Andrew is currently filming the next installment of the IVHQ video tour. He’s just wrapped up filming in New Zealand and is headed to our volunteer program in Romania next. Hear from Andrew in Fiji as he shares about his life as a traveling videographer…
As I sat on the bus to Suva with a couple of other volunteers, I was able to relax after the flight and take in my surroundings. Looking out the window palm trees whizzed by in the foreground, gorgeous blue water beyond, and the silhouettes of nearby islands in the background. I said to the volunteer beside me, “I didn’t know I needed this until I arrived”.
It was a quick reaction to what I saw, but it was a feeling that continued throughout the rest of my stay. The Fiji program had the largest volunteer group of any I’ve visited, with over 80 volunteers staying in multiple volunteer houses. It was great to have so many volunteers around, with many different backgrounds and personalities. It made life constantly entertaining, although the country itself is highly interesting already.
Just outside Suva is the home base for the Fiji program. When I arrived there were a group of new volunteers who were doing their orientation. I sat in on a language lesson and a weaving lesson, and went on a tour of Suva.
Every town I visited, I was greeted with a welcome ceremony. This involved sitting on the floor in an empty room with the chief and elders of the region, and giving and receiving the gift of kava – a strange traditional beverage common in Fiji. It’s made from the root of a plant, which is ground up and mixed with water, leaving your mouth somewhat numbed. It looks and tastes a bit like muddy water, but the intrigue makes it worthwhile.
The recent cyclone that hit Fiji was a hot topic, as it affected many of the places we visited. Houses were ruined. Debris was everywhere. Telephone poles were horizontal in the ocean. Even a massive ship was washed up onto the shore. It was incredible to see how volunteers have been able to respond and help bring things back to a state of normal for island inhabitants.
While I was there volunteers had been relocated to Levuka on Ovalau Island to help with the devastation after cyclone Winston. I’ll try not to rave about it too much, but I’ll just say it’s a little chunk of paradise. A narrow seaside road wraps around the circumference of the island, and leads from the town of Levuka to a little village where the placement is held. Under palms and right on the beach, volunteers were collecting bags and wheelbarrows of concrete and bringing it up to houses being built within the village. For the location and cause alone, this is a project I’d love to do.
At the end of my stay on that island, we were given a notable farewell ceremony. There was handmade grass skirts, body paint, and dancing, while the volunteers watched with plates of food that was cooked underground. We were also given handmade flower necklaces to wear. There was singing, dancing and guys with spears it was so different to anything we are used to. It was really a beautiful moment for us all.
In another little village a couple volunteers and I went to, we were given yet another welcome ceremony (where I was designated as the chief for our group – score!). We went out onto the peaceful little river – on a bamboo raft. The raft was made of about eight long pieces of bamboo tied together with rope, and a man who stood the back end of the raft and pushed us along with another bamboo pole. Aside from my slight paranoia about my camera going for a swim, it was a very peaceful ride, and ended with my camera safely on the shore, and me going for a swim (intentionally) instead.
We then visited some sand dunes where we hiked up and down them under the hot sun, and along the shore of the water. Laborious, but worth it for the views. The hike ended through some woods, then off I went to the airport!
All in all, it was a very busy few days, but Fiji is one I’ll keep a fondness for.
If you want to stay up to speed with Andrew’s whereabouts, as he makes his way around our volunteer programs on the latest installment of the IVHQ Video Tour, then keep an eye on our social media by following IVHQ on Instagram, Twitter, or the International Volunteer HQ Facebook page. To watch the previous tour videos check out the IVHQ Youtube channel!