‘Fiji time’, a term I heard a lot whilst sweltering in the heat and humidity of the Pacific Island Nation Fiji. A reference to how things happen in their own time that is a lot slower than what we Australians are used it. Whilst it can be irritating and frustrating to most, it is actually a great way of reminding yourself, just be in the moment, be present, be here.
My experience in Fiji will be something I always remember. Going over there as part of a group of 21 UTS students with Unbound, our lens of observation was climate change, sustainable development, and social enterprise. Through the 14 days that I was there, I experienced culture, food and heard stories like none other. With Fiji time, everything seemed so much truer and genuine. Across the program, we had the opportunity to completely immerse ourselves in their way of living through our two homestays in Waivaka and Namatakula, and saw and heard of their ongoing battles against climate change. I saw and felt firsthand how the rising sea levels and changing weather patterns are tearing at the shoreline, eating at the earth and muddying the waters.
That is not to say they are drowning though. They are fighting… after all Fijians have the blood of warriors, sea warriors. They fight everyday against the effects of climate change. Being in Fiji time, they have observed and begun retaliating to these effects already. One NGO, Kai Ni Cola has already taken steps through mangrove plantations and coral reef restorations. They fight everyday so they can maintain their way of life that is rich and vibrant, filled with the spirit of community and family. Despite their villages set to be underwater within the next 100 years, in the words of one village elder ‘We would rather drown than relocate’; that is their willingness to fight.
Their resilience and adaptability to climate change is astounding – and we Australians could do to learn from them. After all, Fiji are our neighbours, our mates in the backyard that we all should chip in to help.
The experience was incredibly enriching to me as a designer, allowing me to draw on my skills of visual communication and design thinking to create ways of communicating their stories and experiences. My ability to work in a team, empathise with others and connect despite cultural differences have been massively improved so I have no doubt this experience will never be forgotten. I would recommend this program to other UTS students with ease and hope to go back in the future – to see our new families and maybe see how those mangroves we planted together are doing.
– Adrian Chin Quan