Ra’iatea, Monday 27th of July 2009
On Monday I had a pretty long fight with my laptop (software problems and none of my personal computer nerds around to solve them) and cycled to Uturoa to get some groceries (I think Suzie wouldn’t accept money and we always eat together). The capital city (second largest city in French Polynesia) is huge! They have three grocery shops, a post office, a pharmacy and even a city hall!
Raphael read and expanded his knowledge about hydropower plants. There seems to be a fair potential here and in Tahiti which is not (at all/fully) exploited – the good thing about hydropower here: since it rains quite a lot it can guarantee a pretty constant base load (meaning the electricity which is always needed, even at night) – it doesn’t fluctuate as much as solar and wind power and can be stored (up to a point) on the other hand big dams can cause biodiversity to decrease dramatically).
Final thoughts of the day:
Computers can be helpful but very time consuming – especially when you don’t understand them properly.
Living with a family is also quite time consuming (in the evening you wonder: what did I do all day?!?) but really nice, especially when you’re used to just living on your own/with busy flat mates.
I wonder if I could live on a little island – I always have such high expectations so maybe I’d have difficulties finding friends – on the other hand it’s nice that everyone knows each other here. I guess it’s the anonymity of big cities that makes people act in a selfish and irresponsible manner…
Ra’iatea, Tuesday 28th of July 2009
On Tuesday Raphael and I cycled to Uturoa together (and bought a bike lock (although I don’t think anyone would be stupid enough to steal a bike – most people here are related/know each other – but Nelson had advised us not to leave the bicycles unattended… wonder why he’s so suspicious) and some parts on the way – Polynesians don’t seem to enjoy bicycle maintenance (I always generalize!) so Raphael gets to fix them).
Unfortunately all the boats going back to Tahiti are fully booked up until the end of August! So I guess we’ll have to stay here 😉
We went to the Marina to find a millionaire but the two yacht-chartering-companies didn’t have any boats going back to Tahiti but Raphael met someone who knows someone… who works in the energy sector/is the energy sector in the city hall in Uturoa, who also owns a boat/could potentially get us on board of one of the ships.
At lunch Xavier told us that one simply has to turn up shortly before the boats leave and the captain decides if he can put you (in one of the containers!) but apparently it’s more difficult to get into Pape’ete now since there is a lot of Gendarmerie who have nothing better to do than check for illegal passengers.
Then Raphael went with Xavier to measure ocean currents while I went to the beach to read and measure the intensity of the solar radiation (once again my head got too much sun and found that it is more than sufficient to be exploited) – since there wasn’t enough space for me on the little boat.
In the evening Raphael and I cooked dinner and luckily everyone liked it (add fish and they’ll eat anything 😉
I went to the Heiva festival site with Tefa and Tauirai who wanted to have a chocolate tart and meet some friends. Tauirai wanted to know how I liked it and I had to admit that I though all the plastic and American eating habits (I tried to be slightly diplomatic and did without mentioning latter) didn’t quite fit in with the traditional dancing and bamboo stalls.
Final thought of the day: I have a bad conscience: Suzie did our laundry and didn’t even give us a chance to hang it up!
Ra’iatea, Wednesday 29th of July 2009
Today Raphael and I both didn’t feel quite fit: Raphael has a fever (I’m hoping it’s not Dengue… probably not – he doesn’t have the rest of the symptoms), I had a headache and we both felt really tired and exhausted.
One of Nelson’s friends, Maurice, who had been working for Marama Nui (the company who used to run the hydropower plants in Tahiti) and now works for EDT came over for lunch and we got to ask him lots of questions. Then we visited the thermal power plant (running on gasoline) where he (more or less happily) works (he’s a renewables fan)
As we waited (Maurice had a meeting) Raphael and I estimated the capacity of the power plant (which caters for the electricity needs of about half the population) – I went for 1,7 and Raphael said 2,5 megawatts. It turned out the plant has a peak load of 1,8 and a capacity of 3 MW (just like the CHP on the main campus of my university – that comparison made me smile benignly). The other gasoline power plant (that provides electricity for Uturoa and surroundings) has a capacity of 4 to 5 MW. There are two individual grids and Maurice has suggested joining the two but for some reason the people responsible for the other power plant are refusing… Maurice gave us a daily load profile and a study he did on the potential of hydropower here in Ra’iatea – a ray of hope! Talking to Maurice was really informative, we got quite a bit of useful data from him and he made no “mistake” (from a tree hugger’s point of view – Raphael will criticize me for writing this and remind me that we’re not missionaries) on the last question of my questionnaire (“If the population and government work hand in hand, do you think it’s possible for French Polynesia to be energy-self-sufficient (using 100% renewables) in 15 years?”) – he is an optimist and answered “Oui!”.
We were actually supposed to meet that energy-person (who can potentially help us get back to Tahiti) in the town hall afterwards but when we called he said he was on the other end of the island – so it will have to wait until tomorrow. We were actually quite glad since we were both so exhausted.
The table is getting full: today Tauirai’s girlfriend/wife (?) Caroline came back from L.A. (she’s an English teacher here)
Final thoughts of the day:
Everyone always lays the blame on the others: Maurice claims that EDT is not investing in more in renewables since there are property issues…
Maurice told us that on the Marquesas (see map of French Polynesia in slideshow) people still use horses as a means of transport. I’m just trying to picture modern technology (renewables) and people on horses next to each other – it makes me smile… (Side-note to dampen the brightness of Utopia a bit: for some reason horse manure doesn’t work nearly as well as cow shit when inserted into a biogas plant).
I really hope we manage to find a way to get back to Tahiti soon – I don’t want to exploit Suzie’s and Nelson’s hospitality too much longer…