Caitlyn is currently in Fiji! Fiji is a tiny cluster of islands just off of Australia and New Zealand. It is part of Oceania.
Here’s what she has to say about her trip so far:
It’s time to let your hair down and kick your shoes off because you’re on Fiji time now! In Fiji they don’t just say hello, instead they say bula vinaka which translates to good life. Stepping off the plane after a long flight, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but all worries went away when we were greeted by four musicians playing a traditional Fijian song for us while we were waiting to get through customs. Our advisor arranged for us to have a small tour around the island right off the bat. While enjoying the lush green forests, mountain ranges, and ocean shorelines we had to take a small break to fix a flat tire which was our first experience of being on “Fiji time”. All the locals use this term to explain the laid back lifestyle here. Fiji is home to many beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, which is what everyone pictured in their head when I told them I was studying in Fiji; however, Fiji has so much more to offer! To get to know the culture here in Fiji you don’t lay by the beach, instead you go and talk to the locals and visit villages.
Some of my favorite memories so far are when we went to villages. You kick your shoes off at the door and the whole family greets you as if you are a part of the family. They proceed to get to know you and joke around to make you feel at home and then they will prepare a variety of Fijian dishes, making it feel like Thanksgiving all over again. The traditional Fijian foods consist of a mixture of curries, root vegetables, lovo which is food prepared in an earth oven, and much more. My favorite dishes would have to be the Fijian version of chicken noodle soup and babakau, also known as Fijian pancakes. After dinner they will invite you to a kava session where everyone sits in a circle and take turns drinking a mixture of water and ground kava root which has a relaxing effect on your body. A few rules to follow are to clap before receive the kava, down all of the kava at one time, smile and don’t comment on the taste, and then clap three times while saying vinaka which means thank you or good. Fijians are some of the nicest people in the world and will greet you with a smile and a Bula any time they see you. If you are lost just ask a local around you and they will point you in the right direction, sometimes they will even walk you to your destination to make sure you find it. Some of the other international girls and I went the Hibiscus Festival with a local and this festival is one of the largest festivals in Fiji, but since it was rainy all week of the festival the grounds were extremely muddy and we were slipping and sliding everywhere. We were then convinced to go the Fiji way and removed our shoes and went walking straight through the mud and ate some Fijian BBQ with our hands, we were later informed many of the locals were surprised because they had never seen any international people willing to walk through the mud and get a little dirty, but we were having the time of our lives and laughing the whole way through the festival. Once we were done we found a local water spigot to wash off our feet and go about with the rest of our night.
The University of the South Pacific is located in Suva, Fiji which is considered the business side of the island. The closest shoreline is about a mile away from main campus; however it’s not good for swimming. Suva is also the rainy side of the island so it is common for it to rain a few times a week. The closest beach for lying out and swimming is a couple hours away from Suva. On weekends if we want to go to the beach we hop on a bus and take a 4 hour bus ride to Nadi which is the sunny side of the island. It’s relatively cheap to take a bus to and from Nadi and stay in a hostel for the week since $1 US is worth about $2 Fijian. For long trips the major source of transportation is a coach bus. For short trips there are three sources of transportation: walking, taking a public bus, or taking a taxi. The public buses are really cheap and a great way to talk to locals.
Since everyone runs on Fiji time lectures are a little more relaxed in Fiji verses the classes in the United States. It is normal for professors and students to walk into class anywhere from 5-20 minutes late. The professors ask a lot of questions to try to get the students to participate more in class and are willing to help students in any way they can to understand the material. Each class also has mandatory hour tutorial where students are given questions before hand and aids spend the time going over the answers to help prepare the students for the tests. When it came to scheduling classes, students pick the classes they are taking and then there is a set time for the lectures so depending on the classes you are taking there is a chance two lectures can be scheduled for the same time. To deal with that situation students would have to talk to the professors and switch back and forth on which lecture they go to and get the notes from the other lecture. The professors are willing to work with the students to resolve any clashes in classes. In order to try and experience as much of the culture as I possible I enrolled in the Fijian for Beginners. The professor encourages us to talk to the locals as much as possible and our first assignment was to ask around to find the Fijian equivalent to our name and how to introduce ourselves so, “Bula vinaka, o yau o Katalina”. Our professor also teaches us the basic as well as any phrases we want to know. Naturally one of the first phrases we learned was, “Au domoni iko” which means I love you romantically. My favorite phrase we have learned so far would have to be, “Saga na Laga” which means no worries which fits in with the relaxed lifestyle in Fiji. I’m only half way through the semester so I plan to explore as much as I can and learn as much as I can while I’m still able to. So until the semester is over and I am back in States I will have to leave you with a goodbye for now or moce mada!