Exciting times!

The last few days have been both exciting and exhausting, it's been a great blur of action.
We have been truly lucky to have the Faafaite with us, and a host of wonderful, wonderful people on board!
It's been quite a feat juggling everything (kids, guests, friends and journalists) these last few days, alongside the orero competition in Tubuai, the horserace here in Rurutu, and thecanoe, but we managed.

These are some truly magnificent photos taken by the Faafaite's photographer Danee Hazama.



Departures and an Arrival

It's been a busy old week! On Sunday last Viriamu left me, well not permanently, but just long enough to get to Tahiti get on an a boat and sail back to the Australs. Yep he's an invited guest on the Fafaaite's grand tour of the Australs. A real privilege, and an opportunity for him to learn traditional sailing techniques on a double-hulled voyaging canoe. He left Papeete on Wednesday, there's a film on the Rahui Nui no Tuhaa Pae Facebook page. I've just heard from him, they arrived in Raivavae this morning, right on schedule, after a grueling few days at sea - sounds like he's having a great time! On Friday it was Matotea's turn, she left with a group of school students, Tubuai-bound for the finals of the orator's competition, she is one of five students participating from Rurutu, joined by last year's laureate, who will open the competition next Saturday. With a little luck Viriamu should also be sailing into Tubuai in time for the competition!
It seems like everyone is off having adventures except me (getting electrocuted doesn't count) - even my Mum was away in Lampeter opening a quilt exhibition! What a talented family I have.

Rurutu near-death experiences

Alright, well it may be a slight exaggeration on my part, but, last week, during a huge thunderstorm, there was a lightning strike nearby that gave me a pretty good electric shock through the laptop. The dangers of freelance translating. It also fried the DSL router and television! But I'm still here to enjoy the dawning of a new day over Unaa, on my Sunday morning croissant run. 
It wasn't quite as scary as the coconut that glanced off my shoulder a few years back, but still, it's up there with cyclones and freak waves. Things are getting back to normal, but it was one costly thunderbolt. The car battery also died on me while I was out and about with a guest yesterday, so, all in all, I'm wondering what I've done to annoy the gods...come to think of it, it's always like this when Viriamu's away!


Alex Du Prel

Yesterday, the father of investigative journalism in French Polynesia, Alex Du Prel passed away. A sad day, at a point in world history where we need to know the facts, more than ever. His magazine Tahiti Pacifique remains a standard. When it was first launched it was the only effective (and often biting) critic of the, then all-powerful, President Gaston Flosse. A much needed voice in the wilderness. There is a touching tribute to him here (in French) on the Tahiti Pacifique website. May his legacy continue... 


Mixed feelings

I’ve just discovered that Penelope Fillon was born near Abergavenny. For those of you not following the French presidentials, she’s the wife of Francois Fillon, the candidate for French left (right-wing in British terms). She and her husband are embroiled in a huge scandal about fictitious employment, after claiming she had never been involved in her husband’s political career, it turns out she was paid very well (some €680,000) over 15 years, as his attachée !!! A hugely damaging scandal that could inadvertently increase Marine LePen's chances (Front National=the French version of Trump) of being elected, even though she has also been involved in a similar, though less costly and flagrant scandal at the European parliament. That, combined with the abysmal rugby results  and Brexit craziness (Wales, unlike Scotland and N Ireland, voted out !) are leaving me less proud of my Welsh heritage, just two weeks after St.David’s  day.


March 5th 1797

Yesterday was a national holiday, celebrating 220 years since the first European missionaries arrived in Tahiti. A day celebrated with vigor by the Maohi Protestant Church, and definitely a turning point in the history of the islands. For better or for worse, the Christianization of French Polynesia had a profound impact on the Polynesian culture.
Above is an engraving of the Duff  a vessel belonging to the London Missionary Society arriving in Matavai Bay near Point Venus, Mahina, a location that Cook's first expedition, before them, had used to observe the transit of Venus in 1769.


Happy Wales Day!

A quick nod to 'Dewi Sant' (St. David) the patron saint of Wales, the 1st of March is his day, a holiday celebrated since the 12th century. That's a little after the first Polynesians arrived on Rurutu, if we can believe the current radio carbon dates. Apart from several miraculous acts, St. David is thought to be responsible for the leek becoming a Welsh symbol. Apparently he advised his men to put leeks in their hats to avoid friendly fire, during battles against the Saxons.

I'm ashamed to say I didn't even make leek soup this year ( no leeks to speak of at the market in Rurutu!). Though I have made the pilgrimage to  St.David's cathedral several times, during school holidays in West Wales, which is more than many!

Lotus eaters

One of our guests this week is a Brit who has also made Polynesia his home. It's fascinating to meet someone who's followed a similar path to my own. It gets me thinking about the choices I've made.

In Homer's epic poem the Odyssey, after days being tossed on a troubled sea, Odysseus and his men come across an island inhabited by lotus-eaters, a people whose food source was the flowers and fruits of the 'lotus', a plant which induces an apathetic state of torpor. Three of his men taste the delicious fruits and no longer wish to return to their previous life of hardship and toil.

When I first made my decision to 'fall off the face of the earth' I was warned about lotus-eating, by a friend. And it's true, moving here has profoundly changed my life, but I'm not sure it's necessarily lotus-eating (though Polynesian society's penchant for kava and pot, does have some parallels). The 'lotus tree' that Homer refers to was most likely Zizyphus lotus, a plant in the buckthorn family, that grows in the Mediterranean into Northern Africa, related to the jujube, and not necessarily the water-lily Nymphaea lotus, though the Nile blue water-lily, N. caerulaea, does have psychotropic properties.

It's true that our idyllic lifestyle and the incredible beauty does help you forget about the world outside, the incompetency of the local government, the horrors of the Trump administration and Britain's blundering towards Brexit. It just all seems less sharply in focus from here. I can put it in context, it is less crushing. I am no longer ruled by stress and dissatisfaction, the malaise of the western world. I'm now more active than ever, and every day brings new challenges, new projects, I learn just a little more. I have a simple life, but one that is honest and deeply satisfying. Even more so, now that I have rediscovered my literary passion. I do wonder where I might have been if I had continued in academia, but its ivory towers and smugness often felt just as detached from reality as here. So tell me who is it that's eating 'lotus'...