Monday, November 21, 2011

Photo Essay Contest Winner, 2nd place, Kayla Kilpatrick, Sustainable Tourism in Fiji

Namosi Valley (Nakavika village)
We traveled up to the village of Nakavika in the highlands of Viti Levu (the largest island of Fiji) in order to spend the night in the village, drink kava with the locals, and to learn more about Fijian culture. Our bus driver was actually from Namosi Valley, so we were able to learn about his life experiences throughout our travels on Viti Levu. Every time we had to go somewhere, he would bring us the most delicious banana bread that I have ever tasted. When we arrived in Nakavika, we did presentations at the local school to explain where we were from and our culture.

After our presentations, the children performed a meke (dance) for us. It was the cutest thing ever. One of the little boys in the picture above lost his grass skirt and kept trying to put it back on while still dancing. Later in the evening, we performed a kava ceremony with the locals and drank kava into the late hours of the night. For those of you who have never tried kava, it pretty much tastes exactly like muddy, peppery water.

Kula Eco Park
On the way to Nadi (pronounced Nandi), we stopped at the Kula Eco Park to look at some of the local flora and fauna. Pictured here with me are Fijian banded and Fijian crested iguanas. We were able to see these iguanas, Pacific Boas, Fijian flying foxes, and many local birds. During the trip, we saw many of these animals in the wild. For instance, when we river rafted the Navua River, I actually helped bag a wild boar and Nate Bricker (one of the U’s faculty who came with us) caught a Pacific Boa. We also kayaked by a small island populated by a ton of bats at one point in the trip.

Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple
In Nadi, we stopped at this Hindu temple in order to experience the Indo‐Fijian aspect of Fijian
culture. We avoided eating meat that day so that we could adhere to the policies of the Hindu temple. We had to walk around the outside of the temple three times before going inside the main area. When we were inside, we performed a ceremony offering some bananas and a coconut to the Hindu gods in order to gain experiences learning this part of Indo‐ Fijian culture. The priest was very impressed because the coconut split extremely evenly, therefore indicating that we were pure of heart.

Yasawa Islands
During the study abroad, we stayed at three different places. This picture was taken at the last place we stayed in the Yasawa Islands. One afternoon, there was a “local games” activity that included spear‐throwing and the ever classic egg throw. Megan (from WVU) and I are wearing our sulus (sarongs) since we had become quite attached to them during our stay in Fiji and sulus are an extremely important aspect of Fijian dress.

Yasawa Islands
This group picture was taken during our stay at the island of Nanuya Lailai. They filmed part of The Blue Lagoon where we stayed and went scuba diving! Brian (from Texas State) and I obtained our Advanced Open Water Diving certifications, while the others on the trip got their Open Water Diving certifications. We even went on a shark feeding dive and we saw many dolphins during a few of our snorkeling adventures as well. I was the only student from the University of Utah, so I was rather nervous about meeting the other students going on the trip. There was one guy from Texas State, and the remaining six girls were from West Virginia University. Despite our differences, we formed a tight bond throughout this study abroad, and I will treasure this experience for the rest of my life.

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