Fiji: The First Week

February 18, 2010 - Suva, Fiji

      Well it's a good sign that I'm actually sitting here writing this, meaning I made it through Survivor: Fiji and everything else that came with it to get to the ultimate destination of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It's definitely been an interesting while thrilling experience so far. There's been so much I didn't expect- good and bad. I joked that it was like survivor but really there are some similarities that stand out. You get off a plane with a bunch of strangers in a place you've never been or considered a possiblility going in your life until you actually got there. You get an immediate look into people and places that were so unknown to you until they really exist. That's why they tell you it's an experience you won't forget for the rest of your life. I have no clue where to begin, and there's far too much to get to everything, but I will definitely try my best to recap the important stuff (NOTE- This first entry will likely be longer than most that I will do for several reasons). I also want to thank any of you that take the time to actually read this. I have you all in mind as I do. Thank you.

                                                                    ***********

     I remember being so sweaty running through LAX just trying to get to the right terminal. I was kind of excited to have to walk outside for a minute just to say I've been outside in California. But 57 degrees felt like 87 compared to the ice box I was coming from. No celebs were in sight though. The first person I met from AIFS Sydney was this black guy Trey from the ATL. We started talking and pretty much immediately he broke out his non-stop video camera that he's recorded half the trip on so far. My complaints about how there's no restaurants in the international terminal at LAX are all over that footage. He's a pretty interesting and good guy and he would eventually be my homestay roommate.

The plane ride made to Figi made me feel like I was in the neverending story. Everytime I looked out the window I saw black. I was sitting next to this middle-aged Fijian man from Vancouver named Shiu Ram who owns his own carpet & upholstery care company there. He gave me some good tips about Fiji and definitely thinks the Blackhawks are good hockey team. I guess he thought enough of me to give me his business card in case I'm in Vancouver ever. Not too sure when that will be but I hear it's a great city.

After we landed it was amazing to get out and realize where I was. People were talking about how it was a seen right out of Jerassic Park because that's how it looked. We stayed at a hotel called the Hexagon the first two nights and that was purely like being on a vacation. In our group there are 32 total people (24 girls, 8 guys, haha I know right). Needless to say was pretty easy to enjoy eachother in that kind of environment. The second day was a busy day and it stated with a morning 2 mile run to the beach that a few of us went on. Then later in the day we took a boat ride to an island off the coast of the the main island to a place called South Sea Island. There we got a free lunch with free drinks (the national beer there was something called Fiji Bitter or there was Fiji Gold), I was also able to go sailing and attempt to scuba dive (it wasnt working for alot of us because of the waves but the coral we did get to see was pretty cool). Not to mention take a trip into a yellow submarine. The only fallback from the day was an ensuing sunburn that would completely fry most of my back and arms. It would be hard to move the next few days but I would eventually get over it. That was a pretty full day.

Day 3 was our moving day from the hotel in Nadi to our host families 3 hours away in the capital and biggest town of Suva. Along the way we stopped at a sand dune national park and got some amazing views of the coastline of Fiji. Some of the sand dunes were unbelievably huge and some people had a tough time getting down. After that we went to a beachside inn to get lunch and we got to catch a little bit of the Super Bowl. At that point the Saints were still losing and we left at halftime but later on the bus we were thrilled to hear they came back and won.

The host family that I would be staying with was actually the family of the study abroad coordinator Sera, which was pretty easy since we had met at the airport and been with her on the first couple days. She had a husband (Tah) and a 25 year-old daughter (also Sera) that lived with her as well as 3 more sons that don't anymore. I really enjoyed them, they were definitely a traditional Fijian family and the mom Sera was a really fine cook. It also just so happened that Trey would be the other person living here with me too so it was bound to be a fun time. The daughter Sera was a really cool girl and we also had a running joke going that I liked the other program coordinator Safaire. We ended up using her name as part of anything we said and there were some hilarious things that came out of that. Anyway later on that first night me and Trey took part in a welcoming ritual that involved drinking a national drink called Kava. Kava is a drink that comes from the root of a certain national plant and it is supposed to numb your body up once you drink it. The ritual had everyone sitting around the huge bowl where it was made in and basically everyone took turns drinking. Me and Trey probably had too much. I don't know, it made me sleep well so I didn't mind that even though I woke up with 8 mesquito bites on one foot (the mesquito nets we got apparently didn't work too well).

Most of the week ahead saw me and Trey exploring the city with other various members of our program. I got to see Suva's inner harbor, go to have drinks at a floating boat restaurant, stop in a lesser version of Pizza Hut where I could have sworn this guy we saw looked exactly like Ron Artest the troubled NBA star. We had to take taxis to most places and they kind of drive out of control. I don't know if I could ever drive on that island. I feel bad for anyone that does. But the people were for the most part friendly and would always counterreply with the phrase "Bula" whenever you said the traditional greeting.

 Eventually I had to pay a morning visit with Safaire (because I guess it was part of her job) to the Australian Embassy in Fiji to sort out my visa issues, except they were already apparently sorted out. That was certainly interesting and I got a picture of the outside of it even though a security guard told me not to. Our group had a really good time at one of the nightclubs in downtown Suva called Traps. For whatever reason they played some really good music. And on the last night with our host families we all ate at a local chinese restaurant and had somewhat of a farewell celebration with all the students and their host families. 

The 3 hour bus ride back to Nadi included a stop at this Eco Park zoo type place where we saw some interesting types of animals- especially the birds. We stopped back at the Bedarra Bach Inn to get lunch again, and after we went walking around on the beach which was full of coral skelatons. One of the guys Cameron knocked down a coconut and then broke it open on a rock and we all actually drank some of the milk from it! Out of a straw! Those things are damn hard to get open.

The last night at the hotel was kind of low key as we had to get up at pitched-black 5:30am the next day for our flight to Sydney. The airport in Nadi makes Miami's look good by the way. I did happen to catch the end of the NBA slam-dunk contest and was annoyed to see Nate Robinson win it for the third time when he's not that great of a dunker in real games. I just hope Derrick Rose was healthy enough to play in his first game the next day.

I guess that leads me to Sydney where I will keep you posted soon on the events so far here. Thanks for reading!

Ryan


8 Comments

Meaghan:
February 18, 2010
Hi Ryan!! I am so glad you got this set up AND you took tons of pictures too (I was a little worried as to how that was going to go)! It looks like you are having a great time. I have to say that I almost started crying when I was reading this and looking through the pictures because all my abroad memories came rushing back. Keep updating and taking pictures and hopefully we can skype sometime soon!

Miss you!
Meaghan
Mom:
February 18, 2010
Thanks Ryan! I loved seeing the pictures & hearing what has happened so far! It is beautiful there! Can't wait to hear & see more!
I love you lots! Mom
Dad:
February 18, 2010
Ryan,

Glad to see you're having fun! 2 to 1 girl ratio and beer, not bad. Good luck son.

Love Dad
Sue:
February 19, 2010
Hi Ryan!

Oh my gosh ... this site is awesome. I LOVE your pictures. Fiji is just beautiful -- I can't wait to see Australia and "live" there for a couple of months through you and your "blog".

It looks like you have great group of people - and you are obviously have lots of fun already! I was surprised to see & hear about the drinking but I guess you are growing up. Next time you, your mom and I got to Chevy's - you'll have to have a beer with us. Ha! :)

I haven't heard back from Curt but I'm going to email him again tomorrow - with hopes my note gets to him on the weekend when he won't be busy at work. I'll keep you posted!

Take good care of yourself and continue having FUN!! I'll look forward to your entries and pictures!

With Love & a hug,
Sue
sera jnr:
March 5, 2010
hiya! safaira!...hahaha jokes...

hiya ryan

thank u so much for sendin the link ....great pics and love the journal entry....

u enjoy ur stay in aussie aight....nd pliz u and trey stay out of trouble..lol!!!

ta and na sends their love

take care aight

sera jnr
July 10, 2010
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