What can I say? TEAN (The Education Abroad Network) does a good job. Fiji was an incredible place to spend the first half of orientation before going to New Zealand. The vibrant colors, the coral reefs, and the friendliest people made my time in Fiji unforgettable.
As a part of my program I signed up for a group flight that left from LAX, which was where I first met some of the amazing people who are already becoming great friends. From LA we took an 11 hour flight to Nadi, Fiji and crossed the International Date Line, skipping February 8th entirely. Arriving in Fiji was memorable. We were greeted in the airport by local Fijians singing and playing guitar to welcome us. After passing customs we took a 3 hour ferry ride to Naviti Island. Fiji is made up of over 300 islands, many of which we passed in that time. Needless to say, the view was beautiful. And I took way too many photos.
Here’s just one: Beachcombers’ Island
Landing on Naviti at Botaira Resort we received a big “BULA!” (hello) from the locals and were shown to our homes for the next 4 days. After dropping off our luggage, we got to participate in a traditional meal making ceremony called a lovo. We helped to wrap a giant fish, potatoes, and taro roots in palm leaves and bury them in the ground to cook.
The main reason TEAN took us to Fiji was to introduce to Pacific Islander culture. Right away we found out that everything operates on Fiji Time. Life is slow paced and, except for meals, nothing ever happens on time. Whenever we asked what time it was the answer was always “FIJI TIME!” Music and dance are important to their culture and we got to see and hear multiple songs and dances. Overall, the Fijians I met were incredibly accommodating and friendly.
A sample of the daily schedule:
So many other fun, new things happened in Fiji. We learned how to husk coconuts and got to drink right from them. We also had a spear throwing competition, played Fijian games - hermit crab racing was one of them, kayaked, snorkeled, paddleboarded, stargazed, and so much more. While it ended up being incredibly hard because it was so hot and humid, one of my favorite experiences while in Fiji was hiking to the local village. We got to meet school children and shop in the market. I felt badly for just taking pictures and leaving, but was appreciative to have the opportunity to see the local way of life and help support the families by making small purchases and donating to the school.
Fijians really are some of the most joyous people I’ve ever met.
Visiting Fiji for a few days was such an awesome way to start this adventure. There are over 50 of us in the program this semester and being in Fiji away from internet, cell service, and other people allowed us to take our time to get to know each other without distractions - except for all of the beauty happening around us.
I doubt that I will ever have the chance to visit Fiji again and I am so glad that I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see and enjoy such a beautiful country and people. Vinaka (thank you) Fiji! I give you a solid two thumbs up!