December 2015 
Fiji hasn’t ever really been on my radar as a vacation destination but I’m so glad it ended up working out that we got to visit for a few days. I’m not typically a relax on the beach type of vacationer – instead I prefer staying busy with seeing the local sights and whatever adventure that destination has to offer. However, since we visited Fiji on our way home from Australia, the idea of lounging around in paradise didn’t sound horrible to me.

When we had originally planned this trip, we had planned it as a dive vacation – looking forward to diving throughout the South Pacific in waters we hadn’t visited yet. And then I got pregnant with our son, Hudson. Diving was off the table for me, but not for Brian and he was very much looking forward to it.

We touched down in Nadi (pronounced Nandi) and although we were the only airplane walking through the very small airport at the time, we were greeting by a live band playing traditional island music. This was such a warm welcome to the Fiji Islands and the hospitality and loving spirit of this nation only proved itself more and more over the next 5 days. We were picked up by a representative of First Landing Resort who loaded our bags into his pickup truck and began the 30 minute drive out to our resort. The entire drive was spent asking questions of each other and getting to know a little bit about the islands and local culture. He had grown up in the Islands and had as of yet, never left the country – even for holiday. Although it was already dark outside and hard to see our surroundings, he spoke to us about the recent hurricane, which had passed through the Islands -devastating homes, water supplies and the lives of many locals.

Although Fiji is a tropical paradise and one we’ve all heard of, it is not industrialized as one might imagine. The main island of Viti Levu is still largely populated with small villages and townships who get by with no power and/or running water. They make use of the land and rely on tourism and local commerce (Fiji brand water) to help sustain the island.

Our welcome to First Landing Resort was nothing other than incredible. We were greeted by name as we walked in from a handful of staff, anxious to say hi and welcome us to their home. They brought us welcome drinks and sat us for a late dinner even though the kitchen was already closed. After dinner we walked to our Garden Bure which was a short walk through the lush jungle, accompanied by the sounds of tropical birds in the trees and the ocean lapping on the warm sand mere feet away. We walked in the door to our Bure and they had decorated it with fresh flowers and written “Welcome” on the bed with flower petals and “Bula” on the couch with other items sourced from the grounds. It was gorgeous and I can’t think of a warmer welcome I’ve ever received in all of my travels.

The next few days were spent exploring the grounds around our resort, swimming, diving, snorkeling and taking a somewhat sketchy taxi ride into Nadi for an afternoon to souvenir shop. One afternoon the dive boat Brian was chartering dropped me off on one of the neighboring islands to explore for a bit while Brian dove. I spent the next few hours snorkeling in the clear blue water, watching fish and crab looking for hiding places in the sandy bottom. I could feel the my back starting to get warm (No matter the SPF I put on before going into the sun – I burn. The sun and I have never been great friends) So I got out of the water and set up my little sand umbrella and parked myself under it with my book for a bit until I saw Brian’s dive boat appear to pick me up. He was on a surface interval at the time before he could do his next dive, so we decided to do some snorkeling together. The boat took us a ways off the coast of the island and we jumped in. Holding hands we splashed through the coral and sea kelp, looking at all of the marine life and having a blast. He headed back to the boat to gear up again for his next dive and I stayed in to continue snorkeling. I made it another 45 minutes or so snorkeling before starting to feel a little queasy and headed up to the boat. I could feel my back and the backs of my legs as being warmer than they should have and while I did end up getting a little sick out there in the ocean, it simply didn’t compare to how sick I was when I got back to our hotel and my sunburn started to set in. If you’ve ever seen a cooked Lobster than you can close your eyes and imagine the color of my skin as my burn set in that night. A few hours after arriving back to our Bure, I was quite literally laying in bed with tears streaming down my face because the touch of fabric from our bed on my skin was too painful to deal with. I was pregnant and in a foreign country so didn’t have access to any acceptable pain medication and instead had to rely on Brian to coat my shoulders, back and legs in Aloe every 20 minutes to help alleviate some of the pain. This was the second worst sun burn of my entire life and to say it hurt is an incredible understatement.

We flew home to the US two days later and I had to sit on the edge of my seat the entire 15 hour flight home as the rest of my body was too burned to be able to sit on. Word to the wise – if you’re traveling to Fiji and you don’t do well in the sun, invest in a full body swimsuit coverup to use in the water. When we go back someday, I will be the weird looking lady covered head to toe flopping around in the water, however I’m intent on not coming home looking like a cooked lobster this time.

Lessons of turning tragedy into triumph 

from a military widow



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