Hey friends, I’m Prue, and I study marine geology at Eckerd College. I was supposed to write this blog post about scurvy, however, I think there are some more pressing matters to discuss. As not to disappoint anyone,
Scurvy: A vitamin C deficiency. No one on the Robert C. Seamans will be getting scurvy because our lovely stewards have provisioned luxurious amounts of fresh foods and provide amazing meals.
Moving on: as you all have been reading, we have been anchored right off of Levuka for the past three days. Levuka has surely given us some memories, some fond, some not so fond (Dotty, things won’t be the same without your beautiful laugh).
As foreigners, coming to a new place can be thrilling. When traveling, we are filled with a sense of awe and gratitude. We have tried our very hardest to experience every drop of remote Fiji- and indeed, we have succeeded. Some highlights include: swimming at a watering hole in the priest’s village, drinking Kava with the locals, attending church and being blessed for a good voyage, eating chicken noodle soup-flavored snacks, hiking up into the hills, and climbing trees 😉 😉 Meeting Levukan locals was incredible. They are the most kind and generous souls, and are willing to drop anything to provide a helping hand. Walking down the street, “Bula!” is shouted from houses, cars, and pedestrians. A general feeling of good wishes fills the air. The biggest thing we noticed was how generous the locals were with their time.
On multiple occasions, they have shown us the best way to get somewhere, not simply pointing in the general direction, but taking the time to walk with us and then walk back. They have welcomed us with smiles and taken care of us—we love you Alice! – when we really needed it.
We wonder what makes these Fijians so generous with their time. Are they more generally happy? Do they have more time to spend? Do they value money less than we do in the States?
The question of happiness and ambition was a large part of our discussion/debrief about our time on the island. We discussed differences in values and priorities. Living in such a beautiful place surely improves happiness, right? But it is important to remember that these people do live in a third world country rampant with third world problems, including power outages, lack of trash infrastructure, and poor water supply. That begs the question, is it fair to say that Levukans are so much happier than we are?
Perspectives here vary. We discussed this for a while, even outside the designated class time. A few of us share a perspective here, one that I agree with- that it seems unfair to make an assumption about the happiness and ambition of a large group of people.
The differences between Levuka and cities in the US are great. Simply put, we live very different lives. Levukans seem to value time, family, and community over everything else. However, is this a choice, or is this the product of hundreds of years of culture, colonization, and resource availability? I believe it is safe to say that we live different lives due to our situations and not due to personal choices. If I lived in Levuka, a town without much infrastructure, without easy access to college, media, and stores, I probably would prioritize my community. But living in the States, with so much at my fingertips, my community is not always on my front burner. I am lucky to be constantly thinking about my education, for example. There is not one better than another, they are simply different values potentially due to different situations.
It is important to remember though, that those without as easy access as ourselves, do have huge dreams and ambitions just like us. Some of us talked to a 17 year old girl who wants to be an aeronautical engineer. And it is possible for her! The community pools its resources to go toward a few young people’s education when they reach a certain age.
It is also important to remember that Levukans may not be happy simply as they are. I don’t think that could possibly be true. Things that all Homo sapiens seem to share are desires and dreams. I think it is impossible and unfair to make an assumption such as that.
When meeting new people and visiting new places, there is only so much we can experience and absorb, especially for just a few days, since we are truly outsiders. What we can do, though, is observe. We can collect stories and names and see firsthand the values that govern a community. But our observations are purely observations. They need to be held in context of the culture. Otherwise, we begin to make assumptions that can prove false and harmful.
In our debrief conversation, we did make a lot of assumptions. It is human to try and explain our observations (could this be a very broad definition of science?), but these assumptions have a history in colonization. It can be dangerous to try and categorize sometimes, to put people into a box of “other,” or “better,” and there is a fine line between attempting to explain our observations and categorizing them. In conversation, it can be easy to fall into a sort of colonizer mindset, where we deem something as different and insinuate it as being inferior- something that happens subconsciously.
These conversations can be difficult because how we say something matters a lot. We cannot simply word vomit—our tone, our vocabulary, and our context can make or break a conversation. Articulating what we really mean is one of the hardest things in conversation, and it is true that our perspectives and opinions can be ever-changing. What I hope to have relayed to you all today is that our observations must be taken in context, and different people have different values and that is what must be upheld to the highest degree.
SHOUTOUTS TO THE FAM
Bebe, you are so smart and strong! Keep killing it in Dublin. Fun fact for you, there is a secret fiction cupboard on the ship! We found it the other day and I thought you’d be so excited if you were here!
Mama, I learned of a plant here called “uci,” pronounced “uthi,” which smells exactly like giving you a hug! Love you.
Dada, I can’t wait for my film to be developed so we can restart two-per-week! I think you’ll be excited about the photos.
Shane, I love the gift. I miss you and the rest of the Glizzy Guys!! Sending snugs your way.
Josh and Julie, I am “embracing the suck” of seasickness
DOTTY: we are missing you already. Safe travels home and heal up well! We will carry on for you, and every time we muster on the quarterdeck, we yell “Dotty!” for your number 3.