Troubles in Paradise

June 21, 2003, 5:30 p.m.

At Anchor, Punaauia (near Papeete), French Polynesia

(all photos in illustrating this segment courtesy of Maryline and Jean-Bernard Eya)

Dear friends and family:

I'm afraid I shamelessly stole the title of this e-mail from our friends, Jean & Frank Taylor, who wrote in sympathy about our encounters with the French immigration system (I wrote about that in our last e-mail).  This time the troubles are perhaps a bit more serious, and certainly of a different kind:  Yesterday afternoon, I got mugged.  Mark tells me that's the right word for what happened -- I was coming back from the Carrefours grocery store (the "hypermarche"), pushing a full shopping cart along the sidewalk next to rush hour traffic.  A motor scooter came up next to me, and the passenger grabbed my bag out of the shopping cart, and they took off, weaving in and out of traffic until they disappeared.  This all happened in a split second.  I didn't have the presence of mind to notice a license number (even if one was showing).  I would be unable to identify the perpetrators.  Several cars saw the incident and stopped to help; one called the police, who took a report over the phone, and asked us to come by this morning.  All except the fellow with the phone listened to the story, and eventually took off after expressing their sympathy ("desolee...").  All very nice people, so you certainly can't say that Papeete is a bad place.  The fellow with the phone thought maybe these thieves were the same ones who stole his bike.

Well, of course, the ramifications of having all those credit cards, my organizer, my drivers license, etc. stolen, started to sink in pretty fast.  I wrestled the cart back to the dock, where Mark was waiting, and we took all those groceries (provisioning for three or four days, including plenty of frozen (or by then, formerly frozen) things back to the boat.  Craig got onto the satellite phone, and we started phoning to cancel credit cards.  This morning I went to an internet cafe and checked the websites of our bank accounts, changed PIN numbers and checked balances.  Fortunately there are no untoward withdrawals, and no unauthorized charges on the credit cards. Perhaps the thieves were only interested in the money, and threw everything else in the dumpster.

Earlier this morning, Craig and I took the bus to the Punaauia gendarmarie, and spent a very pleasant, if somewhat frustrating hour trying to tell the story to a non-English speaking policeman, complete with plenty of pantomime and drawings.  Of course, he says, there's almost no chance that my things will be recovered.  When we were all done, he advised that we were at the wrong police station -- I had been given bad advice yesterday about what station to go to.  The incident was close to the district border.  He assured us he will send the report on to the other station, but I got the definite impression that neither of them will do anything about it.  We did get a copy of a two page summary of my travails, in French, for whatever it's worth.  So there's a morning in Paradise wasted!

Last night we (Craig, Barbara, Mark, Maryline, Bernard, and Steve and Iretta from Rigo) went to a performance of traditional dancing, featuring students from traditional dance schools.  We saw one school from Hawaii, and two from Papeete, each quite different from the other.  The Hawaiian dancing was mostly quite slow.  The best dancer was the only man, who was almost a centerpiece of the Hawaiian school.  The lead singer/musician from their orchestra was truly spectacular -- probably the high point of the evening.  The Papeete schools performed much like the dancers we saw in the Marquesas, except there were no male dancers.  Lots of very fast hip grinding. 


The young children from each school gave the whole thing a quality of a children's recital.  The audience was mostly friends and family of the dancers, and they were wildly enthusiastic about everything.  There were plenty of proud papas rushing up to the edge of the stage with video cameras whirring, or flash bulbs popping. Papeete dance school children
Unlike their older counterparts, the little girls were quite serious as they danced.  But sometimes, one would catch sight of papa with his camera, and then they would grin irrepressibly, sometimes losing track of where they were in the dance.  There were quite a number of blondes among the dancers, so I guess there is no discrimination in favor of Polynesians.  
Papeete dance school

There were also quite a number of heavy women, and even heavy children.  I admire their body image that allows them to bare their bodies (but for coconut shell tops and grass skirts), despite their extra flesh.  But undoubtedly, only the thin Polynesians will get the jobs in the troupes that perform at the hotels.


In between the schools, while the orchestra was getting re-set, the M.C. babbled on in French about this and that (he was actually babbling about nothing -- filling time -- according to Mark).  At one point he mentioned the name of a song in an African language, and Bernard (who is from Cameroon), shouted up at him.  The M.C. said something like, "Ah, we have an African man who can tell us what that means!"  Bernard (who was seated just in front of us) stood up, raised his arms like a sports hero, the spotlight shone on him, and the crowd went crazy with applause.  Then he told the M.C. he had no idea what the phrase meant.  Bernard turned around again, raised his arms (still in the spotlight), and the crowd roared with approval.  What a character!

After the performance, we went to a creperie (restaurant for crepes and gallettes) on the waterfront, and had a nice dinner.  We recognized many of the performers (and the M.C.) who were also there for a post-performance meal.  Amazingly, despite the late hour, we found a "Le Truck" that was going back to Marina Taina.  It was filled with a group of extremely drunk guys, and I found myself wondering whether they were the ones who had stolen my purse and were getting drunk on my money.  (I didn't see enough to be able to recognize either of the perpetrators).


We had planned to sail to Moorea today (it's only a few miles), but the weather has turned bad, and we were having problems with the alternator (Craig has now apparently fixed it).  So we told Maryline and Bernard that if they wanted to see Moorea, they should plan on going themselves, rather than waiting for us.  So they booked a room at a deluxe hotel, and took the ferry over this afternoon.  They'll be back on Tuesday, just two days before they leave to go back to Germany.

Right: Maryline & J. Bernard's hotel in Moorea


Moorea hotel

We'll have to see how the weather progresses, but perhaps we'll rent a car and drive around the coast, in the meantime.  Tonight we'll listen to the rain, perhaps watch a movie, and decompress.

Best wishes to all our friends and family!

Craig and Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia

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