Being a “volunteer” in this village of Nakavika seemed to barely have the connotation that any work would be done by you. Given we came on the weekend and had to do no labor, I assumed Monday would crack down on our fun time with some blood, sweat and backaches in the farm. Ah, but the village spokesperson said nothing needed to be tackled that day. So Tuesday came, and I was sure the work would pile on, but the reality of this program became very obvious when our first big job was to dig a 3’ x 3’ plot with three shovels among ten volunteers. They had no need for our lagging Western manual work ethic or inabilities to perform in the equatorial heat. Though we seemed to make some productive use out of our time by finding firewood, so concluded our work portion of the village experience.
What was blatantly evident though was that our purpose for being there: to share, learn, and know they live the good life. A commonly repeated phrase was “the true Fijian life”, uttered by every villager hoping you’re picking up the meaning. They know they are lucky, and so are you for being there among the idyllic and paradisiacal world of Fiji’s interior.
When I walked back from the farm with a vine backpack filled with firewood, the sight of me melting seamlessly into jungle life tickled my host mom, Fane. I turned around and took off for waterfall again, this time with the other travelers for a quick dip. I was one of the few that knew where we were heading, so I led the way into the slick jungle belly towards the watery stairway. There was lots of screaming due to the frigid waters, and I sprawled my body across a fallen log below the falls to rest as the squeals continued.
The kids at the village school have daily activity time once the academics are done, and we travelers decided to join the hilarity by partaking in the schoolyard sports and games. While Chris and the boys took the future rugby stars for games and drills, I went with the ladies to entertain the younger crowd of ruffians.
Deciding to kill two birds with one activity, I turned this time into a work-out for myself and led the kids on obstacle courses, performed gymnastics, and pumped out some push-ups while counting in Fijian. My bones and joints were in shambles by the end of it, as I actually thought I could try and keep up with the kids. I needed a good subsequent rubdown.
That night my host mom told me we were hosting a kava session at our house, which I was always cool with, and to join us were some ladies of the village and about half the traveler crew. As the evening progressed, roughly 20 rowdy men and women squeezed into the kitchen area where the kava bowl sat (an area the size of the Empire State Building elevator). Chewing on mango skins to rid the taste of kava, I bounced my head to the rhymes of Fiji's own Sammy G and told my friend, Weiss, all about real American "gangsta" music, as if I'm a connoisseur.
My night closed with an eventful full moon stroll around the village, where my presence had a strong shadow and my head was covered with stars.