Day 4: Sense of Community

Today was an amazing day, not because of what we did or what we saw, but because of the overall experience. Ross is a school that is based off the concept of community, and after today I believe that this Field Academy revolves around community as well.

We arrived at our new location eager to see what waits. We were welcomed by open arms and flower necklaces- an overall sense of community the second we stepped off the boat and our feet hit the sand.

After a delicious lunch and a quick safety briefing we all headed directly into the water. Some snorkeled while others swam out to the floating diving board. Those snorkeling saw amazing fish and coral as they heard the cheerful screams of those jumping into the water.

Eventually a majority of us made it to the diving board. Every single person who was standing on the floating dock ended up drawing up enough courage to jump off. Personally, I was initially petrified to jump but I managed to do it thanks to everyone who was cheering me on and ensuring to me that it would be okay and that “no, I would not be eaten by a shark.”

Later on in the afternoon, after the swimming was over, we were told that there was an optional hike that we could take part in. Despite the fact that it was optional, nearly everyone gathered together at 5:00pm with his/her sneakers on ready to hike.

I did not know what to expect from the hike. Since it was spontaneous I thought it would be an easy hike – boy was I wrong! As we continued our trek up the mountain, the ground got muddier and the incline increased drastically. However, no one was ready to quit. In fact it was the exact opposite. Some were running up the mountain and others kept pace with the people in the back (I was in the back) and encouraged people to keep going and push themselves.

After the hike came to an end (somehow we all made it) it was time for dinner. Prior to our dinner we took part in our second traditional Kava ceremony of the trip. The kava ceremony is amazing- and allows us to experience a key part of Fijian culture and traditions hands on.

We ended our day with a sharing circle. The sharing circle gave us all an insight on how others felt about the trip so far (what they learned, what they liked, etc…) A key word from that ceremony was “community.” During the circle everyone said that they felt like the trip evoked a sense of community and that everyone on the trip is so encouraging and optimistic; I could not agree more. I am excited for tomorrow and for the remaining days of the trip…

-Rachel

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Day 4: Excitedly Awaiting…

Although the majority of us are still jet-lagged, we were able to wake up this morning at 6:30 for an early breakfast. We packed our bags and left the resort at 7:30 to catch a four hour long boat ride to Naviti Island. We’ll be staying at the Botaira Beach Resort where we will be carrying out the most worthwhile part of the trip, our service projects. Although today is mostly just travel and arrival, I wanted to gauge how the group as a whole feels.

I’ve been fascinated with the people of Fiji and their hospitality. I wasn’t able to walk down the street or take a bus ride without dozens of Fijians waving at us and screaming “Bula!” The scenery and vibrant colors are as beautiful as you can imagine, but it’s the people I’ve met that have really impressed me. I talked to some of my friends on the boat ride to see how they feel about Fiji so far and what their expectations are…

-Augie

Alex L: “My mind is blown by the mountains, water, and beautiful colors that surround Fiji.”

Manny: “I’ve never seen color like this before the clouds and trees and grass and sky are saturated and beautiful-but not bursting, not layered-and so my eyes see no complexity beneath a depthless, almost superficial purity. It’s as though everything we’ve seen so far was made to be liked.”

Julia: “Although everything so far has been beyond beautiful, I’m excited to begin our service work and get a feel for the real substance of Fiji.”

Nico: “I’m excited to the state of their living conditions and how we’re able to help them. Hopefully we can make a lasting impact on their community.”

Gianluca: “So far it’s been good and exciting, unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The Fijians are similar to Brazilians in their hospitality and are jut very nice people. I want to make the community service hours worthwhile and leaving an impact on the community.”

Kai: “I’m excited to work with the community and see what we do. I hope we’re able to see a real indigenous tribe and get a feel for what their culture is about.”

Hailey: “So far, I am so impressed with the students and their desire to jump in and embrace all that has been presented to us. I love that they are so eager to begin our service projects and that spirit of compassion makes this group exceptional. The people we have encountered have been so kind and we are excited to forge new relationships with the villagers of the Soso community. It is incredible that this is only day 3 on the ground as we are functioning like a well oiled machine of a group. Watching the students experience the sights and activities warms my heart and validates the many months of plans and hopes. They are handling the uncertainty of the schedule at times, beautifully and are open to unpredictability and new experiences. I had a feeling that this group would be truly exceptional, and I am gratefully seeing the evidence of that prediction”

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Day 3: Sleeping Giant

Everyone started the day with breakfast and many of us participated in yoga, while a few of us received a plethora of bug bites. We then had some down time until we drove to “The Best Fish and Chips in Fiji.” After a solid meal, we hopped on the bus and made our way to “Sleeping Giant Garden” and ” Sleeping Giant Mountain” where we would get a tour and go on a hike. Sleeping Mountain Park was created by actor Raymond Burr and hosts hundreds of orchids and beautiful flowering trees and paths. Once we [finally] reached the top of where we hiked, we were able to take in a stunning view of Fiji. Tomorrow we will get to see the reason they call it “Sleeping Giant” as we take a boat to our next location and see the shape of the mountain range from afar. After the hike, we went to a mud pool and hot springs. We covered each other in mud from head-to-toe and participated in relay-races. Being covered in mud was a weird experience for me, as I normally do not cover myself in mud. We hopped in a mud pool after the races, which felt terrible and amazing at the same time. Then we all went into a hot spring to wash the mud off. The rest of the day consisted of bonding time, dinner, a documentary about Fiji and then wondering what adventure we would all take head on tomorrow…

-Alex S.

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Day 2: Bula, Fiji!

This morning we woke up in Fiji! Our plane arrived just as the sun was rising. As soon as we passed through the quick immigration line, we were all eager to exchange our money for the colorful, Fijian dollars. Then, we headed to the hotel where we would be staying at for the next two nights. The bus ride was very long, but we were all impressed with the city. When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by traditional Fijian warriors who jumped out at us from all directions. We were brought inside where we learned about the Kava culture, meaning, and process. We had a delicious breakfast shortly after and then we had some time to explore the resort, have fun in the pool, play soccer games, and relax. After a little while, we headed to the town to do some sarong and souvenir shopping. Some people visited a Buddhist temple, while others got henna tattoos. We came back to the hotel and decided to take a quick walk to the beach. Jonas and Alex decided to run ahead of the pack. At the beach, we made teams to play football followed by rugby. Rugby was challenging because most people did not understand the concept of throwing the ball backwards, but it was still a lot of fun. We came back to the hotel around sunset, everyone took a shower, and we went to a nice dinner with traditional Fijian food and live Fijian music. It was a  long day, but it was such an amazing experience for our first day in Fiji.

– Alex L. and Gabi

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Day 1: On Campus Preparation

We arrived at school at 8am today, prepared for a day full of informative presentations, traditional Fijian food, and a Rugby 101 class.

We started our day by with presentations that we had prepared covering topics such as Fiji Demographics, Coral Reefs, Dance, Tattoos and Piercings, the Kava Ceremony and much more. The presentations allowed us to gain a glimpse into activities, sights, and traditions that we will be experiencing hands on during the duration of our trip.

Once the presentations finished we broke off into groups. Luis, Matheus, Pedro, GianLuca, Yoora, and Hitomi made their way to the kitchen to prepare some tradition Fijian dishes and drinks that Luis talked about during his presentation on Fijian Food.

Aside from cooking we also took part in a Rugby 101 class that was conducted by some fellow Ross teachers. Rugby is the most popular sport in Fiji and we will be watching a Rugby game on March 12th and possibly participating so practicing now was definitely necessary!

To conclude our day we had our Farwell ceremony at 3:00. Luis and his crews amazing dishes where served and families of students gathered together to enjoy.

We are all so excited for our fabulous Fiji Journey to begin. Stay tuned for more blog updates and photos of our adventures!

-Rachel and Julia

Rugby 101

Rugby 101

Rugby 101

Rugby 101

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Fiji 2017: Service, Sport, Surfing, and Sustainability

In this once-in-a-lifetime travel experience to the tropical paradise of Fiji, students are immersed in the island’s culture and communities on a sport, surf, and service-related adventure. While Fiji’s beauty is unmatched, it is a country with great need, and students work not only to protect coral reefs while learning about the customs, dances, and rich life of native Fijian cultures, but also provide essential services to local populations on a daily basis. Students work with several organizations, living with and integrating into local island communities while engaging in sports-related services for young people, mentoring local youth, helping with sustainable food systems and coral reef preservation, and supporting the maintenance of structures and daily life in villages. Throughout, students reside in a stunning beachside environment. In between days of work and service, students snorkel, canoe, visit mud caves, and bask in the beauty of the culture and natural surroundings.

Following 12 days in the northern island communities, students travel to the Coral Coast of the mainland for a service-related sustainable surf experience. While staying at Fiji’s first certified sustainable surf resort, students have the rare opportunity to experience Fiji’s top surf locations under the guidance of local experts, instructors, and lifeguards. Students also visit local organizations, such as orphanages and after-school programs in the area. Nonsurfing activities include fishing, yoga, stand-up paddleboard, visiting the native village of Vunaniu to experience its culture and customs, and viewing Fiji’s national sport of rugby.

Essential questions for this course include “How do Fiji’s geography, climate, and natural resources affect the way Fijians live?” “How does cultural preservation empower youth in the face of adversity?” “How can a foreigner come to understand the unique cultural aspects of Fiji’s communities and work with cultural humility to help?” “How does ecotourism affect true ecological sustainable development in native cultures?” The educational focus of cultural preservation and understanding, ecological sustainability, and youth sport-related service and education, while immersed in Fijian culture and beauty, makes this experience a life-changing one.