I managed to do it. After six months of experiencing, scribing, and mulling over the occurrences of my winter in Fiji, I have finally documented in true form the adventures we had in that dreamlike state of displacement. Post-vacation in the Yasawas, I took my final shower, had my final (and best) meal, and flew home to writhe until I could put it all into words. For those of you who write or express, you know it's painful to have moments go unsaid, life-changing morsels of time without a timeless matter to back them up. I can finally sleep soundly knowing it is all down on "paper," not to mention the project molded into its final form.
The Lingering Emotions
Garrett and I talk often, weekly in fact, and every time we get on the phone together, which usually starts out as a quick conversation to update each other, we inevitably get chatting about the project and the memories that are still biting our heels. An unsetting feeling sat on our chest for months, as we remembered the threats and low points, which sadly overshadowed all the good we know occurred.
Garrett got in one argument with a friend of his, a native of Haiti who received a scholarship to attend a private university in America, that brought him to a frustrating near-breaking point. I continued to do research, send my letter to Turaga ni Koro, and figure out how to salvage months of committment and cubic tons of tears. We both wanted relief in knowing our good intentions and strong efforts succeeded in something, not in us becoming cultural imperialists.
As one can tell from our tales, we experienced so much joy and witnessed the improved knowledge of the kids within our timeline in Fiji. We played constantly in the river, grew close to so many children and youth members, and lived in a remarkable caldera for 2.5 months surrounded by pure beauty. But being the highly hopeful, overachievers that we are, the sour moments will undoubtedly make it harder to remember these gems.
Nakavika Reaches Out
While wriggling one afternoon in my memories stateside, I received a message on Flickr from a village member; it was a moment of solace:
Bula nakwa i am one the tertiary student of Nakavika village attending FIJI NATIONAL UNIVERSITY. I wouid just like to take this time to thank your crew for the development you have done to the school it has brought many changes to the lifestyle of the village people especially the kids.I hope the next time you come to the village that you would also educate school leavers back at the village. Once again a big vinaka vakalevu (see you soon at the village) BYE
And then came another, this time on the blog:
i am so suprised to know that the nakavika project does really exists! thanks to Lindsay and Garret for making it successful because iam really thankfull for the great developments from tourists that were friendly and part of my village family.
E-mails started coming our way from the older youth members, and Jackie received one more recently that stated:
I just hope you guys are going to come back to the village we miss your smilling faces and the kids would have alot of appreciation for you guys, your hard work back then although you face some difficulties.
Reassurance came in the form of these little messages. And even though our friend, Kimbo, recently told us the remaining sentiment from one who was upset at the fundraiser is the same, this overwhelming positivity gave us the hope we needed.
Building the Bridges From Afar
I sent the Turaga ni Koro the letter I crafted to heal our communication flaws and state our prolonged interest in helping the village. [Click on the images to read the entire letters.]
He responded a couple weeks later with a letter.
It was incredibly difficult, that last day of meetings, to convince the village and development committee that we wouldn't instantly forget about Nakavika upon leaving them, and I'm happy our letter affirmed that fact for Turaga ni Koro. And now that we have finally set ourselves up for a proper collaboration with Fijian society, we are ready to begin implementing our new and improved, much more realistic and interactive, project.
The Future of The Nakavika Project
After six months of experimentation and deliberation, Garrett and I have decided to make The Nakavika Project about one simple concept:
Today, the Nakavika Project represents this act of entering a community by invitation and implementing lessons or help in basic human skills and traits, ultimately in the name of creating a dialogue that challenges both the newcomer and the community.
The dialogue we speak of is an exchange that challenges both sides. Whether we should have implemented these objectives, with our methods, in Nakavika or not, we provided an opportunity for the villagers to expand their minds to incorporate or understand our ways and vice versa. We both were presented challenges to our ideas of human interaction, cultural collaboration, and more. Garrett and I grew tremendously from our time in Fiji, and likewise I believe the children and youth members were strongly affected by our influences. Though many of the older members were less impressionable, less open to change or a challenge, we also were able to reason and provide other ideas that had them challenging themselves.
Bottom line, we created a dialogue that still remains today.
There are three ways to participate in what we started: join our dialogue, contribute your own experience, and/or create your own dialogue.
Join Our Dialogue: Check out our project in Nakavika by reading our blogs and objectives and comment on the concept of voluntourism, cross-cultural development and exchange.
Contribute Your Own Experience: Have you created your own project, worked in the Peace Corps, or had a like-experience helping across cultural lines? Contact us and we will publish your blogs/experience on TNP's blog! We want more of us coming together to establish a solid understanding of volunteering abroad and how it affects all parties involved.
Create Your Own Dialogue: Do what we did, wherever you want to, and if you'd like to use our project as a model or a starting point, Godspeed. We also can connect those interested to the village of Nakavika. If you'd like to try out your concept in Nakavika, we have set up a system that will protect the village by screening volunteers and enable said volunteers to be most prepared for the challenges ahead. And most importantly, we will make sure the volunteers are invited to the village to introduce their mission in the proper Fijian way. We've learned a thing or twelve from our experience, and we'd like to empower others to jump past those hurdles to achieve more than we did.
*Note: Jackie Knowles had a car-load of donations still in need of being allocated, and due to potentially massive costs of sending them overseas (and the debatable utility of some items: i.e. strappy dress-up shoes and hats, which they don't wear), we decided to donate them to a good cause locally: The Julian Center. It was a hard decision, but we felt this was the right thing to do.
Coming To A Close
So that's it. That's the gist of the last six months of adventure and contemplation. I hope you reaped something beneficial and educational from all of it, and I encourage as much feedback as you can generate.
You'll see the Nakavika Project pages evolving, on my site and the subdomain, in the following months. Also be on the look-out for a post that sums up the entire flow of the trip with links to each story.
Thanks again for coming along for the ride.