Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kaoha!


“Kaoha, ” -- that’s Marquesan for “hello.” People smile more when we use this greeting as opposed to the French, “Bonjour.”

I smell the sweet fragrant tiare flowers as soon as we set our anchor and call Taa Huku Bay on Hiva Oa home for three nights. On land, once we pass the malodorous shower and its accompanying wash basin for laundry, we continue on the road to the main town of Atuona which has giant mango trees with ripe ones dangling high in the air.

After a two kilometer walk or a hitchhike (everyone stops to give you a ride), we arrive in town. It’s here where we see the elegant Marquesans with flowers in their hair. Rumor has it that when the women place the red hibiscus flower behind their right ear, then it means their love has been taken, but if it’s behind their left ear, then they’re available.

We show the gendarmerie (that’s French for “police”) our boat documents and he scratches our name from the list. Thanks to the Tahiti Yacht Agents, we don’t have to post the necessary bond required for many Americans. The bond is the equivalent of a plane ticket home – so that foreigners don ’t settle in this tropical paradise or if we get unruly, they can put escort us onto the next airplane bound for the states.

Next stop is the ATM machine where we get some beautiful Tahitian Francs. The money here is the prettiest we’ve used so far with exotic women, flowers, tikis and animals on the bills. Even though the dollar is up (91 to the Franc) food is expensive. Cabbage costs about $7; eggs $6 and chicken $14.

Nevertheless, we need food and with Francs in hand, we beeline to the grocery store – it’s been one month since we’ve purchased anything. Imagine that – 30 days without spending any money! We first buy hot French bread (that’s less than one dollar per loaf) and brie, a perfect snack, showing that we’ve landed in a French colony. Having not had meat for a while, we also sample the Chinese chicken buns, evident of the Asian influence. We stock up on frozen New Zealand lamb – as there’s plenty in the store’s freezer, signifying that we’re closer to New Zealand than South America.

But we don’t bother buying fruit as we traded lipstick, blush and bras for football sized pamplemousse (grapefruit) when we first arrived in Fatu Hiva. At the other anchorages, people have been giving us more grapefruit, lemons, breadfruit, star fruit and bananas and we’ve also picked our own. It’s amazing that here in the tropics harvest comes three times a year which means that fruit is plentiful. Sometimes there is so much of it that it falls to the ground.



I feel like we are thousands of miles away from the states and in a truly exotic part of the world, where time ticks at a slower pace and people live a life surrounded by stunning scenery, tropical flowers and fruit and fish. I can understand why Belgium singer Jacques Brel and French artist Paul Gauguin chose to live the remainders of their lives in this paradise.

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