Being selected for the Global Citizenship Project was the most rewarding experience of my life. When my name was called and Fiji was announced as the country I was chosen for, I pictured beautiful beaches, hot sun, and palm trees (as most people would). What I experienced was so much more than that. Fiji welcomed us with open arms. After a full day of travel, we finally met Tim, our Peace Corps Volunteer and leader for the week. Our first day was spent in Savusavu and was filled with learning and excitement.
The next day, though was where the trip really began for me. Kioa is a remote island in Fiji, but is actually inhabited by people of Tuvalu (an entirely different culture from Fiji). Kioa is where we were taken on day two of our trip and is where we stayed for the next two days. The island has electricity for only 3 hours a day, all meals are eaten on the floor, and everything is HOT. I was amazed at Tim, our leader, for the joy and love that he showed us within this community. We each had host families that accepted us for the next two days.
We spent the days eating with our families, snorkeling and playing with the children at the local school. On our final night on the island we took part in a traditional Fatele ceremony, with Tim as one of the main dancers in the event. It was amazing to see him as an accepted member of this traditional population of people. Kioa, Tim and the rest of my amazing group taught me more on this trip than anything else did. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until several days later. After leaving Kioa we went all around the rest of the country, with many more highlights, such as the visit to Fiji National University. This was especially exciting for me as a nursing student because we were able to be welcomed in the warmest and most sincere was possible by the FNU nursing students and had the opportunity to speak and mingle with them. We also traveled to a Hindu temple, the Peace Corps headquarters, and to a beautiful waterfall. We also experienced a bit of Cyclone Pam, a category five tropical storm that developed during the week of our stay in Fiji. Due to Cyclone Pam’s potential for destruction in many parts of the Fiji islands, the Peace Corps safety policies forced our wonderful guide and now friend, Tim to leave us sooner than expected and stay in Suva, when we left for Nadi. I knew early on that the potential for Tim to leave us was there, but I didn’t really believe it until he stepped off the bus and gave us a lovely goodbye. Tim and his family on Kioa taught me so much about what is important in life. I’ve learned that material items do not create happiness. The people of Kioa live very simple lives and still find joy and love within their community daily. Tim gives so much of himself to everyone around him and is an inspiration in my life. The twelve of us quickly became family and I learned that these memories will never be replicated, replaced or shared with anyone else. I have been rejuvenated with the desire to truly see what’s important in life, to strive to help others in more ways and to inspire others to do the same thing, as Tim and his family in Kioa have inspired me. I can’t thank Shenandoah University enough for this amazing opportunity and especially Tim.
Vinaka (Thank You!)
P.S. – If you are a member of my new family, then you know I didn’t make it through this blog without tears 🙂 Love you!