In Fiji, life is lived slowly.
There is never any need for urgency, life is lived by internal urges rather than external, societal ones. You live as a part of a pack, in tune with nature, with a rooster as your alarm clock.
After spending a few days living in Gunu village on Naviti Island, I got to observe the way villagers lived, and how time to them was so different than time to me. Everyone was relaxed and joyful, sitting together in groups by the beach or laying down under the mango tree for regular afternoon naps.
The husband of our homestay, Bilo, was the epitome of island life. He spoke so slowly and gently as if he’d fall asleep in the middle of the sentence. He would say something like “this… will…take 15….20 minutes,” but it actually took 2 or 3 hours. I knew this because I had my watch, which I realised was not at all useful in a village. Other times he’d make a plan to take us somewhere and when we were ready to go, he was nowhere to be found. I’d ask around, “do you know where Bilo is?” a passing villager would answer, “Bilo? Oh, he’s gone for a nap.”
This man, and this entire village, represented the exact opposite of my life in Sydney. I live by the ‘time is money’ motto where things are fast-paced, always changing and intense. My demanding job intensifies this and makes the idea of relaxation sometimes feel unreachable. Mat and I live a life of incredible convenience, just on the edge of the CBD, in a medium-sized apartment where no one knows each other. Our kitchen has a tap with both hot and cold clean water to drink. We always have wifi and are always connected to technology in some way or another. There is no need for patience because every urge is instantly met with reward.
Whereas in Gunu village, patience is a way of life. They need to wait for the solar panel to reach a certain voltage before using their electricity. On cloudy days they have no electricity. They drink fresh rain water that is caught from panels in their roof. They can use the shower with running water between certain hours of the day. Otherwise, they use a bucket to clean themselves. They spend time with each other, connecting, laughing. They go to church every day at 5pm. Sunday is a day of rest; no cleaning, no moving, nothing, just rest. Building a house can take years, with one room being developed at a time until they have enough money to expand. They go spearfishing for fresh fish and pluck fruit from the trees. They take regular naps. They drink lots and lots of kava.
I wonder if there’s a way to integrate Gunu Village into daily Sydney life? Like if all apartment blocks here had regular social nights to get to know your neighbors, where people who cooked a lovely meal and couldn’t finish it could share it. Where we could have a little community garden shared for the people in the apartment to enhance connection and community. And for 2 hours on a Sunday, the wifi was shut down. Maybe even electricity too, just so everyone had to sit by candlelight and talk to each other in that kind of quiet, intimate way that candlelight seems to create.
I wonder how life would be if we mixed the two worlds like two bright contrasting colors smudged beautifully together on a bright white canvas.