I wake to the shuffling of backpacks and feet. I look over from the top bunk and realize people were packing. I look at my time- its 730a. “Shit !! “ We were scheduled to leave at 730a, brecky was at 7am. As I hop off and scurry to gather my belongings and make my way to reception I think back to the previous night and blame my late rise to the numerous bowls of Kava that were chased with Rum and Vodka. We sit on the bus and all moan and groan from how tired we were and the throbbing of our heads. We stop for a quick snack- chips for breakfast- not so good. And a quick run to buy toys for the children at the orphanage we were scheduled to visit that afternoon but move to the next day because we were a bit behind schedule. The long drive toward the village required an additional stop for snacks and restrooms. It was clear we were in the “hood”. The streets were filled with locals- stacks of wood that lay in front of shops and grocery stores provided a place for many to sit in the shade and have a chat, children in their school uniforms scurried across the streets barefoot as they struggled to take big steps with the weight of their back packs and lollies in one hand, the market was filled with the sweet smell of fresh fruit, the voices of many saying “Bula” as we passed- we decided to take in the environment and had a seat. With the sun at its hottest- mid day- it was a struggle to stay up for long. We made our way to a village –a bumpy hour and a half ride on roads that were in the process of being reconstructed lead us to a gorgeous village- beautiful gardens reached out into the distance, the small homes with the residents excited to see visitors, screaming “BULA”. We met the village chief. We sat with him and had a proper Kava ceremony. I once again had the honors of being the spokesperson. After each “Taki” we struggled to down the bowls of Kava. After the ceremony I purchased a gift for Erika Brown’s Bday from one of the local women who were selling handicrafts and I joined Raffa and the chief for a chat. They poked fun at me and how I struggled to drink the large bowls of Kava – they decided it would be funny to make me drink more Kava, with a half smile I clapped, said Bula with a quiver in my voice and skulled the full bowl drink. I made sure to thank them- “Vinaka” and make my way out before the chief announced “Taki” again. I made my way towards the village with Jon, Amber and Dave. We took pictures of the beautiful scenery and made friends with children making their way from one home to another. Every direction we looked was worthy of a photo especially the adorable children who successfully got our attention by throwing their toys down the front steps of their home. After the heaps of photos we hopped on the bus for a 2-minute ride towards the nearby stream. Some of the young boys- no more than 11 years old- were there already climbing up to the highest points along the stream and jumping into the stream; a raft made of bamboo and tied together by what I assumed were parts of tree bark. The kids tried to get me to swim but I had to explain to them that I could not swim well. So instead we went to the shallow part of the stream, we reached down by our feet and picked up rocks for skipping. “1, 2, 3 !!! “ I counted off before we tried to skip the pebbles as far as possible. I wasn’t very good but the boy to my right insisted that I ‘won’ the game with a shy smile on his face. I noticed the rest of the group floating away on the bamboo raft so I said good-bye to the young boys and hopped on the raft. I was on it only for a bit before I hopped off and helped the chief and Raffa push it up stream. I felt silly just lying back while they struggled to push 7 tourists. I managed to get a few grunts and forceful pushes in before the chief signaled me to get back on the raft- whatever the chief says, goes. As we made our way down stream Raffa asked if anyone wanted to try and push the raft- standing up on it with a large bamboo stick- steering involved picking up the stick and sticking it into the ground, fighting back the current to push of the raft- psht ! of course I gave it a go. This was not easy. I struggled to just pick the stick up. After falling on the raft Raffa thought it was a good idea to take continue without my help. We made our way down the stream, bumping into the trees as we went along. It was sweet seeing the smile on Raffa’s face as he spoke here and there about how he often went bamboo rafting in his village as a child.
The rain came at perfect timing- right after we got on the bus and drove off to Voli Voli beach resort. A resort on a steep hill that is positioned right on the ocean water. Voli Voli provided a very relaxing environment for us to just sit back, relax, and catch sight of the stars before shut eye.