First Impressions

I flew into Pape’ete, Tahiti at about midnight. I almost melted. It was 12am and yet the temperature was still a very balmy 26*C. I joined my fellow flight members in a venture to customs and we were greeted with traditional Tahitian dancing and music (well, traditional as can be while in the international airport…). After a confusing interaction with the mainly French speaking immigration officer about where I was going to be staying for my three weeks here, I emerged on the other side, stamped passport in hand. I slept in the airport that night (which was really a wooden slab of a bench in the open air in front of the terminal) and decided to make my move in the morning. I awoke and tried to figure out where I was going. Per usual, I had planned ahead and booked…nothing. I didn’t even know the names of any hostels or hotels nearby. I vaguely remembered a place called Pension Te Miti that I had seen online and decided to just head there in hopes that they had a free bed.

As soon as I began to get my bearing and initiate conversations I was struck with one predominant thought, I wish I knew French. Everything was written in French; announcements would sound out in French first, followed by Tahitian, and lastly English. I guess I should have expected this, flying into Tahiti which is, in fact, a part of French Polynesia. It was interesting though being in a place where my language wasn’t the primary language. I exchanged some money over and found the French Pacific francs to closely resemble fake pirate money. The 100 franc coins are very lightweight and a shiny gold color. The paper money is also HUGE! With new foreign money in hand, I set off to find Pension Te Miti.

After asking around I discovered it was not in Pape’ete at all, but on the eastern coast in Puna’auia. I was directed to the bus stop by a local woman, but since we had a bit of a language barrier I pretended to know what she was talking about as she pointed somewhere in the distance and babbled on in French. Something about a road? Across the street maybe? I crossed the street, almost got hit by a taxi, and stood somewhat dazed and confused in the airport parking lot. I asked a nearby couple about the bus and, fortunately, they spoke English. Apparently I needed to go up the stairs to me left, cross the street and wait on the street behind it for the bus. The woman even expressed her regrets at not being able to take me there herself as she had to drop her kids off at school, which was in the opposite direction. First impressions of the people: so incredibly friendly.

I hauled myself up the stairs to the road and sat down at what I hoped was the right bus stop to head in what I hoped was the right direction. I hadn’t been sitting long when a taxi pulled up into the bus lane. He saw me, sitting there with my pack looking rather touristy and a bit lost, and asked if I was going to Puna’auia. (I still don’t know how he knew I was heading there). Slightly annoyed by the thought that I was being taken for a chance at easy money, and still quite sleep deprived, I rather firmly told him I was indeed but the bus would be just fine thank you. Geez I’ve gotten too used to Christchurch taxis…almost always trying to rip you off. No trust. “You want me to take you?” he enquired with all sincerity, “Free?”  I paused for a moment and tried to inconspicuously check for some sort of ID on his dashboard before replying with an exuberant, “Sure!”  He hoists my pack into the boot and just like that we are off to Pension Te Miti. “Welcome to Tahiti” he declares. Welcome indeed; I have only been awake and interacting with people for a few hours and already I am overwhelmed by the friendliness and welcoming attitude. The taxi driver, who’s name I wish I could remember, was very nice and didn’t expect anything in return for the ride. He didn’t even stick around long enough after dropping me off for me to offer any money in thanks.

Pension Te Miti is owned by a lovely French couple, and as I sat enjoying a free breakfast that came with staying at their guesthouse, I again wished that I could speak French. I tried to follow any of the French conversation that the four guests were having at breakky and I couldn’t understand any of it. Not even one word. Oh boy. I had two days to kill before meeting Erin and flying out to Ahe to meet up with Stephanie and Dustin-who had been there for a week- to wwoof at Kamoka Pearls.  Since I would have to get up at 630am to begin work once I got to Ahe, I decided to try and re-adjust my schedule. While it’s only a 2 hour time difference between NZ and Tahiti, my body had literally gone into vampire mode, and because of work I would be up all night and not feel tired until the sun began to rise. As a result, I spent my first two days in Tahiti sleeping. I would sleep restlessly through the night, wake up and do some mild adventuring for an hour or two before coming back to read pass out  in the hammock, followed by a quick swim and another lengthy nap on the beach. You may not believe me, but it was a rough couple of days…as far as my circadian rhythm was concerned.

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