VACALEA VILLAGE, KADAVU ISLAND, FIJI
On Thursday, April 30th, we left Nadi, Fiji to travel to the Kadavu island. The Kadavu island is the fourth largest island in Fiji but receives the most traffic, next to the main land, due to its location. When we first pulled up to the Nadi airport, the airport was closed due to a bomb threat. My mom doesn't know this till now because I "accidentally" forgot to mention this piece of information in my phone call to her. Ya know, didn't want to worry the parents too much! Once the airport was cleared we arrived in Kadavu island via the sketchiest plane ride I've ever taken in my life. Legit this plane had bolts and screws missing and the landing strip for the plane was the width of the entire Kadavu island. Plus on top of it all the plane was fishtailing into the landing strip as if it were sliding on black ice. Needless to say this was my first taste of being scared for my life for the next seven days. After our plane ride, we hiked to the side of the bay where a motorboat picked us up to take us to Vacalea Village. The motorboat ride was probably the most exciting 45 minutes I had had all day and I actually felt quite safe in this fishing boat turned motorboat. Vacalea Village is a native Fijian village located in the mountains of Kadavu. The hike up to this village was equivalent to Hiking the Y except a million times more beautiful. The views over the oceans and the tree tops were breathtaking and I can see exactly why Vacalea Village is so loved! Once we arrived in the village we settled into the home we would be staying at for the next few days and went out for an afternoon of sea-kayaking and snorkeling. My first experience sea-kayaking on this trip was not the greatest and my first snorkeling experience was equally as rough. On my first sea-kayaking excursion my partner, Jamie, and I struggled to get a rhythm down. As a result we ran into a fallen palm tree and a grove of mangrove trees. We struggled to say the least but we had a blast laughing through it all. Snorkeling. Well the snorkeling in Fiji is absolutely beautiful! The only downfall about snorkeling in the Fijian seas is the big waves that can come resulting in mouthfuls of swallowed salt water! Still, I saw Nemo and Dory while snorkeling and that made for one happy Mikyla. That night we were welcomed into the village once again through a traditional Fijian ceremony. It was so cool to see the native Fijian traditions in practice today and experience it all first hand. During this ceremony I was able to try Kava for my first time. It taste a lot like mud water and totally makes your tongue numb even after one drink. One "low tide" bowl was enough for me and I was done! The next morning we were woken up at 5AM by the village roosters. Mere (Mary) was assigned to look over our group while on our trip to Fiji. Mere is 22, loves Beyonce, and dancing. Mere taught us a dance she and her dance crew choreographed to a Ciara song. Honestly I love Mere so much and really feel I was able to make a new friend in Fiji that I will stay in contact with! Mere made Fiji so much fun! We spend the early afternoon snorkeling and sea-kayaking once again. After lunch Mere taught us how to weave using palm leaves. We were also about to help repaint the community center in Vacalea Village as a service project for providing food and shelter for us. The second night in Vacalea was so much fun. As the sun set over the village we joined the village in a game of volleyball. The Fijians are so good at volleyball and we got our butts whipped. I loved this moment of pure bliss and camaraderie as two completely different cultures bonded over a common love for a sport. The next morning was our last morning in Vacalea Village before departing for Daku Village. After a wonderful breakfast we got to participate in a traditional Fijian farewell ceremony. Each of us were given beautiful flower leis and had powder put on our faces representing good luck and safe travels. I loved Vacalea Village. It was absolutely beautiful and I loved learning more about the people who live there. It was such a joy to talk and become friends with those who live in Vacalea. I loved playing with the little kids, oh my goodness they captured my heart! The Fijians are so kind, extremely compassionate, humble, loving, and giving. It was a unique experience to live in a Fijian village for 3 days and experience the true culture of Fiji. So many come to Fiji only to visit the resorts and Americanized beaches. Although the village life was hard (no electricity, running water, sleeping on mats for beds, Fijian food isn't the greatest, bugs and critters literally everywhere, etc...) I would not trade my experience in the village one bit. You truly feel welcomed and apart of their life in the village! xx, m.