Field Notes

Fiji 1A • June 12-June 28, 2018

Fun Fjiian Times!

June 27, 2018

Bula everyone!

 

As we woke up this morning to one last beautiful sunrise over the waters of Fiji, the bunch’s hearts felt bittersweet.  These final days spent in Fiji were the perfect ending to an unbelievable past two weeks, and we could not have asked for anything more.

 

After spending five days in the middle of the highland jungle, it was refreshing to kick back in hand woven hammocks with our crew looking out at a view that most only see on computer screensavers. We soaked up our time together playing group games by the resort pool and enjoyed hot meals prepared by the staff before and after surfing the incredible crashing waves that only the island of Fiji can offer.

 

Our first day at the beach resort, Taylor and Kate lead the group and with their motivation and leadership, we were able to conquer the morning’s pop up rain showers by viewing a situation of adversity as a chance to dance in the rain rather than a problem of getting wet.  As we laid in hammocks enjoying the beautiful view of the rain fall under the grass roofs, we sipped on morning coffees and jammed to our “Bula Bunch Bangers” playlist conjured up by our local DJs David and Alex.  After a relaxing morning, we met up with our surf guides Semi, Pauly, and Lessi (who by the way is the number one surfer in all of Fiji and will represent the country in a competition in Japan taking place in a couple of months). As we learned the local surfing lingo and tips for becoming pro surfers, George A and George P listened to Lessi’s stories of riding the fifty-foot swells that hit Cloud Break just weeks before.  With our expert teachers and some killer swells, we all paddled out to the channel and put our skills to the test.  After only minutes in the water, we were convinced that Elizabeth might secretly be a pro surfer alongside our guides and may need to start practicing her Japanese as well. And shortly after, the entire bula bunch embraced their inner surfer and took on the waves with ease. Alli and Isabel even held hands and surfed side by side!  We all got lost in Fiji time getting “pitted” on gnarly waves and were unable to stop smiling and laughing. Next thing we knew, the sunlight as well as the tides were working against the bunch. And because of such uncontrollable, external forces, we hopped back on the boat to go back to the resort and were already eager for the next morning’s surf.

 

That night, we all put on our finest Fijian clothes that were mostly provided by Brooks with his unmatched, extensive collection of Hawaiian beach shirts. And with the whole crew dressed to the nines, we all gathered for our outdoor banquet dinner next to the crashing waves and below a beautiful night sky. It felt like the perfect setting for our last dinner in Fiji. We sipped on cold sodas and feasted on an assortment of penne pasta, dhal soup, garlic bread, deep-fried squid, and marinated lamb chops.  With the help of Gretchen, the staff, and a few others we surprised the group with a giant ice cream mountain and an open soda tab at the bar.  Everyone grabbed a spoon and as one big happy family, we tried to conquer one the most formidable mountains Moondance has ever offered.

 

With stomachs almost as full as our hearts, everyone went down to the beach for pictures and our second to last Moonup.  As we joined in a circle on the white sand with only the moon and stars to light up each other’s faces, we reminisced on our time spent together and fully embodied the Fijian favorite phrase, “sanga la langa,” by living our best lives without a worry in the world. After Moonup, conversations continued late into the night and everyone took advantage of each minute left they could spend with each other.

 

This morning, we woke up with the sun in order to venture out for one last surf in Fiji. And with the new morning, came a fresh set of waves that rivaled our previous surf. With a day of practice under our belts, everyone started to show off just how good they had become. Our girls, Josie and Lela, thoroughly impressed everyone as they rode the waves nearly all the way to the shore each time. Overall, the salty air, morning sun, and world-class surfing culminated into the most picturesque possible start to our last day.

 

Now, as we make our way back to Nadi to catch our flight, the bunch must take in final their breathtaking views that only this island has to offer.  The realization that tonight the night we have to say our goodbyes to the bunch makes for some heavy hearts, however Katherine and I are overwhelmed with joy and anticipation to see what the future holds for all thirteen of the incredible young men and women.  Each of them is so incredibly special and full of potential and the world better get ready. We hope that the experiences and lessons gained in this heaven on earth stay close to the hearts of each of them for a lifetime.  Thank you so much for blessing us with your each of them, and allowing them to join us on this adventure.  The impact they have had on our lives and those of the communities in Fiji are unable to fully be expressed in words, and we hope that their impact has been reciprocated by us. I hope you are all ready for some amazing stories as everyone returns home, and as I close would like to leave you all with one of my favorite quotes from the film “35” by Arc’Teryx.

 

“After all these years, I refuse to believe that joy costs something, or that you have to get on a plane to find it, or that it has to happen on vacation, and that dreams can’t come true on a Tuesday.”

 

 

Thank you all again,

 

Robby and Katherine


Community Service in the Books!

June 25, 2018

Bula! The bunch has just completed the service section of our trip, and we have much to report! On Wednesday morning, we left our scuba hub, Pacific Harbor, and began our journey north to the Wainadiro village. We drove to the Nabokelevu village and boarded whitewater rafts with our guides Kini, Simi, Peta, and Noah, to embark on our ride down the upper Navua River. The bunch had a blast rafting down the “River of Eden”, waging raft wars and marveling at the narrow, steep canyon walls. It was an incredible experience gazing up at the layers of sedimentary rock that have rested here for eons and eons, and we felt like we were in another time. On the water, our guides regaled us with ancient legends of their villages as well as tales of the upper Navua region’s past inhabitants. For lunch, we stopped by a tributary of the river and had sandwiches and skipped rocks. Shortly after, we boarded our boats once more to make our final stretch to the village.

Eighteen miles later, we pulled off to the side of the river, tied on our sulus, and settled into our new home! It did not take long for the crew to make many new friends and we even acquired a pet dog that was found by David and Alex and named “Cookies” by George Porter. That night, we felt right at home as the entire village warmly greeted us during a welcoming ceremony where the chief accepted us as official members of the village, and we spent that evening getting to know all the kids and elders.  A definite highlight of the ceremony came after accepting our new identities, when Brooks and George Porter sang a Tim McGraw song in an attempt to give the locals a little taste of our own Southern culture.

During the next couple of days in the village, we spent time at the local school building a new nurses’ quarters and playing with the kids. After long days of work our nights were spent back home on our porch where Taylor, Alli, George, and Katherine held ongoing Rummy tournaments while the rest played the guitar and chatted with one another. While at the school, everyone rose to the occasion and did their part. While Kate, Josie, David, and Alex made cement for our new addition to the school, Lela and George taught a math class, and David and Gretchen read books to the kids. Our artist Alli was a particular hit amongst the kids during the art lessons, along with Brooks who skillfully showed the kids how to draw Shrek properly. It was so special connecting with the kids and their families during school and after hours. The families were so appreciative, and one family even had us over for curry during our lunch break.

On our last day of service, we finished up some building and played games with the kids. Even though it was rainy, we made our fun and played sharks and minnows in a mud pit. Mateo, Sete, and Meriola showed how to properly rugby tackle as they dragged us down into the mud, bringing back the joy of being kid again. By the end of the game, everyone was completely covered in mud and had to run down to a nearby village to take river showers before lunch.  After lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon learning how to play rugby and netball from the kids and in return, we taught them classic Moondance games such as Birdy on a Perch where Kate and her new pal Leo were crowned champions.

We wrapped up our time in the Wainidiro Village on Sunday, where we had the opportunity to attend their mass service with the local community. It was an extraordinary experience for everyone that further strengthened our bond with the community and its people. The rest of the day, we continued spending time with the people during their day of rest, sharing stories and reminiscing on the memories made over the past few days, and that night we had a bonfire altogether on the beach and sang songs. At the end of the night, Elizabeth, Isabel, Kate, and Robby closed out our fun with a rendition of Vance Joy’s “Riptide” for the kids. It was awesome!

This morning, we wrapped up our time in the village with a farewell ceremony at the chief’s house and hopped back on the Navua River to get to Komave for our surfing section of the trip. Along the way, we stopped at the enormous “Wainikavou waterfall” which is known for its powers to both rejuvenate one’s body as well as invigorate one’s adventurous spirit. After swimming in the falls, we rode a colorful motorboat to the Nakavu village and then hopped on a bus to transfer us all the way to our final destination! After a long day of travel by kayak, boat, and bus, the bunch is happily settling into our new beach bungalow for the remainder of our adventure! As the end of the trip nears we realize the power of living in the moment more than ever. We are excited to embrace every second of our last few days together in this breathtakingly beautiful place. We can’t wait to share our time spent here with you all back home. But for now, we have some waves to catch!

 

Surf’s up!

Robby and Katherine

 


Scuba was a Success!

June 25, 2018

Bula all the way from Pacific Harbor, Fiji! The Bula Bunch wrapped up the scuba portion of our trip and wow, did we have a good time.  While in Pacific Harbor, the bunch became officially PADI scuba certified with the help of our friends Ely and Louis. Our first two days consisted of wrapping up the confined water dives in the mornings and then beach bumming and exploring the arts village in the afternoons.

On the first day in the art village, many of the kids tried fresh coconut milk and other souvenirs to take back home. Later that day, we played volleyball and watched the sunset then went to dinner at a local restaurant. Earlier that day at the restaurant, George, Isabel, and Katherine befriended a local band known as “Bitz and Piecez” who played during dinner that night and we even convinced Robby to join them on stage for a few songs. Everyone had a blast dancing around and cheering on Robby and the band.

We spent our second day wrapping up scuba certification in the pool learning some critical skills and then hanging around the beach in George Porter, David, and Alex’s Enos. For dinner, we cooked in with the help of another new friend, Ash. Ash taught the LODs, George Porter, and Kate, how to make a traditional, celebratory Fijian curry and for dessert, we conducted a cook-off with two teams. The first team, known as the “the Southern Shakas,” had George, George Porter, Elizabeth, Isabel, David, and Taylor. They finessed some Southern-fried Oreos also known as the “Fried Oceania.” The other team consisted of Brooks, Gretchen, Lela, Josie, Alex, Alli, and Kate and this crew whipped up a beautiful Fijian cake with various ingredients and decorations, such as pecans and coconut shavings, to honor different traditions and aspects of the Fijian culture. The panel of judges was leader Katherine along with surprise celebrity guests Alana, one of the owners of the resort, and Asava, a 6’7 foot Fijian rugby player. In the end, while the final decision was a tough one, the “Fried Oceania” won for its spunk, style, and level of risk.

On the third day, we began our open water dives altogether on the “Marine Sprint.” We dove along the Kobe Reef and felt enthralled putting our skills to the test in the soft coral capital of the world, and the bunch loved witnessing the beautiful multi-colored coral and marine life. That night, we went into the arts village for dinner and encountered more new friends, Stella and Pete, who own a Memphis style blues joint known as “Baha Blues Café.” Stella invited us to dine on the porch under the stars while two local musicians played familiar Southern blues tunes for everyone. And when we thanked Stella at the end of our meal, she parted us with sage words of wisdom stating, “We are all here for one reason, to live life to the max!” Stella truly understands the Moondance way!

Our next two days of open water dives opened with a bang! We immediately saw many unbelievable bull and tiger sharks; however, not one member of the Bula Bunch feared because, in Fiji, the sharks are vegetarians and only give you big Bula smiles with their rather large pearly whites.  Other than seeing sharks, we also marveled at the fantastic oranges, purples, and greens within the corals as well as the different fish. We even saw a lionfish!

Overall, the scuba portion of our trip was a success and filled with new experiences and friends. And now we are off to the Wainadiro village to begin the service component of our adventure!

Vanaka and Bula!

Katherine and Robby

P.S Because we missed father’s day, everyone wrote a shout out to his or her dads back home! We hope everyone had a great day!!

Kate – Hey Mom and Dad, I hope you guys are having fun without kids. I love & miss you guys, but I’m having the time of my life. Say hi to Lucy for happy late fathers day and me!

George A. – Hello from Fiji. I hope you guys had a great swim season. Wish I could be there but I’m enjoying my time in Fiji. See y’all in a few days, and Happy Late Father’s Day!

Gretchen- What’s up fam! I bet Cola isn’t the same without me;) Happy (late) Father’s Day Houner! Cant wait to eat your filets and other meals when I get home. Fiji is pretty great by the way, but I still miss yall. Much love & Pluto Momma!

Josie- Hey Mom and Dad!! I miss y’all, but I’m having so much fun in Fiji. It is a lot cooler than Macon. The food is really good, especially the fries. Also Happy Late Father’s Day Dad!! Love y’all and cant wait to see y’all in a few days.

David-  Bula, Fiji is cooler than Greenville so far 😉 Hope everything is well with yall and my friends. Happy late Fathers’ Day to Dad!

Taylor- Bulaaaa fam!! I miss yall lots and cant wait to see yall super soon!!! I hope yall are enjoying your time without me:) Fiji is so, so pretty and we are having lots of fun! Love yall soo much and Happy Late Fathers Day!!!

Alli- Happy late father’s day!! Love you guys and miss you!! Can’t wait to get home and celebrate with a filet. Hope you had a few ICBs. See y’all soon!!!

Elizabeth- Hey dad! Happy late fathers day, I hope everything is going well with you, rusty, and lila. I miss you so much but Fiji is amazing! See you soon! Hey Mom I miss you so much, hows Finn? It would be so cool if he was talking… I hope everything is good with you. I love you both.

Brooks- happy daddy day, daddy!! Fiji is your type of place. I need to bring the whole fam with me next time! And smooches to mommy and maxy.

Isabel- Hi Mom and Dad + Scott and Shannon, I’m having the absolute best time in Fiji! We just finished our scuba certification and tomorrow we are rafting to a village for our service work. I miss and love you all bunches!! Also happy late Father’s Day Dad, you’re the best! Can’t wait to tell you all about Fiji, see ya!

George P. – Hey Mom and Dad I’m having an amazing time in Fiji! I’m the designated chef for our group. The scuba diving has been amazing and tomorrow we are rafting to a village. Tell the family that I love them and miss everyone. Also happy fathers day Dad! Love yall!!!

Lela- Hey family. Fiji has been so so fun so far! But wanted to say Happy Father’s day to the one and only Stevoooo! I love and miss you! Can’t wait to tell yall all about it! Say hello to the rest of the fam for me and tell Griff I said happy birthday and I miss him!! Love yall!

Alex- Bula Dad Fiji has been really fun so far and I have met a lot of new people, but I just wanted to say Happy Fathers Day! Love you Dad and hope your day is/was full of lots of good things. -#1


The Bula Bunch

June 15, 2018

Bula, bula, bula all the way from Nadi, Fiji!  “The Bula Bunch,” also known as Fiji group A, launched off to a great start on our first official day together. While the journey across the Pacific was long, not one day can go to waste on this magnificent adventure. We headed to Port Nedarau for an afternoon of sailing and snorkeling on a huge catamaran known as the “Wanaka.” Our friendly crewmembers, Tiko and Sela, led us snorkeling along the island of Mula Mula where we met many friendly underwater creatures. We were immediately greeted by a sea turtle who cruised below us for the first bit of our swim. Then, Elizabeth, Alli, and Gretchen held some slimy sea cucumbers that Tiko dove down to retrieve for everyone to see. Isabel, Lela, and Kate quickly found a couple of cobalt blue starfish that were so stunning, we joked with Sela that they were “made in China.” While the girls examined their new little friends, George Porter, Alex, and David became particularly fascinated diving further into the sea to have staring competitions with the eels.

Everyone thrived in their neon green and yellow flippers as they swam around the incredibly colorful, intricate coral and through many schools of zebra and parrotfish. After snorkeling, we hopped back on the boat and cruised around listening to music and getting to know each other over lunch in our one large boat hammock. George and Brooks especially enjoyed lounging on the big beanbags in the sun, while Josie and Taylor watched Sela weave “Pendane” leaves into flowers, grasshoppers, and birds. We finished the day with our first moon up altogether sharing our goals for the trip and enjoying some tunes from Robby on the guitar. The Bula Bunch’s first day was an absolute dream and we cannot be more excited to begin Scuba diving in Pacific Harbor tomorrow!

 

Soda tale-vinaka!

Robby and Katherine


Safely in Fiji!

June 13, 2018

Hello Fiji Families,

We are writing with some exciting news – all Fiji groups have landed safely with all their bags in tow! We are so excited for them, can’t wait to hear from them soon!

-Moondance HQ


Students

  • George
  • George
  • Isabel
  • Alli
  • David
  • Lela
  • Alex
  • Josie
  • Gretchen
  • Kate
  • Elizabeth
  • Brooks
  • Taylor

Staff