Saturday, October 15, 2011

Return to Paradise

Moorea, French Polynesia

"Nothing on Tahiti is so majestic as what it faces across the bay, for there lies the island of Moorea.  To describe it is impossible.  It is a monument to the prodigal beauty of nature." - James A Michener, Return to Paradise

I spent the weekend with friends on Tahiti & sent the crew on Paramour ahead of me to Moorea with the intention of taking the ferry later & finding them.  My friends on Tahiti said if I had any trouble, I could take the last ferry back & stay with them no problem. I suddenly realized I had no idea which anchorage they might be in, & I was looking at a strange map in the shape of an irregular heart.  It was almost dark, & an hour before the last ferry back.

Adventures don't happen unless you're unprepared.
So I try my luck & stick out my thumb.

When I explained my problem ("I've lost my sailboat"), they gladly took me to look for it.  No luck in the dark.  They invited me to stay over at their house for the evening, to continue the search the next day.  
"Where are you coming home from?"
"From a cockfight.  We train fighting cocks."
"Ah, okay.  And what do you do for work."
"We sell weed."
"Ah."

Johnny & Mivani offered me dinner, cake, a shower, clean clothes to sleep in, breakfast & I played with their 4 year old daughter (Heimahi) all evening.  I came home the next day well rested with orange & purple toenails & another story to tell.

My first of many beautiful nights on Moorea.

This little island had a big impact on me.  Despite what it's famous for, Moorea isn't about ritzy resorts.  It wasn't the white sand beaches, the sunsets, or the gorgeous landscapes that hooked me either.  Although Moorea’s beauty is legendary; it is on the 50, 100 & 500 pieces of FP francs.
It was the people.

Spent a few nights aboard Apetahi's fishing boat, where they taught me that fishermen are the only people who can drink more than sailors.  They granted me sanctuary aboard if I needed to get away & called themselves my Moorean family.  Roland even offered to help pay my way home if I were in trouble, which is absurd.

Watched the World Cup of Rugby quarter-finals over pizza at Denis' house with his brother Tika, Manu, Joel & Terena.  Tika is a semi-pro surfer & turns up in a cellphone commercial between plays (also absurd).  We eat 6 pizzas & all crash on the floor to be up at dawn to hit the morning surf.

Played volleyball with RaeRae's. If a Polynesian family has too many boys, often one will be raised as a girl to help the mother around the house.  They are RaeRae's.  They are quite common throughout the Pacific & have a wicked spike.

Walking by, anyone would strike up a conversation or wave you over.  I met workers in the pineapple fields, construction workers, computer programmers, rowers training for the upcoming competition, chefs, coconut tree trimmers & families sitting on the beach.

I spent some great days zipping around dodging cops on the back of Laurent's scooter.  Utua & Taane fix the internet that's always down, & they would always stop to offer me a ride & a beer.  Eric & Ataria are such cool, friendly dads who helped whistle down my boat & had me sit for a picnic.  Mike saw me wandering past alone, & simply invited me in to rest my weary legs.

Who am I?  Where am I?  What happened to the real world & was it only ever a dream?

Trying to get into trouble never works.  I met some hooligans on the beach & indulged in a beer or two with them.  They brought me back to their house for dinner.  Big house, big family.  I was at my most polite, to be sure I wasn't intruding.  After only a couple minutes of arriving, their father offered me a glass of champagne.  I’ve been adopted.  (Again.)

The Tetuaiteroi family Sunday dinner is a serve-yourself spread of fish, chicken, spaghetti, "ségale", breadfruit beef casserole, fresh bread, coconut & peaches.  All the cousins are down at the beach partying & come home to serve themselves whenever like.  Sweet deal.

Bernard, the middle son, was my designated bodyguard for the night.  His parents were worried because they thought he’d tricked me into coming to their house.  They told him to make sure I get back to the boat safe & take care of me.

The beach filled with cousins has two cars serving as DJ's with wild contrasts of music.  Mid-tempo salsa on one hand, Cotton Eyed Joe remix on the other, followed by Tupac - why not.  Dancing barefoot in the sand under the full moon with my new friends & family.

Strangers become family.

Never told them it was Canadian Thanksgiving that day.  I was far from alone.  I am thankful.

I hiked through the heart of the island, but I'm not sure I walked out...

They taught me generosity.  It is rewarding simply to walk down the street.  I cannot count the number of houses I've walked into in open arms, hands waving to come join them, or cars that stop on the street simply because you're walking.  They see you & smile back.  These days, I smile because I am happy.

The world is beautiful in the eyes of it’s locals.  Watching the world from the inside out.

Moorea made me want to be a better person.

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