I am currently studying Sociology in my third year at Cardiff University. I love to explore cultures and societies around the world.
My love for travel and the exploration of culture around the world has been one of life's greatest excitements for me for as long as I can remember. I spent my youth fortunate enough to venture to destinations such as Thailand, Finland and California – all of which revealed the incredible diversity that exists overseas. The assortment of different rituals, ceremonial behaviour and even mundane, everyday actions that are visible in one community but then not in another, sparked an interest in me that won’t ever be put out. This longing for authentic cultural experience led me to Think Pacific. They captured my attention from the onset, presenting Fiji as a beautiful country with even more beautiful people; something once said to me that I now say to anyone willing to listen.
The Fijian people are the some of the kindest, happiest and most lovely individuals I have ever met, while their appreciation for life is completely inspiring. The whole volunteer experience was centred around one community and we were fortunate enough to live with a Fijian family and see first-hand the lives of individuals who undoubtedly conducted a life so much different from our own. The culture shock was REAL, everything was new. Yet while us Brits struggled from time to time, the families we were surrounded by never failed to make us feel right at home – be that through a sing and a dance with the children or through making cakes with the “mums”. One thing in particular that has stuck with me, and probably will for the rest of my life, is the feeling of walking through the village in the mornings. Now I am not a morning person in the slightest, but when everyone from the elderly women having their morning cup of tea to the young children playing outside would shout a friendly “Bula” (hello) or “ni sa yadra” (good morning), it’s something to smile about. There is such a community feel there that you can never feel alone, being invited into someone’s house for tea is welcomed, as is dancing in the village hall with anyone and everyone. Music is a massive part of the culture over there and some of my fondest memories are found within recounting the numerous songs we became very familiar with. We began and ended with music, in fact the first time arriving at my home for the three weeks, I should’ve seen it coming! Myself, and the two volunteers staying with me, were there for not even half an hour before the living area was transformed into a dance hall. Within literally 10 minutes of meeting the family I was to stay with, I met my “cousin” who was the “village dancer” by all accounts – something I most definitely believe. The beats echoed through the walls and in no time, we were all being out-danced by a 16-year-old and all the commotion brought about 30 children from across the village to the windows of the house. It certainly was a warm welcome and from that moment until our parting goodbyes, its safe to say the dancing never stopped!
The happiness I experienced there was unlike any other I have felt. It truly is. Explaining my time in Fiji is one that I struggle with as I believe that no matter the enthuse you speak with, the lengthy descriptions, there are no words that can do it justice. I was whole-heartedly welcomed into a home of strangers and I came away with a second family. To the outside eye (and even I cannot comprehend it at times) this calling of second family almost seems too much. I had only known them for three weeks after all, yet the acceptance and love that I felt from them is everlasting. I continue to send letters and small gifts there and wish them well on celebratory days, as they do to me. Their good nature will continue to inspire me and the whole experience has intensified further my longing for travel and my appreciation of cultural practices across the globe.