Descending into Nadi on our Pacific Air flight a few days ago, my dad struck up a conversation with two stewardesses who were seated facing us in their crew seats. He went on about how when he had first visited Fiji back in 1980, there was no TV and only two radio stations. The ladies confirmed this and we began to compare Fiji to other destinations they visit regularly as airline employees like Hong Kong or Sydney. “Too busy,” they say.
“Yeah,” said my dad, “They don’t have Fiji Time.”
Laughing, they wonder, “You know about Fiji Time?!”
Indeed, everyone who has witnessed this remote, volcanic atoll knows about Fiji Time.
Fiji time is at the restaurant, lagging between customers’ orders and their tucking in. Fiji Time clogs the transmission of data through sluggish and spotty internet connections. Fiji Time is with you on the side of the Queens Highway, which circumscribes the big island of Viti Levu, as you wait for the next bus to arrive. Fiji Time sits in the shade with the village men on hot afternoons and shares a drink. Fiji Time splashes in the shallows after school with the now kids who have stripped their uniforms away. Fiji Time closes the convenience mart at the most inconvenient times.
More than an excuse for tardiness or slowness, Fiji Time is a sort of stock epithet, a jolly refrain when schedules inevitably fail and when inertia sets in. It is a phrase that embodies a laid back attitude; when spoken it reminds everyone within earshot to relax and helps to relieve worry. While other low-strung corners of the world may encourage the same idea, Fijians have distilled the essence into a single short and satisfying phrase.
What time is it? Fiji Time. Like saying, “who cares?” without sounding lackadaisical. I haven’t neglected my watch so heavily for a long time.