Monday, June 29, 2015

June 25 Time Travel
sunset at Smugglers
Back in H-town

About to leave  LAX
The henna I got
Since our flight today is in the evening, we went surfing near this nice resort. We had to be packed by 9 this morning.  That was a very stressful process of trying to close suitcases.  After everyone packed up, we had to export our photos and import the nat geo leaders’ photos.  It was a 40 minute bus drive to the surfing spot on this beautiful sunny day.  After a quick surf lesson on the beach, Lisa, Brett, Ulla, Alex Long, Bora, Jacob, Jamison, Madiha, Meghan, and I were ready to hit the waves.  It was really windy and it was difficult walking in the water because there were rocks and holes everywhere.  Everyone was able to get up on the surf board.  Ulla was really good surfer.  When it was time to go back to shore to eat lunch,  a lot of us had rashes from the surfboards.  For lunch we ate in front of the resort.  When nobody liked the wrap we had, we went to some bar place and ordered more food.  When we got back to Smugglers, we all changed into our plane clothes.  While we were waiting for dinner, Chase, Meghan, Lucy, and I got some pretty sick henna.  For dinner we had some awesome pasta and ice cream.  When dinner was coming to an end we shared our highs and lows for the entire trip.  After that we rushed back to the hotel to get our bags.  Then we were off to the airport.  On the way there in the bus, Liz’s glasses flew off her face.  When we got to the airport, we had to say our last goodbye to Brett because he was staying in Fiji.  When we were all checked in at the airport and waiting for our flight, we bought piles of food for the plane.  The flight was a lot better than before. It was 30 minutes shorter too because of the wind.  On the plane basically everyone slept.  Jacob didn't feel good on the plane though. When we woke up on the plane, Madiha and I played some games together.  Once we landed we went through customs, grabbed our bags, and headed to check in for our next flight to Houston from LAX.  I realized why people from other countries don’t really like Americans because everyone working at the airport was so incredibly rude. When we were going through customs, some people had global entry but most of us had to get our pictures taken at these machines.  The machine didn't count down so everyone’s pictures were hilarious. When I was checking in my bag, I forgot to print my boarding pass so everyone had to wait for me to get one. After going through security, we searched to find American food and ate at this burger place.  While we were waiting for our food, we found out that Jacob, Meghan, and Bora were sick.  Also Lisa had to leave early for her flight to New York.  It was a depressing moment. She had tears in her eyes. She was taking a flight to New York to switch bags at the airport with her husband and then going on another flight after that to India until September 1.  She is literally going around the world in a day because her flight was flying over Europe to go to India.  The plane ride to Houston was a breeze.  The only people that were having a rough time were Meghan and Katie because they were throwing up.  When we got to Houston we headed to baggage claim where we finally got to be reunited with our loved ones.  We all gave our families big hugs.  That moment when you see your family members' smiles on their faces when you see them for the first time in a while is priceless. Meghan and her mom left right away because Meghan was feeling terrible.  My family and I picked up Meghan’s bags and headed home.  My family wanted to hear everything.  On the way home there was a terrible wreck on the freeway.  When my family and I got home, Meghan’s mom picked up her bags.  After that I gave my family the gifts I had brought back with me.  They loved them all.  I was so jet lagged that I didn't go to bed until 4AM.  

June 24 MUD
At the mud bath and hot spring
Top left to right; Claire, Bora, Mariam, Liz, Meghan, Chase, Ulla, Alex Long
Bottom left to right: Jameson, Katie, Madiha, Jacob, Lucy, Grace, and Alex Cooper
on the hike to the mini waterfall

Today was our last full day in Fiji. Late last night Meghan's power strip exploded and it was really scary! Both Meghan and I were freaking out about the explosion while everyone else was asleep! Meghan jumped up from surprise while I totally fell off the bed onto her luggage. The power outlet was burnt.  This morning we met individually with Ulla for our final presentation project. Ulla couldn't believe I had never worked on manual settings before this trip because she was very impressed by my photos. After breakfast and some editing photos, we took a bus to a village to go to a mini waterfall. We had some kava at the village. The hike through the jungle was a 30 minute walk. When we got there we just chilled. Soon we left the waterfall and headed down the mountain to go back to the village for lunch. After lunch we went to a mud bath/hot spring place. It was so nice even though the mud felt weird. Everyone was totally black in mud. The hot spring was like a hot tub. When we rinsed the mud off our skin was really soft. When we got back to Smugglers Cove, we got ready for our buffet dinner on the deck. We had some awesome cake after dinner. Later we looked at everyone's final project presentations! They were all so amazing. We didn't have highs and lows today so we decided to chill on the deck listening to Ulla's crazy adventurous stories. Last but not least, we "played" some volleyball in the dark.
At the village after the hike

June 23 Chilling part 2
at dinner
Grace, Bora, Alex Cooper, Katie, Alex Long, Mariam, and I at dinner

Today was another chill day.  It started raining again and it was actually kind of cool outside.  We worked on our blogs and photos the whole time we had left at Mango Bay.  After lunch we left Mango Bay to head to Smugglers Cove on a charter bus.  On the way there we stopped at this store and bought tons of souvenirs for people.  The drive to Mango Bay was three hours long.  Once we finally arrived at Smugglers Cove, we settled into or dorm, which looked like a prison room.  After that we went to go get Chinese food in town.  When we got back to Smugglers, we looked at Ulla’s pictures from yesterday.  They were so good.  Finally we discussed our highs and lows on the beach so we could break up afterwards.  When we got back to our dorm, we found three random people in our room.  Soon after they were kicked out of the room.

June 22  Island hopping
Then python Brett got from the tree
Brett and Lisa on a paddle board

At the school in the village
The broken bench
The starfish near Mango Bay
A kid in the village
Today Grace and I woke up early to explore the beach. There was a very cool cobalt blue starfish on the beach.  Some of us bought some items today from a lady for gifts.  After breakfast we packed our backpacks to go on a boat for the day.  We went fishing and went to a village on a tiny island.  When the guy on the boat was holding a tuna, he put it to “sleep” by lightly tapping it on the head with a bat and blood splattered everywhere, including on me.  The steps up to the school were the hardest things ever! Everyone was breathing heavily after that. We listened to the school children sing lovely songs.  After that we got to explore the village by ourselves. This village was more developed than the one we stayed in.  When everyone boarded the boats, we went around the island to this small beach where we ate lunch and hung out for the rest of the day.  Brett grabbed a Python from a tree which was scary.  When I was sitting on a bench,  Grace came over and the second she sat on it the bench totally collapsed.  It was hilarious.  After that Jameson and I went paddle boarding.  Soon after that we played some awesome volleyball again.  A guy caught a mongoose and threw it into the water so he could show us that it could swim.  After that we got on the boat and headed back to Mango Bay. After dinner we watched some crab racing.  Later Ulla showed us her photography work which was amazing.

June 21 Chilling

hotel activities
Grace and I found a starfish

Today was a chill day. We got to wake up a little bit later because breakfast was at 8:30. Meghan's eye wasn't looking so good today because she got pink eye. After breakfast, Meriam, Grace, and I went down to the beach to sit on a hammock.  The beach at Mango Bay is a sandy beach.  Soon afterwards Jacob, Alex, Jameson, and Bora came to the beach too. I taught Grace, Meriam, Bora, Alex Long, and Jacob how to do a little Tae Kwon Do, which was hilarious. Later we all decided to go get our laptops and work on our photos and blogs.  I drank an awesome pina colada! Prior to dinner time, we looked through everyone's 3 best hot shots.  Everyone's photos were absolutely amazing! We enjoyed this really good beef and chicken rice dish for dinner. Finally we shared our highs and lows for the day.

June 20 Small Planes

outside of the plane
brett with a snake on him
...........  lizard on me at the animal (bird) park
Bungalow Buds at it again 
Lizard at the animal p
inside the plane to Nadi
Taveuni airport

In the middle of the night, my leg was burning badly due to my coral cut. Today we had to pack to fly back to the main island to go to Mango Bay Resort. I have officially become obsessed with tea and cream in it.  As we waited for the second flight, we bought sulus and other gifts at a hotel.  When we got to the airport, everyone was so relieved that we finally had access to free wifi.  On the flight Jamison really had to go to the bathroom, so when we landed he full on sprinted off the tiny plane to go to the restroom.  He was sweating, eye-watering, and red-faced.  When we arrived at the airport we met Ms Bottoms.  We then went to exchange money at the ATM in the airport because the exchange place was closed.  It was a 2 hour drive to Mango Bay.  On the way there we stopped at this bird/reptile place which was really cool.  They placed lizards on our shoulders and some snakes too. After the bird place, we drove 45 more minutes to Mango Bay.  We had heard Mango Bay was not nice but compared to what we have been staying in this place looked like a 5 star resort.  We had an awesome dinner and everyone dressed cute. After dinner we played foosball - Alex L. and I won against Bora and Alex Cooper.  After that we had a light room tutorial.  Later we watched this cool Polynesian dance.  They danced with fire and machetes.  After that we shared our highs and lows again.  The early flight group told how they got into a fight with the taxi driver, because they told him to go to any ice cream place except Mcdonalds and the driver took them to Mcdonalds.  Brett always shares a pun a day. The frogs are gigantic at this place.

June 19 the hardest goodbye
Saying our final goodbyes
Selfies with Iowane
Janet, me, and Rocko
Val holding my hand from the van
Today we woke up early at 6:30 to watch the kids in the village go off to school one last time.  This was the hardest day.  When we had to say goodbye, the villagers sang us a farewell song which brought tears to my eyes. Everyone cried, including the guys.  A boy named Vao, who wants to be a priest, was bawling tears which was so upsetting. Nobody knew that they would react this way.  We have a new family, which is so wonderful, but we will miss them.  What was planned on being a quick goodbye ended up being an hour long.  We hugged everyone goodbye.  Once we got on the bus, Vao and other villagers were holding everyone's hands through the windows.  When I had to let go of Vao’s hand, it was heartbreaking.  I did my hand shake with Layla too.  This experience makes me appreciate everything so much more now.  I hope they loved all the gifts we gave them. As we drove away they were waving behind us.  I realized that I shouldn't be sad because it’s over, but be happy because it happened.  This goodbye wasn't a goodbye, it was a see you again someday.  I would love to bring my real family to go visit the happy, amazing villagers that allowed us to be the first people who stayed with them from western civilization.  The ride back was silent the whole time.  When we got back to TovuTovu, we went snorkeling.  It was sunny, but the water was cold.  We decided to swim into this shallow coral to look at fish and we got too close to the sharp coral.  Bad idea - we all have coral cuts.  We went to this pizza place for dinner with a cool view of the tropical Fijian landscape.  We were there forever because they only had one slow oven.  Everyone was slowly falling asleep on the table. Tomorrow we are on two different flights again to Nadi.
In front of the construction project

June 18 Lets go to school
Meghan, Liz, and I watching Chase pass the ball at the school
  Breakfast was awesome. it was all carbs (cookies and pasteries).  After breakfast we went to work on the construction site. But first Jacob, Liz, Grace, Meghan, and I were on cleaning duty so we had to wash the dishes.  At the construction site we shoveled dirt and leveled the ground for the house.  A couple of people and I went to go retrieve more gravel from the beach to make the concrete for the house.  While we were there we skipped rocks. Man, these villagers are beast at rock jumping.  After that we ate yummy UFOs, chicken chips, and cheese chips. Liz and I went to go see the baby of the village too.   Lunch was more carbs with peanut butter. The custard we had literally tasted like nothing.  After lunch we went to the village school and played volleyball with the kids.  They got so excited watching us play.  After that our group went to go to a natural water slide but the water was to high and strong so we couldn't go in.  I am amazed that there are so many beautiful rainbows everyday in Fiji. Later we learned that Angie’s mom made the costumes for the movie Blue Lagoon.  When we came back to the village, we saw the men braid a barracuda design in palm leaves.  Lisa made awesome pasta for the villagers for dinner.  After dinner, we discussed highs and lows. Then we had a dance party with music from the radio and speakers. All the villagers loved to dance. Bora, Alex Long, and I  created a conga line and went through Katie and Kenneth.  Angie and her brother wrote a song called "Keep on Spinning" about our group and friendship.  We have become one big family with this village and I love it.  When we had to say our goodnights, we took pictures to save our great memories with each other.  
Mariam, Madiha, Kenneth, and I 
Vao at school

June 17  Kava and Machetes 

Today we had porridge for breakfast which tasted like condensed milk and sugar - it was so good.  I also never knew peanut butter and crackers could be so tasty.  After breakfast we worked on the construction site.  We picked up rocks and placed them against cement.  Lucy, Liz, and I were on the cooking crew so we got a break from construction to help make lunch.  We were the worst tomato cutters ever.  After that everyone attempted to find their scavenger hunt list things. Bora, Liz, Alex Long, and I went to the farm and started to cut down Kava with a machete. We ate these tiny wild chiles, the spiciest things I have ever tasted.  Bora started sweating a lot and crying. Jamison threw it up.  We ate so much sugar after that to cover the flavor.  Afterwards we went to meet the really old chief of the village.  Then it was time to play more volleyball - it is so competitive here.  The village kids took some awesome shots on my camera too.  We captured pictures of the beautiful pink sunset.  For dinner, we had dall with curry and indian tortilla.   It was awesome.  We discovered the hot tea was lemon grass tea which tasted like trix cereal when you add a lot of sugar.  Almost everyone left before kava but Meriam, Bora, and I stayed and talked about survival in Fiji.  When Alex and Katie came back,  I showed the villagers my silly wisdom teeth videos, my dance photos and Lily photos,  and the videos of dancing and fighting at our school. This village woman, who's name starts with an M, and I were dying laughing while taking selfies.  After most people left Katie, Madiha, Grace, and I  drank more kava.  We stayed up past our bed time.
Cutting Kava with a machete
having fun taking selfies
Taking pictures after volleyball


Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 16 Jacob's Birthday

Today we had these really good cookies, peanut butter, and a boat load of carbs for breakfast.  It was also Jacob’s 18th birthday. Liz, Katie, Bora, Alex Long, Jameson, others and I went down to the beach to shovel gravel in bags for cement.  Liz and I helped carry the bags of gravel on our backs to the road. Liz found a lobster on the side of the road.  When we got back, we made cement and laid out some plastic. The Fijian guys made making cement look so easy. After a while Mariam, Alex Cooper, and I went to look at the chief’s parrot, Jack.  We also held a chicken while we were there. Liz and I then chased some chickens around the village. Brett brought us these UFO burger-flavored chips, cheese chips, and nasty mango chips. After that Chase, Liz, Mariam, and I went on a hike with Wicky and some women to Rockpool. We surprisingly did not get poison ivy on the hike. On the way to Rockpool, we went to an underwater cave that had crystal clear fresh water in it. Wicky told us that Lucy was nicknamed "Lucy Pussy", which was hilarious. Rockpool was so cool because it is a pool in the ocean that is blocked off by black rocks. Wicky shook a papaya from a tree and sliced it with his machete for us.  Wicky always has a smile on his face and is so nice. When we finished eating, we began walking down the road when all of a sudden Bora came out of nowhere from the terrain.  When we got back to the village, Grace, Meghan, Liz, Chase, Jacob, and I got attacked playfully by kids.  There was one kid, Jimmy, who acted really tough. Next, we made some dove birds out of leaves. Other people started making their own sulus. After designing sulus and dove birds, we decided to play volleyball.  The Fijian guys play so well.  They slammed down every ball.  A double rainbow appeared in the sky behind us while playing.  After that, Liz and I went swimming in our clothes with some Fijian girls that were close to our age.   Meghan and I later entered the ocean in the dark to shower. That was definitely something new - #villageprobs.  Dinner afterwards was fantastic.  We then celebrated Jacob's birthday with cake. The guy serving cake had a "that’s what she says" shirt which was funny because he had no idea what it meant.  We soon found out that it was another villager's birthday too, but Jacob's just out shined his. After the kids left, we drank more kava. Katie danced with all the Fijian guys, especially Kenneth.  The Fijian guys think she is twenty, which is funny because she's the youngest one in the group. She is actually like 14 or 15.  I danced in between her and Kenneth while they danced and everyone thought it was funny.  Today Lisa had a fever the whole day and Jameson was not feeling that well. We have this list of things we need to take pictures of in the village and everyone is stressing over it.

Mariam, JImmy, and I

Meghan and I ready to work

Jacob and the guy with the funny shirt

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 15 Let's play some frisbee

Today we went snorkeling near this village. We had to walk a little bit down the beach to get to our snorkeling spot.  When we got there we ate lunch and had to wait for the tide to come in because the water was to shallow.  We played ultimate frisbee on the beach which was a lot of fun.  I had some good catches though I can’t figure out how.  Snorkeling was fun even though the current was kind of strong.  When we reached a boat that was picking us up from the water, it was so hard getting into it.  Jamison, while climbing up the ladder in slow motion, totally fell.  It was hilarious!  He called “Going down” while falling face first. Once everyone got back to the vans, we had a couple bowls of kava and headed back to Tovutovu.  After our arrival to Tovutovu, we had to pack for the village.  I managed to pack everything in my backpack and in my sleeping pad holder.  When we got to the village, all the villagers were beyond happy to see us even though it was pouring outside. They are all so nice!  They helped us carry our things into the village and covered us with umbrellas. They also gave all of us these flowered necklaces they made. They performed this dance with leaves on their wrist.  The dancers outfits were like the costumes in Lilo and Stitch.  The dancing was on point. After that we ate chicken and fish for dinner. We then had a lot of Kava at a traditional ceremony since it is rude to not drink kava when it is shared.  Liz and I had 20 something bowls of kava and we got kind of dizzy from it.  Soon after all the girls in our group settled into one house, while the guys settled into another.
One of the flower necklaces the villagers made

Katie and I snorkeling.  Photo creds to Brett Garner.

Jameson falling into the boat. Photo creds to Brett Garner.
June 14 (Day 3) Praising the Lord and waterfalls

This morning we went to a church service at Tovutovu.  The service was awesome.  I honestly thought it was better than any other church service. The preacher was so inspirational about how we are all one big family.  It poured every time we stepped out of the van today, so everyone whipped out their rain jackets while hiking. We went to two waterfalls.  A woman named Angie and her husband from the village we are going to stay at came along with us.  At the first waterfall, we climbed up behind the waterfall but soon were told not to jump off of it.  Our leaders said it was too dangerous which was ironic because a whole group of doctors were jumping off of it and it was even more dangerous climbing down from it.  We had to hike in the jungle to get to the second waterfall. On the way there we had to cross this scary thin rope bridge. There was a max. of 10 people to go on it at once. This bridge was like one of those in adventure movies. When we finally got to the waterfall, we had to swim upstream to get there. It was literally like swimming in one of those lap pool things.  Someone thought they saw a snake while we were swimming and everyone started to freak out by struggling to get out of the water.  It turns out they were just joking. Once we used all our energy to swim to the waterfall, we watched Angie jumping off the rocks.  She was like a dolphin. Finally we started back to where our clothes and Bora were left to hike back to the village.  It was a lot easier to swim back because it was downstream. A lot of people fell one after the other down the slippery stairs from the bridge. It was so funny. Everyone was falling one after the other just like bowling pins.  Once we finally arrived at the village we ate dinner.  And of course it was more chicken.  After dinner when we were getting in the vans, Katie slammed the metal seat on Liz's foot.  That was the loudest shout I have ever heard.  On the way back, we saw random farm animals everywhere near the road. Katie was talking to me the whole way back to Tovutovu, so I got to learn a lot about her. 
A girl in church
At the first waterfall

Hiking to the second waterfall with Liz, Jacob, Alex Long, Bora, and Angie. Photo creds to Lisa Hornak

Monday, June 22, 2015

June 13 Rugby time (Day 2)

Today feels like the 4th day but it is only the second.  We went to a local rugby game.  When we got there the kids were so excited to get their pictures taken.  They really like whipping out peace signs. After the rugby game we bought sulus for the village. We then headed to the waterfalls. On the way there we saw where the 1980 Blue Lagoon movie was filmed. Since it was raining the whole day there were flash flood warnings so we could not go to the waterfall after all.  Once we got back to Tovutovu we met in the dining room.  I had to get my camera so I ran down the steep sidewalk from the dining room and totally slipped and belly flopped onto the pavement.  My hands and both of my thighs were scraped up and I started to bleed everywhere, so I had to clean up my cuts in my room. We went to a different hotel for dinner in the evening.  Dinner was so awesome! The lemon tasting fish we had was so good.  We even got dessert which was also amazing.  This was the first time we tried kava.  It tastes like dirt.  I drank a lot of kava because I could not taste it after a while because my mouth was numb. Chase and Bora also had a lot more kava than everyone else too.  I had some low tides, high tides, and tsunamis.  These are the different sizes you pick to drink.  Soon people started calling me the “Kava Queen” which was funny.  Some local guys played songs throughout dinner.  The local fijian guys played a new version of the saints marching in song.  It was so funny.  Also at the dinner table Alex Long told us that he could play the harmonica and randomly whipped it out.  He played Hey Jude on it.  He also said he could beatbox on it.  When Brett was showing us some of his pictures Ms. Simon thought a local in a photo was crushing chicken instead of kava….that was freaking hilarious. Later after dinner we went to bed. 
sitting by both Alexs on the way to the rugby game ( Alex squared)

A netball action shot I took 

A picture I took of the fijian guy that told us about the flash flood warnings
Some net ball players and I. Photo creds to Meghan Pisters

Lucy, Meghan, and I with some fijian kids on the beach at the rugby game

June 10-12 (Day one kind of) The longest day

The plane ride from LA to Nadi was the longest 11 hours ever.  No one was comfortable on the flight except Brett because he slept literally the whole time. When we arrived in Nadi we stepped off the plane just in time to see the beautiful sunrise.  There were birds singing everywhere while all of us watched the sun rise up.  When we got into the main part of the airport we were happily greeted by Fijians' bright smiles and singing.  Everyone is so friendly here. Random Fijian strangers always were saying "bula" (hello) to all of us like we were their friends.  There were two different flights to go to Taveuni from Nadi. Since Meghan, Chase, Alex Long, Jameson, Grace, Jacob, and I were in the first group to fly to Taveuni we ate breakfast at the “hotel”, Tovutovu, which was kind of weird because it felt like it was dinner time even though it was only like eight in the morning. We then settled into our bungalows. The bungalow buds were Meghan, Lucy, Grace, and I. After we unpacked in our rooms we went to a private beach to chill. It was so nice! At the beach we ran into the cold water with Lisa. One of the Nat Geo photographers, Lisa, told us about all the cool things she has done. Lisa also told us about the cool things our other leader, Brett, has done.  Lisa is a very successful photographer that does more photo journalism. She also went to Boston University. Brett is a cool photographer that takes awesome underwater pictures.  He went to UCLA and did some marine stuff at Scripps in San Diego. After we spent some time at the beach we met the rest of the group for dinner at Tovutovu. After dinner we said our highs and lows of the day. When we got back to our rooms we soon realized the water was really cold in the shower. Soon after we all passed out because we were so tired.

The sunrise we saw when we got off the plane in Nadi

Fijians that welcomed us at the airport in Nadi by singing
Meghan and I on the private beach on Taveuni