"This is us... and all the way around here... Fiji. You can't get any further away before you start coming back."
For a long time, everything I knew about Fiji I knew from Jim Carrey's simple and sublime description in one of my favorite movies, The Truman Show
. I didn't know a lot, except that if earth was the golf ball Truman holds up, Fiji would occupy a tiny dimple far, far away on the opposite side of the ball. There was something else too: that to Truman, Fiji represented opportunity and adventure and a change of pace from the complacent comfort of his lifestyle and community.
I'm happy to share that I have been given an incredible opportunity to change pace a bit and serve as a student missionary representing Walla Walla University and the Seventh-day Adventist Church at a small school on Mana Island in Fiji. I'd like to share some basic information about the island I'll be living on and the work I'll be doing. I'll make it quick.
What I know so far:
- I'll be leaving August 15, 2018 and returning March 20, 2019 (about seven months)
- I'll be working at the Mana Island Seventh-day Adventist School, the only school on Mana. Since it is primarily a resort island, many of the families work at the resorts and their children attend the school.
- Mana Island is one of 20 small land masses making up the Mamanuca Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 20 miles west of the main island of Fiji. Mana is a little less than two miles lengthwise, and under half a mile across.
- The school is operated by several local employees with help from visiting student missionaries. Last year, Pacific Union College had two student missionaries on site consistently and Walla Walla University had one. I think this year will be the same way.
- As I understand it, my work may include building chicken coops, gardening, working on an incomplete house (potentially the one I'll be living in), and performing other maintenance and upkeep tasks, as well as teaching a class or two.
- I'll be living by myself in a small house on the school property. The house has no electricity, but it does have a toilet and shower (although I've been told that the shower water is salty and showering under the runoff from the roof during a downpour is a significantly better experience).
- I'll be drinking rainwater.
What I don't know:
- exactly how to build chicken coops for the chickens of Mana Island, Fiji
- what the chickens of Mana Island, Fiji will be like
- what kind of plants and vegetables I'll be growing
- what (if?) I'll be teaching
- how many classes or students I'll be teaching
- how often I'll be able to post, message, or call
- how exactly I'll keep in contact with friends and family, but we'll figure it out when I get there
- what my mailing address will be
- who the student missionaries I'll be working with are
- how often I'll write and share blog posts—hopefully a couple times a month
Where the heck is Fiji?
- all the way over here
- or, about 1,900 miles east of Australia (Queensland)
- about 1,300 miles northeast of New Zealand (North Island)
- about 3,000 miles southwest of Hawaii
- Fiji is part of Melanesia, a region of Oceania neighbored by Micronesia to the north, Polynesia to the east, and Australasia to the south
Cool things of note:
- Robert Zemeckis's Oscar-nominated 2000 masterclass of filmmaking Cast Away starring Tom Hanks (one of my favorite films) was filmed on Monuriki, a nearby island and part of the Mamanuca archipelago (although the unnamed island in the film is supposedly located 600 miles south of the Cook Islands).
- The long-running reality TV show Survivor has returned to film challenge course and tribal council segments on Mana for the past few years.
I hope you come back soon to hear more about my time in Fiji. My goal is to update this blog regularly, and it would mean a lot to me if you gave it a read every once in a while. Thanks.