If you somehow ended up on a deserted island, what would it take for you to survive? What would you need to live life there in the moment? A group of 7 westerners from Europe and both Americas, here for different lengths and reasons, were asked this question by a fellow volunteer who is an art therapist. We sat around the large piece of paper taped together and were directed to draw our island. Quietly, I began with chalk pastel in hand.
I immediately think of the basics— Water, food, shelter, done. I began by drawing a stream of fresh water pouring into the ocean surrounding the island. Next, I drew a couple of trees in which I placed a tent between for shelter. Last, a fishery and a couple of chickens to lay eggs for food. 25 minutes left till the end of the exercise.
What about a beach where I could lay out and read a book? K. A canoe would allow me to visit other places on the island. With it being an island, watching the sunset every night would be exquisite. Cliffs with a gazebo would allow for a good days walk with a great view of the land below while having a picnic. Basic survival and then some.
I started listening to what the other people sitting around creating our island were saying and glancing at what they were drawing. One guy, who I shared the last piece of paper with, had created a very functional society. We decided to barter between his cow’s milk and my chicken eggs, grab a book from his library and come over to the beaches on my side, check email over there then come back over for a campfire and peace and quiet. From the top of the cliffs, there was a zipline which would lead to his side for easy access. Through the mango trees and over the bridge would lead from basic deserted island survival in my eyes into His society of basic needs to survive in society.
If I were here for 2 weeks or 2 months, I think I would crave the normalcy of Western life. Salads, mochas, fast internet, libraries, driving cars, store variety, access to friends and a night on the town… but being here for 2 years I’ve accepted the fact that life like that won’t exist for quite some time. I’m surviving in my “island” of Pader, Northern Uganda, where life is simply different. Rather than always longing for what isn’t here, I’m grateful for the unique experiences that I am having.