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April 1st 2014
Published: April 2nd 2014
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Bula from Fiji!!

I was a little worried before I got to Fiji as I had read there was a cyclone arriving the day after I arrived. I emailed my airline to check on my flight and they assured me my flight would still be going ahead. I arrived rain! Phew! The other side of the island, however, had been affected quite badly where some people had to be evacuated.

Fiji is a beautiful, friendly, relaxed place. The Fiji experience started at the airport where I was welcomed by people playing music, friendly smiles, people shaking my hand asking my much different from when I left New Zealand where the security person checking my passport shouted at me for not moving quickly enough. Why on earth people that work at airports think it is acceptable to be rude is beyond me!

At the airport, I met a lady called Ruthy that told me about Ratu Kini's Dive Resort on Mana Island. I had read good reviews about this place before I left NZ so decided I would go there after a couple of days on the mainland.

There wasn't much to do around my hostel on the mainland so I was glad when I was picked up to go to Mana Island. We took a boat ride to Mana, where we saw smaller islands and a sand bar island. I met a German guy called Pascal that had travelled a similar route to me since October so that was really nice to talk about. When we arrived at Ratu Kini's, we were welcomed with a fruit drink and flowers for our hair to get into the island spirit. We found out it was good for snorkelling all around the island so Pascal and I walked to a place called Sunset Beach where the water was so warm and clear, just like bath water! Only a few metres from the shore was the most beautiful colourful coral. It wasn't long before we saw all kinds of fish. One of the most beautiful things I saw was blue sea star- they were everywhere! I was enjoying snorkelling around the coral, looking at all the fish, when suddenly I saw a shark! It was only probably a half metre long but it still frightened me! I quickly took my head out of the water and shouted to Pascal that I just saw a shark. I don't think he believed me at first but I was so sure I had seen one I think he decided to believe me in the end.

We walked back to the hostel and, after a shower, sat down for a drink. A couple of girls, Laura and Steph, were sat behind us and I noticed their Yorkshire accents. I asked where they were from and they were from Huddersfield but lived in Leeds. What a small world. They were telling me that they were volunteering at the school behind the hostel until May. They weren't trained teachers but they had asked the principle of the school on a previous year if they could come back to help in some way and he offered them his class so that he could get on with his leadership responsibilities. I asked them did they think I would be able to come in and help or maybe offer them some teaching ideas and they told me to go and see the Principle that night as the children from the school were coming to Ratu Kini's to sing. I was really excited that, after four months of travelling, I might get the chance to teach again!

The children arrived that night and sang beautifully. It seems that all Fijians have the gift of being able to sing. The children came across very confident and were great performers. The reason they were there was to raise money for a school trip to Australia. The people on the island are very poor and it is very hard for Fijians to get visas to visit other countries so this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for some of the children to see another land! We were all invited to go and see the school the next day so I thought I would take the opportunity to speak to the principle then.

The next morning, after a lovely breakfast, we walked across to the school where the children greeted us with facts about them and the school. Their home language is Fijian but they are taught in English at school. They then sang to us again which was just as enjoyable as the night before. After speaking to us, it was their recess time so they brought us around by the hand to show us the other classrooms (three in total). I finally got to speak to the principle and asked him if I could come and help in any way. His English wasn't brilliant but he was happy for me to come the next day to teach.

At Ratu Kini's, they offered a few different boat trips. I noticed that they did fishing and I asked the others if they would like to come. They were keen to give it a go too so we waited for our boat to arrive and was brought near to the sand bar that we saw on the boat ride over to the island. We were given hand lines which were a circle pieces of plastic with fishing wire wrapped around it. I didn't catch anything but a few of the others did which was exciting even to time I will be lucky! We then got to eat our fish that evening which was so yummy! You could taste how fresh it was.

The next day, I woke up early for yoga on the beach that Steph ran. It was a lovely, relaxing way to start the day. I tried to make sure I got up most mornings for it as it was a really good abs workout too ( I haven't done a lot of exercise since I've been away so my body was craving a bit of exercise!) I then met them at school where they showed me the learning objectives for the day. I played a rounding to ten game outside and a blindfolded instructions activity, to prepare them for instruction writing. The principle said he was very interested in my way of teaching and I just explained that we are encouraged to try and do a lot of get-up-and-go activities in England to keep children engaged. He seemed like he was enjoying watching me teach and had lots of compliments about my teaching which was very nice and encouraging for me.

I taught Maths, English and some Science for the rest of that that week and some of the next week. It was a really good opportunity as I was able to share some of my ideas with Laura and Steph and was able to challenge myself to teach with limited resources. I don't think I realised how lucky we are as teachers in England to have all the resources we have readily available in our classrooms.

From my pictures, you can see the classroom. Each child sat at an individual desk that was quite shabby and sometimes the chairs they were sat on were broken. Some of the children would even argue over which chair they wanted as some were too big to even fit under the table. I really felt sorry for them that they had to be educated in such poor circumstances . I hope that once all of the fundraising has finished for their trip to Australia they will then try to fundraise for better resources and improve the school for the children to learn in. There were many people holidaying on the island that came to visit the school during my stay that donated large sums of money and would even bring paper, stickers and books for the children. A family from Australia even brought football kits and footballs for all of the children which was very kind.

My last day teaching there, I brought biscuits and we had a little farewell party. The children wrote lovely notes on the board- 'We love you Miss Emma'. So thoughtful, I felt really sad to leave. They were really lucky to have Steph and Laura. Even though they aren't trained teachers, they would definitely pass for teachers if I didn't know any differently. They were brilliant with the children and seemed very knowledgeable of what they were teaching. I was very impressed.

On the Thursday night of the first week, ten of us from the hostel, Laura and Steph, went on an overnight trip to the sand bar. There, we had some food, drinks and a bonfire. The stars were amazing as there was no light pollution like we get in the cities in England. In the morning, I woke up to a crab attached to my toe..he must have thought I was food! Steph said she woke up to one crawling from her mouth! Crabs were all over the island but I didn't expect it to try and take a bite out of me! We watched the sunrise and saw the sky glow in beautiful pinks and oranges as the sun came towards the horizon. I would say that it was a lovely way to wake up but it wasn't so comfortable sleeping on sand and I was really tired!!

My favourite thing to do on the island was snorkelling. There was a place over the hill, beyond our hostel, called Dream Beach. The coral and sea life was the most impressive I have ever seen in my life. You could see the coral glowing from the shore. The tide was higher in the afternoon so it was easier to swim over the coral and see it in all in its glory. The colours of the coral were so vivid, pink, blue, yellow, purple, white...

The sea life I saw was amazing too. I saw hundreds of different fish, large schools swimming together, fishes playing and swimming after each other and some fish even seemed to be following me. I saw small needle fish towards the surface of the water and watched them for a while. Soon, I noticed that I would see a needle fish swim in front of me every few minutes. I decided to follow it and it was swimming in a circle around me as I swam! Must have been intrigued by my bright pink t-shirt! The scariest things I saw were sharks. At this spot they were probably a couple of metres in length. They were brilliant to watch from a distance but a couple of times I had them swim two or three metres away from me and this is when I was really scared. The last time I went snorkelling, one shark swam past me then came back and past me again then turned around and passed me once more. I decided it was definitely time to get out as I didn't like the way it was following me! It was probably nothing as they only eat fish but I couldn't help thinking that the shark would want to eat me too...I think I watch too many scary films!

The best sea life I saw was a school of fish. They are totally different from what I thought they would look like. I thought they would have huge tentacles like an octopus but in fact these squid looked like a 'normal' fish shape with no fins and a solitary, huge eye on either side of its body. They had small tentacles at the back of ther bodies, all squashed together. They look a bit like mini UFO's, all staring at me with their human-like eyes! I followed them for a while but then I got a bit of water in my goggles so I took my head out of the water to sort them out. When I duck my head back under, to my surprise, they were still there. They were waiting for me- at least, that's what it felt like!

Every time I went snorkelling, I saw something new and that was one of the main reasons, along with teaching at the school, that I decided to change my four night stay into twelve! My stay at Ratu Kini's was only £22 a night with all of my meals, whereas other islands in Fiji were double in price or over that amount. I thought to myself that there probably isn't an awful lot of difference between the islands and seeing as I had everything here that I needed I thought it was the best option to stay.

Another boat trip that I went on was to the island where the film Castaway was filmed. It was a small uninhabited island, with other smaller islands that surrounded it. These islands had been digitally removed from the film to make the island look deserted! We were taken around the island and shown areas that were big parts of the film. We got to walk up a steep part of the island to a lookout point.! It was a beautiful view. I also snorkelled there and some of the coral was as big as a room in a house! This is where the shark swam really close to me! It was a lovely snorkelling point but Dream beach back on Mana Island was definitely better.

Something that I didn't see, which I would love to see, was turtles. I have seen turtles outside of the water in sanctuary type things but never swimming in the water...maybe when I get to South America (keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!!!)

Towards the end of my stay at Ratu Kini's we were told that the a cyclone would be hitting Fiji and we would catch the edge of it. There was lots of rain on and off but it wasn't too

A few days before I was due to fly to America, I returned back to the mainland for a few days where I only paid £5 a night for bed and breakfast and free wifi. At Ratu Kini's they had no free wifi which made it really hard for me to stay in contact with Stuart and sort out our America trip so I thought I would stay a few nights on the mainland so I could get organised for America. I met a lovely English girl and her Fijian boyfriend. We went to the cinema one evening and we tripped over a metal sheet that covered a hole in the street. It flicked up and cut my toe. I woke up in the moring and it was bruised and swollen 😞 It was really hard to walk on it the next day. I felt very sorry for myself! I was flying the next day so it was an excuse to just relax before America.

Pascal, that I was with in Ratu Kini's, was also on my flight to America so we decided to meet up before the flight and fit in a last trip to some mud baths. It was totally different to what I thought it would be. We were taken to a small water hole and as we were led inside I could feel all of the mud and leaves underneath my feet and sucking my legs in. It was a weird feeling as my feet never hit the bottom, it felt as if I was weightless like walking on the moon! The guy that took us in there spread the mud over our faces and then we got out and spread it all over our bodies. It was really warm! We then got back into the mud pool and washed the mud off our bodies using the water. My skin felt very soft but, as I had packed my bag to leave straight to the airport, it felt a little dry too so I was in dying need of moisturiser!

We then set off into town and had something to eat and went to see the Hindu temple in Nandi. It wasn't as big as I thought but was still beautiful. It looked like the Hindu temples I saw in Singapore- very colourful!

I had a lovely stay in Fiji and met some lovely people. I was very lucky to get the chance to teach and share some of my teaching ideas. I was also very lucky see amazing coral and fantastic sea life. I'm in America now with Stu...will update you all with my goings on in the next couple of weeks.

Lots of love xxx

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