There was much to organise before we went to Fiji; little and big things!
From passports to luggage lists, from bum bags filled with fidget toys to watching ceremonies and talking about expected behaviour and responses....the month leading up to our departure was FULL to say the least!
One of the things that is important for our family is to prepare our munchkins in terms of two key
2. stratergies for self regulation especially during times of transition.
This is important in most families but in ours (we have 3 children who experience anxiety, are on the Autism spectrum and who struggle with change) it is crucial.
Firstly, I must explain that where we went was not your typical 'Fiji'.
We went rural.
We went remote.
We stayed in a hotel but up North (where my family are) is still quite untouched in many ways.
You won't find a McDonalds (although they have recently branched out to add Chicken Express), a laundromat or dedicated newsagency. They still travel in busses with no windows and when you reach a bus stop and you are at the back of a full bus, many simply lower their items out the window and then jump out themselves!
That's my Fiji!
In the village where my Grandmother currently resides, there is a pipe with running water but there is no electricity and until now only a pit toilet (more to come on this later). There are no huge medical centres (there is a hospital), there was only one place I noticed you could print off photos from a disc and there is no wi fi.
Off grid is not only possible, it is the main way to live.
Self sufficiency isn't a movement, it is the way you survive, especially on such low wages.
Plain and simple is the Northern Babasiga life; just the way my heart desires it.
You may not find these things up North but what you will find are open hearted people willing to invite you to their table (even if they've never met you before!) You'll find a relaxed pace, amazing fresh produce, hard working Fijians and Indians trying hard to raise their families and offer them the best life they can.
I'm digressing (as per usual!) I'll talk more about the Labasa way of life in posts to come but I want to share about our little travel countdown calendar that we made to help us count down the days and prepare for our amazing trip.
I had in my mind to make a little interactive calendar which the kids could not only help make but learn from too.
We went up to town one day and purchased these cute little yellow envelopes from the stationers.
When we came home (for our Monday Crafternoon rhythm) we began arranging them on a corkboard and then started to decorate them, numbering them down from 21 to 1.
All of the kids had a wonderful time contributing to this project.
We chatted lots as we worked and the word 'countdown' was mentioned alot so we looked up Europe's hit 'The Final Countdown' and let that blast VERY LOUDLY at us as we crafted away together. Liji did some amazing air guitar solos and we all rocked it out to the song in our own silly way!
Man, those old scrapbooking supplies of mine come in handy sometimes ;)
Look what we made!
Each little pocket facing out was fastened to the board by a single pin.
We opened an envelope first thing each morning. We were all really excited to see what would be the activity for that day.
Inside each day had activities such as:
* Label our Fiji maps & map out our travel route
* Enjoy a bowl of rice and black tea in a bilo (bowl) without a spoon!
* decorate our travel journals
* play a game of pani together (a game where you stack coconut shells and then try and knock them down with a ball and restack them again. I used to love playing this as a kid in the village - especially in the rain and mud - and our kids enjoy playing it too!)
* Play a sevu sevu (ceremony) video and practice sitting still with a fidget toy the whole time
* Label our black Fiji photo album full of things we might see in Fiji!
* Eat dinner at a runner on the floor
* Dance to some reggae music!
* Learn to sing the chorus of Isa Lei
* Pack our suitcases using the packing list (more to come on this later too)
* Buy some kasava & suli (root crops), cook and eat them!
* Watch the airline animation videos on youtube which show you where the exits etc on a plane are. We watched several of these many times leading up to the trip and when it came to them doing the demo on board the flight, the kids sat silently through them and were aware of what they were saying.
* Practice singing Waltzing Matilda as an item to perform for the family under the volau (shed) one night
* Draw up our Fijian family tree and discuss
* Organise batteries/sim card for the kids' camera to take
* Make a little booklet of drawings for Nau Levu (my Grandmother) as a gift
* Make up a book with some basic Fijian words/phrases and their meanings in English too
On the last morning, the day we were flying out, Dannii did the honours for us and opened up the last envelope.
It said, "TODAY IS THE DAY! PRAISE YAH!!! Grab our passports, suitcases and head off to the airport for the trip of a lifetime!"
And that's exactly what we did!