Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fiji in Circles

It's called a "Bula Bus", "Bula" meaning "welcome" in Fijian. And a number of them provide transportation on a circular route picking up and dropping off at each of the eight or so resort hotels and the Port of Denarau (actually, more of a marina with a small shopping center adjacent). Denarau is one of the 332 islands comprising Fiji. The Bus normally took about a half an hour to do a complete circuit. It was dark, though not yet 9 PM, when I finished my steak dinner, with fries, at Cardo’s Steak House at the port/marina, strolled past shops that were closing, and stopped to listen to musicians playing in various restaurants along the wharf. It struck me repeatedly that, after having a fairly regimented schedule for the past nine weeks, I was now rather aimless. Other than boarding the plane for Los Angeles on Saturday, I had very little on my mind. Boarding the Bus, I asked to be dropped off at the golf club restaurant (which I had been told was good food at a reasonable price - Fiji being quite expensive). 
After being dropped off it took about five minutes to verify that there were no bargains, and I stood waiting for the next Bus to take me back to my temporary home (1200 ft.², two-bedroom second-floor apartment, with a large deck, all more than adequate for my needs). Although warm during the days, it was cool on the Bus as it hurried along making its various mandatory stops on the way. After 20 minutes it became apparent, even to me as a novice Bus rider, that we were doing a circular route that did not include my hotel. Jumping off at the next stop, I asked one of the friendly Fijians I met how to get the right bus. Pointing to a certain location adjacent to the road I assumed it was there that I should catch the next Bus (although I must admit I didn't understand most of what he said). The next Bus I got on seemed to be the correct one, however, it also seemed to be heading in exactly the wrong direction. After a short discussion with another passenger, I disembarked at the next stop and again sought directions, which were less intelligible than before. Instead of trying to understand I simply took matters into my own hands, stood in the road and waived the next Bus down, surely breaching the rules governing the pickup of passengers, and got on. Unfortunately, that particular Bus was none other than the first one I had caught, and was now heading to coffee break. After receiving directions again (repeated to the point of embarrassment), using similar tactics as I did on Bus three, I caught Bus number four, which deposited me on the doorstep of the lobby of my hotel, a shaky, frustrated and embarrassed person obviously caught in the clutches of Parkinson's.
 Having traveled around the world without major mishap, it was a mystery to me how it could take four buses to find my way just a few miles around an island. (Carson will attempt to take credit for his highly tuned geographic perceptions - don't believe a word of it. Ask him about driving in South Africa!). As I walked to my condo unit the metaphor created by the bussing misadventure struck me. Living is not so much comprised of long, well-planned journeys, but rather, life is full of short trips, taken without much thought, and without adequate directions, that have us going in circles. It is not being lost so much as being trapped by successively making the wrong decisions and not taking the time to figure out the efficient way to my destination

As you would expect, as the time approaches to return to home and its familiarity, I am motivated to make some changes. It would be easy for me to get caught up in all the global challenges that have been presented by this round the world tour: the big ideas, the grand schemes, the mega-projects. At the same time, I have realized that there is real danger in failing to focus on the daily in order to avoid mindlessly going in circles, getting "lost" in the uninspiring details. As humdrum as it may sound, life is full of "necessaries", which must be dealt with. Failure to do so can easily result in getting caught riding the Bula Bus in circles.

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