When I received an invitation to spend a year living and working in Fiji presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity. I couldn’t imagine what a turn my life would take.
On arrival in the village of Silana I was greeted with large smiles and “Bula Ellie!” and “…this is Ellie” with knowing looks passed around. It quickly dawned that everyone was expecting my arrival.
I was initiated into the village at the sevusevu ceremony – drinking kava and teased for having a feeble clap, something I am working on. The evening ended with fantastical music and dancing, everyone joining in. Now an official member I began to relax into my new role as both GVI staff and a member of the vibrant and warming community.
I can only compare my traditional ‘Bule’ accommodation to the house Peter made for Wendy. Its small garden decorated with giant clam shells, a high pitched thatched roof and woven bamboo walls. The sea is only 10 metres from my door and I can hear it gently lapping on the shore at night.
The GVI supports a number of programs providing assistance to the teachers of Navunisea School, based in Silana village. On Monday morning the new volunteers, and myself, were both eager and nervous for our first day at school. We could not have anticipated such a warm welcome by staff and pupils alike. Coming to school in the morning is a joy. I have spent my first week meeting teachers and pupils, and I am now trying to match all the names with their smiling faces.
After school the volunteers and I have dinner together or with our new Fijian families. We have trekked through the nearby forest to a secluded waterfall and swimming pool, which was beautifully refreshing on a humid afternoon.
I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!
Ellie Hanson – Education Project Leader, Dawasamu