Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 4: Village Here We Come!

I was right no rooster could have woken me up from my exhaustion from yesterday, I finally had a good night sleep and was ready for whatever adventure awaited, We had breakfast and I had …. scrambled eggs and toast, how surprising! Before we went to do all of our activities we had a brief Lightroom Software tutorial about how to set up our pictures and upload them onto our computer. It was pretty boring but we got through it I actually learned a lot of neat tricks thanks to Brett. Afterwards we packed to go snorkeling, I wasn’t really feeling it that day so I didn’t change into my swimsuit. We had to walk over through the rocks to reach the island where they were going to snorkel. Since there was a low tide there was room to walk but we all still got scratches and by now our feet were completely messed up. When we reached we had lunch it wasn’t too filing but it gave us some energy to play Frisbee! It was so much fun but surprisinnlgy hard to play in the sand. We split up into teams and we had Claire who is amazing at every single sport. She caught the Frisbee so many times but we were still managing to lose. However Brett came into our team and changed the game. He is awesome at Frisbee and made us win the game. I caught some Frisbees that I was pretty proud of but our whole team was great. After that exhausting game I was for sue not up for snorkeling they had to wait for the water to rise so now it did. They left and me and Mariam chilled on the beach, Mariam started singing and who knew she was amazing! When they came back from snorkeling they were all laughing and said the Jamison, one of the students, fell while climbing the ladder. While he was falling he said” going down”, it was the highlight of their day and probably mine even though I wasn’t there. They also saw cool coral that when you touch it changed colors. I wish I got to see that but I was happy that I rested. We went back to the hotel and took cold showers and got packed to go to the village. I was really debating whether I would enjoy it or not but we left and it took about an hour to get there. It was poring really hard and once we got off of the bus there were 10 guts with umbrellas escorting us so we wouldn’t get wet. They were really excited hat we came and had been waiting for this moment for months. We were taken to this community-gathering place where there was tons of kids and parents smiling with joy. The villagers told us that they built toilets and showers just for us! After we took off our shoes and sat Indian style next to a huge bowl of kava! Lisa and Brett presented them with kava and in return they welcomed us into their village. We all received a bowl of kava, how wonderful!  Before they gave me kava I had to clap before and after drinking it. This kava tasted a lit bit better but the after taste was still pretty bad.  After we all drank kava they performed a dance for us. It was awesome and we wanted to learn this dance before we left.  We all met Angie again and she was so happy to see us. The girls stayed in her house it was actually really nice and big. I was glad to be staying there. We had dinner and it was awesome, I had chicken and rice. After we went back to the community hall and there was music, dancing, and more kava. I had a few more but then I didn’t feel to well, so I stopped. Here I met 2 amazing people Mel and Wicky, they told me to call them by their nicknames. It took them a while to fully pronounce my name but they got it. Elizabeth and I danced with them. It was soon approaching 10, our bedtime. We said our goodbyes and had a quick session to talk about the next day and say our highs and lows. I said my low was the weather and my high was seeing everyone at the village and their amazing singing and dancing skills. I set up my sleeping pad and sheet n the floor and pray I get a good night sleep.

Day 3: Longest Day

I thought I would have at least one good day of sleep but that rooster kept me up at night. I woke up at 630 and the power usually comes on at 7 so my flashlight was really handy. The shower finally worked but it was freezing cold so I took about 10 minutes. I went up for breakfast and had scrambled eggs with toast again, quite surprising. It was Sunday, so we decided to attend the family church that was right next-door. It was an amazing experience. When we entered we had to take off our shoes and quietly enter while the pastor was giving a sermon. His talk was very inspiring he focused on our identity and who we are and where we came from. He would repeat the sentence, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11). After he finished talking we were each given a lyric book full of songs we were all singing and their voices definitely outshined ours. Anyways when the church service ended we met a woman named Angie who is giving up her home for us to stay in once we go to the village. So once we had our introductions we got all packed to go hike the Tovoro Waterfalls. The ride there was about 45 minutes and there was about a 5-minute walk. The weather continued to be cloudy with slight showers. The waterfall was huge and it emptied out in a large river. We all quickly changed into our swimsuits and swam in the river. The water was freezing cold and the current was pretty strong so it was hard to approach the waterfall itself. I took my GoPro out and took a lot of amazing videos of us. Afterwards our leader took a picture of us with the national geographic flag hoping to soon be the next cover of the Nat geo student expedition magazine. There was a bunch of caves at this waterfall and we took a risky hike up the wet rocks to a cliff hoping to jump off but our leaders thought it was unsafe. It sucked because there was another group there any they were all jumping down the cliff. Instead we had to hike back down which seemed like the worst option because it was slippery and muddy. We got through it with many scratches on our legs but we survived. After jumping in the water and getting wet I decided to take cool pictures of the waterfall itself. I used a slow shutter speed to capture a misty look of it, which turned out pretty cool. We all took our final shots then hiked back to the main road and went in our cars to the next waterfall, the Bouma falls. Before getting to the waterfall there was a village where we stopped and had lunch. Lunch kind of sucked but I managed. While we were eating this beautiful dog passed us. This dog was unique because it had one blue eye and one brown eye. So after lunch it of course was still raining and we had the option to opt out of the 3-hour hike to the waterfall. I decided not to miss it because I didn’t want to look back and regret not doing it. However I didn’t realize what I was getting into, this hike was 5 miles! We crossed this really narrow bridge that had a sign that said max 10 people, which freaked us out. We felt like we were in one of those movies where the bridge breaks and we all fall into the rapid rivers and die. So after crossing this terrifying bridge and then walking a few miles more we finally reached the waterfall. The difference with this waterfall compared to the other was that this was there was a huge river between the waterfall and us. The only way to even get slightly close to it and really see it was to swim. I was so tired of walking and felt so disgusting that I decided to not change y clothes and just go in the water. When we approached the water we all saw Angie climb up the rocks and prepare to jump off the cliff. We all screamed “ANGIE, ANGIE, ANGIE”. Finally she did a 360 jump that no one will ever forget. When we finished looking gat the waterfall we swam all the way back. We were wet, muddy, tired yet we had another 3 hour walk back. I so did not want to walk back but somehow I did it. I didn’t have any more energy and so while crossing the bridge again I managed to have slipped from the first step t the last step. This gave me a bunch of bruises and a lot of laughs from my friends. We finally went back to the village, we tried to look decent but we felt disgusting and just wanted to go home. Finally we reached home; we had to do our highs and lows for today. For my low I said falling off the bridge and my high was definitely swimming in the waterfall. I took a cold shower and am now about to go to sleep. No rooster will be able to wake me up now.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Day 2: Rugby and Rain

Sleep was something I thought I would get enough of that day from just pure exhaustion of traveling however that was not the case. I woke up at 5 in the morning from the most annoying rooster that wouldn’t be quiet. It felt that every minute the rooster would make the “cock-a-doodle-doo” sound and so I had a horrible headache when I woke up at 6:45 am. We got dressed and headed for breakfast. I had scrambled eggs with toast and if you know me you would be shocked that I even ate that because I don’t like eggs let alone breakfast in general. After a filling breakfast we were able to go down to see a rugby competition in which all the different schools on the island come together to compete. There I learned a lot of cool tricks about sports photography and how to take a picture in fast motion. Along with strengthening my photography skills, I got to meet so many children and parents during the rugby tournament. They were all so into the game and went crazy when their team scored a point. I realized that there are many differences on how we Americans react as an audience compared to the Fijians, Sportsmanship is key here while in the U.S anger and jealousy is what is evoked. My friends and I wondered off away rom the rugby field towards the beach where we met a bunch of young kids. They were climbing on trees and skipping rocks, something I cant do. They were all really fascinated about our cameras and loved when we took their photos. I realized a lot of them were obsessed with the peace sign and in almost every photo I took that would be their pose. Unfortunately during this time it was raining so I had to put on our rain jacket and make sure my camera was fine. It was slight showers here and there but the ground was muddy and slippery. After rugby we wanted to go to a waterfall but due to the constant rain there was flooding on the roads and we had to turn back, This reminded me of Houston when we had that massive flooding problem, the rain just doesn’t leave us alone. So we headed to the market to buy sulus, which basically are a very large scarf that you tie around your waist. There were a bunch of different designs and they were all fairly cheap and are back home and got dressed to have an early dinner at another house/hut. We were treated with live music and in the middle of all the musicians there was a bow of this brownish liquid, Let alone it was the famous kava. If you don’t know what kava is it is a drink that comes from the root of the yaqona bush, a relative of the pepper plant. The root is ground up and then strained with water into a large wooden communal bowl. It is traditional to drink kava in a large gathering and for us this was our fist time trying it. We were all a bit nervous because the alleged side effects were dizziness and numbness of the mouth. One by one we were each given the same small bowl that was filled with kava. Traditionally kava is swallowed in one gulp and there are different levels to how much kava you want. There is a "low tide” (less than half a bowl of kava), a "high tide” (half a bowl), and tsunami (overflowed bowl of kava). Before a drank it I had to clap once upon it being received to me and once I drink it I had to clap 3 times after. I didn’t like the taste at all to me the after taste was like dead leaves. I had 2 low tides and after that I could have any more. One girl named Clare drank almost 5 tsunamis it was insane I don’t know how she did it but she apparently didn’t feel anything after. After the kava ceremony we had the best fish I have ever head, Served with mashed potatoes I completely attacked the dinner until there was nothing left. After dinner there was another round of kava being served followed by music. The famous quote that the men repeated while serving kava to us was that "you haven't experienced the real if you haven’t drunk a bowl of kava”.  After a wonderful time at the dinner we came back home where we had a brief meeting of what our highs and lows of today, I had to say my high wad the food and my low was the weather. I am exhausted by today and hope I get a good night sleep and pray that there is no more roosters waking me up.

Day 1: Flights on Flights on Flights

Today was a very exhausting day: from a 3 hour flight from Houston to LAX, an 11 hour flight from LAX to Nadi, and a connecting flight from Nadi to Taveuni we finally made it. We left Houston on June 10th and arrived in Fiji June 12th, it felt like eternity. We reached Nadi at around 5am and the short glimpse of the sunrise confirmed that we had reached an island of beauty. After getting all our luggage we had a 5-hour layover in Nadi where we booked a room at Smugglers cove. Before we left the “resort” I had to exchange my money for Fijian cash, it’s a 1:2 ratio from US to Fijian. While I was exchanging my money the people told me they didn’t accept the old type of $10 because it was apparently out of date which sucked because half of my ten-dollar bills were like that. After, when we reached Smugglers Cove, we changed our clothes and sat outside in the bright sun to get a little tan. Walking along the beach with my friend Elizabeth we came across an old man named Johnny. He told us that for about 40 years he has been climbing up coconut trees to get coconuts for people to drink as well as for marketing purposes. This kind man offered us fresh coconuts, I gave it a try but I wasn’t too fond of them anyways So after our layover in Nadi we headed in a very small plane that could only hold up to 20 passengers. When I looked out the window the water was a mix of teal and dark blue, it was stunning. When we reached we drove to out first official resting spot called “Tovu Tovu”. It was beautiful we were grouped into mini cottages and were right next to the beach. Our assigned room was considered the best and the worst. It was the most spacious out of all of them yet the toilet and sink didn’t work. I hope it gets fixed but for right now we are exhausted and dirty and without a shower. We didn’t have Wi-Fi here so more than anything I was worried that my parents would be concerned that they hadn’t heard from me since I had left.  Dinner was approaching and we officially had orientation for our National Geographic Expedition. Right before it began I broke my toenail and it completely came off, what a start to an adventure!  It wasn’t too painful even though it seemed like it was. After cleaning my toe we began introductions. On this trip we have a great group from our two Nat. Geo. guides, Brett and Lisa to the students themselves we were getting along well. Wrapping that up we had dinner in the main lounge area and to stay safe from any stomach issues I stuck with rice and pita bread. Ending the night with a not so filling dinner I hope I can get some sleep.