Location: Navatu, Vanua Levu, Fiji
Hello again, family!!! Hi, Jake! I miss you the most, broski. I was reminded of you today while I woke people up because truth be told, no one was really all that ready to wake up this morning. I was tempted to wake them up the way I wake you up at home by hitting them with their pillows until they wake up, but then I didnt. Maybe next time. Today was just a wonderful day. The GreenForce-ers welcomed us to their seaside camp, Nukubalavu, which means Long Beach. We loaded up all of our SCUBA gear onto their boat and slowly meandered our way through coral heads until we were close enough to hop out of the boat and wade in, all the while trying to avoid squishing any brittle stars. The camp is gorgeous with a spit of beach, a hammock, swings, and bungalows. They have this really large platform set up on the beach, high enough that the tide will never reach it; we put our stuff there and then moved onto science. After everyone got there, we had a quick briefing of safety in the camp, which was: Always look up (falling coconuts)Always look down (don’t want to step on anything bad or trip) Don’t go passed the buoys while swimming, snorkeling, or diving.Then we had our naturalist dives, alternating a group in the water while another group was in the classroom learning about sharks and shark conservation with Hannah (the chief scientist) and Chad, which I was really happy people were so emphatic about. Sharks are so important to our ocean, and it was awesome to see everybody inspired to change the general misconceived view of sharks. After class and before lunch, there was some time to have a look at the camp and the beach, and I spent some time exploring the tide pools at the waterline with James. Saw a super colorful flatworm that we ended up not finding in the ID book, but it was soooo cooool! We all had lunch together (signaled by five clangs on the bell), and it was a good time to either meet people we hadn’t gotten the chance to talk to yesterday or get into better conversations with those we had only had a small talk with. Lunch was apparently a very exciting affair for our GreenForce friends who have not had meat or cheese for quite some time. We came bearing both and were quite enthusiastically received. We had to walk out over the reef from shore in order to get to the dive site where we precariously perched against an anchored dive boat to put on our fins. Some of us were more successful than others; some of us looked like turtles turned on their backs. At low tide, we saw some cool things in the exposed reef that we had walked out on: thousands of brittle stars, a few different species of sea cucumbers, and a blue sea star. This sea star is a species I am quite familiar with and was excited to see out of the water. As I approached it, however, one of the volunteers from GreenForce told me not to touch it as it was venomous and would sting me. This I knew as untrue and asked Hannah about it as we walked back from our dive later. She told me that they had told the students this as a lark, and constantly told them not to touch them, but in reality, they were totally harmless. That way, the teachers could say, We know special ways of handling them. See? They don’t sting us because we use a certain technique. At least the students listen to the advice! Returning from my dive, I found that America lost in the battle of Brit vs. US volleyball, though a mixed game, was proposed as dinner cooked over an open pit fire, and we all had a blast romping around in the sand. Cooking was a little challenging with bits of chicken trying to fall through our grate, but our grill masters soon found their groove, and yummy smells soon started wafting into our noses and got our tummies rumbling. Squeeze was much bigger than ever, with almost 50 people involved! I asked what people’s favorite movie lines were, and it was fun to learn more about our new friends through squeeze questions. Dinner was loud and awesome, with the sharing of many stories and laughter, as well as BBQ sauce and corny jokes. As dinner neared its end, dessert was announced to be the cake that we won in church.and S’MORES! The Americans perked up, and I shamelessly ran to the kitchen so that I could get one as soon as possible. I wasn’t quite fast enough and was not one of the lucky people who reached the roasting sticks first. Jim, however, made me an offer of giving him my slice of cake for a roasting stick, which I readily accepted. Marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker substitute in hand, I all but skipped happily to the fire. Now, little did we Argonauts know that our British friends have never experienced s’ more making and what’s more, they were under the impression that it meant simply roasting marshmallows over a fire. We taught them our ways. My s’mores student, Clarky, learned the technique passed down to me summers ago, which involves putting your chocolate on your cracker and setting that on a rock near the fire in order to get your chocolate warm and melty. We soon found out who was patient enough to twirl their spit long enough for a perfect golden brown marshmallow and who loved torching their mallow to a black crisp (which, of course, makes it gooey goodness on the inside). Today was a day reminiscent of a day at home during the summer: bonfire on the beach after a day full of exploring the tide pools, surrounded by good friends, good food, and accompanied by the sugar rush of too many (if there is such a thing) s’ mores. Thank you so much to GreenForce for sharing your camp and your day with us, as well as some good fun and laughs.