Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hiva Oa



They say that temperate people lose most of their sweat glands as children from lack of use. I don’t see it myself. As soon as the sun is up, the tiniest exertion and sweat is dripping off the tip of my nose and running down my back. In the heat of the day I find that if I lie very still under the faint breeze of the forepeak hatch I can stop sweating.
We have been in Atuona, the main town on the island of Hiva Oa, for over a week. It is a tiny tidy town most famous as Gaugin’s Polynesian paradise. There is a museum full of reproductions of his paintings set in his garden. Best of all are three studios, where artists from anywhere in the world can come for a three month residency. I didn’t see any sign of artists at work but my inquiries took me to the office of the mayor, a friendly guy in a cotton shirt and shorts, to whom (along with an office in France) one must apply. I think I’ve got it in the bag.
Rooster in Gaugin's Garden, by Farlyn

I love the strange hybrid culture here. There is an almost total lack of fresh vegetables and meat. Fruit seems to be the main staple: enormous grapefruits with sweet yellow flesh, bananas bunches which you can hang off the rigging. Farlyn and Tavish have foraged coconuts and dozens of mangos from wild trees along the roadsides. Yet every morning huge plastic bins of fresh baguettes arrive at the stores. Unlike all other foods, baguettes, cheese, and red wine are cheap—the essentials of French life are guaranteed on its colony. Pourquoi pas? Sounds like a balanced diet to me. And if you need to you can buy a can of minced duck breast or foie gras.
Through the church window, Puamau

And the French of course brought Catholicism. A local family offered to bring us to church on Sunday for an opportunity to hear Marquesan singing, which was indeed very different from the plodding hymns I remember from church as a girl. Children were passed from lap to lap or stood in the aisles swaying to the music. The women wore bright dresses and flowers in their hair. A woman seems rarely to go out, even if she’s in a T-shirt and shorts, without a flower tucked in behind her ear. For that matter men often wear flowers as well, even some of the manly paddlers that train in the outriggers every night in the harbour.

5 comments:

materfamilias said...

I didn't realize you had multi-talented crew -- Farlyn's rooster is great! We've finally got sunshine here, but we won't be sweating -- it's in the mid-teens. It is greening everything up very quickly, though, and the maples are spilling open their bundles. Love your descriptions which bring a dab of the exotic into my daily life -- you and Van Gogh, eh?

Claire Watson said...

I love all your updates Allison! It is keeping me inspired to get the boat ready asap! Keep posting!

materfamilias said...

Just back to wish you a Happy Birthday! Will you substitute croissants for a cake? However you celebrate and are celebrated, I'm sure your location will make the day very special. Enjoy!

Colene said...

Hey, Allison, Happy Birthday AND thanks for the wonderful photos and descriptions of Hiva Oa. I'm just catching up with your blog and loving it. A sad visit to some old friends has reminded us to carpe diem. And you are setting such a good example! What's next?

Alison Watt said...

materfamilias
yes, Farlyn is fine artist. thanks for the bd wishes. Let's celebrate both our birthdays when I get back.

Claire
yes, get on the boat preps. We've run into a few families who seem to be having a good time. I think you would love the colours and forms here.

Colene
see the lastest post re. carpe diem! Next on the agenda, the Tuomotus. Hope you're getting out to find some spring birds...