By Ananya Delzom
Meaghan Jain ’15 traveled to Fiji this summer. But this wasn’t her first time journeying to an exotic island.
She was sponsored to go to Fiji for her second time because she was a research assistant for Professor Brison in the anthropology department.
Her research focused on Pentecostal Christianity.
“Basically, my goal was to research and find out why people chose to join that particular sect,” she Jain stated.
“This religion is prevalent all over the world. Pentecostal Christianity is a big umbrella. There’s even a specific church in West Virginia where they dance with snakes … but they don’t dance with snakes in Fiji,” she continued.
Her Sundays consisted of attending church services. “I would attend weekly church group meetings (which are called cells). These meetings were basically mini prayer sessions where people share their experiences in relation to God and religion.”
Meaghan also got to see the cultural differences in ceremonies.
“I visited a village because they were having a mourning ceremony. It had been a certain amount of time since a family member passed away. It was interesting to see the difference in cultures.
For example, in the U.S. everyone wears black at funerals, but in Fiji people wear brightly colored patterns and flowers to mourning ceremonies,” said Jain.
“Guests of the ceremony offered the family giant spools of cloth. This ceremony was basically a celebration for the end of mourning. When Fijians are mourning, they give up something on the night the person passes away.
“They give up whatever the person that passed away liked. So, once this ceremony takes place, the close family can start doing these things again. wasn’t a funeral but a mourning ceremony.
This was very cool to be a part of. They also do kava here. They literally do kava at everything,” she stated.
Kava is a narcotic sedative drink made from a crushed root.
“There was also a hibiscus festival, which is the biggest annual festival in Fiji. It was a big carnival, but they also had a big beauty pageant. Whoever wins is Ms. Fiji.
My host mom’s cousin was one of the contestants. Each contestant is sponsored by something, like a company. So she was Ms. Fiji Fashion Week. Other contestants included Ms. Chicken Express,” she shared.
Aside from doing research, Meaghan participated in adrenaline-rush activities.
She went shark diving. “It was a lot of fun. But it was also really scary. One, because you’re diving with sharks and two, because that was the deepest I’ve ever gone scuba diving,” she said.
“Also, they dropped us off in very rough water so I had to take motion sickness pills. But then those made me sleepy, so I had to take caffeine pills,” she added.
“Overall, being underwater was an awesome experience. The instructors are basically feeding the sharks in front of you. They gave the sharks huge chunks of meat. It was so cool but at the same time scary — the sharks were so big and I had never experienced anything like that firsthand. I also saw a giant eel. It was poking its head out of a hole in a rock. We saw a bunch of eels when scuba diving, but this was by far the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”
She continued, “Another weekend, I got to go on a getaway to a remote island. There we got to go diving and snorkeling. We also got to hang out with the local people who work there. Fiji has this thing called kava, it’s a very mild narcotic and is considered a Fijian past time. We went around the circle drinking kava, talking and relaxing. I really felt immersed in their culture.”
Meaghan wanted to end the the article with one of her favorite puns: “The capital of Fiji is Suva … so, while I’m in Fiji, I’ll be sure to get a Suva-nir!”