Greetings from the Tahitian island of Moorea. Susan and I visited Moorea thirty years ago for part of one day around when we worked as entertainers on Royal Viking Lines. Cruise ships typically spend less than one day in most ports of call. So we were easily seduced by an offer from Costco Travel for a one week trip to Moorea. It is our good luck to escape the extreme rain and snow storms hitting California and Nevada this week.
Ever since we arrived at our luxurious Moorea Hilton accommodations, it has been drizzling rain practically all the time. It reminds me of the one time I was in Mumbai, India, during monsoon season. It’s summer here…the rainy season. The weather is warm, and so when the rain subsides to a mist, it is not unpleasant. This is the type of rain that is only experienced in the tropics. It also accounts for the lush vegetation and bountiful tropical fruits that are served in the hotel’s buffet meals.
French Polynesia consists of 121 inlands of which 75 are inhabited. The uninhabited islands are mostly atolls, small flat islands that of which many are likely to be submerged by rising ocean levels caused by climate change. The total population of all the islands of French Polynesia is approximately 275,000. There are five island groups comprising French Polynesia spread over an area in the South Pacific as large as Europe.
Polynesians are French citizens with French passports, similar to the American citizens of Puerto Rico. The French military has a presence in insuring the defense of French Polynesia. There has been a strong pro-independence movement that was spurred to a large degree by France’s using an island in French Polynesia for its nuclear tests. France ended those tests in 1996 when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. French is the official language of Polynesia, though there are seven mutually intelligible dialects of native Polynesian languages spread among the islands.
Native Hawaiians also trace their cultural roots to Polynesia sailors. It is amazing to consider the ancient Polynesians setting out in their relatively small outrigger-boats around the vast Pacific Ocean leading to the establishment of Polynesian cultures throughout the South Pacific region. We’ll never know how many Polynesians perished in those daring voyages.
Moorea is the second largest island in the Tahiti group of islands. Bora Bora is another famous tourist destination island (which we also visited with Royal Viking Lines). Airlines fly into Papeete, the capital city of Tahiti, the largest island of French Polynesia. Moorea is only a half hour ferry’s ride from Papeete. There are only eighteen thousand residents on Moorea. We haven’t seen any homeless or poor neighborhoods. The many tourists who visit Tahiti support the economy, which contains a number of high-end all-inclusive resorts.
On the ferry ride from Tahiti to Moorea, we met an American couple who were beginning a two-month stay. There may be other expats who have made residence in the Tahitian islands. Polynesian society was immortalized by French impressionistic painter Paul Gauguin who spent his final years in French Polynesia.
On our first and third evenings at the Moorea Hilton, we enjoyed music and dance performances. The dancers were extremely attractive. The male dancers were very athletic, covered in tattoos, reminding me of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose tattoos are in keeping with his mother’s Samoan culture. The female dancers were voluptuous, not like (typically) thin classical ballet dancers. The musicians consisted of two singers accompanied by four musicians playing string instruments and drums. The drumming was very loud, which spurred the dancers to exert full energy. The music and dance reminded me of Hawaiian performances I’ve attended, but I found the Moorean performance to be more dramatic and upbeat than the Hawaiian performances.
In the Hawaiian dance performances I’ve seen, there were simple romantic gestures by the female dancers. Similarly, Middle Eastern belly dancers shimmy their hips, which is probably the most erotic gesture allowed in Islamic society. The Tahitian dancers were far more overtly erotic. They shimmied their hips furiously while giving a “come hither” wave of their hands. The men also shimmy their hips as well as a performing a rapid repeated suggestive opening and closing of their legs while dancing beside the ladies.
Tahitians have a clear tradition of expressing their availability for a potential relationships/romance. Wearing a flower on the right ear signals that the wearer is available and looking for love. Wearing a flower over the left ear signifies that the wearer is married or in a relationship. Both men and women wear the flowers advertising their status, though most all the men that I observed wore their flowers over their right ears. In the context of these dancers, it was the first time that I perceived the tattoos on both the males and females as being erotic.
As we conclude our week on Moorea, we are inspired by the physical beauty of the landscapes and the beauty of the Tahitian residents. The general atmosphere is very cordial and relaxed. The pace of life is reflected in how people drive, which is very courteously. It’s easy to see why anyone spending time here could forget about the wars, political conflicts, and struggles for survival in other parts of the world. French Polynesia is relatively expensive, roughly equivalent to European pricing. Its relative isolation increases the costs of imported and mass-produced goods. The French influence in language, signage, and cuisine implies the best aspects of Europe. We are thankful that the advertisement from Costco Travel attracted us to make this vacation trip. The price was very reasonable. The ad just didn’t mention that our vacation trip would occur during the height of the rainy season.
In conclusion, here is a video excerpt showing the extreme hip movements of the talented dancers.