Treasure House ~ My Return

Bula Gang,

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.

Vinaka Vakalevu,

Loloma Levu x

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Living like a local ~ Fijian hospitality

Bula Bula,

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.

Vinaka vakalevu,

Loloma levu xx

Try Time! Sporting events in Fiji

Grand Final Makoi Bulldogs V Lautoka

Bula!

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!

Vinaka Vakalevu,

Loloma Levu

Hidden gem aka Saweni Beach!

Bula Gang,

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!

Vinaka Vakalevu

Loloma Levu x

Taken from under a coconut tree

Taken from under a coconut tree

Freshly Picked

Freshly Picked

Treasure House ~ My last week & Merry Christmas !!

Bula Gang,

Well after this last week at the Treasure House, I need to go on a diet haha!
On Monday we had 2 lunches provided, one was scheduled the other just kindly turned up hehe. Then without having time to digest, pizza was delivered as a snack! The kids enjoyed but as for the toddlers, most of it went on the floor.

The presents under the tree are really mounting up. So good to see that visitors and locals don’t forget about these gorgeous kids, donating anything they can manage. Too often people who can afford to help others leave it for the people who are struggling themselves, I say this as the Australian Govt cut the Aid budget yet again!

Although lots of gifts and food are being donated, the sponsor who pays the water bill was late resulting in the water being turned off from Saturday afternoon to Monday afternoon. I couldn’t believe it when I arrived on Monday. They were getting water from the sister house Judy’s but this was making life quite difficult. I gave Shriti a bath using a bucket after lunch before she went to sleep, poor thing was clutching the bucket trying to drink as much as possible. Luckily that afternoon we were able to bath them properly and the house was back in working order.

It’s been very hot and humid more so than usual, we’ve had the kids outside a lot playing under the mango tree. It is so much better than trying to get them to do activities in the Nicholas room. There’s been a lot of water bomb fights which have been refreshing. The toddlers like the breeze created by being pushed on the swing. They can be quite bossy “Alice push me push me” demands Gloria, “Alice higher” yells Moses, Jacob generally says “Alice me, mine”, mine is come in Fijian.

To end the week we got all dressed up, GG, Ily and the 5 toddlers were all matching in their Xmas outfits, it was so cute. I made use of my Sulu Jaba, which I wore a few weeks back at Jays grandma’s 100 nights remembrance. Laura borrowed a sulu and Bula shirt from her host family. We were both in blue, so decided that was the colour for the volunteers 🙂 all the Na’s were very happy with our outfits. Then on the bus to get to the Wyndem Hotel in Port Denauru. Lunch was very nice and plentiful but surprising all the toddlers did very well, ate their food and were well behaved. Ansu did her usual thank you speech and all the children did some dances and sang some songs. I even know some of the words now even though I don’t understand the lyrics. Caleb was quite funny during the dancing as he was just busting a move on his own haha, reminded me of my brother at similar age.

Santa turned up and the toddlers were looking a little uneasy, Jacob was backing away with a scared look on his face. Their reactions were hilarious, Moses did collect his Santa gift but I had to go with him.

It was a great day and we had more cake just before leaving. Once arriving back we had to say bye to Laura, she had to leave for the airport at 3.30. It was a rushed quick goodbye during bath time but quick is better than long goodbyes.

On Sunday jay and I went to church with them. They go to a small church in Sabeto Village 20 mins away. It’s a gorgeous humble church surrounded by mountains! Lots of singing in English and Fijian and the sermon was mainly in English. The kids looked great in their Sunday best and were excited to have me there. Moses was calling my name from the row behind during prayer lol. He came around for a couple of cuddles as did sritty and Gloria came to check out my hairstyle, which she gave her approval hehe.

It was a great way to end my volunteering for 2014 and last day in Fiji for the year. When we were back at the house I said bye to the toddlers first as they were going down for their sleep. They don’t understand that I’m going away for awhile and sritty was calling “Alice come!” But not in a sad way so that was good. The older kids understood I’ll be back in February so that helps with the goodbyes.

It’s been at times overwhelming, confronting and stressful but overall an amazing experience. I’ve learnt so much about myself and my ability to care for children not under the normal circumstances. It’s impossible to not get attached to them, so even when I’m not able to live in Fiji anymore, each time I visit I will always make a point to stop and spend “Fiji time” hehe.

I miss the kids already but look forward to seeing them in February, until then I will enjoy catching up with fams & friends in Australia.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Vinaka vakalevu,

Loloma Levu xx

Treasure House ~ 2nd last week & Xmas build up

Bula Gang,

Delayed post, my second last week was last week hehe my blog is on Island Time…

To begin my second last week, I was greeted by the kids washing their hands before their mid-morning snacks. Five little people running up with ALICE screams, I didn’t have time to put my bag down before I was helping with the hand washing!

We always have to play tricks with Sritty to get her to finish her food. Usually pretending that we’ll give it to one of the other children. It seems she’s outsmarted this tactic so the new one is a threat that I will go home. The staff say “Alice will go home if you don’t eat your food”, then I’m meant to get up and leave, after one or two cries and flaps of her hands, I sit down and spoon feed her. She’s an emotional little thing, cries at the drop of a hat but I think a lot of the time it’s because she wants to be picked up and cuddled.

Wednesday we had a great xmas lunch provided by Chicken BBQ. The kids loved to get ready to go out to a restaurant. Toddlers were in their best dress and the older girls really liked the way I did my hair (fish braid) so they asked if I could do their hair like that too. I had a lot of fun playing hairdresser and they all looked very pretty.

Everyone was well behaved in the restaurant. Ansu made a thank you speech on behalf of everyone at Treasure House, she spoke very well but she is used to it as they encourage her public speaking abilities. We were talking after about what we want to be when we grow up, she wants to be a flight attendant, this would suit her very well, she can travel (which I’m always encouraging) and opens up the door to lots of other career opportunities. I’ve heard the training is quite rigorous but I believe she’ll do great at anything she puts her mind too.

Anyway, back to the restaurant… there was an applause once Ansu finished and Aaron our 5 year old who has autism, couldn’t stop clapping and his catch phrase “on the light, on the light, BULA”. He is a character and brings a lot of happiness to the house, even though he bit me on my second day, we’ve bonded since. I’ll never forget when I asked him how he was and he replied “not bad, not bad” such a funny response from a 5 year old.

Sritty ate too much lollies so she didn’t eat the chicken or chips, typical. Gloria was taken up to cut the cake, afterwards she thought the cake was hers but said she would share with everyone. The afternoons are always a lil out of sync after these big lunches. They go to sleep later, have their bath later and then no time for much playing because they’re all so exhausted. Generally makes for a more relaxing afternoon 😀

As we don’t see and spend as much time with the older girls from Judy House next door for 14 and above, one of the other volunteers Lucille organised for her, Laura and myself to take them out for lunch. Originally it was to the movies but it became too hard with session times and getting to Lautoka which is 45 mins by bus. Lunch was great though, the girls really enjoyed it and so did we. It was nice to be able to chat without being interrupted by the smaller children and being able to give all your focus on them.

It was a great end to the week and end to Lucille’s last day, she’s been with us for 2 weeks.

Vinaka Vakalevu,

Loloma Levu,

xx

Treasure House ~ My Final Weeks ~ School Holidays & Excursions

Bula Gang,

I can’t believe I only have 2 weeks left at the Treasure House and in Fiji! The time has gone so quickly and the older girls have been asking me to stay over Christmas, trying to explain visa restraints to 8-12 year olds is difficult.

We had 3 American couples come to visit one afternoon, they were guest speakers from a church group which had a function in Suva. The Director brought them to Treasure House as they were interested to meet the children. The kids introduced themselves and then sang a few songs in Fijian, it was lovely. One lady was so overwhelmed it brought her to tears, she hadn’t been to an orphanage before and asked herself or god, why? … Why indeed, children are innocents so why do some of them endure more pain and suffering from birth than others do in their entire life? At least the Treasure House provides a safe and happy environment for these children until they’re adopted, fostered or able to look after themselves independently, once they’ve completely all their schooling.

We had a Fun Day with other orphanages in the area, lots of games, yummy foods and music. The kids had a great day, there was sack races, musical chairs and running races. The kids also enjoyed playing with the other children. Some of them are related as well, one of our girls has a sister in another orphanage, unfortunately due to space issues at the time, they weren’t able to be sent to the same one. Some of the older girls just wanted to walk around in groups or sit together and not participate, reminded me of high school at sports carnivals haha. There was a freak out moment when one of the Administrators ran up to me asking if I could run to the school as 3 girls have walked off unattended. I thought they’d made a run for it but turned out they just went to the bathroom and were happy to return to the oval. Really happy I could be around for this day, it was great to see everyone happy and enjoying while on school holidays.

The next 2 days the weather wasn’t good, very windy and raining spells. This means the children can only do inside activities and there just isn’t really the room for it while all the kids are home during the holidays. So we were busy trying to keep them entertained, it was hard with the toddlers and their 2 min attention spans. Gloria just wants to do her own thing, she’s an independent little 2 year old! She can sometimes be a pleasure to look after and her communication is amazing, so advanced… but when she doesn’t want to follow the group and wants to be with the older girls, she’s can be a little madam… Although, I must say I’m proud of her being so well developed in an environment where most children are performing below their age. She’s also completely toilet trained and lets me know when she needs go 🙂 yaymigae

Sritty has recently started to cry when I leave for my lunch break or leave in the afternoons, she calls my name and I can usually hear her from the gate. I’ve been trying to leave more discreetly to avoid any upsets.

It is impossible to not get attached to these gorgeous kids.

Vinaka vakalevu,

Loloma Levu xx