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In Gauguin's Footsteps

July 8, 2013

 French painter Paul Gauguin was seeking paradise when he left France in 1891. Although he lived in French Polynesia for years and painted his most famous pictures there, he wasn’t thrilled with the impact of western civilization he witnessed on his arrival. He was looking for an Eden, where innocent natives walked about naked and unashamed. Alas, French missionaries had already discovered the place, and women were compelled to cover their nakedness with dresses. Since Polynesian women had no concept of shame, they didn’t understand why they were supposed to cover their breasts. Many of these women thwarted modesty laws by cutting holes in these dresses to expose their breasts, making it easier to nurse babies.


Mrs. Chatterbox and I traveled to French Polynesia in 2004. We discovered that Tahiti wasn’t Eden, but many of the neighboring islands came close. Here are a few pictures of our trip:




Young native dancers on the Island of Huahini (Hoo-a-hee-knee).



On Bora Bora these huts are iconic and popular with tourists. We would have loved spending a night in one but the $800.00 a night price tag was too rich for our blood.



This second Bora Bora picture is from a submarine ride we took to the coral reef. Unemployment in this region is high but no one goes hungry because even a ten year old can jump in the water and catch a fish for supper.       



This picture was taken during a sunset boat tour around Tahiti. The shack is actually a pearl farm with strands of oysters dangling underwater to grow the silver pearls for which French Polynesia is famous. I wonder, do they have Internet out here?




Rarotonga (Rare-o-tonga) in the Cook Islands was our westernmost destination. Rarotonga is only 2000 miles from New Zealand. A huge storm had preceded us so none of the locals expected our ship to arrive. In spite of the storm, this beach managed to look inviting.



On the island of Raiatea (Ray-a-tay-a) we purchased this sculpture made of Miro wood. Motu is the island word for tiny island so we’ve named him Motu Man. He stands about eighteen inches tall and is very heavy. He is not a tiki; he’s a tribal chief. I had him well wrapped in newspaper and burlap for the flight home. A huge Pacific Islander working the customs station at Tahiti’s Papeete Airport asked me what was in the package. I fibbed and told him it was a tiki god, and unwrapping him would be veeeeerrry bad juju. I expected him to smile and demand that I unwrap Motu man, but instead the custom agent’s eyes widened and he hurried us through the line. Thanks Motu Man!


Should any of you be lacking in good juju, come for a visit and you can rub Motu Man for luck. He likes being rubbed.



Maybe Motu Man can tell you some lucky lottery numbers to pick. So I guess if you want to get through customs always have a Tiki god handy.
By: PT Dilloway on July 8, 2013
very cool photos! I enjoy your travel pics and the bad juju story is one to remember when I am going through customs next time! Cheers and have a good juju day!
By: Kathe W. on July 8, 2013
It's a shame you and the Mrs. C don't dive. You would have enjoyed eden under the water line.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 8, 2013
Beautiful carving. I've always wanted to travel to French Polynesia. Maybe I'll just come to Portland and touch your Motu Man.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on July 8, 2013
Who knew the secret to quick passage through security was voodoo!
By: Eva Gallant on July 8, 2013
Not sure if I'd consider anyplace Eden. There's just too many people around and not enough natural resources.
By: Michael Offutt on July 8, 2013
It looks gorgeous--what a wonderful trip!!
By: fishducky on July 8, 2013
For $800.00 a night price tag the hut should have the internet! At least dial up.
By: David Walston on July 8, 2013
Superb photographs, Stephen. The place looks very inviting.
By: Bryan Jones on July 8, 2013
Looks like a place hubby and I would enjoy. We've a bit more volunteering to do and then we'll be going wherever we decide to go. I'm guessing the guy in the airport knows way more than you do about bad juju. I'm just saying. Have a fabulous day. âº
By: Comedy Plus on July 8, 2013
cute story on the customs. :) i LOVE the sunset tour golden photo!
By: TexWisGirl on July 8, 2013
Wow! I want to go there, now.
By: mindy on July 8, 2013
I like the fact that you lead in with interesting information, and then ply us with gorgeous photos of island paradise, or as close as it gets.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on July 8, 2013
The islands look very nice - a lot different than here, or your place
By: joinvegas on July 8, 2013
This is an area we've always wanted to visit.
By: Red on July 8, 2013
Now I"m longing for an island getaway- beautiful photos!
By: Shelly on July 8, 2013
What fun! The whole vacation, and the souvenir. There are a few friends i can think of who need some good luck right now, maybe i'll send them your way.
By: mimi on July 8, 2013
Well, what man DOESN'T like to be rubbed? I know you were hoping someone would say it, right?
By: Al Penwasser on July 8, 2013
Beautiful pictures. Some of the Survivor seasons were filmed in those areas, and I think Amazing Race went there, also. That's how I relate, through my reality shows. Too bad you weren't around to warn the Brady Bunch about their Tiki necklace on their Hawaiian vacation.
By: Val on July 8, 2013
I've heard the sunsets in the South Pacific are breathtaking. Your sunset picture (and the other pictures) are, indeed, gorgeous! I could use some good juju - think it will work if I rub the computer monitor with Motu Man on it?
By: Pixel Peeper on July 8, 2013
Now THAT is a vacation destination I could definitely enjoy. Maybe not at $800 a night, but I'm sure you could recommend something more affordable, right? ;)
By: Scott Park on July 8, 2013
You certainly have taken some very interesting trips in your time. I love those huts but at $800 a night, I'd have to pass also.
By: Hilary on July 8, 2013
Beautiful photographs. Lovely scenes. Thanks for the great visual treat.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 8, 2013
Looks wonderful
By: John on July 9, 2013
Those photos are beautiful. The beach looks like it is part of paradise. Interesting fact about the women not understanding why they had to cover up.
By: Cheryl P. on July 9, 2013
That was a nice little tour. It looks gorgeous there. I'm especially impressed by the sunset photo. Did you ever find out if they have Internet there? xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on July 9, 2013
Looks like a very interesting place. Possibly a bit too deserted for me!
By: LL Cool Joe on July 9, 2013

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