first month, second semester

The first weekend back in Fiji, I went with the new international students to Tavualevu (north of the main island, Viti Levu). I had been near there, but not quite there, so it was exciting to go somewhere new!

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The green dish at the bottom with the hard-boiled egg is my favourite Fijian dish. It is called roro and made from dalo leaves with spices. It is ultra-delicious.
Fun fact! If you cook dalo wrong, it will make your throat itchy

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the chamba I received
Jillian’s photo

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The village we went to was very religious – they made it really clear right away that non-Christians were not the preferred choice to be welcomed. This was definitely the most uncomfortable I have felt about my beliefs since I have been here. When we first got there, we partook in a church service, which I enjoyed experiencing, but then at the end of the service they were asking for someone to thank them for allowing us into their village and for us to give them our blessing. I was suggested to do it, but I refused. I found this decision pretty difficult – has anyone else ran into something like this before?

Although, spending some time in the village was really nice and we were welcomed by everyone with open arms. The best part was being able to jump off a big tree into the water, and drinking grog with all the adults. It was REALLY HOT when we were there.

One of the ladies in the village gave me a chamba, which is traditional Fijian dress. I got a really nice looking one.

The weekend after our first week of school, Kate and I threw a big pool party/international-meet-local potluck-y get-together and it was awesome fun. It was great to meet more of the group and, although not many locals showed up, for our new friends to meet our old friends. It’s been nice to live off-campus just for something different. It’s nice to have our own space as well.

Here are two pictures from off our balcony:

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The pool party: (you can see the ocean from the pool!)suva-6

At the student bar:suva-5

The third weekend, I travelled to the west to Mt Batimalu near Lautoka to hike with the Suva Rucksack club (mainly an expat outdoorsy group). Liz, another Canadian exchange student, came as well. Our original plan was to hike up the Saturday, spend the night in a bunk on the top and hike down the next day. On the way there, we had to cross a river with the truck which was EXTREME. Naturally, our driver Matt, missed the shallow part and we went rocketing through it at a massive diagonal. Wicked. We ended up getting there pretty late (the other car had a flat tire) and the weather was bad, so we hiked the next day up and down.

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You snooze you lose on the best lying spots
Nameeta’s photo

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Please don’t fall please don’t fall
Nameeta’s photo

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Nameeta’s photo

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Nameeta’s photo

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Nameeta’s photo

The view was not the greatest

The view was not the greatest

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Other than the hiking, in general, sucking (I really do hate hiking, I am not sure why I go haha), it was a great time! Good company and lots of laughs.

Evan (see below) brought equipment to set up a slackline, so we’ve done that a bunch of times on campus. It’s awesome because we’ve gotten a bunch of Islanders to try it. A lot of people are really confused what it is. I’ve gotten a lot better, I can now take up to 7 steps! I have also fallen many times splat on my back and front.

I have really been enjoying my Marine Biology class. It is the first time where I have wanted him to keep talking during the lectures, and where I was looking forward to a lab! What?? Last Friday was particularly epic – we got to go out to a nearby small island and lay a transect (a long measuring tape) and record the substrate (hard coral, soft coral, dead coral, algae, rock, rubble, sand etc) and observe the fish and invertebrates (butterflyfish, sea cucumber, eel, damselfish, urchins etc). BEST FIELD TRIP EVER!!!! It was a bit silly snorkelling in the place where we lay the transect as some places were only six inches deep. I was in charge of looking for the fish/invertebrates, so I decided to lay down in the water with my snorkel heeeheee. It was fun but walking around I felt like I was crushing all the coral (we totally were). At the end, I snorkelled around a bit and I saw a pufferfish! They don’t move very much so you can get really close to them. I also got to try sea urchin raw – it tasted yummy! Kind of like a mussel/clam.

This weekend, I was just planning on hanging out in the city, but Evan (from Minnesota) texted me on Friday saying “we are going to camp on top of Mt Korobaba.. in a couple of hours! be there or be square!”. I still had class at that point, so after class I ran home, jammed my tent in my bag, made peanut butter sandwiches like a boss and ran out the door. Despite the actual hiking totally sucking (I really do hate hiking), it was great fun being able to camp on top of the mountain and learn/play Euchre (minus the hiking part, hiking kinda sucks). It was a bit cold (!!!), I wish I brought my sleeping bag. There were five of us in total – two Canadians, two Americans and 1 Fijian. On the way down, we found some massive waterfalls, pools and even a cave system.

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Hiking obviously means to bring a massive jar of jelly (yum). Albert and Evan

Good morning, Fiji!

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The new international group is massive, and it’s the first time where I’ve felt like I am in the middle age-wise and school-wise! That’s cool! With all the time off and co-ops, I have finally caught up (slowed down?). I have been getting to know some of them really well, and we’ve really been getting along. It’s a great group of people. I have also been catching up with old friends and meeting new students from Fiji and area. We have had lot of shenanigans with lots of people’s birthdays, and even went to Colo-I-Suva one day and climbed a waterfall (deep water solo!!).

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Alden’s photo (right)

After 8 months now of being abroad, I feel like I finally hit stage 2 in the past few weeks. I think the main aggravating factor was the heat. My body really doesn’t handle heat well. There have been a few days where I have changed shirts four times because I am sweating so much. In the past while, I really have been missing staying in one spot for a while. I am getting tired of saying goodbye or see you later to people I meet. I still have barely even unpacked and haven’t decorated at all because I know I’ll just have to pack up again in a few months. This I don’t think is the way to travel! But naturally, I keep extending my trip.. and I am having the time of my life. I’m still not sure when I am going back to Canada….

Kat gets here in three days! That’s nuts. She is meeting me in Suva for the end of the week and I’ll show her around. I need to get a lot of work done tomorrow because I will have 5 weeks of visitors! Yeeps! We have plans to go to the Coral Coast and up to the north of Viti Levu (I might get my dive cert then finally to save some money by doing one instead of two trips). Also, I just booked flights to Taveuni for when my dad and Kate are here. I am looking forward to seeing all of them! 3 days!!

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yasawa’s – drawaqa island

The second island, Drawaqa Island, I stayed on was much smaller. It only had one resort on it (Nacula Island had about 5). We decided to stay at this place because it was close to where the manta rays come to feed.

The resort had three beaches!

The way the manta ray swim worked was that the staff would check every 1/2 an hour to an hour if there was manta rays swimming by. If there were, they’d radio the resort and then we would all go out and snorkel with them. We were all getting a bit anxious because it was almost the end of the second day and we still had not seen them. But right when we were not expecting it, we heard all the staff say “MANTA SWIM!!”, drums were playing and basically everyone dropped what they were doing and panic ensued. In general, the whole resort went into nutso mode and people were running out of the showers they were taking and grabbing snorkels, their bathing suits and scrambling to figure out where were were supposed to meet. It was hilarious, haha.

I drew this when I was bored, haha

Probably about when I started screaming

We saw one manta ray, that was GIANT. It was about six feet wide. I felt incredibly dorky because there were ~50 tourists all staring at this one manta ray and clubbing each other in the heads with our fins. The manta ray would swim really swoopingly back and forth in the channel, and then for a while it did barrel rolls (it was feeding). As everyone trickled back into the boat (.. I wasn’t listening to the guides saying to get back into the boat), the manta ray got closer and closer to us. I knew that manta rays didn’t eat people, but there mouths are SO BIG (it could definitely fit me in it) and when it is coming right towards you it is pretty scary. Corey said he could hear me screaming through my snorkel as it came towards me, and after it finally turned right as it was within touching distance of me. I hyperventilated for ten minutes. At least.

I am proud of this picture. National Geographic please call me up!

The manta had HUGE gills and really cool white markings on its belly. Here is a video of it feeding:

This was probably taken one of the times where I had my head out of the water trying to see where everyone was looking and then Corey would yell “LOOK DOWN” and I’d shove my head in the water and realize that the manta was like two metres away from me (eeee it still gives me the creepy crawlies).

Right after swimming with the manta ray (PERMAGRIN)

I did two activities like this in the Yasawas and I am not sure how I feel about both of them because I think with that many people around it makes the animals very stressed. We weren’t feeding the manta ray, and it was in its natural environment, but I still don’t think it justifies the consequences. All those years of Mom and Dad not letting me go to MarineLand has paid off apparently. There is definitely something different about stumbling upon a manta or shark in the water, then going somewhere where it’s more commercialized.

Barefoot Lodge (the resort) was also good because it had really great snorkeling and a short hike to the peak (with mountain goats!).

Mega-pineapple

I stayed in a dorm bure that had three single beds in it. Rachel (another USP international student), Corey and I hung out a lot with two great girls (Kaula & Stefanie) from Auckland. They said that when I fly into NZ I could crash at their place (most likely taking up that offer!).

Kaula and Stef with the coconut bracelets we made

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hike in Bureta

My favourite Fiji moment so far was hiking up a small mountain close to Bureta. The hike up was scrambly and steep – so good! The view was really nice from the top. After hiking back down we were able to jump off a big rock into the river. To get out you could either wade down to where you can walk out or you can rock climb back out of the water (deep water solo!). Naturally I jumped off four times.

Corey, John and I got super stoked on the way to Ovalau because we had our first rock sighting. We have heard rumours that there is climbing and bouldering here. I’m really hoping that it works out and we will be able to get some in. I will keep track of it all in this blog because I haven’t found any other internet resource with it yet!

The tallest point is what we hiked. Also, first rock face sighting.

At the top. The humidity makes me SO SWEATY.

Photo by John

Photo by John

Most of the hiking group. Photo by John