Today was our first day in Fiji! We spent the entire day on the island of Beqa. In the morning, some of us visited the beach and went swimming around the coral heads and seagrass beds next to a small, family-run resort. Others decided to hike across the island from the north village of Naceva to the southern village of Naiseuseu. These villages are closely connected and have the same chief. We used a narrow path that children use to walk to school each day. It takes them about half an hour, but it took us much longer.

The trail was narrow, muddy, and steep in places, so we were lucky to have the helping hands of an entire family to make sure we stayed upright. At the end of the trail, the chief came to say hello as we walked through the larger village, visited the school, and waited for our Zodiacs.

In the afternoon, we returned to the same small resort for a fabulous welcome concert hosted by the community. Guitars and bamboo used for percussion joined with clapping hands and many harmonizing voices. After the welcome, we enjoyed a longer concert and a series of dances performed by women. They sat on the ground for most of the dances and used elaborate hand gestures.

After a short break, we moved to a different part of the shaded lawn to wait for the firewalkers. This area is well known for firewalking. We watched as a group of men came out and removed huge logs from a fire that had been burning all day. With long branches, they smoothed out the rocks underneath – rocks heated beneath the flames for many hours. Without much fanfare, they walked across the rocks one by one. They walked slowly and made it look easy. We watched in silence and then erupted in applause.