Monday, December 31, 2012

Off to Fiji for the "Adventure of a Lifetime"

TRO and myself are heading off to Fiji, accompanying thirteen students, and two teachers from Olivet Christian College.

The students will be competing in the South Pacific ACE student convention. This involves competing against other students from the whole Sth Pacific Region. Competition is in all sporting events, music, both instrumental and vocal, all manner of arts and craft, drama, spelling, poetry, oration, chess,checkers, preaching, bible memorization and almost anything else you can think of.
Our group specializes somewhat in the hand bells, a lovely instrument taking both precision and team effort.

After boarding our plane at Tullamarine, we arrived in Nadi at 6 am, after a terrible flight. The plane was full of very , very excited teenagers, most heading for convention, but others going to Fiji for other reasons, so you can imagine it was a little noisy, and that made it very hard to sleep !

A two hour wait saw us onto another flight to Suva, then a half hour bus ride to the campus of the University of theSouth Pacific. Safely installed in our boys and girls dorms, we were all shell shocked by both the heat and humidity, not to mention the somewhat primitive conditions of our rooms, all compounded by lack of sleep.

My room is not a lot bigger than the prisoner cells at the old Castlemaine Goal!

But made a little nicer by the view outside the windows, the tree helping to keep it just a tad cooler than it might otherwise be.

Convention kicked off in the evening, with dinner followed by the opening rally.
We were all very, very tired, and a little concerned by how we might sleep in the heat.

DAY 1 of convention.

An early wake up call .....6am......and some very reluctant risers, although I had been awake since just after 5. Up, showered, dressed, devotions, and off to the breakfast queue for eggs, bread, cereal, or a choice of Indian food. Just after we reached the dining room, we experienced our first tropical downpour, lasting around thirty minutes. Just a little different to the expected five minute showers we were told about.

Our boys had table tennis, and the girls handbells. Practice was needed, so we found a room to use and hopped to it.

The competition was stiff, but the results won't be known until Friday. There is a lot of just waiting around for your turn, the judging is very serious, three judges fill in a foolscap sheet of marking. They hold your music, and follow along to make sure there are no mistakes. I saw some very talented youngsters in some of the events.

Setting up the handbells in the performance theatre.

Our first group performing.

One of the judges prays with the students prior to their performance.

Aysha and Lois competed in the female duet section, singing "indescribable "

Back to the dining room for lunch, I went the full Monty on the indian food, being thoroughly fed up with the Aussie chips, chicken , snags etc.

TRO stuck with the traditional fare we are somewhat accustomed to.

Still, or should I say, again, raining at lunchtime.

And we need to walk to the basketball stadium, a good , brisk fifteen minutes away, in the rain. Luckily, some of us followed instructions and brought waterproof ponchos and umbrellas to protect us .

The girls played a very exciting game, narrowly beating a Fijian team by 3 points, which meant they moved onto the next round to be played tomorrow.

After dinner, we went off to the rally again, where some of the better performances were showcased in command performances.

Tired, hot, wet, and off to bed by 10.30.

DAY 2 of convention.

Oooooops........we slept in........a 6.30 call from Mrs. Chapman, and everyone up promptly, devotions, and down to the dining room for breakfast. I had Indian for breakfast, very nice!

The girls had an early start, one going to spelling, and the choral ensemble starting at 8.30.

TRO and I walked over to the "cost you less" store, and bought some coat hangers, yoghurt ( really missing this) and muesli for breakfast for a change. We really miss our usual breakfast of cereal, fruit and yoghurt, we are such creatures of habit. As has become quite usual, it was raining again most of the morning, and I am talking tropical downpours, with rivers of water running down to a deep culvert, which then becomes becomes a creek.

Aysha had her brass solo in the morning.

and then it was lunch time again, with a change to the menu, pizzas and sandwiches on offer today, a nice respite from the chips, snags, and chips.

More rain, of course. We are all used to getting wet, and having wet feet. The rain comes very suddenly, and has seemed to cool down the temperature a little.

Two games of basketball this afternoon for the girls, winning the first game, and than playing off for gold or silver. A valiant effort, and Olivet takes the silver medal!

Mrs Chapman and I had the same idea, buying fruit from the roadside vendor for supper for the girls tonight.

Dinner and a walk around campus for RTO and myself, and all the others head off for the evening rally.

Lights out at 10.30......goodnight !

DAY 3 of convention.

The day dawned beautifully clear and sunny, a good start for the track and field events morning. Buses transported everyone to the Grammar School for the events, leaving at .8.15, so it was another early start for us all.

We had competitors in a number of races, long jump, and the girls relay.

All did their best , and we will find the medal results on Friday. The track was wet, wet, wet, and some competitors fell or slipped,

but there were no serious injuries.
We were taken back to campus by the same buses, to find the power was out, so lunch was cold. Believe me, cold chips are very unappetizing. Having found a nice coffee shop, we headed off there, but of course they had no electricity either, so a cappuccino was not to be had.

Some of our students had netball throw and footy kick, and another a vocal solo. There was a huge problem with Sarah's music, but eventually it was ready to go, and her turn to perform was two hours after the scheduled time. Whilst waiting, we saw some other vocal acts, and a couple of tambourine ensembles, which were very impressive.

Indian for dinner, and TRO and I ventured forth into the grounds again, and the rest of our gang went to rally. As last night, I prepared the supper for the hungry hordes, fresh pineapple , watermelon and biscuits.

Not sure what this building is , but the bloke sitting in it is quite impressive.

Some of the garden in the uni grounds.

A nice cloud formation this evening.

This is block 6A, my room is the top right hand side window. This whole campus is built on the side of a mountain, and our dorm is about halfway up. The boys are further up the hill, perhaps another five minutes walk. When we go anywhere, the going is easy, but coming back is all up hill. Even the dining room is 6 to 7 minutes away, and everything else further. The voda phone stadium where the rallies are held is a fifteen minute walk.

Some clothes washing tonight and the lights out by 11.

DAY 4 of convention.

Another lovely day dawned, no rain in sight, thankfully. An early rise, devotions focusing on the challenges we have had to face over the week. Food was pretty high on the list, followed by the weather. My list includes the bed, the facilities, and the endless walking. Just the same, we have all coped well.
The whole theme of convention has been " Do hard things"' and believe me, we have done some hard things.

Breakfast, and then we take off to the stadium for the girls volleyball. All the competitors are very tired by this stage of the competition, and we were beaten by Suva.

That left the rest of the day free, so after a coffee in the coffee shop, TRO and I headed off in a taxi to the Fiji Museum, where we spent an hour and a half wandering around, taking in some local history.

One of the more interesting exhibits was the shoe remains of a missionary who had been eaten by cannibals in 1867...... not all that long ago really!

"CANNIBALISM. ( compliments of Lonely Planet)
Archaeological evidence from food-waste middens shows that cannibalism was prac- tised in Viti Levu from around 500 BC until the mid- to late 19th century, during which time it had become an ordinary, ritualised part of life. In a society founded on ancestor worship and belief in the afterlife, cannibalising an enemy was considered the ultimate revenge. A disrespectful death was a lasting insult to the enemy’s family.
Bodies were consumed either on the battlefield or brought back to the village spirit house and offered to the local war god. They were then butchered, baked and eaten on the god’s behalf. The triumph was celebrated with music and dance. Men performed the cibi (death dance) and women the dele or wate (an obscene dance in which they sexu- ally humiliated corpses and captives). Torture of captives included being thrown alive into ovens, being bled or dismembered and being forced to watch their own body parts being consumed or eat some themselves.
Mementoes of the kill were kept to prolong the victor’s sense of vengeance. Neck- laces, hairpins or ear-lobe ornaments were made from human bones, and the skull
of a hated enemy was sometimes made into a tanoa (kava drinking bowl). Meat was smoked and preserved for snacks, and war clubs were inlaid with teeth or marked with tally notches. To record a triumph in war, the highlanders of Viti Levu placed the bones of victims in branches of trees outside their spirit houses and men’s houses as trophies. The coastal dwellers had a practical use for the bones: leg bones were used to make sail needles and thatching knives. Sexual organs and foetuses were suspended in trees. Rows of stones were also used to tally the number of bodies eaten by the chief.
The growing influence of Christianity had a great impact on cannibalism and the practice began to wane in the mid-1800s. By all accounts, it had ended by the turn of the century. Western fascination with the gruesome practice has remained alive and well, however. Original artefacts can be seen in the Fiji Museum in Suva, and souvenir cannibal forks are sold in abundant quantities everywhere. Traditionally, chiefs used these because it was forbidden for human flesh to touch their lips. Considered sacred relics, these forks were kept in the spirit house and were not to be touched by women or children. Today, it would appear, they make interesting wall features."

If you look closely you can see the cannibal fork in the bottom right hand corner of the photo.

After the museum we walked into Suva, where we enjoyed eating at the Golden Arch restaurant for lunch. I especially enjoyed the free WIFI to check my emails and a quick look at FB and the Age newspaper.

Suva was really busy, there was a cruise ship docked, and lots of Aussies wandering around. We bought a couple of souvenirs, and then ran into the rest of our group, who had also ventured into town for the afternoon. A local bus brought us back to the campus, where we were able to view all the wonderful art and craft work the competitors had produced.

A late dinner, I think the worst we have had yet, and then the last evening rally. We stayed only one hour, coming back to our dorms to prepare supper for the hungry hordes on their return at 9.30. This evening I added cheese and biscuits to the menu, and dropped the watermelon, which really was not all that tasty. We are all beginning to appreciated the fresh fruit variety we enjoy in Oz.

All the art work had to be collected, and unfortunately, two frames were broken in the transportation back to our dorm.

Lights out at 11.30 tonight.

DAY 5 of convention.

Our bags needed to be packed before breakfast this morning, as the rally began at 9 am. A fine day again, but very hot. The rally showcased some more command performances, again, some very talented young people, in particular a young lady ventriloquist.

Medals were distributed, our count was ...... A grand total of .........23. The home schoolers from NZ came out well, and the trophy awards were well spread around all the schools.

The rally was an utter marathon, not ending until 1 o'clock. I am guilty of falling asleep at least twice during the morning, I was just so tired. I am suffering from a bit of an upset tummy, and that is zapping my strength.

We did not have a lot of time for lunch, changing and completing packing then, it was all a bit rushed. As our bus had changed from a 22 seater to a 38, instead of. It being able to come to our dorms, we had to walk down to it, pulling our suitcases and various boxes with us. Mrs Chapman and I were the last to leave the dorm, and a very kind Fijian lady stopped her car and offered us a lift, at the same time as Frank turned up in a taxi for us.

Onto our air conditioned luxury coach, and off to our next port of call.

Two hours later and we arrived at Vikivita Resort, essentially a backpackers, but clean and comfortable. TRO and I have a motel suite, as do the four girls and their teacher who have joined us from Mt Carmel Christian School in Wodonga. All the students get on well, and over our pizza dinner, Andrew and Tim Chapman joined us from the convention.....they had been part of the 24/7 squad of helpers.

Our girls have dorm accommodation with Mrs Chapman as overseer, and the boys similarly, with Mr. Chapman. Personally I am so thankful for a comfortable bed, and private bathroom.

There is a nice pool here, which all enjoyed. Our host is Andrew and his family, very friendly and helpful native Fijians.

We have heard there is a tropical cyclone on its way, and parents are texting and ringing, very concerned for our safety.

An early night, and we will tackle the cyclone issue tomorrow .


Early swims for some, and big sleep ins for others. Our host, Andrew , assures us that we will safe where we are, that the cyclone is actually not heading our way, so we feel relieved, and confident to stay here.

We found our way into the town of Sigatoka by local bus. When we filled it completely. The driver shut the door and did not stop for any more passengers, which included Mr. Chapman and a couple of students who had walked to the local restaurant to place or order for dinner, and were at the next stop. They hailed a taxi for their .

We checked in to our river cruise office, were given our passports for the cruise, and all the girls were given a sarong, which we were to wear in the village we would visit, to cover our knees, and then had a little time for shopping in the town.

1 pm saw is loaded into buses, with Angie our guide,and a 40 minutes drive through the Sigatoka Valley to reach the place where the jet ski boats departed from.

We were kitted out in life jackets and divided into three groups, there were two large jet boats and one smaller. Ours was the smaller, along with four girls and our guide, Angie.

The boat sped up river through the Sigatoka Valley, until we reached our village . This village hosts visitors each Saturday , and we were the second and last group for the day.

After disembarking and donning our sarongs, we were led to the village church and it was explained to us what the proceedings would be. RTO was selected as our chief for the kava ceremony. This took place under a very large shelter, and afterwards there was a feast, singing and dancing.

After our hosts had sung us their farewell song, we sang to them....."as the deer pants for water" and the Australian national anthem. Our chief, and Mr Chapman both made speeches of farewell, and then we were taken back to where our jet boats were moored.

The village life is so simple, the folk spent six months of the year growing crops to be taken to market to sell, and the other six months, the wet season, just simply enjoying life together in the village. The children need to swim across the river to get to school, so being able to swim is a necessity.

Having the river cruise company visit the village provided income for them, which they spend improving their village. Other villages use the money for their children's education.

They have so little but seem to be content with what they do have. In comparison, we live like kings in Australia, even the poorest of us.

A very fast, exciting ride back, with our captain doing "360's" in the boat, so we were all thoroughly soaked through by the time we moored again.

By the time we were in phone range again Mrs Chapman was having urgent messages from school at home that we were to,leave Fiji ASAP , because the tropical cyclone Evan was now expected to hit Nadi on the day we were actually scheduled to leave. By some miracle, seats were secured for us on a flight leaving the next day.
We would still be able to enjoy our resort day tomorrow, so all was arranged for the bus to pick us up at our accommodation at 9 in the morning.

Our last meal together was at Coco's Bar, very enjoyable, and a nice sunset to boot.


8.45 saw us waiting for our bus to take us to Nadi.

And one of our number shinnying up a coconut tree!

The weather was still hot, but clouding over. An hour and a half travel, and we arrive at the resort we have booked into for the day. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, sitting around the pool, and lots of very nice swims in the pool.

Aysha and Janie met a new friend!

The resort bussed us over to the airport, and after much ado, we were booked onto our flight. Time for a little more shopping, and then we were up, up and away........the airport was closed, even as we taxied up the runway.....we were very blessed to get out of Fiji when we did.

Posted from the safety of Castlemaine.

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