I said I had so much more to say about Fiji so here it is…!
As mentioned previously I was part of a project called Think Pacific, which involved teaching in a local school and kindergarten. Our aims included improving the children’s English (it was already pretty good), supporting the slower learners and emphasising the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Teeth-brushing is often neglected in Fiji and when it’s not unusual to see a child put five tablespoons of sugar in a mug of tea you can understand the need for it.
One of the most adorable things I have ever seen was a kindergarten class or 3-5 year olds participating in toothbrush club! In great excitement they’d troop outside to run water over their toothbrushes before wielding them at us, requesting a blob of toothpaste. We’d brush our own teeth alongside them as a demonstration; a couple of children would watch us obediently whilst others preferred running around mid-brush, toothbrushes hanging from little pouting mouths. Then when it came to spitting and rinsing the little ones would create a mess in their eagerness, dirtying pink checked dresses with toothpaste dribble. We also taught the importance of washing hands before eating and after going to the toilet. Soap was a bit of a rarity so I got through a lot of hand sanitizer! Here’s to hoping these habits continue long after we have left the schools.
One lesson that was very easy to teach was sport! The Fijian children are brutally competitive and recklessly enthusiastic. When they are used to diving into rivers, horse-riding bareback, and carrying machetes (yes, on several occasion we saw children wandering the village, an enormous knife in tow) it seems hockey is pretty tame! A highlight of my school teaching involved coaching the netball team. The children didn’t have a sports kit as such, more a scruffy set of clothes that could be dirtied and ruined or that was already falling apart. The girls were lovely, they listened eagerly and even when the lesson was over they’d continue throwing the netball around between themselves. One particularly great day the netball and rugby teams piled into a carrier, with posters and chants prepared, to play against another school. They prayed before playing and I felt like a proud mother as the girls supported each other and played fantastically. We won! And the girls hugged me and one even cried!
On the last day of teaching the school put together a meal for us (including cake!) and we were given beautiful wreaths made form real flowers and leaves to wear round our necks. Fijians really are so hospitable. And then came the goodbye and it was emotional! Two of my netball girls pulled me aside to hand me little notes. In awkward English they expressed how much they’d miss us and emphasised that we would be friends forever. After much hugging and a few tears we waved goodbye and they sung us a song as the carrier pulled out of the school. It was a subdued drive back to the village. I’ll miss their positivity and energy, their warmth and enthusiasm. It sounds cheesy, I know, but all of the volunteers agreed, though we were meant to be the teachers the children are the ones who educated us.
Much Love xx