A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Two Conversations in Tahiti

Two conversations

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Moorea Island is the closest Island to Tahiti and probably the second biggest tourist trap with Club Med and a few others scattered around the Island. You reach it via a ferry which runs from the island of Tahiti 3X daily or if you are rich you can fly. We are anticipating that we will catch the 0945 sailing but I wake at 0600 and try to rouse Alison for the 0700 sailing; but, she isn’t interested. Back to sleep and awake again at what I think is 0830 . I leap out of bed and into the shower and as I fall asleep mid dressing I discover, to my chagrin, that it is 0730.

We queue to get tickets which are fcp1400 each return ( NZ$25). While waiting I hear a familiar language  and its Bob , from Sydney. Although he is an Australian he looks oriental and he is wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt so he could be virtually from anywhere. But it is obvious that Bob knows even less French than us as he’s reading Sundays timetable; whereas I have at least sussed out the French for Saturday.

Bob is in the hotel trade and he is in Tahiti on a working holiday with wife Judy who is constantly smiling and then

retiring to write in what looks like a giant exercise book. Does she tear out the pages and send them home to Sydney in air mail envelopes that conceal their cheap and tawdry stationary? Bob is frustrated because he’s the front man for a proposed Japanese/ Australian/Tahitian consortium who are going to shoehorn their way into a hotel. As he says with the Japanese being involved they demand that it has to be something rather special and Bob is looking a little frayed around the edges as he sucks on his 10 Malboro of the morning and anxiously glances at his watch. He has been here two days and he has just received his itinerary and so this morning he has already booked in and out of two hotels. One transaction took less than 15 minutes and Bob is reeling. He reckons that so far he has done fuck all work but has had ,lots of meetings,. Basically the local tourist industry is just not happening! It’s just not set up right. There is no information available for people to work our whats on outside of your own hotel. The local people are not interested in promotion. Bob says that some in the industry blame the Tahitians in that they are frequently described as lazy. Bob says you haven’t seen lazy until you go to Fiji. ” Heres the towel you ordered sir” says the Fijian waiter “and you may well reel in surprise as it was three bloody days ago that you ordered said towel”. Bob doesn’t see his proposed venture going very far and as he glances at his watch and sees that we are already 20 minutes past sailing time  , he is not a happy man. Meanwhile Judy sits on their suitcases and scribbles a few more lines on her worn A4.

We’re on our way home from Moorea. A pleasant enough day on what was probably a private beach but there was no-one to warn us off so we grabbed a few fallen coconuts for sustenance and helped ourselves. Apart form giant crabs roaming the beach and their

numerous holes which the cover the roadside to the waters edge and into which a small child may disappear the environment is kind to us. Apart of course, from the inevitable tide mark of FANTA, ROYAL MINERAL WATER, HEINEKEN & HINAMO BEER,  assorted wrappers and various other items of rubbish.

Haamerati cruises onto the return ferry and he is floating about a foot off the multi-coloured, rubbish, strewn deck from the accumulated litter of the days cruises. Roo, his friend? has been standing beside us for at least a quarter of an hour and he’s into his second Heineken which he quickly drains and throws over the side to join the rest of the garbage that is being disgorged from the bowels of the ship. By mid crossing Roo and Haamerati, along with two other friends have polished off close to two dozen cans and are now blocking the aisles, insulting the local French people, singing romantic, bawdy songs , when they are not lapsing into native Tahitian  and presumably further haranguing any pseudo French Polynesian who happen to be near. They are treated by the other passengers with a curious mixture of contempt and fascination and bon-homme. Although I cannot make out what they are saying it is obviously rather risque and is causing offence to some of the other passengers who quickly move to another part of the boat. Inevitably by journeys end ( and an exciting journey it is , with my first sighting of a flying fish and a horrendous swell  which the crew pound the antiquated steel hull through at tremendous speed, causing it to shudder ominously with each new wave) Haamerati has to talk to someone and that basically leaves me  because he’s insulted nearly everybody else. Despite his obvious drunken state and my complete lack of Tahitian or French and his unwillingness to talk in French and utter lack of any English we manage to communicate , much to his delight. He thinks that French Polynesia is great but only on the outlying Islands. Tahiti is basically had it. “Non plage” he keeps repeating , every time we look over at the rapidly approaching island which is being bathed by the late afternoon sun and looks simply amazing. “Le Yacht, byu non plage, Tahiti” then Haamerati lapses into French body language with drunken gesticulations showing obvious disgust for Tahiti. His sweeping gestures encompass the modern motorways with Peugots, BMW’s and Mercedes speeding to and fro and I can only conclude that he has a view of Polynesia that has occurred to me as well. The clash of the French and Polynesian ways of life and the differences in wealth and colonial pride lead me to speculate that Tahiti and French Polynesia are a time bomb , waiting to explode and as Haami(as he now wants to be called)and Roo throw yet another three cans over the side to add to todays garbage I can only feel for them and what they will probably go through before they can resuscitate their pride and feeling for this beautiful country.

Paradoxes are  everywhere. Cleanliness, filth. French, Polynesian. The country almost seems to be schizophrenic………………………………………….

It is only later that I learn that “la plage” probably means swimming and my estimate of Haameratis political sensitivity is shattered.

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