It’s official! I know where I will be working and what I will be doing for the next two years of my life!

As I type this, I am sitting on a wooden deck about 20 feet from the sea and a white sandy beach. There are coconut trees over my head and mountains surround me. It is hard to believe that a place like this exists and that I will be living in it for the next two years. I am very lucky! I have been placed to work at a primary school called Ratu Naivalu Memorial School on the island of Waya Levu in the Yasawa group. I live on the school compound, which is a five-minute walk down the beach from the village of Yalobi. I feel very fortunate to be the only volunteer who has been placed in the Yasawa group… I hit the jackpot! Although I am living in the paradise of Fiji and the resort region, there are many challenges here! For example, I have no electricity. We have running water only 3 hours of the day (if that), and it isn’t even drinkable water. In fact, due to the current drought, I have had to leave the island twice already. In addition, I am relatively isolated from the mainland and other volunteers. It is only a 2-hour boat ride to Lautoka, which is a major city in Fiji, but transportation is limited and very expensive, so I won’t be going to the mainland very often- unless the drought continues. On the island of Waya Levu, there are 4 villages (only accessed by boat), one resort (also accessible by boat only), and the school compound. The students stay on the school grounds from Sunday-Friday, because their only transport home is the school boat, so it’s essentially a boarding school. This semi-boarding school set up is great for me because the kids are always here. It is never lonely and gives me the opportunity to work with the kids after school on reading, go on hikes, play sports with them, and teach zumba lessons; however, it also creates a lot of work for the teachers who have to oversee the kids 24/5. Currently the teachers and students are all on Christmas holiday. The students go back to their villages, and the teachers go back to the mainland. I am going to be alone on the school compound, so the village headman from Yalobi (the turaga ni koro) and his family have offered to move into one of the empty houses on the teacher’s compound to keep me company during the break. I am very grateful for this! During the school break, my jobs are to get to know the community and village of Yalobi, prepare my health lessons and reading programs for next year, and work with the village nurse. I am also hoping to give health talks to the youth group of Yalobi, put together resources and tools for teaching next school year, and learn more yoga and zumba to teach the students and staff when they return in 2015. I am really looking forward to the next 8 weeks, because I will have plenty of time to learn how to spear fish, learn to climb a coconut tree, hike the island, eat fresh mangoes, and read lots of books!

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