It was a fine evening last spring when I met this girl. That time, I was walking down the stairs of my flat to check my laundry in the laundry room when she suddenly approached me.
“Oh, you’re from Bali?!” A girl exclaimed excitedly and directly high fived me. I, looking confused, automatically responded to her enthusiasm.
I saw she was talking with two other men earlier under the night lamp of their flat. But, I don’t think I’ve met her before…
Va Nui, a name I learned later, is from Tahiti, a French Polynesia country in the Pacific Ocean. It then became more interesting when she started to tell her experience about Bali, my birthplace.
“I know about you because Zahid, your roommate from Bangladesh, told me,” she tried to tell my absence my knowledge of knowing her.
Ahhh, Zahid. He is a new ‘brother’ I knew recently to start his study in Finance and Marketing. He often calls me as his brother and asks many things, from cooking to study things. Though I am not very good at cooking, I at least could tell some basic ingredients and ways to improvise the cooking :). As he comes from a different place, there should be interesting things to learn from him. The same thing to happen with this gorgeous Tahitian girl.
“I’ve been in Bali before for a couple of months. I worked in Seasons hotel earlier,” she continued.
I could sense a great excitement in her tone. I tried to know more about her. She has a strong Pacific appearance, brown complexion, thin eyebrows, and somehow, round face. Her face then, as other people from her region, reminds me of those of Balinese traits. I remember one time meeting a lady in an Indonesian – Australian Night on one winter time. That night, I mistakenly thought she was a Balinese as I saw her face did not differ much from my Balinese counterparts. I knew then that she is from Samoa, another small island in the South Pacific ocean.
Va Nui, in particular, reminds me of the Balinese-Indonesian artist, Luna Maya (in later conversation, she admitted that many of her Balinese friends working in the same hotel, mentioned this same thing). It’s only that her skin complexion is rather ‘Pacifist.’
She then continued to tell that she enjoyed Bali so much as it is not very different from her own place. She also came from the same chain hotel in Tahiti. After a few minutes chatting, I thank her and went back to the flat to continue working on my chapters.
I was about to enjoy two pieces of sushi I bought under a big tree on campus when I heard someone called my name. The voice was from the bridge, one level above where I sat. When looked up, it was this girl, Va Nui who waved her hand and smiled. I put down the sushi and the soy sauce and greeted her.
“Come down,” I said. “Let’s have some sushi.”
She smiled and said, “Sorry, I couldn’t for now. I have to meet a friend.” Then he offered me, “We can have coffee this afternoon, if you want.”
I, without hesitation, accepted her kind offer, saying that I would call her later.
At around 4pm, I contacted Va Nui for a coffee. We then met in one of the coffee shop in the library. We ordered our drinks then. Va Nui had a skinny latte for herself while I, different from my usual drink, cappuccino, ordered a hot chocolate. We went to one of empty tables in the corner and while waiting for our order, we talked about things we do throughout the day. Among others, her talks on her country were of the most interesting parts to me.
I learned that unlike Samoa which had been independent from New Zealand in 1962, Tahiti, formerly known as Otaheite, is authorized under the France government, thus making its people French citizens. Their official language, therefore, is French with Tahitian language (Reo Maohi) is also spoken among them.
While talking, her eyes shone brightly. I was amazed by her enthusiasm when talking about her place. As I don’t know much about Tahiti, talking with someone native is a good way to disclose my curiosity.
She then said that Tahiti is made up hundreds of islands, just like the archipelago of Indonesia. With approximately 262,000 residents (source) mixed with different backgrounds, it makes up various enchanting cultures and dances. Situated in the Pacific region with volcanic attraction, the country is surrounded by high and mountainous landscapes with beautiful coral reefs easily found on the beaches. She added that some islands, like Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a and Rangiroa are frequently visited by foreign visitors as they offer distinctive beauty. Therefore, this place has a strong tourism industry to support its economy. Due to this fact, English becomes one of the major languages spoken in the tourism areas in Tahiti.
“So, Tahiti is like Samoa and Hawaii, I think,” I tried to use my little knowledge of these two places to respond to her enthusiastic chat. I said this, because I learned from my previous experience with the Samoan lady and also a bit of information I knew about these places – the facial textures, skin complexion, and probably cultural attributions.
“You can say that because it is located not very far from Samoa (1,300 km) and Hawaii (4,400 km),” she replied. “I think, we’re all tropical places, attracting a lot of honeymooners and romance seekers to come,” she happily said this fact.
I laughed to find it is very true. I realize Tahiti has a big potential that might influence Bali or Phuket in Thailand, for instance, as tourism destinations in the future. In the Bali context, providing supportive infrastructure and utmost comfort, will be very important. Otherwise, there could be a slight decline towards its tourism industry.
After chatting a while, I become to know more about Tahiti and other relevant facts. However, I was still curious to know why Va Nui didn’t go to France.
“So, why don’t you go to France to study? It would be easier for you I guess. You speak French, you are, in fact, one of the citizens.”
She smiled, “I am more interested in the hospitality industry. As you know, many foreigners, mostly English speakers, come to the country. I should then go to an English country to improve my English. Fortunately, there is a scholarship by the French government for those who want to deepen this field. I took it.”
I see. Looking for other challenges is what she seeks. If it is easy to do, it won’t be a good challenge.
I found our conversation was very interesting. We talked many things, including a family of mine and her close friendship with a Balinese man during her stay in Bali last time. A good way to share experiences from different perspectives. To me, being open-minded is very important. I recently read a book from Pradyumna P. Karan about Non-Western World, and I found the book provides vast multiple perspectives concerning with different attributions in different parts of the the world.
It’s 5pm already. We didn’t realize as we talked quite enthusiastically about our places and experiences. She keeps encouraging me to visit Bora Bora, one of the famous places in Tahiti. Afterwards, I searched for some Tahiti media and I have to admit, I was was enthralled.
A very interesting place in a different part of the world to know, isn’t it? 🙂
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