School Camp

I am sitting in a beautiful environment (Leluvia) in the middle of the South Pacific reflecting on what an incredible experience I just witnessed/experienced at school camp.    It's all a little unreal feeling.  I have to remember moments like keep reminding myself to be grateful for the life we live. 

Apparently it's common in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji (maybe other parts of the world as well) for kids to go away for school camp.   At the girls' school, starting in year 3 the kids and all of their teachers go away for a few days for a school camp.  Parents are not invited but I was lucky to be able attend as a staff member.   I am so glad I went!   It was so awesome to see these kids experience independence, pure joy, adventure, and all that is camp.   

We went to Namosi Eco Retreat for two nights and three days.   It was the perfect location in the interior of Fiji.   It was very remote with no internet signal or phone signals, although there is a satellite phone for emergencies.   After a two hour bus ride, we unloaded in a small village.   We walked down a hill to cross a river.  Let the adventure begin!  The kids were excited and challenged.  Some of them fell and everyone got wet.  No one was without a smile.   We ended up on the beautiful grounds where the kids were assigned to their bures.  There were 3-5 kids in each bure with one adult each.   After a filling morning tea, we all put on our swimmers and headed to the local swimming hole.   This involved a walk through and along the river ending in the most refreshing swim.  It was hot!   After the swim the kids had a mini-olympics - sac races, tug of war, soccer, and volleyball.    In the middle of it all, there was a HUGE downpour.  It rained and rained and rained!  I wish I had my camera on me at the time just to capture the non-stop laughter of the kids!  They LOVED it!  They jumped in mud puddles, slid across the grounds, and squealed in joy the whole time.   I am sure that will be a highlight for many of them - so memorable.   I don't think the grounds were ever dry the mud was a constant in the trip.   You seriously couldn't walk anywhere around Namosi without mud between your toes.  It added to the adventure of it all.   

After the storm, we all cleaned up a bit (in the one pipe that is the "shower") and enjoyed a nice curry made by the staff.  The kids all ate in the big bure on the mats on the ground.  So Fiji.   We sang a few songs, I wiped a few tears of kids missing parents, and we all went to sleep - or tried to anyway!  The frogs and spiders only added to the excitement.  (Andie did not sleep in my bure as it wasn't allowed so she ended up leaving her bed due to a nightmare and snuggling with the school nurse for the night!)

The next morning those few children who cried woke up happy and admitted that they were probably just tired the night before.   No way did they want to go home!   We ate a yummy Fijian breakfast, did some stretching and then did a river hike.  For me, this was the highlight of the whole trip.  The kids crossed the river many times and swam in a swimming hole equipped with a natural slide of sorts.  I did not hear one child complain of  walking too much.    It was an awesome feat for all of them.   

After our river walk, we ate lunch, got ourselves together, then hiked to the local school (which involved crossing the river again).  Everyone put on their sulus for the trip - the boys requiring some assistance from the teachers.  It is so cute to see all of the kids in their sulus.  Love it.   The local school children peformed a meke for us and our students sang beautifully for them.  It was lovely.  After a shared afternoon tea, we were meant to pick up rubbish in the village but a thunderstorm set in so we had to head back to Namosi.   We had an hour or so to relax and practice for the evening's talent show, then had an awesome lovo.  After dinner we roasted marshmallows - a first time experience for many of the kids.   There were no chocolate or graham crackers for s'mores (which I've discovered is a very American treat) but the kids didn't know the difference!   We then proceeded onto the talent show.   I was amazed at what the kids had put together!  Each bure performed something unique and fun.   There were songs, skits, dances, and stories.   Andie sang an original song (made up on the spot) while the girls behind her did cartwheels and bridges.   It was funny and awesome.   You could really get a sense of the kids' personalities from their acts.  There was even a special guest star at the end of the show, Ms. Humpback.    She had a striking resemblance to me with hands that looked just like Ms. Helena's.  

After our show, the staff sang Isa Lei and at least 8 or 9 kids cried.  No one wanted to leave!  They all cried saying they wanted to stay longer.   After a few more songs, everyone went to bed, some crying themselves to sleep because it was all over.    The next morning we woke up, ate, packed up, cleaned up, and went for one final swim in the swimming hole.  We crossed the river one last time and waited for our bus.    

Overall, it was everything you would hope a camp experience would be. It was all there- the mud, the frogs, the camp songs, the physical challenges, playing in the rain, swimming in the river, eating on the floor, laughing with friends, independence and confidence created as a result of it all.   Memories to last a lifetime.    

before we left

morning tea upon arrival

the bures and grounds 

push up competition!

stretching before the river hike

start of the hike

At one point I looked up and Andie and her friend were crossing the river ahead of everyone- just to make sure it was passable!

crazy crossing here!

My bure girls

enjoying lunch

getting help with sulus

school children awaiting our arrival

local school children peformance

our kids singing

shared morning tea

marshmallow roasting

morning picture 

Andie had a friend help her pack.  

last swim in the swimming hole

Andie's bure.   Love these girls.

The amazing Ms. Helena and Mr. Dasha

more incredible teachers- Ms. Lucy, Ms. Amelie, Ms. Alex, and Mr. Gerry with Xavier

Andie's dear friend, Mr. Romax aka Mr. Mister

Back at school- ready for a shower, AC, and a bed!