When people leave Tovuto Base we like to do a little tradition called “Roses and Thorns.” It’s a time for everyone to remember their best, and worst, moments while on the base and share them with the rest of the group. They are quite special because no matter if they are presented like a proper comedy routine, or if the person is crying while they present, they offer a view into someone’s personal experience while somewhere that places them completely out of their comfort zone. Therefore, true to fashion, I am choosing to put myself out of my comfort zone one last time while on base and write my roses and thorns as my final blog.
My first rose is going to start off with a little story about the person I was before this experience… Before I came out to Fiji I remember people asking me many questions- what I was most excited for, what I was going to do, and what I was most scared of. After thinking about it for a while I realised that what I was most nervous for was putting myself in a position where I stood out. I was terrified that as neither a staff member, nor a volunteer, but a scholar (the only scholar), I wouldn’t really fit in anywhere. How wrong I was… After living on this base for three months now I can honestly and truly look back to that period, not so long ago, and laugh at how ridiculous that fear was. From my very first day here I felt welcome, included, and part of a family. I need to thank everyone, and especially the staff for making this so easy for me and welcoming me without question. It made me more confident, independent, and happy with who I am.
Another rose I have would be the opportunities I got to experience while I was here. I was able to do so much more than I originally thought and am so grateful for it. My first week here I got to finish the construction on the composting toilets at Ratu Meli Memorial School. With this project finished I was able to move from island to island, with my team, constructing various water tank bases and guttering connections that enabled fresh, accessible, water for countless families. We were able to completely transform a grass and weed patch into a fully functioning and useful garden which has since been harvested and used for a couple weeks worth of school lunches. I went across Fiji and studied dolphins and conservation of a reef which is not only important for ecology, but for the culture of the Fijian people of the area. I was able to scuba dive and saw an ornate ghost pipefish (very rare) on my first dive! When I moved more into the education side of my position I was able to teach classes, do innumerable one-on-one sessions, and make it through a whole semester where I could see the students growth in their studies. I was also able to make an impact in communities by holding presentations and meetings with so many people of so many different walks of life where I learnt so much.
I know this seems cheesy but I really, seriously, and honestly have no thorns. When I sat down to write these out the only thing that came to me as a thorn was leaving. I am going to miss absolutely everything about Fiji and about Tovuto Base. I will miss the place, I will miss the culture, but most of all I will miss the people I shared it with. Every single person I have met while here has impacted me in their own special way and I can truly say that I will never forget any of you. This three month period was a moment in time that will soon become a memory, and although I dread that time, I am so happy for the experience that I’ve been blessed to have with all of you.
So, in conclusion, my real rose is this complete experience, the whole package, which will always be in my heart and in my mind. Vinaka vaka levu Fiji.
Hayley Marshall – 12 week Community Project Scholar