Te Mahana, coconuts and pieds nus
Paea Wednesday 1st of July 2009
In the morning we went swimming and found a good looking 😉 coconut on our way back from the beach. I asked Fréd if he had a machete but he seemed afraid that a weak-looking girl like me (he doesn’t know that I’m a scout) would chop off her fingers so he opened the coconut for us – we were lucky it had probably fallen down within the last day or two – it was quite tasty. I got the whole breakfast crowd to laugh by attempting to get the copra (which by the way could be a very promising source of plant oil to run Diesel or maybe Elsbett engines in French Polynesia…) off the shell with my big scout knife, shooting coconut pieces all over the table. Fréd always has a good story to tell in the morning: apparently the Americans used coconut water as a substitute for blood (whenever they ran out during the Pacific War) because it’s sterile.
After breakfast Raphael tried to call le ministre de l’environnement but only reached his secretary, who told him to call back on Friday. Then he went to Pape’ete to meet some of our contacts and tell Antonina that we’d be glad to stay with her from the 19th of July. I stayed at “home” and did some very slow reading (in French – we found an edition of a local magazine the “Pacific Buisness – votre mensuel économique en Polynésie Francaise” focusing on “Un ocean d’énergies”) and made some vocabulary memory cards (which were later refused by a certain travel companion of mine…). I also worked on the questionnaire with Christelle’s friend again (hope I’m not annoying the reader yet).
When Raphael came back we walked to the supermarket along the busy main road (it runs along the coast around the whole island and everyone uses it to commute to Pape’ete – everything here is so centralized, most jobs are in the capital…). On the way we saw a lot of smoke. People here always make small and large fires to get rid of their garden (and unfortunately sometimes also plastic) waste in their back yards and even on the side of the road!
In the evening we wanted to make a peanut butter curry sauce with coconut milk (I know this sounds like it’s going to be a very dull and boring sentence but I’m actually about to make a valid point – so keep on reading!) and we had decided against buying the canned stuff in the supermarket (imported from Thailand – how inefficient is that?! They’ve got huge amounts of coconuts here just rotting on the ground!), so I had to chop it up with Fréd’s machete (he wasn’t watching this time), pour out the coconut water, cut out the copra and grind it by hand with a cheese grinder. I must admit our dinner did turn out quite nice in the end, I just wonder if it was worth all the time and effort – I could have “invested” my time into reading something instead (I can’t quite say goodbye to the idea of always wanting to strive for more efficiency… yet! Maybe I should… I’d probably be happier (and more efficient as a logical consequence – spending less time dwelling upon my inefficiency and imperfection ;)). We had dinner with Natalie again – she had “Taro” (one of those strange looking local veggies we couldn’t quite recognize in the shop) and gave us a piece to try – it has a consistency similar to chestnut. It’s some kind of root that apparently takes 2 hours to cook – not very energy efficient to eat… on the other hand it’s local… It’s tough trying to reduce your personal ecological footprint… sometimes I think I should build myself a tree house somewhere in the woods and become self-sufficient – then I’d lead a fairly sustainable life in harmony with nature but on the other hand I wouldn’t be able to have an impact (hopefully a positive one) on the rest of the world.
Why is there so much injustice in the world?
Is mankind good or bad?
Raphael has quite a healthy way of approaching these issues: He doesn’t spend too much time thinking about these things because he knows that he won’t come to a conclusion and puts his energy into useful things (like our “little” Tahiti project) instead.
After dinner we went to the park by the beach across the road (we had talked to a few locals there in the morning who were making a huge fire and told us there would be a traditional “walk across the fire” in the evening) – unfortunately we were a bit late – the big event was over and they were already packing up the rather “unkultig” (the translations hip/trendy/groovy aren’t right… it’s more like “unculty” non-conform with the culture) looking fences and plastic chairs. Raphael (who always makes fun/gets annoyed at me for taking so many pictures) got carried away by the scene: Mao’hi standing by the fire hardly wearing anything – and filled my chip with photographs. I went for a walk along the beach and looked at the stars – unfortunately I could hear the main road, which wrecked the atmosphere a bit (can’t wait for the Reva Tae to be installed!). When I came back Raphael was still taking pictures 🙂
Final thoughts of the day: Energy efficiency, fire, the point of philosophy, coconuts,… I want a machete – maybe I can convince Raphael next time we go shopping (I’m such a material girl)!
Paea/Papara Thursday 2nd of July 2009
Today we found out about a Tahitian named Nuihau Laurey who recently published “Energies renouvelables” for the (Polynesian) layman.
Voilà un lien pour tout le monde qui parle Français:
I looked up his number in the phone book and Raphael called to tell him about our project. We will probably meet up with him on Monday (he lives only a few minutes away from us) – I’m already quite excited! It’ll be good to meet someone like him before we get to the political level. Very diplomatically speaking he said something like: What politicians say (here) should be taken with a pinch of salt – doh!
We also found a website (or someone found it for us – thank you 🙂 from the local university containing a lot of data – We’ll try and get in touch with the author as well… There are quite a few RE-related things going on here but they all seem to be independent from each other – maybe we should try to connect them/build up a network to give this movement a bit more momentum (is it “right” for us as outsiders to do this?).
In the afternoon we took some more ocean current measurements (this time at a different location – in Papara where we found a nice spot of black beach). On the way back we were picked up by a friendly Tahitian who tried to teach us a few words. Mahana means sun 🙂 On the way we saw a lot of pickup trucks/SUVs (never understood the point of big cars – do men use them to compensate for small……?): but we also saw quite a few solar thermal panels on the rooftops 🙂
In the evening we did some more reading and I got into a conversation with Giulio (an Italian – also staying at Te Miti and looking for a job), who was really interested in our project. Giulio and Natalie had a look at the questionnaire and gave us some final tips.
Final thought of the day: Can’t wait to meet up with the locals who are already into renewables!
Paea Friday 3rd of July 2009
Yesterday I only did a bit of reading (unfortunately my brain doesn’t have the required stickiness – at least not when it comes to holding on to information) and looked up all the words I didn’t know – should have taken a bigger dictionary with me (I’ve come across quite a few words which it didn’t contain). Raphael finally reached the environmental minister and he agreed to meet with us next Thursday – I’m really looking forward to that!
Fréderic told us a few things about tourism: being a tourist here is way too expensive – 80% of the Polynesian population live in Tahiti but still there is not much to do here except for spending time in expensive resorts (and maybe a bit of scuba diving and surfing) – every resort tourist here (and on the other islands) uses about 500 litres of water every day – there are no inexpensive offers like hiking trips to the “cascades” (waterfalls) or cultural sites which lie a bit further inland, towards the heart of the island – tourists here don’t really get to experience the culture enough…
In the afternoon Raphael and I spent a few hours trying to get our online survey/questionnaire up and running – we’ve opted for eSurveysPro (instead of ServiceMonkey) since we can get unlimited questions and responses and hey, it’s free! The only downside: advertising – hope our participants will not be tempted/wise enough not to click on them!
We had lunch today (usually we just have (free) breakfast and dinner) because Christine (the German) left so many things in the fridge that would have gone bad if we hadn’t sacrificed ourselves.
In the evening we went swimming (just to let the salty water wash all the snot and slime out of our heads, of course) and watched the sun set. The outline of Moreea was clearly silhouetted in front of the warm light of the evening sky (which is quite rare – at least for the time we’ve been here – usually there are clouds above our neighbor island and it seems foggy).
Final thoughts of the day: We weren’t really all that productive today since it was quite hot, there was hardly any wind and we’re both fighting a cold (how ironic).
I really want to go into the bushes and find some of those waterfalls – I packed so many useless things – really should have brought my compass!