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What Teaching English Around The World Does For Your Soul

I became an English teacher by mistake.

I initially signed on to volunteer training young students how to use a computer in a South African township, but once I arrived I found that the computer training program did not exist. Instead, my volunteer coordinators made me put me into a grade one class along with two other volunteers. “Their teacher is absent,” they said. “We need you to teach these kids.”

It was more like a Royal Rumble match than an actual classroom. I was no teacher. I was stuck in that class for weeks.

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Ok. That was South Africa. Those kids were horrible. Though I did learn that this school among so many other schools in Africa were in desperate need of capable English speakers to help teach their students.

So, I decided to give it another shot, but this time by volunteering in Tanzania at a much smaller local school. It was a little better. I assisted the main teacher for five weeks with her small primary kids. They weren’t as crazy as my previous surprise experience.

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With that bit of confidence, I returned to South Africa a month later to try teaching again. This time, I fared a tiny bit better.

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I volunteered three more times afterward teaching English as a second language in Vietnam, Nepal, and Guatemala before I eventually decided to get certified. I took a master course and received my certification to teach English as a second language. This would be a supplement to my travels. Instead of volunteer teaching all the time, I could get paid to do it!

Vietnam is when I really started to enjoy teaching. I bonded well with the students at the Hospitality College I was assigned to and they took a liking to me. The amount of effort was felt in the rewards.

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Nepal was another challenge I was ready to take on, but I felt even more inspired here because of how primitive the setting was. I was placed in the middle of nowhere, explaining the English language to several different classes. Even delving into other subjects such as Geography, Social Studies, and Physical Education at the request of the school’s principal.

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Guatemala was interesting, as I felt like a teacher and a student. The kiddos there at the after-school program I was placed in had an amusing time teaching me Spanish as much I simultaneously taught them English. Here, I created a few new English learning games, which the kids loved to play. One important lesson I began to realize: all the kids I’ve taught around the world thus far, no matter their differences, are all for one the same.

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With each country, I gained a whole lot of valuable experience and knowledge and became more at ease with adapting to the different cultures and traditions of the respective schools.

The reception I get from many of the students, age ranging from six years old to young adults in their twenties have been mostly positive. There is something quite warming and fulfilling knowing these students are benefiting from having me around and that they respond to me so well. I was completely devoted. Little did they know, they were helping me as much as I was helping them. Besides all the adventure stuff I love doing while traveling, I now had a cardinal, more fruitful purpose to my worldwide escapades.

How did I volunteer to teach English?

There are plenty of volunteering organizations around the world that have opportunities to teach English as a second language, however my usual and most trusted go-to source is through an organization called International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). I’ve used them eight times (not all teaching English though) and have never had a single bad experience with them.

Another viable option is through Workaway which is much more affordable, but less of a hand-holding organization. Besides the $30 annual fee, Workaway is usually mostly free. I recently went through Workaway to do some private homeschooling in Mozambique where I taught Social Studies and Photography. Loved that too!

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What did I need to begin teaching English in the first place?

Well, speaking fluent English for starters.

Secondly, a clean background history. As in no criminal record which you must prove to the organizations with background checks. Those two things are all I really needed to volunteer.

For landing a paid job teaching, all I needed were those two requirements in addition to a TEFL certification. And in some countries, a bachelor’s degree as well. I have an Associate’s in Graphic Design and a BS in Comm Tech…nothing to do with education.

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How did I receive my TEFL certification?

Once I realized that having a certification could enhance my travels, I went through the process of earning one myself.

Any clean English speaker can earn their certification through on-site training in many different countries or through an intensive online learning course. I went through an online master course which cost me around $30 USD using Groupon. In a few months, I received a certificate in the mail. It took me about two months to complete.

The two major differences between on-site and online I found are the hands-on training versus learning at home and secondly, most on-site programs will always help you get a job whereas you are mostly on your own for the online courses, though this is not always the case. It depends on who you go through.

Some places offer you free accommodation and meals in lieu of actual pay, which may also be fine depending on what you are looking for.

Over the past few years, I’ve collected a bevy of learning games and techniques to unleash upon my classes along with tricks of the trade when it comes to keeping the students engaged in learning. They’ll only be as interested as you are, and with the time I’ve invested into each classroom, it shows in the positive reception I receive from the students and other teachers alike.

I became a mentor and coach to those kids and still chat with many of them over the internet to this day! I encouraged them to message me, that way they can practice having conversations in English as I casually correct their mistakes while I’m away.

I’ve created a parallel universe outside of my typical life back home. A universe full of eager foreign students who wish to learn the English language and better their lives. Being one of their many guiding lights is pure satisfaction for my soul.

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If anyone is interested in teaching English abroad and wondering how to get started or have any questions or comments, shoot me a message! I’d love to chat. :)

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How I Grew to Truly Love The Heck Out of Nepal

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I wasn’t ready to leave Nepal. Nor did I want to.

I’ve been here for the past three months–much longer than I originally anticipated.  I must continue my quest for the seven continentsI had to leave soon though, mainly because my 90-day visa was going to expire.

While in Nepal, I never once felt like I was a traveler. Instead, I felt as if I lived here, minus the fact that I didn’t know the language. I was picking up words and phrases to get me around. Still, I felt so at home, that I forgot at times that I was in the midst of a worldwide adventure. The people here were so accommodating, so caring, and so interested in me and my stories; it felt like I was part of a giant family. I already mentioned that I gained a few Nepalese brothers recently. It’s a great thing!

I spent my last couple of weeks absorbing the culture in my village to the max! While doing so, I was able to share the rich experience with a new friend by the name of Miek (Belgium). She was referred to me by a mutual friend who lived in Australia. Basically, I was recruited to show her some authentic culture outside of the bigger cities, and I was more than happy to do so.

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Samir and I went to retrieve Miek down in Lakeside to meet and introduce ourselves. One of my student’s father, Hom, joined and escorted all of us back to the mountain and to his home with his family. Hom’s home was initially ruptured by aftershocks from the earthquake that shook Nepal two years ago. Overtime, gracious travelers he’s met has helped him build a brand new home for him and his family–his gracious wife Bishnu, and his two sons, Sudip and Susan. They made a dal bhat supper for us and then invited to stay the night with his family.

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The next day, I planned on showing Miek more of the village. I took her a little bit up the mountain to my brothers’, UK and DJ, and then over to Aatma’s home, where she would be staying a couple of nights. I was able to show her not only the private school that I taught at, but also the neighboring government school. Although I didn’t teach there, I created a bit of a friendly rivalry with the school, much thanks to the Holi holiday that came and went. I had the free reign to enter the school much to my liking. If you are a native English speaker, then you are a valuable necessity to any school in these parts.

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We went to the nearby shop (where I often frequented to buy water and snacks) to introduce Miek to some of the best samosa’s around. We still had plenty of time in the day, so I took her 40 minutes up to the very top of the mountain, Sarangkot, to explore.

Now, Sarangkot is quite different from the rest of the village. It’s way more touristy and filled with half-completed hotels, dozens of shops, and local restaurants and cafe’s. Some of the students actually live up here with their families running some of the shops and hotels. We visited two families, one who ran a hotel and the other who ran a small shop. Both families were extremely welcoming with teas. We were welcomed with so much tea, that sometimes we had to decline. The people here are so giving and happy to invite.

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The next day, we walked about 30 minutes in the opposite direction to visit several more families. By the way, all of these families that we visit are families of students of mine. Many wished for me to visit their homes and often times, the parents would ask me to stay the night. In the USA, or any other Western country for that matter,  it would be rather weird to stay the night at your students home but here it was completely normal, especially since I wasn’t a “true” teacher, if you will. Also, the generic vibe here is more of a family-feel than anything. My home is your home.

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We visited “my son” Samir and his mother who was hard at work. I helped them out a bit.

Soon after, we went to visit my other brother Bipin and his mother again, just a little down from where Samir lived. There, Bipin’s mother cooked us potatoes and made more tea. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much tea in one day. I never wanted it, but they would always insist.

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I was able to take Amish and two of his closest friends down to Lakeside for the weekend to treat them a bit before I prepared to leave the country. We did a lot of cool things that they’ve never done in their lives before, like bowling, going to the movies (in 3D), and drinking Oreo milkshakes, and playing video arcades. They’ve never done any of that before! I was a little surprised by that.

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I let them pick the movie (Boss Baby) which has become their new favorite movie. It was a hit for them!

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Class 10 who I initially didn’t care for two years ago, won me over by a landslide this time. I felt like I really got to know them individually. I will miss them.

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Not only them, but practically the entire school, including the younger classes.

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Miek came at a perfect time. I was able to say my goodbyes to all of the families and the students to let them know that I must continue on my trip and I promised I would return sometime in the future. I really did mean that. I found a home here.

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A few of the teachers pitched in and surprised me with a cake on my birthday.

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I was dreading leaving. I was finally able to stay in one place for a long time and in doing so, got to know an entire community. They got to know me as well. The multiple families, the neighbors, the students, the teachers, even the dogs and cats that roamed in the same area. All of the students knew me as the teacher who introduced a lot of fun (and English oriented) games. It was a different feeling. I really did feel at ease here…like I would at home. Even more so than at my real home to be honest. I could rock up to this village at anytime point in my life, completely out of the blue, and know that I would be well taken care of and welcomed…with tea!

It got me thinking.

Realistically, it would be a couple of years before I could return. And with that, life gets in the way so there are no guarantees.

BUT.

It’s very possible that I can finish my allowed 150-day visa total in the summer (I initially only applied for a 90-day visa)? Like say possibly in July or August? Wishful thinking.

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Back to Kathmandu

One the way back to Kathmandu, I stocked up on cheap medical supplies (motion pills, cough drops, aspirin, stuff like that) and nabbed a cheap hotel for the night. My flight to the next country on my quest, Tajikistan, would be the next day!

However.

There was one “small” problem I was unaware of that would completely change the course of my next couple months of traveling…

COMPLETELY!

(I shall explain on the following post)

The Future Looks Good: The Quest Continues

I’ve been ready to leave Fiji days ago.

I chilled out way too much. I didn’t think that was even possible?

Most of my core group of volunteers were gone and my students wore me the hell out over the past couple weeks. I’m telling you, handling 47 individual eleven and twelve-year-old kids was not an easy task whatsoever.

Though curbing to them was a challenge that ultimately reaped benefits. I’ll be leaving Suva as a much more proficient teacher thanks to my students. They taught me just as much as I taught them. I bet they have no idea about that. I was ready to leave Fiji, but the only reason I would stay longer would be to teach them more.

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On my final few days, class 601 threw me a special party, thanking me for taking the time to help them learn. I appreciated them and the main teacher, Mrs.Kurisaqila, for entrusting me on my own numerous times to handle the kids for sometimes close to seven hours straight in a single day.

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On those long days, I taught English vocabulary, Mathematics, Geography (my best subject by leaps and bounds), and a mixture of Sciences, Art, and Logical Thinking (a subject I created for them). The general consensus was that they liked the logic puzzles I threw at them the most because it inspired them to “think outside the box”. They particularly loved the Price is Right style game I introduced which brilliantly blended mathematics and economics along with some neat prizes to win along the way.

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Saying goodbye to the students is always a lot harder than saying goodbye to the volunteers. Odds are that I’ll never see them again.

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The volunteers on the other hand, they were a really amusing bunch. It took a little longer than usual to warm up to them, except for one in particular; a legend by the name of Hamish. He hails from Sydney and is the quintessential Australian I’ve ever met in all my travels and has a great lease on life. He’s become a good friend of mine and someone you’ll be hearing from later on this blog in just a few months. After I told him about some of the cool places I plan on going to during my quest for the seven continents, there was no way he could resist to join in for at least a chunk of it.

The majority of the other volunteers were also a pleasure to be around. There are way too many to name but they made my trip to Fiji extra special. They know who they are! I plan on visiting a handful of them during my quest to the seven continents. Two of them even share my home state of Michigan.

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I spent the last couple of days lounging around, saying my farewells and “see you laters” to the coordinators and my fellow housemates. I eventually hit the road, about a four-hour bus journey across the island from Suva to Nadi. I stayed in a 16-bed dorm in a cheap hostel near the airport. Normally I would NEVER stay in a dorm with that many beds, but since I was only there for the night, I thought I’d be able to manage.

While I was in the room, a nameless backpacker laid his bag on the bed next to mine. We didn’t introduce ourselves but made quick chit-chat about where we were from and where we were headed. He had just come from Australia and was about to begin a trip through the Fiji islands. I mentioned to him that I was on my way to Australia to backpack all around the country. He then pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and handed me three individual cards.

“You can use these on your travels in Australia,” he said. “I won’t need these anymore.”

I examined the cards and saw that they were city cards used for transportation via train or bus in Australia. One card was for Brisbane, one for Sydney, and the other for Melbourne; three of the largest cities in the country. All of the cards were loaded with a little leftover money the nameless backpacker didn’t use. I thanked him promptly.

The dorm full of 16 backpackers, including myself, fell asleep silent. Not a single person snored or made disruptive noise during the night; an absolute rarity in the world of backpacking, especially in a room as large and filled as this one.

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My time in Fiji ended on a wonderful note. My teaching game has grown stronger, my network of international allies has strengthened, and this nameless backpacker already made my upcoming travels in Australia that much easier, even as simple as his gesture was, it will help in the most convenient ways.

Goodbye Fiji. The quest to the seven continents continues in Australia. 🙂

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An Introspection of an American Teaching in Fiji

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What is it like teaching English in Fiji?

Like usual, kids all over the world generally have the same youthful mindset, so it felt familiar, but different. Challenging, yet gratifying. However, and this is a BIG however, teaching English in Fiji to a class of 47 students is a whole other world of challenging.

I repeat–47 individual eleven and twelve year olds all at the same time!

Among the forty-something volunteers currently at the Green Lion, only a handful of them volunteered to be teachers. Most of them were on the construction or kindergarten programs.

Why did I decide to teach? One, Fiji is a freakin’ HOT tropical island, so I couldn’t be bothered sweating my ass off doing construction work. Secondly, spending my afternoons with hordes of poopy baby kids every weekday sounded like the worst thing ever, so skip that.

Teaching it is!

It was an easy choice. I have loads of experience teaching around the world, so much in fact that recently I became certified to teach English internationally. It’s something I have if I ever wanted to pursue it further along. But I gotta admit, I came a loooooong way.

This was back in South Africa in 2012 when I was unexpectedly thrown into teaching for the first time and I had no idea what the heck I was doing…

I taught a few more times since in different parts of Africa, and then again in Vietnam in 2013 and later again in 2014 is when I started to get the hang of things…

I found my stride teaching in Nepal (2014) and Guatemala (2015)…




So naturally I had positive expectations for teaching English in Fiji!

Junior walked me and a couple others to Nasinu Sangham Primary School, just a few minutes walk from the volunteer house. On the way, he asked us what class of students we would like to teach.

Wow, I had a choice! 

It’s rare to have the option to choose which class of kids I wanted. Normally the volunteer organizations just plop me into some class.

“What classes does the school go up to?” I asked him.

“Class eight,” he responded.

“The older the better for me.”

“Okay, class six?”

“That’s perfect.”

Teaching class six was my preferred choice. They were at the age where they were old enough to comprehend grownup matters but still oblivious to the world at large. This was the age where the choices they made now would trickle into their higher education learning and beyond. I was here to help guide them on the correct course.

“Not many volunteers choose the older classes,” said Junior as we entered the school grounds. “Most choose class one or two.”

We first met the principal of the school. He was of Indian heritage and had that typical ‘principal look’. The look of dominance and if you misbehave, this is the guy you are gonna see and it won’t be pretty. He welcomed us to the school and soon after Junior escorted me to room 601, the class I would be a part of. We entered.

Holy crap there was a shit ton of kids in here!

Some of them out of their seats, all chatting, and seemed to be in the middle of a laid back assignment. Their teacher sat at the desk and welcomed me with a warm smile. Her name is Mrs. Kurisaqila, a Fijian woman in charge of the class. She directed the students to welcome me. They all stopped what they were doing and stood up.

“This is Mister Daniel,” she told them. “He will be helping to assist the class for the next six weeks.”

“Good morning Mister Daniel!” shouted the class in unison.

“Good morning!” I responded. “How are you?”

“We are fine, thank you! How are you today” they shouted again in perfect harmony.

“I am fine as well, thank you!”

They all sat down and curiously stared at me snickering, while making small talk with one another probably saying not-so-great things about me in their native tongue. Maybe. I know I did when I was in elementary.

“How many students are in the class?” I asked her.

“Forty-seven,” she replied. “But some of them are absent today.”

My eyes just about popped out of my head. Forty-seven!? I think the most I’ve ever had at once maxed out at about 25. This was almost double.

“Half of the students are Fijian, the other half are Hindi,” she continued to say. “So some days we split the class so half of them learn Fijian language and the other half learn Hindi language, but all predominately learn English.”

The idea for me being here was to assist Mrs. Kurisaqila with checking assignments and helping the students with their course work. Once I got the hang of things, she would let me teach whole subjects on my own as she did paperwork. By the looks of it, these students could use all the help they could get.

Floats like a mosquito and stings like a snail?? 

Damn, what kind of snails do they have here on this island? I giggled when I read that. But then again, I wouldn’t expect these students to understand the metaphor. I don’t think I knew what that meant at their age!

I also saw these posted on the bulletin boards which were a little alarming:

You must spend money to make money? I guess…when you’re investing as an adult but when I was their age, I was taught to save my money. Also, they only require 50% of the students to pass? Yikes!

I spent the first day getting to learn the students names (which will take me awhile). and observing the process. Every country I teach in has different rules and standards that I needed to familiarize myself with. Like with this one, I’m required to wear a decent button-up and a sulu.

What’s a sulu? It’s basically a skirt for men.

Fiji was getting sweaty hot so wearing a sulu felt cool for my under carriage, but I absolutely hate wearing flip-flops or sandals. Only when I’m in a beach environment. Wearing my sneakers would look silly with a sulu so I had to make do. (Eventually I began to wear pants and no one minded.) As a matter of fact, only the Fijian teachers wore the traditional Fijian outfit. The teachers of Indian background wore a button-up and slacks. I alternated between both, with favoritism towards the latter.

During the second day of assisting, Mrs. Kurisaqila asked if I wanted to take over a period. I happily accepted and went on the whim. I didn’t prepare any lessons yet because I still had to gauge the class. I had to find out their general academic skill level, sort out who were the smarties, who were behind, who were the troublemakers, and let the students grow comfortable with me. I implemented an “ice breaker “ in the form of an old fashioned, traditional Spelling Bee. They’ve never heard of a Spelling Bee but when I explained to them the rules, they were excited to strut their stuff. It was a way for me to meter them as well. After an intense few rounds, Adi came out on top to which the class applauded her. By the way, I got the list of appropriate age-level words just from googling a website on my phone.

I had ideas as to what lesson plans to conjure for the coming weeks. In the mean time, I still had all of Fiji to explore with my new housemates. We have our evenings and weekends free to do whatever we wanted!

So far, my class turned out to be pretty neat, my housemates were entertaining, and with the unbeatable setting–Fiji– I had a good feeling about the rest of my stay here.


However, I knew from prior experiences that each week could change for no reason other than for life to toy with me.

Everybody Thinks I'm Fijian…and That's a Good Thing

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*My apologies for the lack of photos on this post. I made my most costly travel error ever when I accidentally dropped my iPhone into a waterfall. I’ll explain more about that on a later post.*

I was meant to arrive on Saturday, but was having such a good time at the Beachouse that I emailed The Green Lion, my project coordinators in Suva, letting them know I would arrive at the bus station at 3:00pm on Sunday instead. No problem.

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A group of awesome backpackers I hung around with at the Fiji Beachouse.
I also meant to take the express bus on Sunday morning, but instead Ross and his girlfriend Christie (UK) happily offered to drive me in their rental car. They had to go to Suva anyways. On the way there, we stopped in Pacific Harbor to grab some food and use the ATM. I noticed the time was just a little past 3pm, but no worries, Fiji Time. Just like many places I’ve been to (Africa being the one that pops in my head the most) Fiji runs on what they like to call Fiji Time. Which means, everything and everybody is going to be late. Not too late, but a little late. It’s the whole chilled out island mantra of the island and the perfect excuse as to why anyone in Fiji is late for anything. Fiji Time. I could dig it but it can also be annoying at times particularly when waiting on food that I ordered. In this case, Fiji time would work in my favor because I was already almost a half hour late. The coordinators are probably waiting at the bus station wondering where the heck I am. But I wasn’t overly concerned because of Fiji Time.

Once we arrived at the bus station, I just had Ross drop me off in the center of it. The bus station was a lot bigger than I imagined and a lot more hectic too. I said my farewells to Ross and Christie, put on my bags and simply began to walk around looking for any sign of someone looking for me.

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The Suva Bus Station. Courtesy of Fijibus.com
I’ve done this many times before and each time there is always someone around with a sign that either has my name on it, a yellow smiley face, an IVHQ logo sign, or whatever. I looked and looked. No sign. I did several laps around the entirety of the bus station and no sign of anyone looking for me. Oddly, I wasn’t worried.

I had three options:

  1. Keep walking around looking for somebody.
  2. Go into town and sort out purchasing a SIM for my phone to call Green Lion.
  3. It’s Sunday which means I’m probably not the only new volunteer arriving. I can just wait at the terminal for another foreign volunteer to arrive.

I stuck with option one.

They had to be around here somewhere. There’s no way they would leave the bus station with the possibility of a scared little volunteer all by themselves. I wasn’t scared. This was my fault actually. I told them I’d arrive at 3pm. I didn’t even know if buses actually arrived at three. Then on top of that I was late. I had to figure out a way to make myself look known. Other than my big bags I was carrying, I don’t exactly stick out. Since the day I arrived at the Beachouse, I’ve been mistaken for being a Fijian local by tourists and the locals themselves. Many backpackers assumed I worked at the Beachouse and locals were baffled when I started jabbering in my flat American English.

“Oh I thought you were Fijian!” they would say.

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This is a photo of me at a local village near the Beachouse at a kava ceremony. I blend in quite well right?
I blended in so well that a group of locals invited me to take part in a traditional wedding later in the week (more about that later)!

I never once got bored of the confusion. I was happy that I had potential to coast through Fiji without sticking out like a sore thumb. It will prove useful for when locals want to hassle me. It dawned on me that the coordinators are probably around but probably think I’m some local, easily mistakable among the crowds of actual locals venting in and out of the Suva bus station. Time to change my presence.

I purposely began to appear lost and confused. I walked slowly and would pause occasionally on my tiptoes looking past the crowds with a “what the heck is going on” look on my face. I did this all in the area of where I thought the best place the coordinators would be. I paced slowly, alert.

“Excuse me?” said a Fijian man wearing a tropical blue shirt and what looked like a black skirt for men. I glanced at him and raised my eyebrows letting him know he had my attention.

“Are you looking for someone?”

“Yeah, I’m looking for the Green Lion.”

“Oh, are you Daniel??”

“Yup I’m him!”

He and the woman next to him began to laugh.
“We saw you walk by many times but thought you were a Fijian!” they exclaimed.

This would be the new story of my life.

He introduced himself as Junior and the woman as Seini. Both are coordinators from the Green Lion who were scheduled to pick me up…at three!

“The bus showed up but there were no volunteers that came out, so we were confused,” Junior said with a smile.

I explained my situation but it was no matter. They were just happy to have found me and I was relieved I didn’t have to walk around aimlessly with my bags any longer. They led me to a local bus. About 40 minutes would be my new home for the next six weeks filled with a bunch of other volunteers from all around the world.

This is the part where I usually start to wonder what my housemates will be like, but weirdly I didn’t think much about it. I was concentrating on what kind of restaurants were on the way and IF there was a McDonald’s nearby (there was). I was also taken by the funky island music on blast in the bus. Every volunteer experience I’ve done, the volunteers have always been more than amazing, with a handful being good friends of mine to this very day, so I was sure this experience would be the same.

Once the bus dropped us off, we walked to the Green Lion office where I filled out a bunch of paperwork and then directed across the street to my new home.

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I walked in the house and already there were about a dozen volunteers socializing in the outdoor area. I gave a brief hello and a wave and followed Junior down the hall, downstairs to the boys corridor and to my room. In my room were four bunk beds with someone in each of them except for one, which would be mine.

“Hello,” I said with a stupid smile as I plopped down my bag. “How’s it going?”

One of the boys on the bottom bunk was sprawled out on his side with his right hand supporting his head. “You must be Daniel,” he said in a German accent. “I expected you yesterday.”

He was correct. I was supposed to arrive yesterday. But who is this guy? He introduced himself as Johannes (Germany) but for some reason I kept referring to him as Johannesburg. I got the idea from his chattering that he was the guru of the household. He seemed to know everything about Fiji. The other two in the room were also German. Their names were Timo and Julius, my roommates for the next six weeks. All of them young and all of them experiencing their very first volunteer trip or even solo trip ever! How cute. We made brief small talk before I decided to head upstairs to meet the rest of the crew.

It’s always a bit awkward being the new guy, but turns out that most of the volunteers just arrived hours before me and there were still some coming in later. I introduced myself to about a dozen people and didn’t remember a single name upon the first greet. That usually happens. The same questions follow afterwards: Where are you from? How long are you here for? What placement are you in? Sometimes followed up with: Are you travelling anywhere after Fiji? That last question I chose not to reveal fully just yet. I don’t wanna seem like I’m boasting that I’m currently on a two-year quest to the seven continents. So I just simply would say “Probably Australia.” As a matter of fact, I didn’t have a flight booked anywhere outside of Fiji yet. I wasn’t sure how long I would stick around or where in Australia I would go to first. However, in order to enter Fiji, you need to have proof of a flight departing the country. I found that out at the last minute while I was still in New Zealand. So instead of booking a last minute flight out of Fiji on some random date to some random Australian city, I devised a fake itinerary which worked like magic. (I personally don’t advise this, as it is risky. Go with your gut.) Anyways, back to the subject of my volunteering household.

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Among the group of initial greets, a few standouts were a group of college students from Seattle, Ethan- a southerner from North Carolina, Karen – a laid back gal who hails from Seattle, Annika (Germany) and Sara and Leah, two friends from Chicago. We mingled for awhile as other volunteers made their way into the house. A volunteer who has been there for awhile already, Mychaela, lives ten minutes from my mom in Michigan. Look at that! She’s freakin’ hilarious by the way. The last volunteer to stroll in that night introduced himself as Hamish.

“Hamish?” I thought out loud.”What kind of name is that?” It just kinda came out.

“It’s very common actually,” he responded with a grin. He hails from Sydney and this is also his first major solo romp. He sat down next to me and a couple of others I was chatting with and I could already tell from the words coming out of his mouth that this guy is the most Australian Aussie I’ve ever met in my life and I’ve met tons. I thought I’ve heard all the Aussie slang but it was like he spoke an entirely different language. I wasn’t sure at the time if he was toying with me or if this was legit how he speaks. It was legit how he speaks! If anything, his Aussie slang will help prepare me for my pending trip to Australia.


Most of us new volunteers went out the next night to the only bar in town, called Sports Bar. There was nothing sporty about it. Not even a single television. It was kind of a shit hole and we were the only ones there, but still it was a great way to bond with the group I would be spending most of my time with. And no matter how many times I volunteer, no one group is like the other.

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The IVHQ Fiji volunteer group.
Soon I will begin my placement at one of the local primary schools nearby. Like every country I’ve taught in, I expected it to be challenging in a good way. A new culture, new ideals, and different languages always present a few hurdles to bound. In a way, it’s like deducing a puzzle. It always takes a few days but I eventually get the hang of it.

One thing for sure is that I always grow fond of the students I teach and I’m sure the ones here in Fiji will be just as fond-worthy.