While it is still reasonably fresh in my mind, I want to recall my experience in French Polynesia. After living in Hawaii for so long, I felt ambivalent about going to the tropics but my spouse earned the trip so the price was right. I don’t pass on any opportunity to travel. So with a jaded mind we arrived in Papeete late at night. Stepping off the plane, there it is, the heat and humidity. The weather envelopes you and sometimes it is so thick you feel you can part it with your hands or push it away. It is my least favorite thing about the islands. That said, all else was pretty perfect. I’m going to use Tahiti rather than French Polynesia for the ease of it much as we use Hawaii to describe the Hawaiian Islands. Both are names of just one island, but it is easier and meaning is clear.
Before I laud the beauty of Tahiti, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Hawaii. The Tahitian Islands are what Hawaii would like to be. I can say this with reasonable certainty, as I was just in Hawaii and the sovereignty movement is still strong and grievances from the general population will affirm this. Tahiti has what some Hawaii residents wish for. With a smaller population there are no crowds or traffic. There are fewer tourists and no large developments. Pureblooded Polynesians speak their language as well as French and perhaps some English. In Hawaii, pureblooded Hawaiians are growing fewer and Hawaiian is rarely spoken. English is the first language, heavy on the pidgin, and while you hear many languages, it is the immigrants or the second generation who mostly speak them. Native Hawaiians struggle to rebuild and strengthen their identity. The French Polynesians have theirs. The groups that influenced Hawaii and Tahiti left their imprint on both and it is fascinating to see how that impact manifests itself today. Hawaii has it’s own unique character and I’ll touch on that in my writing of Hawaii.
But back to the pretty-pretty of Tahiti. I’ll start by raving over my favorite feature of the islands, the water. One could stare for at it hours and its many shades of turquoise and blue that runs the color wheel from the palest white-blue to deep royal shades. When the air is heavy, the water saves you. You roll into it and you feel better. It is warm and safe. In most places inside the lagoon, there is no coral to cut your feet, big waves to crash on you or rip tides to pull you out to sea. It’s perfection.
The miniature islands called motus don’t look real in the setting sun. They look like they might have been staged. Palm trees seem to know exactly where to grow for the best effect and some drop their branches toward the sea for an extra glamorous shot. As is so often the case, nature undisturbed by man is ideal art. Take a look.
Next time, Tahiti continued.