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Fiji: Learning while Helping

Andrew Bates, Auburn University

A trip to Fiji is usually envisioned as a vacation to an exotic resort where you rest on the beaches underneath the tropical Fijian sun. However, as I learned, this is not how the Fijians rest. I had the opportunity to live on a tiny island in Fiji along with handful of other Americans and Fijians, an island that is the home to a tribal chief and his family. We learned how to spear fish, climb coconut trees, dance traditional Fijian dances, and drink “kava” or “grog”, a ritual that plays a massive role in their culture. We assisted them in the design and construction of rocket stoves and a renewed rainwater catchment system to ease some of their fears about inefficient cooking and inadequate water supply. We may never know for sure how we influenced their little community in the long run with our visit, but those of us who experienced a little sliver of Fiji know that the relationships formed with people so different from ourselves touched us and the Fijians in ways we could not have imagined. The human touch, as referenced in the Auburn University Creed, is essential in making this world a better place, and we experienced some of that on our island in Fiji.

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