Fijian Outlook on "Disaster"

Posted by Travel Form + Function on

Are you familiar with the song from Monty Python's "Spamalot" called, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"?

It's the first thing that popped into my head after listening to our Fijian Taxi driver. He recounted what happened the year before with his wife, kids and trailer home during a massive flood of the river they lived by. The flooding river was fast and fierce and they lived very close to it. 

Being Fijian, they were used to periodic powerful monsoon seasons that bring a lot of damage with it. However, being Fijian, they have a very different way of looking at what the rest of the world might call a "disaster". Instead of grabbing only the essentials and quickly evacuating, the wife yells to him, "Hurry, get the fishing rods!!". He explained that the best fish are brought to the surface during a flood and she didn't want to miss this opportunity to catch them. No fear, just seeing the opportunity instead of the flood. 

This way of thinking is described so well in Maarten Troost's, The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific, that coincidentally, I was reading the day before before our taxi driver told us his story. In the book, Troost describes what happened to a small group of Kiribati people from the remote Pacific island of Tarawa. They went out on a small motor boat to go to another island and along the way their motor died and left them stranded adrift without food or water. It wasn't long before sharks began to circle them. Instead of seeing themselves being devoured by the sharks, they saw dinner. They used a lot of strength and tenacity to catch one, bring it onboard! This is how they survived - not seeing themselves as victims, but as victors!

I'm not saying to disregard wisdom in the face of imminent danger, but I am inspired by these Pacific Islander's way of seeing adversity in a different light. This is a perfect example of how travel can expand one's mind and teach new ways of seeing old situations in every facet of life.

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