First thing you think of when you think Fiji. Ready. Go. Honeymoon, right? Or at least clear blue water and beautiful beaches. That’s what I thought anyway. So I was pumped when asked by Bryan (Digital Paradigm) if I wanted to go on my second trip with them to film for Missions Today, only this time to Fiji. Of course I accepted, and of course, my wife teased me for going to a honeymoon destination with a bunch of guys. I certainly considered myself blessed to get such a unique opportunity.
My name is Aaron Thomas. I am a freelance photographer and DP who lives in Fort Worth, TX. Some of my favorite things to do on this planet (and hopefully outside this planet one day) include traveling and shooting. It’s a pretty easy choice for me when offered an opportunity to go to Fiji to film, especially since I had such a awesome experience the last time I worked with them on a production to Russia.
It was a pretty simple series of flights for me. DFW>LAX>NAN. The tougher part was the driving once we arrived. Nadi was on the opposite side of the capital, Suva, where we would be staying for the duration of our trip. So after our 11 hour overnight flight, we had to endure a 3+ hour drive to Suva. A big shoutout to Arody for making that trip several times! However, there was huge pro to this long drive, we could instantly tell how beautiful this island was.
Everything ranging from the green mountains and trees, to the ocean and rocky beaches. It was unlike any island I have ever seen. And all it took was one gas stop to see why this island is called the island of smiles. Even the guy pumping our gas was happy to chat with us and let us know there was a huge rugby game going on in Suva that night. This was our first indication that rugby is the most popular sport in Fiji. But I will have a story for that in a minute.
I had heard weather in Fiji is normally hot and humid, however, we were very blessed to have cooler weather the first week we were there. It was because of the constant rain though. This presented many challenges for us. Everything from stopping our shooting to take shelter, to having to fight the mud and always being dirty. I wasn’t about to complain though. I’m not a huge fan of hot and humid. One of the more interesting stories from this trip was that Quiet Hour (our client) was there to help rebuild a church in the Sawakasa village, that had been destroyed twice this year from terrible storms, including a cyclone in February. So of course it was awesome seeing the volunteers do so much to help this village, but what was also very fascinating was seeing the locals and how they all banned together to help make this church function. Many of them came with tents to camp next to the church in order to make and serve food to EVERYONE helping with all the projects. And let me tell you, this was some of the best food I have had! Fiji’s food is influenced heavily from Indian and Chinese food, with their own Fijian style dishes. I ate so much Indian food while there, it even made my armpits smell like curry. Sexy, I know.
Bouncing around to all the different clinic locations, we were able to see much more of that side of the island, as well as, visit with tons of people. One of my favorite memories at one of these clinics was watching a big group of kids playing rugby in the mud. You could tell everyone was obsessed with this sport. There were tons of schools and facilities we would drive by that had guys playing or practicing outside. But seeing these young kids playing in the mud just struck a cord with me. I’m not sure if it was just seeing their love for the sport, seeing them all play together, or being reminded what it was like to be a kid and not caring how muddy I got outside. But in the end, it was a great reminder that we all end up wanting and needing the same thing in life. People. And sports also, in my opinion.
The second part of the trip had much more sun and warmth. It also allowed us to explore a bit more around the island. There were so many incredible views and sunsets in Fiji. I don’t know that I have seen sunsets quite like these. One day, one of the church members actually showed us a fresh natural spring, where we could drink straight out of. We were also able to get to the beach to do some swimming and shoot some of Greg’s walk and talks.
The beach we went to was actually owned by a local church Seventh-day Adventist Church, which I thought was pretty boss. But it was a really pretty beach with a great view of an small island across the water. When I travel, I love going to markets and grocery stores to get a feel for how locals eat, and we found some really great stuff in Fiji. Coconut rolls, for instance. However, the coconut rolls were always sold out! So when we finally got our hands on one, we learned why. They were basically like a cinnamon roll, but made with coconut instead of cinnamon. So good! We also found that their pineapples are tiny! But still so sweet!
After two weeks of filming in Fiji and visiting many different villages and people, it was time to head home. The hospitality and friendliness we were shown by the people in Fiji was incredible. We heard so many great stories from the locals about their lives on the island, their faith in God, and witnessed over a dozen baptisms. The stories from all the volunteers and the journey some of them had to get to Fiji would inspire anyone to give missions a try. But overall, the beauty of Fiji in both the landscapes and smiles of the people showed me how God works through his creations to not only help us bless others, but to remind us that God is constantly blessing us. Thank you Fiji and Digital Paradigm for an awesome trip and experience!
Written by – Aaron Thomas