How lucky I am in life to be on these Island chains. I always said I would visit these places when I am old [er] because as a kid I spent hours spinning a globe studying my Geography assignments. Tons of small islands whose names, no matter how hard I studied, I just could not remember. I always loved geography, places so far away and very foreign. My young imagination saw cowboys in Texas, Eskimos in Greenland and Native Americans in their regalia. For Hawaii and also the other places like Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti my imagination thought of leisurely beach living. Coconut trees and the proximity of the ocean giving one all the food one could eat; a kind of paradise where people had time to pursue gentleness and kindness, where the air was sweet and the flowers gorgeous, where even the people had a natural sophistication and beauty. I am and always was a dreamer and a believer of those images in my mind.
Naturally I found out soon enough that the Dutch people [Holland] do not wear wooden shoes as I thought. In later years I learned there are no Eskimos left who live in igloos. But, and you can laugh at me for being so idealistic, I did meet cowboys in Texas. I did meet the remainders of the hordes of Genghis Khan in Kazakhstan. I did meet them both on horses, still living their lives the way I imagined. The same is true for the Gauchos of Argentina, even though they only exist in small areas or selected places. So, my thinking is, since all these island chains, Polynesia, Fiji, Samoa, etc are so small and so off the beaten track, I might find my idyllic lifestyle someplace here in the wide open Pacific.
So I started off by flying into Papeete from freezing Canada where the temperatures were minus 30 degree Celsius and lots of snow on the ground and flew, via Los Angeles to Tahiti. We, Carol and I, arrived at night, about 11pm with the temperature at plus 30 Celsius and the humidity index at 78 %. We jumped, in a matter of a few hours, 60 degrees. Even though we were dressed in light weight clothes and mentally prepared, the heat hit us like a truck. And then this smell! I am not sure if the sewer treatment plant is near the airport but it seemed that way. Top it all off with a trio of musicians greeting us in the airport reception hall with one female dancer swaying Tahitian style and all in regalia, all adding to the confusion of getting our luggage, finding our papers for the border control and customs inspection. A bit too much of a welcome or just not appropriate or the timing was just off on my part or theirs. We were warned that Tahiti is expensive, we just did not know the extent if it. A 6 km taxi ride into town was 3000 franc Polynesian, or $ US 40. Two cans of iced tea at a cafe were 900 Franc, or about US $ 12.
Paradise lost? Or just expensive? I have yet to determine but I would not want to live here. I do not know what the rest of the island is like but Papeete is not romantic, nor pristine, not idyllic nor affordable. I would call it a staging area for supplies to other islands. It is a pity because I can sense the past somehow and it must have been pretty. Maybe there are pockets inland that I know nothing about, but what I have seen so far, is a far cry from my dreams.