Last Friday was the end of another stint of volunteering. It’s been a great month being back at the Treasure House. Immediately it felt like I hadn’t left and the kids were all very familiar with me. I spent the first 2 weeks with my toddlers in the routine I had from last year, but these last 2 weeks I’ve been coming in the afternoons and staying into the evening helping the older children with their reading, writing and homework.
I didn’t realise how hard a task would be getting kids to do their homework, I’ve felt somewhat like a nagging mother or school teacher, maybe there isn’t a difference. Although they do seem to enjoy having me around to help, Gideon who is 7 sits on my lap while he’s doing his homework. I don’t have to check their bags for homework in case they are lying, I was told by the staff they are likely to do this. I’m glad I haven’t really needed to be a homework warden haha.
It’s alarming how behind some of the kids are, 8-9 years hardly know how to read. I’ve had to teach them to sound out the letters instead of just guess the next word. Five girls are going to a catch up school for reading and writing. Then there are others who are doing so well and take a lot of pride in their work and I think they only get me to check it so I can tell them how smart they are!
One of our final year of primary school girls Ester, really tested me with her maths homework. It was a fractions multiplication and I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to do this, but looking back on her previous examples we managed to figure it out. I might add, I’ve never in my adult life had to use a fraction multiplication!
It is a bit heartbreaking when the toddlers see me around the house, as they’re not my main focus anymore and they don’t understand. I do spend an hour or so with them when I first arrive but then when the school kids are home and organized I’m in the sunshine room. Jacob is always calling “Ali mai, Ali mai” and Siriti cries when I have to go for homework. One evening the other day, it was so cute, Gloria and Siriti came over to the Sunshine room and excitedly said “ALICE!!” I had a lil play and cuddle with them between homework and dinner time.
I’m also helping Jenny who has down-syndrome, she’s doing very well with her adding work but not so well in her reading. She does seem to focus better than some of the other kids when I’m reading to her, so that’s good, she’ll get it eventually.
It was sad the other week. Ansu came down with an appendicitis, she’s off school now for a month. I’ve seen her around a lot as she’s recovering but the poor thing is bored staying at home from school. She’s just started high school and really enjoying it. She’s definitely a dedicated student and already talks about what she wants to do when she finishes, be a flight attendant for Fiji Airways because she wants to see the world. I think she’ll do just fine!
I am hoping to continue my volunteering when I return for the next bit of traveling, so hopefully there will be more updates from the Treasure House.
I will visit them at the very least.
Loloma levu x
Every girl deserves to have a bula smile! On Saturday Milly and I picked up her new teeth which we had measurements done on the Saturday before. I’m glad that it didn’t take very long to have her teeth made up and now she and everyone else can enjoy her smile. A girl of 16 already has many things to be self-conscious about, but smiling, laughing and talking doesn’t need to be one of them anymore.
This is a big thank you (Vinaka) to my parents for donating the money so I could do this for Milly. They always gave me a reason to smile when I was growing up (and still do), now they’ve given Milly a reason to smile.
Loloma Levu x
I’m back at the Treasure House! I visited the kiddies and staff the first Monday of Feb. I was wondering all morning if my toddlers would remember me since I had been away for 5 weeks or if they would be shy to begin with. Nope, not these children, they greeted me with hugs and excitedly screaming “Alice, Alice”! Gloria told me all about her 3rd birthday which they celebrated the day before, then complimented me on my change of handbags and pink top haha. Shiriti just kept saying “Alice come” as she does and the boys, Jacob, Moses and Caleb were all smiles. Moses was a bit tired but managed a smile and wave between micro sleeps. I was happy to see Daphne as well but she’s still not walking on her own which is a shame. She also remembered me and put her hand out to hold mine, it’s all very touching. GG said the toddlers were asking for me each time a new volunteer would come. This was just a quick visit to say hello and discuss my return to volunteering…
I made my comeback on Monday 9th Feb, it was all familiar and the kids were very happy to have me back as well as the staff. When I arrived Moses was at the outside sink playing with the water then tried to help me open the gate. There was a new volunteer on her first day so I enjoyed showing her the ropes. One of the staff said “Alice knows the drill”.
We played with some play-dough, then colouring had some visitors and then I took Shiriti for toilet training. She now lets us know when she needs to go so that’s fantastic, only Moses and Jacob left to learn. It already feels like I haven’t been away for 6 weeks. I’m feeding Daphne her lunch and she’s eating it all up like a good girl.
It was the cutest when I came back from lunch break and Shiriti wakes up from her sleep and immediately asks for me. Moses and Caleb have resumed climbing all over me and Jacob pulls my hand to come with him and Gloria continues with the compliments on my earrings, clothes, bag etc hehe. The older children were full of cuddles and questions about my holiday and glad that I came back.
There is still a shortage of staff so I’ve been helping out a lot with Daphne, reading to her, taking her for walks around the house, feeding her. She shuffles along after me very quickly and is extremely jealous of the other toddlers. Speaking of jealous, Shiriti also has that streak. It can get quite aggressive as well, pinches and biting if someone else attempts to sit on my lap.
Jacob is becoming more intrigued by the toilet and likes to put the child seat on and take it off, this is becoming a popular game between him, caleb and shiriti! Jacob is still too scared to sit on the toilet but gets very embarrassed if he wets his pants. Shiriti likes me to take her to the toilet even when she doesn’t need to go, she’ll run in the house excitedly saying “toilet toilet” then looks up to me with a big smile and giggle. Caleb is now wanting to dress himself, he can put his undies and pants on with limited help but t-shirts he still needs help.
It was funny on Thursday, Gloria was giving me a recount of her time at the doctors and receiving a vaccination. She told me that GG held her tight while the nurse gave her an injection in her bum. She was so serious but I had to hold my breath not to laugh, it just sounded so funny coming from someone who only just turned 3. She amazes me every day!
I’m really enjoying being back in my routine, I missed these people.
More news from the Treasure House soon.
Loloma Levu x
Since living in Fiji and receiving mostly great hospitality from its locals, I thought I should write about it.
Most people here are very friendly, you either say bula to someone you’re walking past, give your best bula smile or comment on how hot it is hehe.
Something which isn’t really noticed or cared about in Australia is knowing your neighbours. Maybe just to the point where you can ask them to take out the bin on dustbin day if they are away, collect their mail or water their garden. In Fiji, you are regularly invited to join them for Kava or share a meal. My neighbours which were (before moving) a family of four and have on the occasion prepared Cassava Pudding for dessert and gave me a portion to taste, it was delicious and went fantastic with vanilla icecream! A few weeks later a delicious Fijian beef, cassava and chili salad plate was shared. I’m a massive chili fan and it was right on point! At first I thought it was strange and wasn’t sure if it would be rude to accept it, Jay assured me it’s completely normal. That same night was Jay’s birthday where I made a lamb stew and chocolate slice, so I returned the favour and shared a plate with them, yay!
Each day I walk to the Treasure House Childrens Home, I pass a car wash business where the staff always greet me with big greetings such as “bula, good morning, yadra, you look nice” haha. The owner approached me when I was on my walk home for lunch and asked my name and where it was I walk to most days. He then invited me to have Kava with them one day, a bit reluctant of their intentions I asked if Jay could come as well, he said of course. Later that evening when I was walking home (again) they came running up to street level and shared one cup of Kava with no intentions of kidnapping me haha. The next day when Jay was walking with me, they also said Bula Bro to him.
I got chatting with a girl while waiting at the bus stop, she was on her way to work in Port Denaru. She had seen me around and like most people enquired how I spent my time in Fiji. Anyway, she ended up paying for my bus fare (.70 cents) as she needed to break a note, I offered her the money after but she insisted it was fine. .70 cents may not sound like much but Fijians are paid a considerable amount less than Australians. If you’ve stopped to think about how cheap Fiji is, well for a tourist on holiday from Australia, yes it is. However, if you’re earning Fijian dollar, the living costs, food, housing, petrol etc are not equivalent. I was very grateful for my free bus ride on that hot and humid day!
So if anything like this happens while you’re living in Fiji or on holiday, accept the invite and return the favour in any way possible.
Loloma levu xx
Not sure if you’ve heard but Fiji is Rugby crazy! Union and 7’s Rugby being most favored but League also has a large following.
I was lucky enough to see the Rugby League Grand Final at Churchill Stadium in Lautoka September last year, between Makoi Bulldogs and Lautoka. The atmosphere was great, lots of singing and ladies running down with their team flags when a try was scored! There were some kids about 10 yo, who were singing right near us and playing percussion, fantastic!
I found the entertainment around us an invited distraction but I did watch a lot of the game. It was a fast game and most of it they were within a couple of points of each other. I was going for the Makoi Bulldogs, they are one of the Suva teams who won the GF last year. Jay follows this team as Makoi is where he’s from in Suva. Guess I should follow the boyfee since I wasn’t really fussed either way. Unfortunately in extra time Lautoka City scored and converted a try putting them 1 point in front. Jay and the other Makoi fans celebrations were a bit premature but as the goal was kicked and full time whistle was blown, the gates were opened and kids ran out onto the field to congratulate Lautoka City. It looked really cool, kids adults etc all running onto the field with excitement hehe. Even though Makoi didn’t win, it was a good game and I enjoyed it.
It was easy to get there from Nadi, just a 30 min bus ride which pretty much stops right at the gates and costs $2 each way, bus runs regularly but if you’re in a hurry get a mini-van. I think mini-van is $2-3, it’s not for the faint hearted, they go quite fast and overtake sometimes without the best judgment. The game was only $6, if there’s room you can sit under shelter in the grandstands but if you’re late, shade could be an issue as there’s not many trees.
If you have time while you’re here on holidays, ask a local about seeing a sporting event. It is a great cultural experience even if sports aren’t really your thing.
I’m looking forward to the Union season starting sometime this year!
I am back in paradise aka Fiji after spending some quality time at home with my family and friends! Last year I mainly blogged about my time volunteering at the Treasure House, but I also got up to some cool things in my free time. If you are traveling to Fiji, these might be worth knowing.
I discovered a hidden gem! People mainly go to the most common beach Wailoaloa but if you are after something a lil more beautiful and peaceful, check out Saweni Beach. It is between Nadi and Lautoka and virtually secluded. When I was there I felt like Mahsa, Jay and myself had our own private beach. It has white/yellow sand unlike Wailoaloa where the sand is more brown and powdery. It is lined with coconut trees and the water is very calm and also cooler than the general Fijian waters. This made for a much more refreshing swim on a hot and sunny day. Only thing it lacks is a coral reef to snorkel hehe.
Getting there is easy if you have a car, it is about ½ way between Nadi and Lautoka, you take a left turn which is sign posted Saweni Beach and also Orchid Resort.
If you are more adventurous and/or on a budget, take the local bus. More often than not, you’ll get a bus which plays loud music from the radio 2Day FM. Which mainly plays reggae and general hit music, makes you feel like dancing.
Bus options are either no windows or closed with A/C, I prefer no windows and enjoy the fresh island breeze. Bus’ come very regularly and it should only costs $1.50 FJD each way. The walk to the beach is via a dirt road for about 1.5 km, at midday it was boiling so once we got to the beach it was straight into the water!
I would suggest bringing a packed lunch since there’s not any restaurants. Luckily for us, Jay can climb a coconut tree and we enjoyed fresh coconut juice & the flesh inside yum yum!
I’m looking forward to the next time I go to Saweni Beach Yay!
Loloma Levu x