Saturday evening – the supply boat has been here, the local alcohol stock has been replenished, and the work week is done. Thus, party time ashore. Thanks to a cruising couple aboard a boat named Silent Sun, who have been here for a while and know everyone, we and some other sailors were invited to join in with the locals. Someone roasted a pig; guests brought various side dishes pot-luck style.

First, a bit of drinking and sitting around with everyone, several local young men included. Damn, these Polynesians are stout lads, not overly tall but very broad, powerful builds. Even the guys who are shaped like huge basketballs look strong enough to flip over cars single-handed and have handshake grips that could crush your metacarpals if the guys weren’t careful.

The lads do seem to like their pakalolo and alcohol, like pretty much everyone everywhere. Manu, the pearl farm jefe, kindly shared his case of Hinano (FP’s mass-market beer, not half bad), which I took to be his personal party stash, with me. The music thundered – almost impossible to have any conversation at all. And of course my French is still so poor and halting that it’s hard to sustain any conversation beyond a comment or two even if we were in a monastery. I’ve noticed, though, that the locals are disinclined to pursue conversation with someone whose French isn’t quite up to speed. Latins, by contrast, will try to keep a conversation going, in whatever form of pidgin Spanish or English is needed. Perhaps Polynesians are simply more taciturn people.

When we, the invited guests, all went to eat in an adjacent little house, the local fellows hung back. I wondered if this was in keeping with some protocol or social grace but learned later that their strategy is to eat as late as possible, so as to maximize the buzz achievable from whatever alcohol and pakalolo they’ve managed to round up, rather than kill the buzz by filling their bellies.

Dinner was good – the roast pig was tasty but very tough. Otherwise, lots of starch. Someone brought bananas that had somehow been cooked in their skins – wrapped in tinfoil and baked, probably. Very sweet and delicious. Not sure whose house we were in. The ladies all congregated there – very little interaction with the guys over in the drinking/smoking area. Maybe there was more mixing later. I think in Polynesian society in general social roles are pretty sharply defined and women and men do not intermix as freely as we in the US are accustomed to. Not sure if this is good social science; might just be a reflection of a small sample size.

The locals on Raroia all seem very friendly – everyone you pass in town either waves or says “bonjour” – and readily accept, even enjoy, the white visitors on the sailboats. I heard it was a coup that the party on Saturday had some cruisers attending, the white women dancing late into the night.

And the folks are generous to a fault – in Raroia at least you do need to be a bit careful of what you admire or compliment, lest the owner feel compelled to give it to you or at least give you some other gift. Even apart from that, the locals here and in the Marquesas have been generous – recall being treated to a big meal at Steven’s family’s house in Atuona.

Christianity in various forms from Mormonism to Catholicism is alive and well here – every town or village I’ve been in has at least one church.

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