Aubrey Yee: Taha‘a, French Polynesia

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In Taha‘a, there is one small road that loops around the island, two tiny markets, one pizza place, a rum distillery, vanilla farms, a few restaurants, one resort of the over- water bungalow persuasion and whole lot of incredible hospitality.

WE LOADED OUR BAGS AND KIDS ON THE SMALL, ALUMINUM-HULLED MOTOR BOAT PERCHED AT THE END OF THE RUNWAY. Brady and I smiled at each other. We knew the house we were staying at was only accesible by boat, but this was already beyond cool. Our host Theirry started up the engine.

“Want to hit the market in town before we drop your bags?” I looked at Brady quizzically, simply because I knew that we had landed on the island of Raiatea, that the only major grocery store was here, and that our final destination was the neighboring island of Taha‘a.

This was the start of our second leg on a three-week trip in French Polynesia. A country often referred to as Tahiti although Tahiti is actually the name of the most populated island in this vast ocean bound country, and is just one of some 118 islands (not counting all the motus and atolls). We had chosen Taha’a because it is quiet. And let me repeat: Taha’a is quiet. There is one small road that rings around the orchid shape of the island, exactly two tiny markets, one small pizza place, a rum distillery, vanilla farms, a few small restaurants, one resort of the overwater bungalow persuasion and whole lot of incredible hospitality.

We had come here for the quiet, and we had come here for the ocean. The ocean in French Polynesia is unparalleled. Their islands are much older than ours and as a result are all fringed by shallow lagoons borded by an outer reef. This amounts to incredible snorkeling and diving in warm waters surrounded by teeming wildlife and beautiful, mostly healthy corals—at least on the less populated islands, motus and atolls.

Theirry and Vayama were our hosts, we had rented a home on their family property for the week. As we pulled up on the little boat, I could see through the crystal-clear water as the verdant blues of deeper ocean melted away and shallower reef revealed rich coral clusters and hundreds of reef fish. Their home sat right on our own little beach. No road, no other people besides our hosts. Just us, the beauty of the ocean and plenty of time.

That first night they made us poisson cru, a staple dish in French Polynesia, consisting of raw fresh (and I mean very fresh) caught fish (usually tuna or swordfish) mixed with cucumber, carrot, onion, lime and fresh (and I mean very fresh) coconut milk. It’s by far the best ceviche I’ve ever had. We ate with their family and compared notes about our lifestyles. At this point, we had become used to such natural, graceful, genuine hospitality. The Tahitian people are as rich as they come with kindness and generosity. It was a beautiful week of slowing down, remembering how much fun we have together as a family, enjoying the ocean and remembering all the most important things in life. My greatest souvenir from our experience in French Polynesia is this—the gift of remembering time, remembering that all we have is the present moment and that the days of doing “nothing” are often the most memorable and important kind of days, they are ones that make up a meaningful life.

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