Sunday, 7 April 2013

6 month reflection

I'm sat in my flat in London, having spent the past 6 months mainly on Praslin in Seychelles. It seems like a good time to reflect. These reflections will be quite random, but it will hopefully give you some insight as to how your life can change in 6 months.

Before returning to see my wife in the UK, a few people had warned me of sensory overload. Seychelles is still a country with relatively little in the form of mass-marketing. As a great deal of products are imported, there is not the (un-necessary) variety of products that we're spoilt with in Europe. My first few supermarket experiences back in the UK were not just overwhelming, but they actually managed to bring on headaches and feelings of nausea.

My wife asked me to pick up some Horlicks and Ovaltine whilst she checked out the juices in the next aisle. I stood at the hot drinks section of Morrisons for a good 3 minutes, completely perplexed. There were 3 kinds of Horlicks and 3 kinds of Ovaltine. 

This is not a picture of me, it's one I stole from 

My brain literally could not process the amount of choice being thrown at it. I wondered who on earth at Nestle thought that chocolate flavoured Horlicks was a good idea. Further research led me to discover that the person was certainly not Danish. The Danes apparently banned the sale of Horlicks, Ovaltine, Shreddies and Marmite 2 years ago! 

Interestingly, our brain quickly adapts to the variety of products or lack of them. I found that after living on Praslin for a while, I rarely complained about a lack of choice, I just buy what's on the shelf and if my mind and body are really craving something in particular, ISPC can usually provide a quick fix! Similarly, after being back for 2 weeks, I can now go around the giant supermarkets of London without getting a headache! My mind is possibly back to its London prime and capable of processing a ridiculous amount of visual stimuli again. As a consequence, I've returned to checking facebook on a daily basis, although I'm not yet active again on Twitter. 

Why is it that I don't use social networking that much in Seychelles? Because very little of the stuff on there directly affects me. Since returning, I've become engrossed by British politics and the news (much like the great majority of the British public). Why is this? Well because the crazy policies may directly affect my life in the near future. It's "somewhat close to home" and therefore interesting. For me, this is the reason why people are obsessed with gossip in Seychelles. Because very little of what is in the news (The Nation/Today in Seychelles, SBC) actually affects you. With a population of 6500 people, anything that happens to anyone on Praslin feels like it is "somewhat close to home". Someone's boat is sunk, someone moves house, someone changes jobs or sells their business. This news is infinitely more interesting than what is printed in the national newspapers and it can spread faster than Twitter! The reason why is because it is "somewhat close to home" much closer to home than what is in the national news. 

Perhaps this is not just typical of islands, but indeed any close-knit communities. Workplaces for example. Whilst I generally see gossip as quite negative and damaging, perhaps it is actually a positive sign of a healthy community. My wife and I rarely gossip about people living around us in London, that's because we don't actually know our neighbours or the local community. We live our own very separate lives. Is this a good thing or not? I don't think it's either, it's just a London thing. People have to get on with their own lives to survive here. You can't spend too much time nosey-ing around other people's business, you have to get things done and there are finite hours in the day to get them done. 

I guess that leads me to my final thoughts. Perhaps the laid-back island lifestyle of Praslin is more conducive to building a tight-knit local community where everyone knows everyone. And perhaps the rushed and action-packed nature of London means we are very unfamiliar with our neighbours and community. Both ways of living have different prices to pay. Living in a tight knit community, few secrets are kept and gossip travels fast. Living in a road full of strangers, there are times when the walk home can feel cold and awkward. Is there a happy medium to be found somewhere? Can Londoners learn from Praslinois and vice versa?

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