Friday, September 20, 2013

If you have something in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, what have you got?

I want to talk today about French Polynesia.

It has a flag* and everything:

...and according to wikipedia, some important atolls, islands, and island groups in French Polynesia are Ahē, Bora Bora, Hiva ’Oa, Huahine, Mai’ao, Maupiti, Meheti’a, Mo’orea, Nuku Hiva, Raiatea, Taha’a, Tahiti, Tetiaroa, Tupua’i, and Tūpai.

I kid you not.

Island paradises all, probably.

The capital of French Polynesia is Papeetē on the island of Tahiti, but the largest city, according to wikipedia, is Fa’a’a....

Say what?



Then why have I, the legendary rhymeswithplague, never heard of it?

Chalk it up to a faulty education, I suppose.

Clicking on Fa’a’a in that wikipedia article took me to another article entitled Faaa.

Faaa, without the accompanying apostrophes.

The mind, it reels.

And asks continually, why? Why? WHY?

But no explanation is ever forthcoming.

I am interested in history and exploration, and the following paragraph was my favorite part of the article:

“European communication began in 1521 when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, sailing in the service of the Spanish Crown, sighted Puka-Puka in the Tuāmotu-Gambier Archipelago. Dutchman Jakob Roggeveen came across Bora Bora in the Society Islands in 1722, and the British explorer Samuel Wallis visited Tahiti in 1767. The French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville visited Tahiti in 1768, while the British explorer James Cook visited in 1769. In 1772 The Spanish Viceroy of Peru Don Manuel de Amat ordered a number of expeditions to Tahiti under the command of Domingo de Bonechea who was the first European to explore all of the main islands beyond Tahiti. A short-lived Spanish settlement was created in 1774. Some maps still bear the name Isla de Amat for Tahiti, which was named after Viceroy Amat in the 18th century. Christian missions began with Spanish priests who stayed in Tahiti for a year. Protestants from the London Missionary Society settled permanently in Polynesia in 1797.”

Unless it was this photograph of the building that houses the seat of government, the Assemblée de la Polynésie française or, as the islanders call it, Te âpoora’a rahi o te fenua Māòhi:

(2007 image by veromortillet used in accordance with GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

Hey, except for the sign out front it could be an A-frame in Sevierville, Tennessee:

(2007 image by Brian Stansberry used in accordance with GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

But it isn’t.

No, French Polynesia boasts scenes like this:

(2007 image by PHG under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

...and this:

(2006 photo by Scott Williams used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

...and this:

(2005 image used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

They sure beat mowing the lawn on a hot afternoon.

Ah, French Polynesia, the land of James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific; the land (though not exactly) of French planter Emile De Becque (as portrayed by Ezio Pinza) singing “Some Enchanted Evening” to U.S. Navy Nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush (as portrayed by Mary Martin) ; the place called home by the likes of painter Paul Gauguin, Tarita Teriipia (third wife of actor Marlon Brando), Cheyenne Brando (daughter of Marlon and Tarita), Tuki Brando (Cheyenne’s son, a model who is “currently the face of Versace menswear” according to wikipedia), and writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

But perhaps you are a winter person, a lover of ice and snow, bobsledding, skiing, one-horse open sleighs. For you we will now all link arms and join in a round of a grand old wintertime song:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa’a’a Fa’a’a Fa’a’a!
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa’a’a Fa’a’a Fa’a’a!

So, I ask again: If you have something in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, what have you got?

Possible answers:

A. French Polynesia
B. Another fascinating post from rhymeswithplague.

The correct answer is B.

*This post was inspired yesterday afternoon when I found the flag of French Polynesia in that little Feedjit Live Traffic Feed thingy over in the sidebar after someone from Mahina (the third largest city in French Polynesia after -- class? -- Fa’a’a and Papeetē) visited my blog. That flag became the 163rd flag in my little collection of flags of the nations of the world that have visited my blog.


  1. C) an apostrophe perhaps?

    Love the singing, you are in fine voice RWP.

  2. 163 RWP ~ congratulations. I will trade you a China for a French Polynesia :)
    I remember my excitement when I got my first South American visit :)

  3. Carol in Cairns (in FNQ) (1), clever C) answer! And thank you for noticing!

    Carol in Cairns (in FNQ) (2), thank you for offering, but I don't need a China. I am looking for Uzbekistan, Monaco, Andorra, Mali, Ethiopia, Paraguay, Cuba, Congo,....

  4. Sure is a perdy place There are many perdy places in this world to discover.

  5. Well, we live on 81 acres surrounded by Weyerhaueser Timber land.....does that count as something in the middle of a whole lot of nothing?
    p.s. I never heard of your opera singer - I only know Rossano Brazzi & Mitzi Gaynor singing from South Pacific......

  6. Pretty, but tooooo hot. And I am not a fan of Christmas Carols. Antarctica is the place which holds my heart. And if it only had polar bears it would be perfect. Perhaps I can amalgamate Antarctica and Alaska...

  7. well this in my neck of the woods, so to speak, and I've never heard of a place far far away called fa'a'a'a or fa or even faa.

  8. Having lived in the Fiji Islands, I have always been fascinated by the Pacific Ocean, its history and its many islands. Please remember that long before Europeans explored the ocean's hugeness, Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian peoples had already populated islands as far away as Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Well done for noticing the presence of The Pacific Ocean and alerting your army of readers to its existence.

  9. Yorkshire Pudding, I'm sure my army of readers (sarcasm noted) would have eventually discovered the Pacific Ocean all by themselves. It's rather large, I've been told.

    Of course, what you say is true. I was a boy when Thor Heyerdahl published Kon Tiki and I still have my hardback copy with a somewhat tattered dust cover. Fascinating stuff.

    I can't remember the name of the island on which you taught when you were 19 (I think it started with an R...or a K), but I do remember the photograph of you wearing shorts on the beach. Shocks like that make an indelible impression on one's memory.

  10. A Lady's Life, you seem to be channeling Ado Annie from Oklahoma, or perhaps that fellow in Deliverance who was so enamoured of Ned Beatty.

    Hilltophomesteader, Ezio Pinza (who played Emile de Becque in the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical play South Pacific that ran for five years on Broadway) was an established opera star, having sung for 22 years at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and also having performed at La Scala in Milan and at Covent Garden in England. Rossano Brazzi (who played the same role in the 1958 film) was an Italian actor who had starred previously in Three Coins in the Fountain. He didn't even sing. In the film his voice was dubbed by Georgio Tozzi. Mitzi Gaynor always seemed to be doing a poor imitation of Mary Martin to me, and came across as too exuberant. I kept expecting her to break into a tap dance.

    Elephant's Child, perhaps someone could make a fortune in a new cottage industry, sewing fur coats for penguins.

    susan (in New Zealand!), Faaa is the name of a commune in the suburbs of Papeete, Tahiti, and Fa'a'a is the name of the only international airport in that country. Fa is a musical syllable (according to Julie Andrews, a long, long way to run) and Faa is what a sheep says if it is wearing braces on its teeth. You heard it here first.

  11. No cottage industry needed. King penguin chicks start their life in woolly duffel coats (and look so different that early explorers thought they were a different species).

  12. why did not you mention bali hi from soouth pacific in your opening of this very long long post

  13. Putz, why did not you talk like normal other poelple from Uuthah instead of like Yoda from Star Wars? To answer your question, I don't know why I didn't mention Bali Hai, I just didn't. This was not a post about the play or movie South Pacific, though (except in passing), it was a post about the real South Pacific. Maybe that's why. I couldn't really say. Thank you for inquiring.

  14. You started me singing Bali Hai at the first picture of the greenery scenery. Beautiful.
    When I was growing up at home I read all my dad's James Michener books. I read anything in the house, so know a great deal about Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable and a variety of other stars, biographies of whom were scattered about the place). I loved Mr Michener's books, but haven't heard of that one, so I may well give it a go. My favourite of his tomes is The Covenant. Stunning stuff and highly educational too.

  15. I mentioned Bali Hai! But my comment has gone awry, or possibly is waiting to be vetted , which seems more likely as my other comment hasn't been published yet.