By Rachel, Girl Scouts of Central Texas
Changing the world sounds like a pretty big task for one girl. With seven billion people living in 196 countries on seven continents, changing the world seems too big and too impossible, yet a tiny island country by the name of Fiji taught me something entirely different. My Fiji experience taught me that sometimes the smallest actions can make the biggest differences.
As I came to learn, Fiji is rich with culture and tradition which they have managed to keep intact through centuries of development. From the moment we stepped off the plane, Fiji’s culture came alive. A Fijian band greeted us in the airport with island music and handing out native flowers to arriving travelers. Smiles were all around; we knew we had come to the right place, a place overflowing with tradition and excitement. From the Kava-drinking welcome ceremony, to the Lovo feast, to the native games, to the unique clothing and dances, Fiji had a lot of culture to offer us, yet a different part of their culture was what truly changed me.
Bula is not just a word in Fiji. It is a welcome. It is an invitation. It is an extension of kindness. It is a way of showing excitement. It is a thank you. It is a show of respect. In short, Bula is everything to the Fijian people. If you get off a plane in Fiji, someone will greet you with Bula. If you arrive at a hotel, they will say Bula. If you drive past someone walking on the side of the road, they will shout a big Bula to you. If you walk past a group of people in the market, Bula is spoken from every mouth. If you visit a school, riots of Bulas will be audible. Not only is a person greeted with Bula everywhere they go, they are also greeted with the warmth of a sincerely happy smile. Every time we passed someone walking on the road, they would literally jump for joy and smile and wave at us, shouting “Bula, bula, bula!” The people of Fiji do not know hate. Hate is a distant recollection of an emotion that has been smothered by warmth and joy. I was amazed by this phenomenon. How could a Fijians say hello to random strangers and welcome us with such sincere excitement, yet in America, you get stares or people ignoring you? The longer I was in Fiji, the more I began to accommodate to this warm, welcoming lifestyle and pretty soon, I began waving and smiling and saying “Bula!” to everyone I passed. Towards the end of the trip, I felt so content and happy, and I realized that the happiness I was extending towards others on the outside was beginning to take hold of me on the inside.
I couldn’t even imagine going back to America, where people can be cold and unwelcoming, and that’s when I knew I could make a change. I wondered, if the people of Fiji could change my attitude, my outlook, my well-being, and my mood so drastically for the better in the short amount of time I was there, why couldn’t I do that for someone else? What would the world be like if those seven billion people living on it where as warm and welcoming and happy as the Fijians and I were? I decided to make a change, starting with my life and extending outwards. I now treat people with as much warmth and happiness as the Fijians did for me, because I know how even a simple “hello” with a genuine smile can change someone’s whole day for the better. If I could change others as the Fijians changed me, then I could not only change someone’s day for the better, but I could change the world for the better.