Note: I didn't take all these pictures! Our group made a Google Plus account and we have a group on Facebook so everyone has shared their pics. And pretty much everyone else's pictures were cooler than mine. So yeah, just thought I should put that out there.
AND there are a TON of pictures and it's really hard to narrow down which ones to share on here. So you will be probably getting a reeeeally long post that still has only a fraction of the pictures I could share.
Without further adieu:
DAY 1 (JULY 2):
Most definitely a day full of anticipation! And so much last minute packing! It took me literally weeks to get everything I needed to take on my trip. Oh and to get some shots. Joy.
I headed to the airport at 4pm and met some kids there who would be on my trip. We just kinda hung out at the airport before flying to LA. Once in LA, we checked our bags with FIJI AIRWAYS and met up with our entire group at a McDonalds at the airport. It was quite a wait before we had to board our flight for Fiji at 11:30, so we played cards and mostly ate food.
The flight was SO long. Well, it was like eleven hours. And I can never sleep on airplanes. So yeah, long.
We got to Fiji really early in the morning - about 5am. We picked up our bags and got on the bus. We rode on the same bus to get everywhere during the trip. Our bus driver was named Reese and he was awesome. After touring around the town a bit, we headed to the docks to get on this little boat that we all barely squished in. We took a sickening two hour (ish) boat ride to this little island called Waya Lai Lai to do some touristy things for a couple of days. Gosh that country is BEAUTIFUL!
2. Officially a passport holder!
3. Fiji airways!!
4. Waiting/meeting new people at the airport!
5. On the airplane. We must have just boarded, because those girls look happy! That airplane sucked the happiness right out of you!
6. Arriving at the Nadi, Fiji airport. Those men in the picture were playing music and singing to welcome us!
7. First view of Fiji outside the airport.
8. On the party bus!
9. Boat ride to Waya Lai Lai
Our first day on Waya Lai Lai we spent relaxing and enjoying the beach. Imagine the most gorgeous beach that your mind could ever possibly create. I was there! :) The local people welcomed us to their island and they sang - and sang and sang. Even as I fell asleep that first night I could hear them down in the village singing. It was awesome.
2. The little bures the people lived in
3. the beach
4. hammock/the beach
5. Waya Lai Lai custom canoe!
6. After the hike!
7. Playing a game of volleyball
8. Bonfire the first night
9. Where we slept. All the girls in one room - with mosquito nets to keep the bugs away!
Got up and had breakfast before going snorkeling! The ocean was so incredibly beautiful! Oh and I swam with a shark!! Whoop! Then we rode around to the other side of the island to visit the school there. We ate there and played with the kids and they showed us around their school before doing a cute little performance for us where they danced and sang songs. We gave them some school supplies and it was really cool because you could tell how much their little school needed them.
After getting back from the school, some women on the island taught us how to weave bracelets out of palm leaves.
That night, the local men and women put on a cultural performance for us. It was super fun to see them dance and sing and show us their traditions.
1. Yes, that is me on that little mountain thing. 2. Cute little starfish 3. All of us out snorkeling 4. Underwater pics! 5. Me in the water 6. Kids jumping off the rock 7. Random picture of me in the water 8. Kids at the school 9. Michelle reading a book to some school boys 10. Me with a cute kid in the classroom! 11. Kids dancing for us! 12. Cute kiddos 13. Girl looking at this cute mobile 14. Making bracelets out of palm leaves 15. Women doing a cultural dance for us 16. Us joining in on the dancing! 17. Men dancing for us 18. I wrote "fiji" in the sand! 19. The village people singing to us as we left the island for the last time.
After eating breakfast and hanging out for a little bit, we packed up and left Waya Lai Lai. What a great time we had on that island! Once we got back to the mainland, we stopped at a gas station to get snacks and stuff before making the 5 hour bus ride to Suva! The only American foods they had at the gas station were Pringles and some types of soda! I'm not exactly the most adventurous eater in the world, so after all the cultural food we ate on the island, I was so ready for some Pringles! haha!
We made it to our hotel - there were four or five to a room. Think of the hotel as the oldest motel six you have ever seen. That was kinda the quality. All the hallways and the eating place were outside, but we stayed in these little apartment rooms. At least the bathrooms were better than they had been on the island! There were no slugs in them! Haha!
It was great. We just kinda spent the night unpacking, playing games, and eating. I took a warm shower! The showers there were kinda unpredictable. Usually you might get a couple minutes of your shower to be warm. I must have gotten lucky that night!
Day 5 was a Sunday. We went to an internet cafe to email home. It was so fun. I got to tell my family all about what we had been doing, and I knew they were anxious to hear! It felt like I hadn't talked to them in forever!
After an hour at the internet cafe, we went to church. The ward actually had quite a few young women. Maybe like 15 or so, but I think I expected less. Most of the men wore sulus to church, the - for lack of better words - skirts you see a lot of the men wearing in Fiji. It was fast and testimony meeting, and there were a lot of funny stories told over the pulpit.
Oh, they speak english in Fiji. They speak Fijian too, but most of the people also know english, and that's what they spoke at church.
Also, if you say "good afternoon" or something like that to start out your testimony or talk, the congregation repeats it back to you. We should start that here!
After church we had a late lunch and then went to see the Suva temple. It was so pretty. We spent some time on the grounds just reading scriptures and writing in our journals. It started to rain, so we took shelter under a roof at the front of the temple and carried on!
We had a fireside that night and the youth of the Suva 3rd ward (the ward we went to church and did activities with) sang a bunch of songs for us.
The bishop announced that he would be showcasing his talents for us the next week and that we wouldn't want to miss it because usually his CD is really expensive! Haha! He also announced that the HEFY kids would be doing a musical number next week and that we are really good. He talked us up big time, it was funny.
Random note: The phrase "Fiji Time" pops up a lot there. It means go slow, relax, take your time, etc. I definitely liked living on Fiji Time!
2. the boys
3. Suva, Fiji temple
4. Me in front of the temple
5. Me with Angie and (I think) Ruth at the church, two primary girls. We had refreshments after the fireside.
6. All of the kids at the temple
We finally started work projects! We split into work groups and talked a little about what we would be doing. We made the 45 minute drive to the little village of Nakawauru, where we would be working.
Because it was the first day, we first participated in a ceremony welcoming us into their village. It involved the leaders of the village, a lot of talk in Fijian, and clapping. Anyways, when it was over we were welcomed to work in their village! :)
Each of the work groups got a house that we would be building a bathroom for. We worked throughout the day and took a break for lunch and also a couple short breaks for "tea time" - snacks with the family we were working for that the women had made.
We got so dirty working. I felt like my clothes and shoes were ruined after day 1! The kids in the village were so cute and flocked to us when we offered candy and prizes!
The men in the village worked alongside us as we built the toilets and septic tanks. After day 1 was finished, we had dug out the bathroom and had a lot of cinder blocks stacked. We mixed a TON of cement by hand over the course of making these bathrooms! We also dug a hole for the septic tank on the first day.
When we got back to the hotel, we showered (heavenly), ate, then went to the store. We bought snacks - I pretty much bought a ton of Oreos and Pringles - and the boys bought sulus to wear to church the next week.
We went to Family Home Evening with the ward at the church building. We played lots of funny games. A bishopric member joked about how it takes ten minutes to sing the Spirit of God (he was right)!
After the games were over, we had refreshments, then our HEFY group went to the chapel to practice our musical numbers for church the next week.
Oh, and when we were at the supermarket, a lady saw that my shirt said "utah" and asked if I was LDS. She said she had been to Utah!
Another work day. A bunch of the HEFY kids (definitely not me) tried really hot chilis during lunch. Their faces were hysterical. The Fijians really loved the treats we brought. I think the adults asked for a dumdum sucker more often than the kids did!
The family we built for was so cute. There was a 79 year old woman named Mary. There was also her daughter, Kaycee, and Kaycee's two children. A lot of people came and went, so I'm not sure if there were more people living in that little house, there probably were!
At the end of the day, we were running a little behind, so some of the women who lived in our house came out and helped us. This was really unusual, so it was fun to see!
After getting home and showering, we went to get pizza! Reese, our bus driver, came with us.
After we ate, we went to play volleyball with the ward. After volleyball, we practiced our musical numbers again.
Another work day. After working, our group went to see Despicable Me 2, which had just come out in theaters. After the movie, we went back to the hotel and played cards.
Random note: My Fijian name is Helena.
After working, we played sports with the ward again. The youth of the ward love sports, and they go to the church building and play every morning from 5am-7am before school. That is so crazy!
1. peek-a-boo! 2. some of the village people 3. playing around with the huge leaves! 4. getting pizza 5. kids reaching for candy 6. hot chilis!! 7. Posing with a minion at the theater 8. seeing Despicable Me 2 9. goofing off at the hotel! 10. mixing cement - for the millionth time! 11. getting backs cracked during lunch 12. cute kiddos 13. at the worksite 14. arm wrestling during lunch 15. with Shivani at the church 16. playing sports at the church
We worked in the village all day - I told one of the men there that his son was so cute and I wanted to take him home with me. He said that a kid from the last HEFY group to be in the village asked him the same thing but that he could never give him up! :) After working, we went back to the hotel and showered and got ready to go to the temple. We spent a lovely night doing baptisms for the dead. The temple there is just so darn pretty! After baptisms, we went back to the hotel, ate dinner, and played cards until bedtime.
Day 11 was a Saturday, so we didn't go to the village. We drove like 45 minutes to get to a member's house to go net fishing and hang out on the beach. Net fishing didn't take too long, and we certainly brought up some interesting fish! We hung out and found about a million hermit crabs. We also played volleyball and ate lunch there before leaving to go zip lining. We literally went zip lining in a rainforest. It was BEAUTIFUL.
We went to McDonald's for dinner. I seriously looked forward to this all week. I mean, Big Macs may be way more expensive in Fiji, but it was delicious comfort food for me.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and got ready for a dance that we had with the ward's youth.
What a fun day!
Sunday again, we went to the internet cafe to email home. Sydney hacked into my college board account (didn't have the username or password - still not sure how that happened, haha) to tell me I got a 4 on the AP world history test. yay! I read emails and wrote a really long email home. It was so fun. We went to church, and the HEFY kids participated in sacrament meeting. A couple of our kids gave talks, and a couple other kids and I bore testimonies. After sacrament meeting, all the members sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." It was great spiritual feel-goodness. I was sad to be leaving the ward.
After church we went back to the hotel, changed into comfortable clothes, and did a few activities as a group. We passed around papers and wrote compliments to each other, and we also played a charades game.
That night, we went to a fireside at the church. We sang and some of the ward members spoke.
Monday was a light work day because we did a whole lot of painting. The bathrooms were finally starting to look finished.
That night, we split into groups and went to ward members' homes to do FHE. We got there and didn't expect to have the lesson, we thought they were teaching us! Turns out we were wrong! haha! So we just shared thoughts about keeping your standards and we each shared some stories. A boy in our group shared this story about keeping his standards, but it had to do with rugby, so all the Fijians caught in the end was that he played rugby. They love rugby. The family that we had FHE with shared some interesting things with us. They said that in New Zealand, rugby is not played on Sundays at a national level because there are some really good LDS players on the teams who don't want to play on Sundays. Cool!
Random notes: the Fijians recognized just about every conference talk we mentioned. Fijians always seemed to pray really quietly. Also, the person who leads the music when we sing at church functions always sings a few bars for everyone before we start so that everyone knows what song we are singing. Yeah, I could never do that.
We also found out that it was going to cost each of the youth $30 Fijian dollars (like $20 here) to go to youth conference this year, and they were having to do a ton of fundraisers because the youth's families didn't have enough money. That made me so sad!
Later in the week, a bunch of the HEFY kids contributed a little bit of money to their youth conference fund. It felt good to help out!
We completely finished our bathroom on this day! Because our group finished a little early, we were able to go over and help another group who was behind. I got so sticky with paint, and it was so hard to get off. Even after a shower, you still had paint on your skin.
Some of the villagers caught a mongoose in this little trap they made, cooked it, and ate it. It was so gross looking. I did not eat it!
We went over to a school in a nearby village to give them some school supplies. A boy in our group decided to do his eagle project while we were in Fiji, so that is what he did, he put together and organized the delivery of a bunch of kits of school supplies to bring to the school.
There were so. many. kids. And if you pulled out a sucker or something to give to one little kid, fifty more would run up and literally tackle you for whatever you were giving out. It was insane!
We went around to the classrooms - they were so cute! And we hung out with the kids some and danced with them, playing this little game they enjoy.
It was all super fun.
One of the Fijian men said something special to me this day. He said that what we were doing would go down in the history books of their village. He expressed to me how grateful everyone was, and especially how great it was that the 79 year old in our house would finally get a toilet. It was really neat to hear.
After working, we went to the botanical gardens and spent some time there, each of us sharing something that stood out to us on our trip and what we learned.
After that, we went to play sports with the ward.
After our evening devotional (we had devotionals every night and morning), we packed up most of our clothes and decided what we would want to donate to the village in the morning. It was important to remember that even though our work clothes and shoes felt ruined to us, the people in Fiji would really appreciate them.
What a day. Before going to the village, we went to the store to get gifts for the families. They also gave us gifts in return! We were given some clothes, sulus, dresses, etc. We played some soccer with the kids with a new soccer ball they had received.
After exchanging gifts with our families, everyone went to the community center where we had a sort of closing ceremony. We ate, and the villagers sang songs for us. We sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" to the villagers. They have all these cool, cultural farewell songs, so it was cool that we had a song to sing for them too. No one in the village was LDS, but a lot of them were Christian. Maybe some of them had heard the song before, but I don't think so.
We said our goodbyes, and lots of tears were shed.
One of the village's leaders told us that we had represented our country well and that we represented Jesus Christ well. It was super neat.
We pretty much drove home in silence. Reese sensed the mood and didn't play any music, which was incredibly unlike him! Everyone was so sad to be leaving behind these people that we had grown to know and love as we served them.
We finished packing our bags before going to the church at seven. The ward had a cultural celebration planned for us. We danced, watched the Fijians dance, and ate dinner. They said that since we saw some of their cultural dances, now we could show them ours!
Ummm... do we have cultural dances? I guess we could have done a line dance or something! We just did an EFY dance that a bunch of us knew and called it good! :)
We had refreshments and the ward sang us one more song before we left. It was called Isa Lei, which is a traditional farewell song they have there. It was the third time we had heard it. We heard it when we left Waya Lai Lai, and it was also one of the songs the villagers sang to us earlier that same day. Now the ward was singing it?! So basically that song reminds me of all the sad moments of saying goodbye. It makes me happy too, though, because it reminds me of all the good times we had. You can listen to it here.
After saying goodbye to the ward, we went back to the hotel and stayed up really late talking and hanging out. I couldn't believe we were leaving the next day!
On our last day in Fiji, we went shopping for souvenirs! We went to a few different places; some things were bought at a retail store, others we bartered for at these little markets. It was super fun, I do love me some shopping! I spent so much money buying souvenirs for my family and for myself! haha! We ate lunch at the food court in the supermarket. I bought myself a huge piece of chocolate cake.
After we bought our souvenirs and crammed them into our bags, we started out the five hour drive back to Nadi. A couple of our trip leaders were staying in Suva, so we had to leave them behind! It was sad! We had great trip leaders! We were all really tired on the drive back to Nadi, but it was super hard to sleep on the bus because it was so bumpy.
When we got to Nadi, we stopped and got pizza for dinner before going to the airport. We had to wait a while before our flight left late at night. We saw a couple missionaries at the airport who were leaving to go home! Eventually we boarded the plane and made the long flight home. The timing was all super weird because even though we left Fiji really late Thursday night, we arrived in LA at about 1pm on Thursday!
The line to get through customs was really long, and we saw more missionaries there who were arriving home! Oh and I met Lana Del Rey. I don't even listen to her very often, but I know a couple of her songs so I got a picture with her. More for everybody else than for me, haha. I have a couple of friends who like her.
We claimed our bags and said goodbye to most of our group. It was sad, but not too bad because we had plans to meet up again and have a reunion!
We had to wait a few hours before our plane going back to Salt Lake City boarded. I flew home with three other people from our group. Everyone else had split off to fly different places or fly different airlines. I pretty much just ate McDonald's. yum.
At home, my family was waiting for me at the airport! We went to Coldstone on our way home! It was so fun to tell my family about my trip and give them the souvenirs I had bought them. As soon as we got home, I showed them all my pictures. I went to bed so late, even though I had been up for who knows how long!
I miss Fiji so much! I was truly so sad to leave! I learned so much there and this experience gave me a different perspective and reminded me that I am so lucky and that it is very important and so worth it to serve others. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to travel, also! Tell your kids to save up for a HEFY trip! (go to hefy.org!) I really wish I could go again, but I'm pretty sure I won't be able to save up again. I got lucky last year because I was working a lot and got donations from some generous friends. But whether I get to go again or not, I wouldn't trade my experience for anything! It was a truly once in a lifetime trip that I will look back on forever!
So there you have it! (If you even read this far down - I know this post is so long.) I'm so glad it's documented. And I'm so glad I got to make some awesome friends and that I have these memories.
Some of us met up about a month later. We hung out and stayed the night at some of the kids' homes before going to see Devin's farewell the next morning. He left for the Philippines on his mission only about a month after we got back from Fiji!
This was us at Devin's farewell at the end of August!
And one more thing!
If you've read all this, you have to spend a few minutes and watch the following video. Lauren, a girl on our trip, is responsible for many of the awesome pictures we have from Fiji, and she took lots of little videos during the trip and compiled them into the following video. It is so awesome! Just watch it!
FIJI from Lauren Jackson on Vimeo.
Amazing, right? She is so talented!
Okay. This post took me literally hours to write. Wow. There goes my whole night and my good night's sleep I was looking forward to. haha, just kidding. I'll go to bed now. Hope you enjoyed! I'll be back soon, check out my last post here!