Aside from decapitation and/or childbirth sans-Epideral, I’m guessing nothing hurts as badly as putting aloe vera on freshly exposed burned skin. I nearly passed out from a woozy rush after an invigorating shower than revealed to me I hadn’t just crisped one layer of skin but many. Regardless, I threw on some make-up for the first time in a month and joined Garrett at the bar to commence our celebration of a new decade in the first time zone of the world.
It being Fiji, a place that brings out the friendly in most everyone, we soon joined a group of tourists from Europe who were circumnavigating Viti Levu with the Fiji Experience bus. We met Queenie, an employee of The Uprising whose job it was to entertain tour groups, and latched onto some other friends with whom we could relate our travel highs and woes. Dinner got lost in a sea of beers and traditional Fijian songs before the live band got started by the beach, playing Bob Marley to Black Eyed Peas.
New Year’s and No Ball
The moon rose higher, revealing its complete circumference and eerie glow, and the band announced its last song of 2010. They called the five minute warning, played a two minute song, and started counting from ten. The arbitrary count down had me laughing until fireworks exploded from the beach.
We were among the first bunch of world citizens to see the second zero melt from our annual status.
It seemed only proper to mark this remarkable occasion with an act of stupidity, so we stripped down to our underwear and jumped into the Pacific Ocean, which is regularly filled with unhappy creatures ready to snap or sting. Thankfully, the only sting I experienced was when the salt water hit my bright pink skin.
It felt like one of those movie moments, a baptism of sorts.
We made drinks disappear, and Garrett twirled fire-tipped sticks until he nearly singed the label off his jeans. It was the first New Year’s I didn’t spend watching Dick Clark sprinkle one ton of confetti on Times Square. It was a night I enjoyed presently and knew for sure I would cherish from the future.
Dragging Our Feet
The next morning marked one week away from the village. It seemed about time to return and commence with Phase 2 of The Nakavika Project, one that reflected the observed needs and wants of the village. During our quick layover in Suva before heading to The Uprising, we stopped by a wholesale bookstore to purchase some additional supplies for our classes and the youth library we wanted to create.
Our bodies were slowly returning to normal, and our longing to see the kids set in. If only we could drag ourselves away from the excellent food we found in town at The Water’s Edge and toward more weeks of sleeping on the wooden floor. Adventure vs. luxury…we were pulled on both sides.
Looking back in hindsight, it was at this point that we felt most optimistic about our project and its potential for success (in our terms). With loaded lists of supplies to complement our honorable budget and new ideas to satiate the emerging desires of the villagers to learn, it felt as though we were transporting an extra school three hours inland.
We knew our intentions would be appreciated, and the 45 days that stretched ahead of us held an enormous amount of potential for reasonable and universally acknowledged change.
Now if only we could pull ourselves away from the Coral Coast.
Tracking Down Our Host
We booked three more nights in comfort and called Fane to inform her, for the first time since we parted, we were in Pacific Harbour on our way soon to Nakavika. She showed no signs of wanting to be there soon after us. Family time in Vanua Levu was treating her well.
Garrett and I earned the designation of “Man and Woman of the Household” and gained the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and functioning in a patriarchal society, which we planned to rebel against a wee bit. Packing up two weeks worth of peanut butter and lentils, we met the carrier at the base of the junction and enjoyed the best ride of the trip, one which involved a happy hour/century club feel and immediate camaraderie with the other few passengers.
We returned to a different atmosphere, what would soon become our most thrilling, proud, action-packed portion of the trip. Though, had we known what was ahead of us, I wonder if we would have returned.
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