Bonjour, and greetings from the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia.
I’m sitting at the food court of the airport writing this. my flight doesn’t leave for another twelve and a half hours, but I’m at the airport for good reason. My hotel for the night was within walking distance of the airport. I took off this morning on what I thought would take me to the center of Papeete, but ended up taking me nowhere. It seems much hotter than Hawaii just because of the high humidity. All that walking with a very heavy bag and no water or food, and I figure I should get something to drink and eat. The most obvious spot for that was the airport, so here I am.
My previous post was written in the dead of night. Now that I have some light, I can see the landscape and everything around me much better. It is definitely less developed here than any place I’ve seen in Hawaii. Lots of corrugated tin/steel on buildings. Lots of older cars. The French influence is heavy. I saw several posters up for the current French Presidential election. I think there might have been local elections as well as I saw several trucks running around with flags and posters of men in suits on the side.
As this is the first day of my trip outside of the US, I should probably clarify a few things for everyone. I view the world as someone who has lived their entire life in the upper Midwest of the United States. That means that 7-11s, oceans and mountains are novelties to me. Like all humans, I have a tendency to notice things that are different from norms which I expect. When I walk into a store in a foreign country, the first thing that always strikes me is that the brands of candy are all different. You see Coke and Pepsi, but I’m used to seeing Coke and Pepsi, so it really doesn’t strike a chord with me. I think humans are hard wired to notice differences. It lets us know when something is wrong and helps us sense danger. (that is not to say that everything different is dangerous, just that is where the tendency to notice differences comes from)
So one thing I’m always going to do is point out how places differ from each other and how they differ from what I’m accustom to. For example, I’ve only seen one make of US automobile in Tahiti so far: a Jeep Wrangler. One thing I enjoying doing is checking out the McDonalds in every place I visit. Some people might turn their nose up at that and say “why would you travel that far just to go to McDonalds?”. If I was just going there to eat, they’d have a valid point. But McDonalds is like a cultural version of a cover done by a band. Every McDonalds is sort of the same, but every McDonalds is different. In Hawaii, McDonalds serves breakfasts with eggs, Spam, and rice. As far as I can tell, that is unique to Hawaii and says something about Hawaii. Something which sticks out precisely because you see it at McDonalds. There is a reason why The Economist uses the Big Mac as a proxy for the cost of living in countries.
The Papeete airport has a McDonalds in it. The menu is the smallest I’ve ever seen. They serve no hamburgers and no french fries. The only sandwich I can see which they sell in a panini ham and cheese melt. They give balloons out to all the children. I don’t know, but maybe they market it as food for children? One data point in an airport is hardly enough to make a conclusion.
On the subject of differences, I’ve noticed lots of obese native Hawaiians while in Hawaii. I’ve seen very few obese Tahitians. Hawaiians came from Tahiti. I wonder if the difference in weight is due to diet (French vs American) or genetics? Just taking a guess, I’d say diet. Hawaii seems much more wealthy and obesity is a problem in other Polynesian countries. The diet here seems more fish/bread oriented, with much less junk food available.
I’m writing this at 3:15pm local time at a cafe on the harbor in Papeete. I’m paying a high amount for wireless internet and eating some frites and a diet coke.
If you need to do a layover on Tahiti, don’t do it on Sunday. This place is dead. Everything is shutdown. Everyone seems to just be hanging out and flying kites.
I made the mistake of setting out from my hotel without a map or an idea of where I was going. Turns out, its a lot farther to town from the airport than I thought. And the sun is really powerful here. And its humid.
Lesson learned. Don’t set out without an idea of where you are going. Especially when you don’t know the language very well.
I ended up taking a taxi to town and all was well. I still have nine hours to kill before my flight. I also have nothing to read in English.
My French vocabulary is increasing quickly. I need work on simple verbs and grammar. I can read things much easer than I can express my own thoughts. There seems to be some English world that sort of corresponds to many French words.