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So, to fill you in on news from the last few weeks....Well, first of all I passed my fish test first time, as did Oli. It's funny to think that we thought learning 3 or 4 seaweed was difficult on the A-Level biology field trip and now I've just learnt over 150 fish; the work doesn't stop there though as we've now had to start learning invertebrates - I've got my test tomorrow! We've also completed our dive training now - Oli is qualified to Advanced Open Water and I did all the advanced stuff again as well, although I just need to send off a form to upgrade my junior qualification. Now everyone is qualified, we've been able to go diving in some much better locations with drift currents to carry you along and coral teeming with everything from ornate butterfly fish to 1.5 m long grey reef sharks.
Two more Sundays have passed since I last wrote and on both occasions we've gone to Navatu (our local village) as the truck driver that was meant to take us to another village for one of them was ill. It's been really good though as each time you go you are hosted by the same family who give you tea and cake before church, then, after you've sat through another dull ceremony, provide a good lunch which invariably contains very fresh fish, noodles and cassava. On the first Sunday of every month, three villages in the Kumbutavu district join together to host a service and on the 5/2 it was Navatu's turn. As such, on this Sunday the village was bustling with extra people. After lunch I wandered round the village and was invited into a house that seemed to be a boys' retreat, the occupants at the time all being male and under 20. I ended up chatting to a lad of my age from the nearby village of Namalata, named Tulele who was studying computer science at college and wanted to come to Brighton to do his degree. Around 3pm I drifted over to the village hall where a big round of kava drinking was going on and stayed there drinking kava, chatting and singing with the local choir until 8pm!
On the following Friday, we went to the village of Namalata for a fund raiser, buying each other bowls of kava for 50 cents each to raise money to send a girl to school/college (I wasn't quite sure). The locals joined in and it was great fun, going on for several hours and raising a total of $374 - not bad. After we'd eaten dinner there we were meant to return to camp but the boat had been moored in the wrong place and was now grounded by low tide, so instead we had to try and make ourselves comfortable on the floor of a nearby house and return early the following morning.
On one night last week we had 'Cake Night'. The ladies of Navatu village came round in the evening with a fantastic selection and we stuffed our faces with sweet food. To contribute to this some people made doughnuts and Becky (one of the other volunteers) and I made flapjacks, which we baked by putting in a tin, then balancing this on a can inside a really large pan on a gas hob, The result was exceedingly good. After we'd had our fill, music was put on and the dancing commenced; the ladies taught us a Fijian dance and we showed them the Macarana!
On the 13th February, Marc (our expedition leader) arrived back with our brand new boat: Vola Siga (pronounced Vol-a Sing-a). During his week's absence, he'd gone all the way back to Suva, picked the boat up from there and driven it all the way back, a journey which took around 8 hours from Suva to Savusavu. The boat is 10 m long, white and has twin Yamaha 40 engines on the back to drive her. Specially fitted out for diving, a rack fitted down the centre line of the boat securely holds up to 10 tanks with BCDs attached and spaces underneath the bench provide storage for the rest of the gear. Marc also brought with him some brand new BCDs and Regulators as well as a special delivery of post.
With Valentine's day just past, last Saturday we themed our party on it and everyone had to come up with a love related costume. Hearts were conspicuous everywhere but the star prize has to go to Laura and Ciara who actually made wings out of chicken wire and an old sheet so they could dress up as cupids. For Valentine's day itself we had a 'secret santa' with Valentine's cards, each picking a random person to write one for. After dinner they were handed out and read aloud before the sender was revealed. The cards ranged from the hilarious (M's card to Marc using all sorts of locally themed similes to invite him into a gay relationship) to the obscene (perverse drawing involving pigs and A's breasts on her card) to the actual sweet and serious. My card from Mandy (our trainee staff member) fell in the first category with a sort of rhyming poem following similar lines to M's.