Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Some notes I made while in Tahiti...

"It's always better on holiday. So much better on holiday. That's why we only work when we need the money." --Franz Ferdinand, Jacqueline

Tahiti! You can't get much farther away from Sweden than that. When the plane landed, we entered Tiare Faa'a airport to the sound of a ukelele/drum/flute orchestra and I was given a white Tiare blossom for my hair. At 2am! They stayed up this late for us! First impressions: it's like Hawaii but much moreso, if that makes sense.

"It's not the heat, it's the hummudiddy!" It's VERY humid here. Warm and humid. You go outside and are immediately carrying a sheen of perpiration on every inch of your body. The proverbial "sweat mustache" never goes away. Life is slow here. People walk slowly, move slowly, but speak a fast-paced French. English has become the bastard son, no...rather the red-headed step-child of French here now. It's not looked down upon here, though, the way it is in the lands of other French speakers. We know enough French, and they know enough English, for everyone to get by, and they're really friendly and helpful to boot. (None of the attacking souvenir sellers we were accosted by encountered in Peru.)

Yesterday, Lennart and I were scowling and grouching in the already baking heat of 7am, trying to find the car rental place, which had been placed wrongly on the crappy map we had. A local girl stopped and asked us if we were looking for something! I said yes, and she pointed the way.

-We've had a thing on our last two eclipse trips that we get there a couple of days before the organized group trip gets underway, and rent a car and do a little exploring. Granted, this is partly because we have to be flexible with the flight dates of the frequent-flyer-point-paid airline tickets, but it also gives us the opportunity to see stuff on our own terms, at our own speed. But here in Pape'ete, renting a car is around $100 per day! After some consideration, we decided to rent a care for one day only and drive around the island. The island is small, and aside from only one or two roads that venture inland, there is only the one road that goes around the perimeter of the island. We had the car for around seven hours. Didn't need it for more than that. Small island. :)

We saw many things: a high, cascading waterfall in a rainforest; a flow of lava, jutting out into the ocean that contains a lava tube filled with air, that when compressed by the right waves, explodes spectacularly with ocean spray into the air; small, black sand beaches; the "quietly decaying" Gaugin museum; a cave full of drips and drops; and fat, sleek, orangey cows. What this island notably lacks is any kind of monkeys or other tree-dwelling mammals. Walking through the rain-foresty areas, you notice this most. Looking up into the canopy, you almost expect to see or hear the scampering of some little animal or other. But on Tahiti, the only original animals were insects and birds. This means that there are also no snakes, which isn't so bad. There are a few non-native geckos. I spotted one on the wall of the hotel lobby when we first got here (at 2am!) and were about to be denied a room (at 2am!! after more than 24 hours since we'd left Sweden). I saw the little gecko wiggling his way across the wall up near the ceiling and pointed him out to Lennart. "They're supposed to be good luck," I said. "Good!" replied Lennart, "We need it!" Well, he was good luck indeed, because we got a room, with AC, which is a godsend for us pitiful northern Europeans. (I won't bother discussing the excellent 70 spf sunscreen I found except to say, "mmm...coconuts")

Today we're going back to the market to take more pictures of the colorful fish and fruits and vegetables, and to buy some Hawaiian, er...Tahitian shirts for Lennart, and I'll see about getting one for Katja as well, since she was so disappointed about not finding one in Hawaii.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hole in the Sky

"What made this eclipse so colorful (and so short) was the nearly perfect match in apparent size between the Sun and the Moon. The Moon just barely covered the Sun's visible face, revealing not only the vast corona but also the chromosphere, the thin lower layer of the solar atmosphere that glows with the characteristic red light of energized hydrogen atoms. In most total eclipses the chromosphere is visible only fleetingly at the beginning and end of totality, on opposite sides of the Sun. But this time it formed a nearly complete circle, accented by more than a half dozen flamelike prominences. A particularly large and bright prominence at the 12-o'clock position had detached from the Sun's limb and hung suspended in space."

-Richard Fienberg, Sky & Telescope Magazine

Makes you feel very small in the scheme of things. Eclipses are very cool.