Fun And Foreign Times
My parents used to have a summer home in Tahiti. We'd go there every summer and spend a couple weeks on the islands, just me and my dad and my mom. No one has gone there in a long while, and I've moved out of my old house with them since then. Just last winter I decided I was gonna go visit the old house and the islands and all that. So I saved some cash up from work, I work as a bike messenger in downtown Chicago, and during the summers I'm a helicopter pilot out west in the United States in case you didn't know, and I got myself a plane ticket to Tahiti. Well, I never bought a return ticket because I didn't know how long I wanted to stay, and I ended up meeting a new friend out there, a girl whose name was Michelle but who everyone called Mickey. She was visiting too, just for vacation and we made really good friends. So we ended up bunking at my parents' old place, and had such a good time living there that I stayed for nine months. Most days we'd head into the downtown on the big island of Tahiti, a place called Papeete (it's pronounced pah-peh-ay-teh, and translates to "water in a basket") and bum around in the endless, unnavigable mazes of merchant stalls, shops, restaurants, jewelry stores, fish markets, fruit stands, and these little snack shops that the Tahitians called magisins. We had a couple landmarks that we used to know where the hell we were. There was Jimmy's Restaurant, an Asian cuisine place who served awesome food and had a big fish tank and a nice lady called Theresa who worked the register and gave better exchange rates than anyone in the city, and the Hotel Mandarin, which was a tiny hotel in the inner city with a great breakfast cafe in their ground floor. There was also the "World's Oldest House", this really old, tattered as hell looking shack with no paint left on the walls and stuff and it looked like it was there when the whole place was still rain forest, and then all the taller buildings got put around it but people still lived there because they had chickens in their yard and you'd see the barbecue running sometimes, and the Renault Dealership/Rainbow Dragon karaoke bar, a monolithic car dealership that was easily the biggest building in the city (but isn't even that big compared to big cities' buildings in the states) which was right next to this little bar who served the best drinks ever and had karaoke most nights, with the worst people singing. Mickey and I would bum around Papeete for hours at a time, then we'd sometimes take a ferry to another island like Moorea or Bora Bora, or Rangiaroa, or Tikihao. The ferry port had a massive Banyan tree that would make an army tank look like a goddam beetle. It towered over the parking lot and the dock and had hundreds of vines hanging from it's branches. It looked like five trees glommed together and put on steroids. At night we'd sometimes sleep in my parents' old house but most times we'd just sleep on the sand on the beach, usually on Lafayette black sand beach on the big island. I liked to get up in the morning and just walk down the beach and slice some bananas off a tree and eat them, or maybe a pineapple or coconut. We had fun seeing who could crack the shell of a coconut first. Mickey would smash them open with pieces of rock she found on the beach which worked but it'd ruin the inside of the coconut. I finally figured out that cracking them by knocking two together worked quite well. We swam and fished and surfed, and then fished some more, and the swam and surfed some more. Sometimes we'd ride out in a motorboat or a canoe around the island to look at all the cool stuff in the water. Other times we would go snorkeling around the coral reefs and stuff inside the lagoon on Moorea, or we'd go scuba diving in deeper waters and see all these crazy sea turtles and reef sharks and starfish, and squids and octopi and parrotfish and yellowfin, and once even a lemon shark though we got scared and surfaced. We'd sometimes dig in the sand like little kids and make sand castles and whatnot, and walk on the beach or in the trees at night and look at stars and constellations and that one weird arm of the Milky Way that looks like a green column of vapor. There were still parts of the islands that were just small beaches where no one lived, they were just sandy places on the shore covered in trees and bushes and foliage. They were totally safe and all that, so on the smaller islands where the waves weren't so big you could ride right up to them on a canoe or motorboat and just kind of hang out and pretend that you were the only people in the whole place even though you weren't, and just relax and be cooked in the sun. We did that once on Tikihao and we met this man named Tito, who had a wooden shack on one of those small beaches, and he invited us in for some hibiscus blood orange ice tea, and we sat and talked and drank our tea and he told us some good places to go snorkeling and diving, and we talked about the United States and he said he'd visited NYC a few times. We swung by Tito's every now and then to say hi and on New Year's we invited him to a party that was just a ragtag bunch of people we knew from around the islands, including Theresa the cashier and Kamal the fruit stand guy and Corky the ukelele player and Leo the guy who owned Lucky Leo's magisin. We met a cab driver called Popo who lived in her house with her two daughters, husband, and son up in the inland mountains and she called her cab "The Happy Taxi" and actually had that spray painted on the side. She always knew where everything was around the islands and if you needed directions, you asked Popo. She had a friend and coworker who was also a cab driver, named Alan and he was really funny, he showed us all kinds of landmarks around like this rock formation named Queen's Crown, on top of the big island that looked like a pointy crown. We also knew a lady named Lola, who lived way the hell inland up in that sort of mountainous region far from the shore on an island, and her and Mickey and I went to a restaurant called The Belvedere which was on top of the dormant volcano of Tahiti and it was New Year's eve and we were higher than the fireworks being shot off so we could see them below us and it was really cool. We also bought fireworks and shot them off for New Year's, but we had to run because we lit them in front of a Radison hotel and they yelled at us for nearly setting the place on fire. We had a blast sprinting down the goddam beach at night nearly tripping on the wet sand like idiots, laughing our åsses off. So finally, after March rolled around and it made ten months in Tahiti, Mickey and I decided to return home. We caught a plane into Los Angeles, and I discovered Mickey was actually from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is only an hour drive from my house. So we stayed friends and I still see her, and I still have that house out there in Tahiti. I'm planning to visit this winter maybe, and I'm going to invite Mickey if she wants to come.