Swiss people are big planners when it comes to their future, their old age and financial security. Their whole life, they think about what will be and sometimes forget to live in the moment. With the Papuans, it’s the other way around. Most of them only live in the moment and don’t spend a moment thinking about tomorrow.
They are brought up like this, so it’s hard to blame them. When they come to work for us, we often start by explaining to them why we do the things the way we do them. And what the consequences of our actions are. We show them why our guests come to visit and that we all need to protect the underwater world for them to keep coming back. It’s not always easy to make them understand that our business and their future depend on it. They only see what our resort does for them today – they get a job and a salary and are able to feed their families. But if their families want them to stay in the village for a while because there are things to be done, they’ll do it without thinking of the consequences this might have for their job with us.
This is how we just recently lost one of our employees from the neighboring village Kabui. His family asked him to take a vacation to sort out some things at home. So he did. But after the vacation, he just didn’t show up at the resort anymore and didn’t answer any messages we sent him. When he did come back two days later, he said he had to finish a job back home which was more important than the one with us. As this was not his first time, we had to let him go which didn’t seem to bother him that much. I guess he didn’t fully understand the consequences: that he would not have a paid job anymore, no more regular income, no more support for his family, no more health insurance paid by us and no more pension money, also paid by the company.
Any westerner would say he’s crazy to let such a good job slip through his fingers. But who are we to think we can impose our way of thinking to other cultures? Why should our reasoning be better than theirs? We tend to be rather obstinate with our planning, and struggle when things don’t work out the way we planned. People here, on the other hand, are very flexible and adapt quickly to new situations because they didn’t have a plan in the first place. They just take every day as it comes, and sometimes a new day brings better options than you thought the day before.
Their joy of life also comes from this short-term thinking – live in the moment and don’t think about tomorrow! They seem perfectly happy like this, so why change?
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…