Thursday, November 23, 2017

Friendsgiving in Fiji

Thanksgiving 2017

We have spent that past few days anchored off  the Yalobi village on Waya Island. From the moment we came ashore, the local children warmly welcomed us and were eager to show us their village. 
The welcoming committee 
After a tour of the Yalobi village, complete with making new friends along every house we stopped at and meeting the village nurse, the local children whisked us away to their school. The school in Yalobi serves students between the ages of  6 and 13 and is where students from various parts of the island and other remote locations come for school.
Yalobi, Waya Island

Students arrive every Sunday night by way of the "school boat" that picks them up and brings them to the school on Yalobi where they will stay till Friday afternoon. After school on Friday, all students that are living in the dorms provided, pack up, and go home for the weekend. It's almost like weekly boarding school. 

School Boat

For the past three days, we spent several hours getting to know the students in Yalobi. The majority of these students speak English very well in addition to speaking Fijian. Each student was fascinated with our story of having sailed to Fiji all the way from the United States. We found ourselves fascintated with each of their stories about where they are from, how long they have attended the school and how many of them have several siblings with them at school. 

The local girls spent hours sharing with us their hand clapping and local songs (definitely different from the days of singing, "Down by the banks of the Hanky Panky" from when I was a kid) leaving us with sore hands every afternoon.

Phil, Jess and Emma all learning new hand clapping routines.

You could watch the looks on the locals girls faces, just dying to get their hands on both Jessica's and Emma's hair. Once our girls let down their hair, the local girls would push and shove for who got to braid hair first. As delicate as the local girls would attempt to be, their braid making techniques gave a slight headache!

On our second day visiting the school kids, we brought bags of clothes, shoes, a hat and one coveted football that the boys spent hours playing rugby with. 

One boy in particular, couldn't wait to get his hand on Jessica's hat that she purchased in Cabo San Lucas. With his new hat placed upon his head he became and instant local celebrity. 

With Christmas coming up, I asked the kids what they had put on their Christmas lists. The response I received was blank stares. In an attempt to prod them, I questioned, did you ask for a  new toy? Coloring books? Maybe new coloring pens or crayons".  Nothing. The idea that they would make a list for their parents of items they wanted for Christmas was totally lost on them. Fijian's do celebrate Christmas, however, it's a lot less about gifts and all about family time.

Then I asked, "Do you have a special meal for Christmas." Suddenly, there blank faces lit up and they each took turns telling me about the special meal they would  help prepare with their families. They spoke of chicken and the various foods that would be wrapped in banana leaves in preparation for the lovo. 

Emma sharing some of her dance moves.

What the local kids loved most, is when we turned Jessica's hair into a makeshift wig. Kids would stand in line to get a chance to see what they would look like with blonde hair. Each child would stand back to back with Jessica, put her blonde hair over their face and wait for me to take their photo. You can only imagine the laughs, giggles and delight when they saw their pictures.

A large map painted on a school building provided by the Peace Corp. 

School dorms with a breathtaking backdrop.
One the second day of our visit we had also brought with us music. The kids had asked for the one song heard around the world (we've heard it in every country since leaving the US).. Despacito. It was amazing to hear Fijian kids singing in Spanish to all the words.

Boys listening to music.
When we were leaving on our first day, girls had asked if we had any training bras they could have. We looked through the boat and found about six cotton training bras the girls could have. It was amazing that something so simple as a cotton training bra purchased in a three pack at Target could bring so much happiness to a little girl.

The girls and their new training bras
It's experiences like spending three days in a village with local children that make us grateful for the life we live. While I certainly appreciate beach combing another powdery white sandy beach or taking photos next to postcard picture palm trees, it's engaging with locals, hearing their stories, admiring their bright smiles and sharing laughs that we really treasure.

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