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My Experience in Rural Fiji

Updated: Oct 14, 2021




Hearing about the Fiji Islands may make you think of the famous Fiji water.... or maybe the breathtaking beaches with their crystal clear water. It was the first country that I ever visited outside of my own, and it stills holds the title as one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen in my life.


When I was in college, this was really when the travel bug started to bite. I had taken a few domestic trips in the U.S., but I wanted more. I did a little research online to find a company called Vesa Abroad: An organization that takes a group of people to different parts of the world to help make a difference. We would be 'living' in a rural village for 1 week with a host family and help revamp the school. After a lot of thinking (and being just a little bit terrified!) I decided I was going to go on this trip and take on my first abroad adventure.


The group consisted of about 40 of us, most in their early 20's. I went in by myself, not knowing a single person. When the day came for me to meet up with these strangers at LAX, I was unbelievably scared, thinking of everything that could go wrong. Little did I know that I would meet some amazing people and have the time of my life.



 


Arriving in Fiji


I sat on a plane for 10 hours, not being able to sleep and was anticipating getting to our destination. When we finally started to descend, I had felt like I was transported into another world; It definitely didn't feel like the U.S. anymore... The trees were different, the buildings, even the aura in the air.


We arrived into the incredibly small airport in Nadi, Fiji, which is known as the big tourist city in the country. It was 7 a.m. in the morning, and we had the first day to head to our hostel and relax before the long drive to the village the next day. I still have a vivid memory of riding in a bus to the hostel and seeing how interesting the buildings and everything were; especially a KFC.... Who would've known Fiji would have one too?! It was shaped more like a hut than the traditional American-style.


When day 2 came, we were packed and ready to hit Nairukuruku Village. It was a five hour bus ride into the center of the main island. It was very small, a population of around 30 or so villagers. As we stepped off the bus, we saw a group of Fijians standing around, yelling out 'Bula!' as we walked out. (Bula is a common phrase to greet others in Fiji.) I would come to learn very quickly that Fijians are the most friendly people that I have ever met.





 


Living Like a Local


I didn't expect living in a rural village to be easy, and it wasn't, but it was well worth it and an amazing experience that humbled me completely. Another girl and I shared a host family, who consisted of a husband and wife with a four year old son. They also had a small dog who stayed outdoors at most times. Our home for the next week would be a tin shack with 4 rooms (Theirs was a bit larger than the others, while some had as little as one.) The mother was our main host, as she spoke English and the other two did not. Fijian is the main language in local areas, with a handful of people who can also speak English.


Our routine each day was pretty consistent. We would always get up early and have breakfast in the small kitchen with the mother and son. Morning meals would usually be crackers with jelly and some type of biscuit. The flies were terrible in the village and would take over our breakfast many days, having to swat them away so we didn't accidentally swallow one. On other days, it felt like the most serene, peaceful moment of eating while watching the sun rise.


As awful as it sounds, the changes we had to adjust to when it came to hygiene were the most difficult. At our shack, we had an outhouse with a toilet, except the toilet did not work. It was used as a placeholder for a hole in the ground. Therefore, the bodily fluids tended to bring a strong smell. Again though, it was humbling. There were no showers so we would all go to the nearby lake to bathe, which I actually found pretty cool. Of course, lake water can only clean you so much but it was a beautiful area. There were many of us that ended up getting sick at some point, a couple even ending up in the hospital for non life-threatening illnesses.


My bathtub for the week!



 


Life in the Village


The villagers were a friendly and lively bunch. Everyone knew everyone, and they treated each other like one big family. There were a few rules that we had to follow that were different than life back at home. For example, women could not show their bare legs, so shorts were a big no-no. We were gifted with sulus - a long skirt that is worn like a wrap - and they were expected to be worn anytime that we were outside. It was also frowned upon to touch anyone on the head, which we were reminded of quickly during a game of duck-duck-goose with the kids.


At the village there was a small community center, where we spent one night gathering together to have a talent show. Both the children and the adults all had such colorful personalities and were such a joy to be around. On Sunday we gathered at the small church to worship - most Fijians are Christian so it did not feel much different than going to a Christian church back in the U.S.



After the week was over, we loaded back onto the bus with heartfelt goodbyes from the Nairukuruku locals. We were happy to know that they now had a newly renovated school for the kids with a working water system. We spent another week island hopping as a reward for our work. It's incredible how every inch of the country is absolutely stunning, rural or not.


Some photos during our second week, at all of the tourist islands :)




 


Overall Thoughts


I'm so glad that I was able to make Fiji my first abroad experience. Not only that, but also being able to make a difference and truly dive in to what it's like to be a local here. There were difficult times, but they all concluded with a learning experience. If you ever get the chance to visit the rural side of Fiji, I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.





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ABOUT ME

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Hey there, I'm Shelby! Traveling has been one of my biggest passions in life, and so I'm here to share all of my great finds, tips and advice that I discover along the way. When I'm not on a plane, you can find me in Kentucky with my husband and fur child, Zoe (My adorable kitty!) 

I have always loved to write, and after many attempts at blogging again, I find myself here and inspired to share the world. My husband and I both work a typical 9 to 5, but make it a priority to plan as many trips as possible each year. I want to show others that it is totally possible to live a travel-filled life full time or on the side!

Thank you for stopping by, I hope you enjoy!

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