The children crowd together in the playground looking skyward with intrigue and astonishment as the small drone rises up from their primary school playing field to hover above their heads. Whether they all comprehend there is a GoPro video camera attached or not is unclear, but they are mesmerised by what looks like a miniature helicopter, squealing with delight as it circles above them.
My colleagues and I were at RMKS Primary School in Fiji, on a working bee. Members of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW), we were in Fiji for our AGM and conference, being held at the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa.
We like to give back to the country where our convention is held and every year donate $1000 to a charity that relates to literacy. This year, thanks to the initiative of the ASTW Secretariat, we did more than just hand over money. We built picnic tables for the school to use for outside lessons when the heat gets too much in the classroom.
RMKS Primary School was chosen as it is close to the Intercontinental Fiji and many of the staff have children there. Through collaboration with the hotel engineer and a good deal negotiated with the local hardware store we were able to purchase enough timber for 11 tables and it was our job to (help) assemble them.
But first we visited the children in their classrooms. Happy for the distraction from lessons they eagerly chatted with us, sang for us and posed for our cameras, laughing hysterically at their own digital images.
The team from Travel There Next brought along the drone and GoPro to get some aerial shots, and the students trailed them outside as if they were the Pied Piper. They followed the drone around as it skimmed above their heads and looked sorely disappointed when it was finally packed away.
As the school carpenter cut the timber, we hammered and bolted the tables together, teasing each other over double-handed hammering and bolts inserted the wrong-way-around. Thankfully there were no major injuries to hands more used to hammering keyboards than nails.
At the end of the school day the senior students performed for us under the shade of a tree. Vivacious boys with lava-lavas and Trade Link t-shirts over their school uniforms, eyes sparking with mischievous excitement, stomped out a haka on the grass. The teacher beat out tunes with sticks on a hollow log and before long we were dancing in a conga line with the kids, egging on their laughter with our silly dancing antics.
While our visit may have been fleeting, the memories of those smiles will last for ages. And I hope when the students sit at the picnic tables they will remember they were made by the crazy writers with the miniature helicopter.
For footage of the school visit, follow this link to Travel There Next.