Miti, Mahana, Tahora pope, Matai, Opaa - or nature and local energy sources
Aute II, Pape’ete Friday 17th of July 2009
This morning I dressed up a bit – I hate having to make a good first impression. First Raphael laughed at me but then decided to start an experiment and put on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt (haha – it turned out to be one of the hottest days ever – at least from my perspective – having been here for only three weeks (of the “cold season”).We went downtown with Manuel again. On our way he told us that there actually hadn’t been any passengers infected with H1N1 on board of the Dawn Princess. The *beep* press had just spread the rumor in order to sell more “news”papers. He also stopped somewhere to try and organize a spot on a boat (heading to Raiatea) for us – he seems to be quite the important man who knows a lot of people… unfortunately that didn’t help.
We had turned up way too early so we behaved like “proper” business people and sat down in a back alley with our laptops. At 8:30 we met Christian and handed him our last copy of the French “Tahiti Projekt”. He seemed quite overworked and not as enthusiastic and interested as I had hoped. His lector is on holiday so he has to read everything himself at the moment. When Raphael mentioned that the author (Dirk) was probably coming at the end of August to write on the second part (the “Tahiti Virus”) I added that Tahiti sets an example in the first part and the idea spreads (across the world) in the second part. Now he seemed slightly more interested and said he would try and manage to read it (or have it read) by the end of August.
After walking downtown we got our daily kick (internet) went to reserve two tickets for tonight (the Heiva festival ends tomorrow so we thought we better not miss the chance to take some hip energy measurements). Raphael met with someone from the energy ministry again and then went home to eat and do some laundry while I stayed in Pape’ete to work (he really has “house husband qualities” ;).
I had a few people in the parc Bougainville complete the questionnaire and then went across the street to the Assemblée (parliament building) where I plugged in my laptop to suck some juice (coming from an inefficient fuel oil power plant). I kept a few members of the security staff off work (well… they were just standing around anyway) and found out that one of them could have passed as a tree hugger (he answered all the questions “ecorrectly” 🙂 I also talked to a few other members of staff who were also standing around chatting – I’m not too sure what their function/job there was (always making sure to whisper the question “Who do you think is preventing French Polynesia from developing in a sustainably sound manner – The economy, the population or the politicians?” – needless to mention that the majority voted for latter). It was so rewarding to talk to them! One of them didn’t speak French very well so his colleague translated. I learned a few new words in Tahitian and asked if I could come back and learn some more – they all agreed happily. Whenever someone came by/left the building/area under the roof (a lot of buildings here have spaces which are not enclosed by walls) they gave everyone bisous – since I was sitting there too I got some as well…
Back in the park I talked to all sorts of different people (and noticed that hemp seems to be a popular plant happily consumed by all age groups). I approached a teenager with my questionnaire, hoping not to be rejected with a few derogatory words (my experience with the average german teenager). I was surprised to find that the girl (smoking, garbage from a certain fast food chain beside her) was very open-minded and immediately engaged in a conversation. She was clearly not of Polynesian origin but when I asked about her connection to “fenua” (the earth/Polynesia) she said “lien très fort” (strong connection). Before I had a chance to ask she told me that she was born here. I also interviewed a few of her friends and was pleased that they also filled in the last question (e-mail address to receive a newsletter on the progress of our work here). I managed to get 18 questionnaires filled in today – that might not sound like much but it’s important to take time and listen to what people have to say – I’m learning a lot (without even reading very much).
When I left the park an old man with whom I had spoken yesterday (he was sitting on the same bench again) waved his hand and smiled at me. Raphael came to pick me up (and brought me a sandwich/mustard-cucumber-baguette in an empty müsli bag (one gets a lot more creative not having certain things – such as lunch boxes)) and we made our way to the stadium, collected our tickets and waited for the event to start. There were 3 different dance groups with drummers and a choir who performed on the stage/ground. It was quite stunning to experience this cultural event but we both agreed that four hours were really quite a lot. We managed to hitchhike home and fell into our beds, totally exhausted from the long day (we’d left the house at 6:30 and weren’t home until midnight). All in all a very good day (at least for me – Raphael is having a few bureaucratic problems with his university).
Final thoughts of the day:
My throat is always a bit sore at the end of the day but engaging with so many different people and learning more about the culture is very rewarding.
It’s so difficult not to judge people by their “shell” but I think I’m slowly learning to become a bit more tolerant and less judgmental.
Sometimes I wish I could just blend in – I don’t like to look like a tourist… the only advantage of blond hair and white skin: apparently it’s easier to hitchhike.
One doesn’t need much – our apartment is quite sparsely equipped but we’re still coping just fine
I just thought it would be incredible to learn to live off the land with a tribe (a tightly knit social network where everyone depends on each other) somewhere in the bushes – at this point my mother will probably be scared that she’ll never see me again – on the other hand I was born into an interconnected world full of technology (mankind can truly benefit of at least some of it) and I have the shocking but yet amazing chance to take a look at the bigger picture (the globalised world) and possibly make a difference (which would be quite difficult/impossible if I decided to live somewhere off the beaten track).
Aute II, Arue Saturday 18th of July 2009
In the morning I hitchhiked down the hill to go grocery shopping (at Carrefour, my excuse: I wanted soy flour as an egg substitute for baking a cake, it turned out not even this gigantic supermarket spread over an area that felt like a square kilometer had something that specific – the shop assistant had never heard of a vegan diet and was shocked when I told her about child labour on coco plantations in the “third world” – Carrefour even has a few Fair-trade products). When I put my loose veggies on the scale to get them weighed the person in charge of pressing the colourful fruit&veg buttons refused to give me a sticker since I hadn’t complied with the system and used a gazillion plastic bags for all the different veggies. I insisted on saving the packaging (the people waiting behind me had mixed emotions: annoyance/impatience and bemusement). I told him that last time his colleague had put all the stickers on a piece of paper. He was quite annoyed at first but went to get me an old cardboard box, telling me this was an exception and that I would have to use plastic bags next time (I disrupted the smooth flow of goods and customers). I was so frustrated and said “mais l’environnement” – little person, big supermarket, huge world, “small” issue… I told him that we’d run out of petrol eventually, the sea level is rising and that we can’t simply buy a new planet once we’re done with this one. He probably sensed that I was about to cry and suddenly became very understanding. Him talking to the manager wouldn’t do any good (“they don’t listen to us – employees”) – so he suggested I start a petition and collect signatures… that made me feel slightly less bad – at least he showed compassion.
I left the store wondering whether the two employees I’d talked to would give child labour and plastic bags another thought…
Back home I cleaned and tidied up a bit – I find external order can make it easier to bring a bit of structure into the internal chaos. Then I wrote a bit while Raphael was reading and studying the data he had received from the energy ministry – he is so much more disciplined than me! Maybe I wasn’t meant to sit and read all day… I just don’t have the patience and my thoughts keep distracting me…
Final thought of the day: Wasn’t mankind happy without plastic bags?
Aute II, Sunday 19th of July 2009
Comme toujours we read and wrote a bit and now we’ll tag along with Manuel and his wife who are going to Papara for a few hours (to visit Manuel’s mother and sister) – conveniently Papara has ocean currents which are interesting for our project…
Final thought of the day: Some waves refuse to be scientifically analyzed…