Sunday, June 28, 2015

Smugglers and The Last Day

The Bus ride back to Nadi felt fairly short. On the way back we went to an antique shop and I bought a neck breaker and a keychain for my friend Nicole. By the time we got to Smugglers we were all starving so we went to a Chinese restaurant and had delicious chicken fried rice. The next day we went to a village and hiked up to this tiny waterfall.
Our final "waterfall"
The waterfall was so dinky it was not really even a waterfall it was more like stream. Then we hiked back to this shaded are and had lunch.
Bora wearing my shades at lunch.

After lunch we got back into the bus and we drove to a mud pool. The mud pool was so much fun and it made my skin so soft. First, you cover yourself with mud and then you wash it off in just a pool full of muddy water. Then you get into a relaxing hot spring and just chill for a while. That night, we had dinner at Smugglers and we also had a surprise which was a delicious chocolate cake, which was for our farewell. That night we gave our final presentations and then after Bora and I spent a few hours together on the beach taking light photos.
One of our light photos
The last was so sad but still so much fun. Brett and Lisa took us to go surfing. The beach they took us to was so beautiful and it was such a great way to end things in Fiji.  Then we went to another beach and had food from a restaurant. We had to go back to Smuggler’s to pick up our bags and go to the airport. The 10 hour flight to LAX was actually not bad, mostly because I slept the whole flight. In LAX the customs went really fast and then we also had American food for the first time in 2 weeks. It was the best feeling in the world. Right when we got home I took a shower and got into bed. I never thought I would be so happy to be back in Houston. 

Mango Bay

After a 2 hour bus ride, we finally made it to Mango Bay. The girls had to be split up into two dorms, so me, Katie, and Alex were in one and the rest were in another. When we first got there, there was a random guy in our dorm, but we go that situation fixed. The first night at Mango Bay we had dinner and then we watched Polynesian dancers.
Fire dancing.
The first full day at Mango Bay was just a chill day. Everyone edited photos, chatted, and just spent time together. Not much went on, but that day Ula arrived and we also had our first group critique that night. The second day we adventured around on a different island. The boat ride was calming and so much fun, we went ‘fishing’ which was a bit of a fail, but it was still fun. When we arrived at the village we went to the school and all the children sang for us.
School kids singing for us.
They were all so sweet and I wish i could have gotten the chance to know get to know them better. The group split up and explored the village. I went into some random person’s house and talked to the women there who were weaving mats.
Sweet woman weaving mats.
They were all so sweet but did not speak any bit of English. After the village we all got back onto the boats and went to the lovely little beach and just relaxed for a few hours. Then we went back to Mango Bay and had dinner and some free time.  

Natokalau (Village)

The arrival to the village was a little wet, but still welcoming. My only wish is that we arrived at the village in the daytime so we could actually see the layout. The welcoming ceremony was kicked off by dances from the men in the village, and then the children in the village. After that there was a kava ceremony which was the second time we had kava on the trip. Following the kava ceremony was dinner that Angie’s mother had prepared for us. It was delicious except for the fact that i didn't realize the fish still had bones in it and violently stabbed my mouth with them. The celebration continued with more kava and dancing until late in the night. The first night in the village was welcoming and so much fun. The next morning was fun because I could finally see where everything was and I got to meet all of the people. The first full day in the village was full of adventuring. The first task I completed was collecting gravel to make cement for the community center we helped build. after doing that wicky took Chase, Elizabeth, Claire, and I to the Rockpool and a few other places to take some great photos. Then we went back to the village for lunch and what not. I somehow ended up holding a chicken, and fell in love with how soft they are. Then dinner came and after there was more dancing and kava. By that time, I was sick of drinking kava and decided to politely declined it when they offered it to me. On the second day we mostly helped put the foundation up for the community center in the village.
Community Center foundation worksite.

After cementing cinder blocks together, some villagers took me, Grace, and Alex to go collect Bananas and Coconuts. Just within one day, I had drank 5 full coconuts. The hike was long but fun, even though my knees were hurting and I was on the verge of tears. From then on the nightly routine was the same for the rest of our stay in the Village. The third day had come around and i was feeling a bit under the weather because of my knees, so i just rested most of the day. I was being stupid and decided to go back go the rockpool again with Grace, Katie, and Jamison. My knees were in so much pain that Jamison was nice enough to carry me back to the village. Then wicky wanted to take a bunch of us to the kava farm, but Madiha and I stayed in the village and talked. We ended up going and talking to Angie who was making Roti, a traditional indian bread. Somehow, I ended up making Roti for hours with Angie.
Angie making roti.
I can honestly say that moment was the closest I have ever felt to home. I normally make Roti with my Grandma when I go to visit her and being there with Angie and her mom felt like I was with my Grandma. The night again, ended with Kava and dancing, but it was mostly dancing since we were leaving the next morning. The last day in the village was the hardest day for everyone. It was full of emotional pain. Leaving the village was heartbreaking. they sang us a farewell song and everyone bursted into tears. even me. I miss nana (Angie’s mom) so much.
Nana making food for the workers.
She was like family to me and I will never forget her. The people of the village Natokalau know how to make people feel at home and I hope to visit them within the next 10 years. 

Tovu Tovu

We woke up to a welcoming breakfast at Tovu Tovu. Today we planned to go to a rugby game and take pictures and then go cool off at 2 waterfalls. The rugby game was super eventful and exciting. It was interesting to see the complete difference in the fan’s reactions. All the fans were so much more passionate about the sport compared to how it is in the U.S. Even the Fijian players were different than U.S. players. They were so polite and NEVER yelled or ratted on another player. I found it hard to watch the game itself because i was so distracted by all the ADORABLE children walking around.
Little girl I met named Dorothy.  
It was so fascinating to see how passionate the fans were for the sport. Then we got into the vans and planned to go to the waterfalls to cool off, but it started to flood and they wouldn't let us enter the park. On the way back to Tovu Tovu we stopped at this tiny little sulu shop to purchase sulus to wear in the village. That night the group went to this really nice restaurant and had one of the best meals of my life. Not only that but it was the first time we had kava. the kava was surprisingly not as bad as i thought it would be. It made your tongue numb enough to where you could not actually taste the kava itself. By the time we got back to Tovu Tovu, everyone was exhausted, but i still managed to get through highs and lows without falling asleep. Day three in Tovu Tovu came around and 
I thought i would be able to catch up on sleep but that was just a fragment of my imagination. That morning we met the owner of Tovu Tovu and his family. They were the sweetest people in the world and made us feel at home. They invited us to go to a church service at their local church. I decided to not take photos at the church service to be respectful, but the service was great. If church was that fun i would totally go on a regular basis. When church ended the group got ready for the waterfalls, but first we met Angie. Angie is the woman who let us stay in her house in the village for 3 days. Angie was so sweet and so funny she made me feel welcomed into her home.
Angie and I.
We eventually made it first waterfall and as soon as we got out the vans it started to rain cats and dogs. It was a short and wet hike, but we made it to the sublime waterfall and it took my breath away. At first i was hesitant to swim in the waterfall because it was so cold, but i just went right in because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The water was freezing but it was totally worth it. The only downfall of the waterfall excursion was that we could not jump off the waterfall.
The first waterfall.
It was still raining by the time we got to the other village where the second waterfall but not as hard. The hike to the water all and back was about 4 hours long but it was definitely worth it. Let me just say that my tennis shoes have practically turned into my water shoes considering how many times have walked into creeks, oceans, and waterfalls with them on. The second waterfall was even more sublime. It was framed by 2 rocks and looked like it was reserved for just us. Lisa decided to take a photo of all of us with the national geographic society flag infront of the waterfall. Me being stupid, i just fell right into the freezing water with all my clothes on. The walk back felt so much shorter but was equally as fun. Jamison and I were ahead of the group and decided to wait for them to catch up. Jamison repeatedly tried to open a coconut by throwing it at a rock several times until 2 random children came with a machete and opened the coconut for us. When we got  back to a small restaurant for dinner and then got back into the vans and went back to Tovu Tovu.

Day 1

Going to Fiji was great. I was with the second group for our flight to Taveuni. We went to a small hotel to chill for a few hours before our flight at 2 pm, the beach was really relaxing.

Hanging out at Smugglers.

 Brett (one of the national geographic leaders) decided that we needed to be at the airport 3 hours early. While waiting to board the plane Brett, Madiha, and I had a long conversation about almost every random topic that you could think of. The time came for our flight on the small dinky airplane to Taveuni. The flight to the island was surprisingly short and the view was incredible. We eventually got Tovu Tovu and settled in to the little bungalows. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

first post

Hey! This is my blog for a photography trip to Fiji! I am extremely excited to have this opportunity and to be exposed to the great culture of Fiji and also to have an adventure of a lifetime!