Toushulong enjoying the sun
Toushulong enjoying the sun in Fiji.  Photo Credit: Khone Saysamogdy

Let me take you to a place, where time stands still and the worries of the world slip away. Blue oceans, white sandy beaches, palm trees, and the locals sitting around enjoying each other’s company. This isn’t usually the ideal setting for a service-learning project; however, for twenty Fresno State students and three professors, it was just right.

In the winter of 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a week-long, international service-learning project with Fresno State and Madventurer. This was my first time traveling outside of the United States and despite being a bit nervous, I was excited to see the village I learned about after reading Ambassador Lilliana’s blog. I had not fully grasped the idea that I was leaving the country for one week’s time, which after the trip felt like a century. However, after an eleven hour plane ride and then a couple of days in Savusavu, we initiated our journey to the village. After a truck ride on a bumpy, dirt road, we finally reached our destination at the village of Naboutini, where our goal of the trip was to build a community kitchen.

When I stepped into the village, I was taken away by the sense of peace that calmed my soul. I took a deep breath and never felt so free from the worries of the world. The next

Mogee teaching students how to fish. Photo Credit: Khone Saysamogdy

couple of days reinforced and opened my eyes to what service is all about. I would sit at lunch and listen to stories from my peers about fishing with the villagers or about the encounter with the giant spiders that lived in the boys’ bathroom. However, there is one story that embodies the ideal of international service and cultural immersion for me.

At the edge of the village laid a house and there lived a young man by the name of Seru, along with his brother-in-law David. I had met them through Will, one of the student leaders, and on this particular day they were on a pig hunt for a boar that was

Mama Pig, ready for food. Photo Credit: Khone Saysamogdy

roughly 300 pounds.  When we arrived, the boar had gotten away and was no where to be seen. I had gone with Will to deliver a pair of neon green rugby cleats to Seru. Once finished, we made our way back home when I heard a loud commotion and kids yelling. I looked to my right and charging towards me was the boar, with three kids on his tail. In the heat of adrenaline and wanting to catch this pig; Will, the cameraman Khon, and I jumped in to help. We chased that thing up and down the river for what felt like 15 minutes. We had no idea what to do, but we followed suit with the kids, screaming and hollering trying to get the pig into an open area. With one final charge, the pig made it past us and into open ground where Seru and David caught him. They tied him to a tree and that is where he remained.

Reflecting back on this story, I would say that my idea of service has changed. I believe that service is a two-way road where each individual receives something in return. In this context, we helped the villagers and they allowed us to be a part of something bigger then ourselves. I never thought that I could live in a village for one week and be reluctant to leave. The people of Naboutini have taught me about life, people, and love. Through their service to our group, words cannot explain the amount of selflessness of those people. We had come to the village feeling like strangers, but we left as members of the community village that taught us more then we will ever know.

Have you ever thought about how you could affect someone’s life, even if it’s something simple? Step out of your comfort zone and find your pig to chase!

-Ambassador Toushulong