“Bula, bula!” We were greeted as we walked away from our ten-hour flight into Fiji’s warm, humid air. Despite the red-eye flight each of the students in the Travel Club, as well as the chaperones, were becoming antsy and excited in anticipation of everything to be experienced here in Fiji. The natives’ smiling faces were exuding joy and revealing a culture to us we were only beginning to understand. While all the students waited impatiently to pack up all of their luggage onto the coach so they could begin their tour of the island, the friendly Fijians laughed, “Relax! You’re on Fiji time now!” Their attitude was contagious, and a certain happiness existed between all of the Travel Club members – we’re in Fiji! What an incredible idea when just hours ago we were on the other side of the globe in Bakersfield, California. Upon arrival at the beautiful resort, we were all astonished at how beautiful it was and how marvelous the view was of the South Pacific Ocean from the Sofitel Resort. The blue water glittered in the sunlight as everyone crowded around the terrace to take in a piece of the breath-taking view.
As we all dined on breakfast, two Fijian men in floral-print shirts and red sarongs played ukuleles while singing cheerful songs in their Native tongue. Every Fijian smiled brightly at you and had an unmistakable sparkle in their eye, even as you learned of much of the people’s hardship throughout the island, and a life-changing flood for many of the Natives, which destroyed towns and inflicted millions of dollars worth of damage. It was apparent that though these people have experienced difficult times, they remember to appreciate the beauty of their land and to retain their optimism and effervescent joy.
While awaiting the ferry to take us to Robinson Crusoe Island, one of the many islands scattered around the mainland, we were reminded that we were on “Fiji Time,” and that we were in a place much different from America’s rushing, impatience, and fear of not “sticking to the schedule.” How refreshing to be somewhere that emphasizes relaxing and enjoying every moment! Though it was difficult for many of us Americans, we realized that the rushed attitude of California was not suitable for experiencing Fiji. Our group strived to learn from the Fijians who loved every minute of life, despite their living conditions or need. We were able to experience corral reefs of Fiji when we snorkeled, we basked in the peacefulness of horseback riding on the beach of such a beautiful place, and we were thrilled at the excitement of playing beach volleyball against the locals – who, might I add, are very athletically talented.
As the sun set, the Natives invited us into their ritual of celebrating our arrival by having kahvah, a drink made of water and spices that is drunk at special celebration events. After being formally welcomed through this ceremony, we were treated to a fire-dancing show put on by the Fijians. The men’s dance has been passed on for centuries and was used to frighten away enemy tribes before engaging in battle; it was unlike anything we have seen in the United States.
As our time in Fiji drew to a close (unfortunately, even when in “Fiji Time,” it is impossible to escape the end of something), we looked forward to our next destination: New Zealand (our high school’s Travel Club was visiting several places in the South Pacific). We were thrilled about all we had learned about this culture and were excited about the lessons we had learned from the Fijians themselves.
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