gabi

“It’s fine, but I’m mad because Hailey doesn’t let me play anything because of my coral infection”Gianluca

“I’m sorry that I care so much about Gianluca’s well-being, that I wanted him to cover his wound before playing”-Hailey                                                                      

That’s pretty much all I have to say about the day. On a more emotional note, I guess I should mention that everyone grows melancholy whenever someone brings up our looming departure. No one wants to leave so soon, but if we stayed any longer, we’d probably just decide not to come back. From the start Fiji has been extraordinarily hospitable, and we’ve all maintained the same amount of awe at Fiji’s beauty—the sky is beautiful, the people are beautiful, the ocean is beautiful, the colors are beautiful, the ceremonies are beautiful, and I’ve never become so comfortable somewhere so quickly. It’s fine to be leaving though because it has been a very long time since Manny has seen her pet cat. Life is beautiful NAMASTE VINAKA BULA. Peace out.

-Manny and Jonas

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Day 11: The Road to Matanivusi (Cat’s Eye) and Julia’s 18th Birthday

Today is the lucky day that the chaperones get the opportunity to blog. We began the day loading onto a bus to head to our final destination in Fiji, The Matanivusi Eco Surf Resort. Everyone was excited for this well deserved “vacation” from a lot of hard work and learning.

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We arrived and the students were mesmerized at this ecological rainforest paradise of a setting. The surfers, chomping at the bit got right into the water, while a large number of the non-surfers went stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling. Some retreated to their rooms, finally having personal space after ten days of dorm living. I had the pleasure of receiving many “thank you Hailey” cheers, as they roamed the premises or got into the water. This warmed my heart. I also had the pleasure of accompanying the surfers as they headed out on their maiden Fijian surf experience. Alex Lawson caught the first wave and my heart soared again. These kids, who live to surf, were on the waves in Fiji. Although mushy, windy and gigantic…the kids had an epic time. Later that night we celebrated Julia’s 18th birthday with a beautiful long table dinner, a cake, presents, and then a roaring beach fire. We are looking forward to a few last days of relaxation, water activities, a high school visit, spending time with the Vunaniu village kindergarten children and a delicious lovo feast with traditional dancing and a final kava ceremony.

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This trip has been fantastic and the students have impressed all they come into contact with. Our Vinaka Fiji service coordinators boasted that they never had a group as respectful, unified and compassionate, as this group. They have made me so proud and honored as a teacher to experience this journey with them. It is not everyday in a teacher’s life that they have the complete satisfaction of knowing one’s lesson or message was internalized. Here, we have the honor to see not only core values in action, but the full assurance that the students are running with every lesson and opportunity provided, and they are surely getting every intended message. Here are just a few of the moments that will leave a permanent smile in my heart:

I am so impressed, in so many ways, with Neo. He jumps into all activities, despite some communication barriers. Watching him climb the ladders and master the art of hammering, as well as hearing him share from his heart around our sharing circles, has been special.

There is nothing that Dualta can’t do. This environment was created for him. From climbing trees, to opening coconuts with his hands, mastering painting and always volunteering to help, Dualta has been essential to our experience.

Rainier has brought great humor and great tunes to our adventure. Watching him swing the Soso village grade one children from his arms was a wonderful moment to witness.

Luis has been curious and engaged with all we have done. The children we have met quickly fall in love with him and I’m grateful we finally got him in the water today to scuba. He saw a shark and a barracuda, both of the animals he hoped to encounter.

Manny has shone as a leader. She pioneered the painting projects at the village and her creativity and ability to delegate left permanent beauty for the Soso RA-Memorial School. Manny made connections wherever we went and her humor, style and compassion was a model.

Rory is a warrior. She has been positive, active, inquisitive and helpful the entire trip. She jumps fully into all activities. I have witness Rory engaged in so many beautiful moments, it is too difficult to choose.

Rachel has been unbelievable. She has been positive and engaged and fully immersed each day. She was vital to our service, making sure the bathroom painting and safety sign making went smoothly and she made beautiful connections to the children we met each day.

Pedro has surprised me the most. He has made beautiful meaningful connections with every child, villager, resort worker and random person that he has encountered. The children practically chanted his name, and the village men called him into sit at their meetings as he walked by. Pedro was never satisfied with just doing our required tasks during service and he was always asking “what else?” and creating ways to improve and beautify the Soso village. He has had a smile on his face for eleven days and I am so very grateful he is part of this experience.

Alex S has had so many beautiful moments. Watching him jump from the high dive in the ocean with a big smile on his face or hearing him express the feeling ot success after completing his irrigation project, are just two of the many highlights of Alex’s experience. He has been impressive and I believe his is getting so much out of this experience.

Yoora is a champion. She has been so bold in all activities and essential to all projects. From laying cement, jumping off the high dive or snorkeling into caves to observe coral and marine life, Yoora has had a smile on her face and has shone.

Gianluca is a beautiful person. He has made incredible connections with the people we have met and watching the joy on his face has enhanced my experience. Whether strumming his ukelele, watching him teach Alex S, seeing him jump up whenever help is needed or witnessing his determination to get his service project complete, Gianluca has had a smile of his face and clearly is filled with compassion and a great love of life. I couldn’t imagine this trip without him.

Joao is another incredibly beautiful person. He has brightened our days with his desire to help, his impeccable attitude,his vast talents and his ability to live life fully and mindfully. From his ability to measure, saw, hammer and work with his hands, to his leadership abilities, Joao has endless talents. I truly believe that parts of the service project would not have been completed without his determination.

Jonas is a quiet giant. His ability to survey each aspect of a situation and then take action is admirable. He has been an ideal role model on this trip, showing the younger students shining examples of mindfulness, compassion, leadership and intellect. It was such an important moment for him to receive a college acceptance while here.

Julia has had a fantastic attitude throughout the trip. The children loved playing on the swings with her, dancing with her and being around her, in general.

Gabriela had a beautiful experience in the village and to watch her experience it was so meaningful to me. The children fell in love with her. Her kindness and smile welcomed them in and they were glued to her. “Madame Gabi” was heard over and over for many days and the children could not get enough of her hugs and her playfulness. It was truly beautiful to witness and she is truly a beautiful human being.

Matheus is a compassionate and intelligent young man. He made beautiful suggestions on how the village can monitor water, which will be shared with the chief. His thoughtfulness and ability to analyze information is immense.

Hitomi has incredible grace and determination. Whenever there was an activity to do or service to provide, Hitomi was present, both physically and mentally and usually with a smile.

Kai has endless energy. He quickly had the reputation of the fastest runner in our group and he was challenged to a borage of races, of which he complied (and beat all the children). Kai was super helpful in all activities and while quiet in many aspects, he seemed to be taking it all in and downloading memories.

Alex L is simply a pleasure to be around. He is such a person. From his constant smile and positive attitude, to his sense of adventure and endless talents – Alex is golden. The village children loved him and his worked tirelessly to complete his projects. His love of the water was so evident every day, as he took every opportunity to merge with said water in any way.

Augie’s sense of humor has been essential to this trip. But he is far more than just funny. Augie is super helpful and made beautiful connections with the children. Augie worked with a sense of compassion and urgency and made beautiful improvements to the Soso village. It has been a pleasure to get to know him.

Martin has done an outstanding job throughout the trip. It was epic to see him running and playing with the village school children. They loved him. Martin and Neo participated in many firsts this trip. Martin tackled the water, snorkeling, boating and kayaking. I am so proud of him. Martin has also been very helpful, offering his services whenever needed. He has been communicating well and it is great to catch him laughing and smiling in so many moments.

-Hailey


You don’t know what you don’t know… This saying has been a reoccurring theme for me throughout the entire trip. I have never been to Fiji before, nor traveled with this exact group of 25 individuals. Thus, I did not know what to fully expect from this Field Academy. Now with only a few days left it has become more clear what I did not know almost two weeks ago.

Fiji has an abundance of beauty and optimistic vibes. The landscape and water contrast to form such a surreal and positive atmosphere. The people here are so welcoming, fun and prideful. To see the love and passion they have for their home is really inspiring. Everywhere we go it seems as though we are right at home – the people greet and treat us so well. For someone that has never been more than five feet into an ocean before, it has been quite the experience to snorkel, swim and boat around such open waters. I did not know first-hand what the underwater world had to offer until now – wow!

Spending over two weeks with teenagers from all different backgrounds and experiences can be a daunting task. But after a positive experience last Field Academy, I was excited to travel again this year. The makeup of personalities and skills has made this group more than just a group, but rather a community.

Each of the students has been so impressive in their own ways. What they have demonstrated goes beyond just understanding Ross Core Values. The students have demonstrated the ability to apply them authentically and appropriately. It has been such a pleasure to see each of them mature as the trip continues and solidify the community that has been established.

Some students I coached during basketball, others I traveled with last Field Academy and a few I have met for the first time. Regardless of my prior experience with any student, I can confidently say that each of them has played a vital role in my personal well-being on this trip and the success we are all having.

A constant message that I have tried to express throughout the trip has been to explore and be open to new experiences – because you don’t know what you don’t know. This world has so much more to offer than we can experience back at home. Our lifestyle is not the same lifestyle others have – and the students are learning what truly is important in life. Being able to put everything into perspective, especially for a young adult, can be challenging. However, building toilets and providing running water for a village that has never had that before can certainly help build perspective.

To see the smiles on our students faces and raw emotion during various parts of this journey has been a blessing. As educators, our ultimate goal is to provide students with a meaningful and worthwhile experience. In order to do that we must challenge them in ways that push them beyond their limits – because they don’t know what they don’t know.

-Max


I’ve been so impressed by all the students’ dedication to the completion of the service projects at Sosa, willingness to engage with their Yasawa High School peers, gratitude to the Vinaka Fiji and GLA leaders and the confidence/perseverance to get out of their comfort zone throughout the trip. Truly amazing, one and all!!

-Howard


As a relative “outsider” to the Ross School community, I am forever grateful for the acceptance, respect, and trust bestowed upon me by the group. Being a chaperone of just 23 years of age, the kids were able to find a sense of comfort, a resonance of respected mutual equality that formulated into a very conducive environment for the kids. The students, young adults in my eyes, were able to confide in me with their troubles, whether being future anxieties or present conflicts, knowing that I too have recently walked down a similar path. I have learned so much about each and every student and would like to think that I have positively influenced them; with the notion that you can have fun and be silly, all while maintaining a stern sense of discipline and maturity, whether it be revolving around academics, athletics, or social interactions…there is a time a place for everything. I am happy to say that no serious injuries have been sustained, just minor cuts and bruises that the kids so willingly let me treat. I was happy to be able to share my passion for helping others by both medical and philanthropic service, and by simply extending an open hand. Throughout the trip I was constantly enamored by the teamwork and unity displayed by the group, no one ever leaving a man (or girl) behind. I was particularly gratified by the work done in Soso village, the students truly went the extra mile to fulfill their duties to better the community. Lastly, to touch on the aquatic side of things, I was stoked to see all the students be so mesmerized by the coral reefs and all of the dazzling creatures zipping around. I found underwater caves that I cautiously lead a few of the more marine inclined students through. I found lobsters under deep coral shelves and lead the students to see their long “feelers” poking out, to then swim down and see the crustaceans tucked into the nooks and crannies of the jagged yet beautiful reef. This was actually a check off the bucket list for one of the Brazilian students Joao, who just so happens to be a excellent waterman and freediver. As for the surfers, I have never seen such amp before. The definition of “frothing” was an utter understatement. The boys were screaming and hooting, their voices cracking with excitement, on the first day of surfing as we motored along the outer reefs to our desired location chosen by our Australian surf guide Dane. I actually think I saw Kai shed a tear out of pure joy. Even the scraps from the sharp reef didn’t stop them, especially John Luca who filleted his foot two days in a row and just kept charging! The many faces of satisfaction, happiness, exhaustion, hunger, satiation, and pain from squeezing lime into reef cuts will be forever imprinted into my mind. I am proud and honored to have been a part of such an amazing trip, and for that I thank you.

-Nico

 

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Day 10: Coral Reef Restoration and Our Return to Mainland

Today as usual I woke up at 6:00am and headed to breakfast at 7:00am. At 8:00am we did a mindfulness meditation session. We also did two other activities. The first activity we did was go around in a circle and say things that we loved. A highlight of the game was when Martin said that he loved pandas. The second activity we did was go around in a circle and talk about our golden moments. A golden moment is a time where you feel you shined the most. Everyone’s golden moments were really sweet and thought out.

After that some of the high school students we met yesterday, who study marine biology, came to do some reef conservation activities. We were thus split into three different groups. Each group was assigned a reef protection project. One group was on land planting mangroves, the other group was identifying fish and the last group (my group) was re-planting the reef.

It was the perfect day to go snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and amazingly blue. Fiji is truly an astounding place. Everything is so colorful and fresh. It was a very low tide so we had to walk a bit far to get to the good zone. Once we reached the spot we had to dive down and grab bits of the fallen reef. We collected a lot of the reef. I saw so many beautiful fish whilst I was down there. My favorite fish that I saw was a little neon blue fish that zapped around. After we collected enough reef pieces we headed back to the shore to take a quick snack break. After our little break we headed back out to replant the reef. In order to re-plant the reef we had to dive really deep and attach the pieces to a cage contraption thus restoring the reef. It was really fun but alas it had to come to an end.

We came back to the shore and had some time before lunch. I spent my time packing my bag and then I ate some lunch. Lunch was our final meal. It was a bittersweet affair. The friends we made at the resort, all local villagers, sang us a beautiful goodbye song, and Miss. London, as always, cried. After lunch we had some time before we had to leave the island. I spent my free time playing volleyball, swinging in the hammock and going for a final swim. We left at 2:15 to head to the main island. The boat ride to the main island takes around four hours. The boat ride is very nice. I sat in the front and the ocean breeze is so relaxing. Sadly I got insanely burnt but it’s ok because it’s Fiji.

Fiji is amazing -on the boat ride we were able to see a bunch of different islands. Each island is different and breathtaking. After our boat ride we headed to our hotel. We ate dinner and saw a slideshow of our trip thus far. The photos were really nice. It’s crazy to see how much we have done in such a short amount of time. I feel like I have been in Fiji for months and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for the rest of the trip!

My trip thus far has been absolutely amazing. I have become friends with so many new people. I have seen and experienced so many things that I never thought I would be able to do. Fiji is truly a wonderful place. The locals are so welcoming and happy. Everyone is constantly smiling and the group as a whole works really well together. I love this trip so much and I am so thankful that I decided to go on it. Although we are nearing the end there is still so much more to see and experience in Fiji and I hope the rest of the trip is as amazing as the beginning.

-Rory

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Day 9: Visit to Yasawa High School

Today, we went to the Yasawa high school in another part of Naviti Island. We went a little further than Soso village. On the way, we divided into two groups and took two different boats to get there faster. As soon as we arrived at the island, students who were waiting for us began singing welcome songs with guitars, gave us homemade flower necklaces and introduced their school briefly.

It was a boarding school from primary school to tertiary school. According to their introduction, we were surprised that they have had high system of education with lack of supply. We could get the positive energy from them smiling all the time.

We were divided into four groups to prepare for lunch and we had a chance to communicate with students and teachers from the school. We saw them create the traditional lovo (fire pit) oven. The students showed us how to weave the lovo baskets using palm leaves and in the baskets the chickens and potatoes were placed. They cooked chickens and sweet potatoes with basam (coconut milk) on it. They put the woven baskets of food in the fire on the bottom of a pit and packed it with coconut leaves, covered it with a tarp and buried it in soil. They allowed the pit to cook the food for about an hour.  We also learned how to make a rose with coconut leaves.

Before we had lunch, we had a welcome ceremony where the students sang to us. The principal and Hailey gave speeches. Tema (one of the Vinaka Fiji coordinators) presented the donations we bought to a school teacher, as well as two sewing machines to be donated to the home economics program at the school. After the ceremony, some of students came to shake hands with us and were interested in us. For lunch, we had sweet potatoes, fried rice, chicken, seaweed, and lemon juice. The plating was special because it was made of woven palm leaves.

Lastly, we had rugby and volleyball games with the students. They were so fast and powerful, but we managed to score one goal. Today was the first and the last day spending time with the high school kids. Even though it was really short, we could feel appreciation from and for them. To end the day back at Botaira (our home base), we had beach fire after dinner at the resort. All of us enjoyed the music and throwing coconuts in the fire.

-Hitomi and Yoora

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Day 8: Service Commences

Today was a bittersweet day. It was the third and final day of our community service and the end of our projects at Soso village. A few hours were spent waiting for the rain to pass over, which people either spent sleeping, or for a select few, painting. After a few hours the rain settled and everyone went back to work either fixing the bathrooms, setting cement, putting water tanks in place, etc… Everyone who started his or her work finished it. Finishing the boys bathroom was a bit of a stretch but everyone was assiduous and diligent in painting, most likely due to the time crunch and the euphoria of the project coming to a close.

After our work was finished, there was a ceremony of thanks and goodbye. The Chief of the island, Ratu Titone Vuluma even attended the ceremony, which was special and showed the impact our actions had on this village. It was incredible. The children sang two songs; the first one was a song of thanks and the final one was a goodbye song. Ms. London was seated next to the Chief and during her speech and other speeches people cried. There were also two prayers; one for good luck and the other for thanks. This was expected as Christian missionaries arrived on Fiji, and luckily outlawed cannibalism. They made it their little project to turn everyone Christian. It showed the impact and influence other cultures had on Fiji. Another example of European influence is the school structure system, which names prefects and head boys and girls.

When the ceremony was over the villagers prepared an elaborate tea and pastry party. There was tea, biscuits, donuts, roti and other treats for us, which showed the Fijian generosity. They were not forced to do this. They just did it out of the good in their hearts. The children were incredibly friendly and showed the spirit of Fiji by the way that they danced and sang. They would jump on us with joy rather than with the intent to do bodily harm and would constantly sing in a way that can never be replicated or faked. The children and the adults were genuine and kind and welcomed us with open arms.

One thing that was not shown was the hard work the villagers did to prepare for the dry season. Every bit of water, wood, tools, cardboard, paper etc. is used to the fullest. Water is a precious resource that is not to be trifled with. They have to live off the water from the wet season for six months and often times the Fijian government will not respond to the villagers’ plea for simple resources. Therefore, they have to come up with alternative means of getting water which often resorts them to reuse and use dirty water that is filled with an abundance of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause bodily harm. But our school helped provide them with over 45000 liters of potential water, and for the first time in a long time, a running toilet and the first time ever, a flush toilet.

The time was very valuable in the village with the kids and the people, in general. In this precious three days we learned many things such as responsibility, how service really benefits both sides and how we could enjoy helping people as we learned from them .

-Martin and Dualta

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Day 7: Service Continues

As Ice Cube once said, “today was a good day.” Yesterday my group and I (Pedro) started to build the concrete base for the water tank. Today we were setting up the water system in the boy’s restroom. I feel honored to know that I am helping these kids by doing these kinds of activities. I consider today to be like a rose. I chose to relate the day to a rose because everything occurred perfectly as planned and even more beautifully. I sat down with a few kids inside the library with Luis, Matheus and Dualta to talk about global warming, physics, chemistry, animal diversity in the world and movies. We had fun, we learned and at the end of the day, I had the chance to swim in a beautiful ocean, on a beautiful island, with amazing people.

In addition to all of that, it was incredibly satisfying to see the work taking a final shape, and I am really excited to present the system that we are working on to the kids. Yesterday we painted both the boys and the girls toilet. It was really satisfying to see the bathrooms completely painted and with really shiny white, red and blue colors. Today we were working on completing the rain harvesting system that leads to a water tank. At first, I (Matheus) thought that the water would never get to the tank, because it has to go up a pipe to get to the tank. However, the head engineer explained to me that the system works with momentum since the building that is harvesting the rain is higher than the water tank. I learned a lot of new skills and could use some other ones that I have for putting the pipes together. I already knew how to use a saw, and fit pipes and elbows, so that was really helpful. I gained some shoveling skills to dig the holes for the pipes.

I (Matheus) am looking forward to seeing the projects tomorrow. I am also looking forward to explaining what I did for my senior project to the chief and villagers. It was basically a water usage system that measured how much water people are using, so they can be aware if they are wasting and eventually even shut down the water if it is running really low. I think the villagers could really use this project since the village constantly runs out of water. Another thing that went through my mind was that the project could be modified for water tanks instead of single showers.

In conclusion, helping these kids is bringing us endless satisfaction and it improved our skills and knowledge about water usage. Just to see different types of realities opens our minds to new ideas and concepts. We are looking forward to seeing what an amazing service these projects will provide when finished.

-Matheus and Petero (Pedro)

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Day 6: Giving and Receiving

On the fifth day experiencing the Fijian life – and after a lot of adventures and learning from the Fijian culture, people, and beautiful nature – we as a group finally had the chance to get our hands to work and help the Soso village.

After having an amazing breakfast with a beautiful ocean view, we left for a forty-minute boat ride around the island. We were amazingly received with a welcome song, which later you will have a chance to experience in our video projects. The students of The Ratu Apenisa Memorial School had smiles on their faces and were grateful for our help. Our task was to help rebuild from the 2016 cyclone and make some improvements around the school. After the rain passed and all the planning was organized, each group went to work, while wearing our sulus (sarongs) as a sign of respect to the people from the village.

One group started in the toilets – cleaning, painting and installing a new plumbing system – which finally will allow the kids from the village to have a basic clean sewage system. Another group did the concrete base for the bathroom’s water tank. The last group did the first step for the gutters system, which will make the water flow more accessible for the village.

Me, Joao Paulo, stayed in the group that took care of support for the water tank. This part of the service was really hands on, shoveling holes in order to get the soil for the concrete mixt, building a wooden frame for the concrete, digging trenches for the frame, and finally breaking a lot of big rocks in order to give a strong base for the concrete.

Me, Gianluca, worked in the first group, painting all the walls and doors from the bathrooms, and uninstalling the old sewage system from the bathrooms. This part of the service was also really hands on, like the other groups.

It was hard work and hot outside, but the thought of providing a basic need to such amazing people in order to make their lifestyles better motivated each and everyone of us every second. After the hard work and the amazing progress we made as a group, we had the chance to play and enjoy the sun with the kids. We ran around playing soccer, talking to them, and experiencing happiness and satisfaction in our hearts and minds.

This is what this trip has been about – finding happiness within each, and as a family, by giving to others basic needs and receiving life lessons from them at the same time. This is something we will take on for the rest of our lives.

The wonderful school from the village made a surprise for Kai by gathering the children to sing “Happy Birthday” in Fijian. They also gave him a native Fijian coconut drink. When we arrived home for our dinner, where we commemorated Kai’s birthday with music played by native Fijians. In addition to all of that, our resort’s chef cooked an amazing buffet.

-Gianluca and Joao

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Day 5: Exploring Fijian Culture

Today in preparation for the community service aspect of our trip we learned about the basics of Fijian language and a few traditional games. This will allow us to hold basic conversation with the locals that we will be working with, through their language, making a friendlier working environment.

An example of one of the games that we were taught was “Coconut Demo” which is a game similar to Bocce, but using coconuts and logs. We also learned how to throw a traditional Fijian spear, which was a traditional activity of Fijian culture. Not only do these games give us a taste of traditional Fijian culture, but also they show us how similar some aspects of traditional Fijian and American cultures are despite being geographically separated. Even though these were just games, they had a deeper meaning in introducing us to the interconnectivity of our societies.

Once we were finished with the educational part of the day, we continued our exploration of the reefs that lie past the shores of our home base. Even though the weather wasn’t too friendly, we enjoyed the island as if there were clear skies. Fortunately, the clouds cleared up in time to give way for a beautiful sunset.

We concluded the night with a team building exercise after dinner. Each of us took a personality inventory to decide what kind of animal best exemplified us. Each animal signified a different type of personality. I (Kai) was an eagle, which represented someone who is easy to work with, hard working, and will express my opinion when I feel it is important. In contrast to Kai’s animal, I (Rainier) was a buffalo. I expressed the characteristics of a leader, who will get stuff done. I am passionate, opinionated, and direct. Unfortunately I am also overly critical, which is something that I acknowledge and need to work on. If I had not done this personality exercise, I would probably not have decided to take action to improve this trait.

As individuals we feel like these experiences will not only help us when working with the villagers but it will also translate to other aspects of our life. When we go back to school, for example we will now know how to work better as a team and identify what roles we play as a part of the greater whole.

Still excited for what’s next, Kai and Rainier signing off….

-Kai and Rainier

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