Last Sunday in the Village

It’s official, I will be leaving my village on March 28th and returning to US soil on April 1st! I promise, no April Fool’s jokes here. I will post later about my decision and all that it entails but for right now I just want to explain about my last Sunday in the Village.

As some of you know, and many have gleaned from these posts, Fiji is a very religious country. In order for me to successfully leave the village I have to do farewells (veitalatala/itatau) to the Church (lotu) and the land/place (Vanua) respectively. Since this past Sunday was my last in the village I was asked to give a speech in Church.

For those of you who have been following my adventure from the beginning (1,043 days ago!) You may remember that in my training village of Naimasimasi Tailevu I gave a speech on behalf of the 6 volunteers training there for our first 2 months. Now, that speech was written by our LCF (Language and Cultural Facilitator) La, because well… after only about a week in Fiji we knew how to say a rousing 40 words… none of which were applicable to a formal church speech.

When I arrived in Natokalau I was asked to do the same thing… me (being the sly individual I am and still not knowing enough formal Fijian to get me through a speech) just changed some of the titles (for the Chief, village name, and clan heads) to make people think I was a Fijian genius (in hindsight a pretty good idea) it got people talking to me in Fijian right away and improved my language skills exponentially.


So Sunday, I decided to do it for real. I wrote my own speech. Formal Fijian is completely different from the colloquial as there are a lot of titles and just formal words you don’t use in every day speech. It took a while to get it down.



Sunday morning rolled around and I put on my best sulu jaba, did my hair nicely, and hid my cheat sheet of my speech in my Fijian hymn book and went to the Methodist Church in the village (lotu Wesele). The service progressed through a few songs and some updates when Viliame Sega went up to talk about me.

He thanked me for my work, my time here, and what I have done to improve the village. It was touching and heartfelt and I appreciated hearing the words in a formal setting. Once he finished speaking, the choir started up and I made my way up to the podium.

Now, I am not a nervous individual. At all. I quite enjoy public speaking, as many people from Western Washington University know! I love talking about my experiences here. I have presented on so many environmental topics here regarding the environment in formal settings with government officials, NGOs, village leaders and members… all in Fijian. So you would think a short 3 minute speech at the church would be no biggie. So did I. Whoops!

I started speaking… “Au Saka… Ni sa tiko saka na Turaga ni Tui Naro… ni sa….” I got through the first paragraph without a hitch. But then I looked up at everyone in the church. To their resounding “Vinaka”s (Thank you) and I started to shake. I couldn’t stand up straight because my knees were shaking so badly I thought I would fall over. Embarrassing, thankfully the podium hid my shame!


I made it through the entire speech without a hiccup, aside from my shaky hands and knees!

The speech basically thanked everyone for their hard work, apologized for any errant behaviours or attitudes while here, and urged them to continue their hard work in my absence. It was exactly what it should have been.

Once Church let out, I went home to change into a T-shirt, and then walked to the other side of the village where my farewell Sunday lunch was being prepared by my “family”.

A bunch of us waited on the porch of the house next door because it gets an awesome breeze from the ocean.


Samu sleeping… he missed Church because he drank too much grog the night before!


Taking a rest before lunch started

Lunch started and it was DELICIOUS, ferns in coconut milk, fried fish, boiled fish, fried eggs, ramen, dalo, breadfruit, plantains, stew… general Sunday lunch stuff. It was a great time!



I had bought Ice Cream the day before and after lunch finished we busted out the 2 liter of Tuckers Orange. I dont know if it is actually supposed to taste like oranges… but its neon orange and its Ice Cream… who could really complain!



After that I went home and took a nap, a luxury I’m not sure I will be able to enjoy much longer.

Sunday night we all drank grog until about 2 in the morning. Sitting around telling funny stories about my time here and laughing like crazy while playing cards.


Another note… Fiji won the Hong Kong 7s tournament!

AWESOME last sunday in the village.



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5 responses to “Last Sunday in the Village

  1. Michael Matthews

    My good friend from Ovalau. I am surprised by the sudden news of your departure from the island. Whatever the reason, I am sure that everyone would agree that you have done a tremendous job while you have been there. You have every reason to be proud of yourself for your efforts. Congratulations to you. I know there have been many times when you wondered if what you were doing was worthwhile. But from the sounds of it, you have made a great impact on all those that you have touched. I wish you well in all that you do in the future. I hope that you will stay in touch with all of us. Here’ s hoping that we can meet sometime here in the Pacific Northwest. Again, congratulations to you and if you cry when you leave the islands, don’t cry from sadness, cry for happy.

  2. Wame

    Vinaka vakalevu Rusila…you will always be remebered in the vanua of Narocake. For all what you’ve done, you give your time, effort and sacrifice for my village. Vinaka vakalevu for everything. My the God Lord be with you and showers his blessing upon you. Hopefully somewhere, sometime will meet again…Moce mada Rusila…sa loloma tu yani..

  3. Mandy Pais

    Hi Samantha – I don’t see an email address so forgive me for addressing you through your comments! I just returned from a 2.5 week vacation on Vanua Levu, my second trip to Fiji, and read every word of your blog while I was there. It was really fun to ask the Fijians I met about the customs you discussed. I tried kava – again – and again thought it was pretty foul. :) I wanted to ask you if you knew anyone I could contact regarding medical (specifically surgical) missions to Fiji. I am a certified registered nurse anesthestist and and would like to give something back to the islands which were so welcoming to us! It’s not too hard to find US surgical teams going to Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa, and I’d love to work in those places too – but Fiji has a special place in my heart. If you have any ideas or know of situations which could use a couple weeks of an anesthetist’s time – please let me know.

    Be well and have a safe trip home.

  4. Lauren

    Amazing blog! Can you please let me know who you volunteered with? The only volunteer company I am aware of in Aus is

  5. Lori

    Samantha– I enjoyed reading about your volunteer experience! My son is a Peace Corp volunteer in Peru, at this time, so your suggestions for packages has been very helpful. Best of luck to you!
    Lori Drumm

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