I thought that a whole month in one location in Fiji would feel like a long time. Maybe even an eternity considering I would be sharing a room with up to 3 other people. Yet, as I sit here writing this approaching the end of my time with Projects Abroad, I feel like I just arrived yesterday. Like I’m running out of time. Like I don’t want to leave.
To be honest I didn’t expect to be feeling like this. I thought adjusting to things would be a bit of a struggle – not an insurmountable one, but one nonetheless. From the heat; to being around a group of people all the time; to likely being the oldest; to not being able to cook my own food. I’ve lived by myself for the last 5 years so I thought this would be the most difficult part, but as it turns out, the things that were of greatest concern to me are actually what I am going to miss the most. I have grown accustomed to spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with this group of people and it is going to feel incredibly strange to not be around them anymore, to be back on my own.
It amazes me how quickly and deeply you can form friendships when you travel. Why that happens I’m not exactly sure. I suppose it’s a combination of things. Everyone is out of their comfort zone, meaning that generally people are more open and understanding. You also share experiences together that are so unique it creates lasting memories. Memories and experiences that are sometimes difficult to properly communicate to friends back home.
Most importantly though, I’ve found that what makes being here at the project different from anywhere else I’ve travelled is that we are all focused on the goals of the shark conservation program. We have the same interests and values and are working together to do something we believe in. The work here is not always easy, it’s not just diving and sitting by the beach. Two weeks ago we helped to paint a local school in the midday heat and just this past week I was shovelling topsoil in 32 degree weather so we could repopulate the mangrove nursery. All of these are integral parts of the project that I will explain in another blog, but the point here is that when you see your friends not only carrying their weight but working their asses off it motivates you to do the same. You develop a respect for these people that makes you start to feel like family.
That’s what’s different. I’ve just begun to feel like part of a small family here and now I am leaving. Some I’ve met just for a few short days and others who I have spent my entire time with here. We are an eclectic group from all over the world, which in part is what makes saying goodbye so hard – I don’t know when I’m going to see them again. We’re Canadian, American, German, Norwegian, Swiss, Australian, Swedish, Indonesian, Netherlandish and South African. I know that things just won’t be the same without them.
I left my small town in hopes of finding vibrant, thriving, like-minded community. I suppose I never expected to find it so quickly, with a melting pot of nationalities halfway across the world.