HEAVEN ON EARTH?

What constitutes a paradise? Have you ever wondered? Well, some people say it’s a place of extreme beauty where everything is covered with loveliness. Others claim it’s a secluded spot of no worries, no problems, no stress. And I think that such Heaven on Earth doesn’t exist.

Yes, I adore Pasifika. Truly, madly, deeply. But would I call it a paradise? I surely wouldn’t.

Of course, the islands are almost picture-perfect. Crystal-clear waters, sun-drenched beaches and coconut palm trees are all part of the tropical scenery. But take a closer look. Can you see how some of the atolls are being slowly invaded by the ocean? Can you see severe coastal erosions? No? Then maybe you can notice a lack of plants in certain locations? Those are the consequences of climate change. Rising sea level that gradually swallows shorelines. Saltwater intrusion that affects crops and contaminates freshwater supplies. Violent cyclones, devastating floods, prolonged droughts. How paradise-ish does this sound?

But wait, there’s even more. Due to forced migration from low-lying islands, Pasifika’s biggest towns are getting extremely overcrowded. More people, more rubbish. What once was an idyllic destination can now be compared to a little garbage dump. Literally. Everything, from empty cans to broken household goods, must end up somewhere. And it usually ends up on a beach or by the side of a road. They do not show this in travel brochures, do they?

That would be enough for the visual part. Now, let’s go undercover, shall we? You may think that Pacific Islanders are one of the friendliest people on Earth. And they are; honestly and without doubt. They’re kind, they’re generous, they’re extremely welcoming. Their glass is always half full, never half empty. This remarkable cheerfulness appeals to the hearts of visitors. But there is something most tourists do not get to see. What’s hidden behind the happy façade? Domestic violence, physical and emotional abuse, rapes.

Life in Pasifika is not a bed of roses, especially for women. They are often hit, they are beaten, they are sexually assaulted just because such behaviour is widely accepted and, most importantly, passed down from generation to generation. Young children see those things at first hand; that’s the way they are brought up. They believe it’s normal for a man to punch his wife. Or for a woman to obey her husband and stay silent while being harmed. Wrong thinking… What a trivial cause of violence, right? Trivial, yet hard to eradicate.

Such is the real Pacific. As you can see, it definitely can’t be considered Heaven on Earth. This place is no paradise for many reasons; too many to mention here. It may not seem like it, but the islands do have their problems; just like any other country in the world. The geographical remoteness doesn’t make them immune to global issues. Unfortunately. But don’t worry, the dream is still alive. And you can chase it; while lying on the beach, watching the sun sets or simply spending time in a luxurious fale.

Remember, you don’t love something because of its perfection. You love it because it’s unique; because it brings you joy and happiness. As they say, paradise is where the heart is. For me that’s Pasifika – a very special corner of our globe. Not ideal, but absolutely amazing and incredible. I take it as it comes; with the good, the bad and the ugly.

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