1 month on Caqalai: Eagle Rays, Environmental Education, and Surveys!
How might I describe my short month on this island in Fijian paradise? I’ve become a more proficient and comfortable diver. I’ve studied benthic, invertebrates and learned to survey. I’ve been able to contribute for the last week to the marine conservation work, collecting data and participating on survey dives. I’ve taken part in surveying the village of Daku and taught lessons in class 3 at the Moturiki School. All are incredible experiences which have inspired and provided hope for the future of our planet, yet none sum up the gifts and experiences I carry in my heart as I depart Caqalai tomorrow.
The most stunning aspect of Fiji is the people. A warm and beautiful people in all that beauty can imply. They are genuinely happy, openly welcoming and lovingly accepting of every persons’ individual nature. They laugh, they tease and share in a good natured way. My western cultural habit of questioning the nature or intent of an individual have little place here. Family extends far beyond the boundaries of blood ties and everyone welcomed into the community is considered family. We can all learn more of our interconnectedness to one another and the world around us by living as the Fijians do.
“There is no time here, only high tide and low tide.” Rise with the morning sun to work in the early morning breezes, rest on a mat under a tree when the sun is high and hot, offer to share with any who pass by welcoming them, support family and extended family so no one has to feel they are alone; everyone is a part of the community. Greet the stranger, friend or neighbour walking by the open door with “Bula” and a smile, work together and the projects become easier, laugh together and the day is lighter, sing together and connect with nature. Relax and care for others.
Sega na lega – No worries.
Walking over the island to school, mud squishing between my feet providing a slippery slope to navigate Siba reaching a hand back, “Follow me, follow me” offering support and a guide down the trail. He pauses stepping into the wood with his machete cutting down a sapling with one stroke then topping the end with another, handing me the remaining staff of the trunk he simply explains, “A walking stick for you;”
Rolling backwards off the boat into the water, slowly descending below into the deeps where fish swim and I can fly. The only sound is bubbles leaving me to float to the surface. A moray eel gapes at us from the shelter of the rocks, the parrot, butterfly and damsel fish gather in and around the coral, a white tip reef shark slowly cruises below; all manner of colourful creatures surround and observe as we drift past with the currents;
Sitting in the evening around the Tanoa of kava, passing the coconut cup, listening to the guitars, ukulele and men’s voices harmonizing as they sing songs of Fiji;
Snorkelling from Snake Island watching blue spotted rays startled out of the sand by our presence;
Talking about the jungle ecosystem in class 3 when they spontaneously break into song with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”;
Laying on my new handcrafted mat with Mereoni the teacher of class 3 talking about life, love and men;
Conversations and play with base staff and volunteers – volleyball games, pick-up Frisbee, swimming in the sea;
Standing on the shore outside the community room watching an eagle ray recover in the shallows from its early morning hammerhead shark escape;
Living for weeks in the open sea air, without shoes and dressed to jump in the water at any moment;
Ultimately my gratitude for GVI providing the opportunity and projects here in Fiji, the Fijian people for their warm happy hearts, the incredible base staff at Caqalai who happily share their passions and knowledge, and to all the volunteers who have supported, encouraged and shared their laughter these past weeks – until we meet again.
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