Tahiti, Friday 26th of June 2009, 5:49 local time
Everything seems so unreal. I think I still haven’t quite grasped the fact that we are here. Raphael and I arrived at Faa'a International Airport yesterday at 4:30 in the morning and were picked up by Frederic, who owns Te Miti, the little hostel we will be staying at for a week – until we find a cheaper place to live. After unpacking a bit and taking a shower (really needed it – had been traveling for about 51 hours: Wuppertal – Cologne (by car), Cologne – Brussels Midi (by ICE) – a night at the station – Brussels Midi – London St. Pancras International (by Eurostar) – London Heathrow – Los Angeles and finally L.A. – Papeete (by plane obviously) we had breakfast with Fréderic, his family and the other guests here. I couldn’t wait to get into the water so we made our way across the busy street to the nearby beach and went snorkeling. The variety of fish I saw was stunning – although I must admit I had imagined the coral reefs to be slightly more colourful. I am not quite certain what healthy corals look like… I wonder if global warming has already had an impact on them here. Being at the beach (making sure not to lie directly underneath a palm tree in order to reduce the risk of being struck by a coconut – ending my life at a way too early point in time) and observing the locals is a true pleasure. The slow pace and patience of the people here is contagious... I shall continue with my report later on today since it is dawning and I want to go for a swim (just to keep fit of course).
After relaxing in the water and at the beach we had a nap, went shopping (a real challenge – everything is so expensive here, apart from baguettes which are subsidized by the government) had dinner and went straight to bed – it gets dark around six o’clock and we still need to adjust to the 12-hour time difference.
19:26 local time
Today Raphael and I did a bit of research online – there seems to be more renewable energy related stuff going on here than we initially thought. Our excuse for not finding all these nice sites beforehand: apparently Google spits out different results depending on where in the world you are… Around midday we hitchhiked to Papeete. We had a look at the market where we encountered almost entirely locals selling and buying fresh fruit and veg, fish and flowers. Then we went into a number of shops to ask for a magazine called “ParuVendu” which one of the locals had recommended to find used bicycles – unfortunately we didn’t have success. People here don’t seem to be into second hand things… Maybe we’ll give up looking for bikes – bus journeys here are cheap and also quite adventureous :) Finding bicycles wasn’t our only aim for today. We have a contact, Taina, who works for Tahiti Tourisme in Germany and went to see her friend Antonina here who also works at a travel agency. It’s a good thing Raphael is so charming – she immediately offered that we could stay with her. She will have visitors from Saltlake City until mid-July but then we’d be free to stay as long as we want :)
After visiting the Assemblée (parliament) where we found an art exhibition (paintings of the cultural clash between whites (black & white) and natives (colourful)), a list of the French Polynesian presidents (very quickly fluctuating – no wonder the people here are frustrated with politics) and a very nice garden with a variety of plants and gigantic trees. Now to our bus journey: There seems to be no “proper” system - as a well organized German would probably observe. The different buses sometimes don’t even have a sign to let potential passengers know where they’re going. Fortunately everyone here is very friendly and easy to talk to (even considering the fact that we urgently need to brush up our French). On the admittedly quite shabby bus we were the only strangers. A few people had to stand and when a teenager occupied two seats a young woman in front of me made him aware of the people standing – this is so different from public transport in Germany. People are open and don’t seem to have a leave-me-alone-bubble around themselves. A lot of Tahitian women wear a Tiare (flower) behind one of their ears (can’t recall which side means that they’re unmarried). I’ve always wondered how they always look so fresh – until I saw a woman on the street lean across a wall to pick a fresh one, smell it and place it behind her ear. After about an hour of very nice detours up and down the hill (fearing that the old bus wouldn’t be able to cope with the steep slopes – and enjoying the amazing view) we finally arrived back in Paea. We didn’t manage do go swimming during sunset but the detours were definitely worth it. Back at Te Miti we made dinner and watched a documentary about James Cook and the Polynesian settlers (it’s amazing how they managed to overcome these huge distances by canoe and only using the stars for orientation) before we fell into our beds.
My final thoughts of the day:
What would Tahiti… or maybe the world look like if the Europeans hadn’t been such dominant and possessive colonizers and missionaries? Would (the) people (here) still be living in peace with nature?
It’s a shame to see Coke cans lying around and people driving SUVs - why is this kind of “lifestyle” so contagious?
Nevertheless it is good to encounter such friendly people and encouraging to get positive and open minded feedback when we tell them about our project – “Energies renouvelables – Bonne idée!”
We are having a few technical difficulties at the moment - will post some pictures shortly.