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How's life in Paradise?

Since I arrived in French Polynesia in July 2009, that's perhaps the most frequent question I heard from family, friends and people I left in Europe.... how to answer this question precisely and honestly? I will try to do this now....

Photo by vicuna

“How is life in Paradise”? This questions seems simple and has already a pre-supposed answer in it. It is expected that you answer “it’s just perfect” as it seems impossible that the life in paradise could be “not perfect”. But is it really paradise?

Well, it’s perhaps difficult to explain, but in fact the life on an island in the middle of the pacific oceanis a pretty normal and ordinary life, with some great and beautiful aspects, but also with some negative aspects… let’s review these 2 faces of paradise…

Photo by vicuna

On the bright side, and it’s obvious to everyone, there is of course a beautiful landscape, with amazing colors of nature and water, the beauty of the islands and all aspects which contribute to build the image of what we call “paradise”.

Of course, we enjoy a lot to live in such a place, to have a life in strong contact with nature and the sea: windsurfing, diving, going out on the lagoon with our kayak, etc… all this is so great and we love it! To be able to visit other countries of the world around the pacific is also a great opportunity by living here.

Photo by vicuna

And there’s also something very pleasant about the rythm of life here: no hurry and no stress ever! People are peacefull, quiet and patient about everything, and that’s a great lesson for us, people from the northern hemisphere which are obsessed with time and speed….

There is a lot to learn about simplicity of life and to be able to accept it. You are not diverted by the “occidental” way of living and thus, simply and truly confronted to yourself. So, you learn to live with yourself and also to share this simplicity in your couple. We were warned when we arrived here, that a lot of couples coming here together are leaving it alone, as the life here does not allow you to lie to yourself on a relationship. If you’re not really happy together, there’s nothing else to help it …. On the contrary, if you’re still happy together here, it shows how strong and honest this relationship is! For us, we are both very happy together, and our almost 2 years stay here has strengthen our couple and our love. and that’s happiness of course! All this contributes to the bright side of paradise! :)

Photo by vicuna

But the image of the “paradise” is not always true and has a historical and cultural background…
This mythical image of “paradise” was build from the 18th century until today, by the first navigators discovering these islands (among them, Samuel Wallis, Antoine de Bougainville and James Cook which were the first to “discover” Tahiti in the years 1767-1769) and who related the story of an amazing place where the people lived in nature and peace in one of the most beautifful places on earth…
Well, this wasn’t false, but wasn’t exactly true, as these european navigators just saw in these islands what they wanted to see. They didn’t consider the violent aspects of polynesian society and the very severe and strict social hierarchy that was common there…
Later, in the 19th century, a painter like Paul Gauguin contributed to spread this image of paradise by his paintings of Tahiti and the Marquesas islands…

I won’t go further in these historical aspects (but you can read the writings of Bougainville or Cook describing the polynesian society or look at Gauguin’s paintings). It’s just to explain that we have, as occidental beings, a “pre-constructed” image of what is a “paradise” and that the reality is not absolutely true, even if some aspects of this “paradise” are existing for real! Complicated, isn’t it?

Photo by vicuna

To be clear enough, I’d like to say that sometimes, life on a little island isn’t easy and that sometimes we’d like to be elsewhere and can’t stand it anymore on this little island! We have sometimes the feeling to be in a kind of golden prison : the space is very limited on this small island (170 km2), and the other islands need a (very expensive) flight to go there (and there aren’t any ferries or boats to reach them, beside expensive cruising ships…). So you can feel opressed by this very limited peace of earth surrounded by the infinite huge ocean….

And what’s strange here is that our mood is very very changing: we can be sometimes very euphorical and find our life on this island as the most beautiful life ever and feeling a strong happiness, and the day after, we’re feeling empty, tired, fed up with everything and and what to leave this place… We first worried about these quick and important changing moods, but soon other collegues coming from Europe told us that it was the same for almost everyone living here and not born on an island. This mood variation apparently comes from the strong influence of the sea and athmospheric pressure surrounding us. In a way, such mood variations can happen anywhere in the world, but are apparently stronger on a little island!. The Polynesian even have a word for this feeling: it’s the “Fiu” (say like “few”) and my pupils often use it when they don’t want to work (that means almost every day…)

Photo by vicuna

And after some time here, you get used to the place and with the work, a kind of ordinary routine is taking place in the daily life, like everywhere else… Thus, you don’t see the beauty of the place anymore as it is the ordinary place you see every day. When some visitors, friends or family are coming, they remind us how extarordinary the place is, and it’s important that they say it to you, because you don’t see it anymore…

Another point is about the social life: to be honest, there not so much things happening in the social life here. As soon as the night had come, people are used to stay at home and don’t like to go out. So, no real nightlife…. The same for culture and entertainment…. almost nothing to do in this area.

And a last thing about the weather: it’s not every day the perfect sunny paradisiac image you can have in mind. Of course, this beautiful weather happens regularly, but it’s also raining A LOT, specially during the rainy season (october-march) and it’s raining a bit less in the “winter season” (april-september). So you sometimes can’t go out of your house because of the heavy waterfalls coming down from the sky…. and sometimes during weeks (january-february is the hurricane season). My sister was so unlucky during her visit here last year in February: on a 2 weeks stay, she had only 1 day of sun. She was kind of disapointed…

Photo by vicuna

And I sometimes hear some tourist who are really disapointed by their stay on Raiatea as it is not the image of paradise they had in mind (for example, there aren’t any white sand beaches here…). You should not come here with a too strong imagination about what you want to see, and accept what you see for real even if it’s not what you imagined.

Photo by vicuna

Well, don’t understand me wrong: I don’t complain about my life here, absolutely not! I’m very happy to be here and enjoy it. But I wanted to point out that the “life in paradise” is in fact a normal and ordinary life, with its good and bad sides. It’s perhaps hard to believe, but you must distinguish the cultural “image” of paradise you can have in your mind and what can be the real life on a little island: it’s just a normal human life, like every where else! :))

written by vicuna

5 comments

  1. icuresick

    icuresick

    Awesome photos and story! I'm also living in a paradise, but I'm yet to explore the whole country :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. disdis

    disdis

    That's a truly awesome entry! Both pictures and text are wonderful, and now I can imagine how good and hard is to be living there. Thank you!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  3. eva_eva

    eva_eva

    Wish to pay a visit to this 'paradise' :) It's a very lovely article, vicuna! :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  4. superlighter

    superlighter

    Great Great Great!!! maybe at least...I prefere Hell.

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  5. ceduxi0n

    ceduxi0n

    awesome article, maybe we'll visit you and kathy in paradise :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam