Note: Pictures are here!
Wednesday through Sunday was orientation. Wednesday we went over some good knowledge for studying in Suva. I really enjoyed how open and frank the staff was about Fiji. It’s a developing country, like any country you have to be smart, but people are super nice.
If you want to send anything to me while I’m here post it to:
- Megan LaFollette
- USP International Office
- University of the South Pacific
- Laucala Campus
- Suva, Fiji
Most importantly use tracking otherwise the postal service can be dodgy… or so I’m told.
Wednesday night we had a super classy welcome dinner. It wasn’t so much dinner as appetizers, wine, and nice beer, but it was super nice. Outside in a welcome center with performances by dancing groups here. Everyone dressed up a bit. I felt very grown up sipping my red wine and mingling with other students in my program. I also met the American Ambassador from the Embassy at the dinner.
Thursday we had course registration. That was somewhat helpful and easy. After looking at my schedule I will now be taking : Pacific Worlds, Coral Reef Ecology, Fish and Fisheries, and Conservation Biology
which Levuka, the old capital of Fiji, is located. First we took a bus to a warf, then took a ferry (bringing the bus along with us) and then drove on the bus to the village community.
For this trip we had been required to purchase sulus a traditional fijian dress. The Fijians can be very conservative in their dress particularly in the villages. Women’s knees must be covered along with their shoulders. And both the women and men wear sulus for official ceremonies and mostly just in general. A sulu kind of is like a sarong. I love mine, so many different ways to wear it.
Once we got to the community of Bureta we got off the bus and immediately assembled for a sevusevu, or welcome, ceremony. It was all conducted in Fijian so I understood very little of it. But basically our representative asked permission to come into the village and presented an offering of kava. The chief of the village then accepted.
The whole weekend was amazing. The village made amazing fijian food for us every meal. We also had kava/grogg/yaquona ceremonies/drinking nights both nights. Kava is a traditional drink that members of the village can drink once they are out of schooling. It is a root that is ground finely and produces calming effects along with numbing. I drank some. It tastes like muddy water and did numb my face, lips, and tongue a bit. I did get sleepy, but I also did not get a lot of sleep the nights before.
There was also a lot of dancing in the village. The Fijians are so happy, welcoming, and love to dance and sing (they are also awesome at it). The first night the girl guides (fijian version of girl scouts) had a campfire and the entire community came. We got invited up to dance with them some. Despite being very conservative elsewise some of their dancing can be a bit risque. Another interesting thing is that as a compliment to the performers people from the crowd can run up and shove candy in performers mouths or also (extra strange) dump baby powder on their head. I wouldn’t mind getting candy for performing, but I’m not so sure of the baby powder. The second night there was more dancing.
Both nights we got to meet a lot of the village children and learn about their lives. There are only a few schools for each grade on the island so kids are sent to these schools to live there for schooling. All the kids were nice and cute. They loved to have their pictures taken of them and look at them as almost nobody has cameras or computers there. In fact the community we were in just got electricity in 2008. Most houses don’t even have a bathroom in them and I’m not sure if any have a proper shower. Mostly the villagers use one common bathroom in the same building as where the ceremonies are conducted.
On Saturday in the morning we went for a crazy hike. Lots of fun, very challenging and slippery, but cool. We had villagers help us up the worst slopes (there wasn’t much of a path). The view was beautiful. On the way down we found some papaya growing on a tree and they cut us up for us to eat. Fruit just grows like crazy here, it’s awesome. I also found out pineapple grows in the ground and coconut comes in a husk.
In the afternoon we went into Levuka, but I was sick so I didn’t enjoy it too much. It was beautiful though. Flowers also grow like crazy here, which is awesome.
The weekend was awesome. I got to really see more of Fiji, of the real Fiji. Everyone just pictures the beautiful white sandy beaches, but I actually haven’t seen a beach like that since I’ve been here. The interior is really beautiful. The people are incredibly giving and happy and friendly. And it’s a developing country so many of the people don’t have a lot, but they are willing to give a lot.