I am sitting on the deck of the good ship Lollipop somewhere in New Caledonia, formerly French Polynesia. It is a quiet bay with the bluest of water and an occasional edifice of some sort dots the landscape. I am not sure of our lats and longs and to be honest it is not a concern
We were not welcome in our original port of call. This was not because they didn’t want our sheckels and boundless buying power but because the big chief of the island died and they were in a fourteen day period of mourning. Nothing commercial transpires during that time. Can you see Amazon or Target doing that if Trump or Pelosi or even Bezos passed?
Going ashore on a tender, Kathy and I made our way up to a main road. We espied a church as we entered the harbor and wanted to hike up to see it. The road was well paved but very few people in sight. The foliage on either side was dense but forgiving. It is totally unlike anything we have seen so far. This was the South Pacific we had imagined but not yet experienced.
All of these island nations have one thing in common. They are not one but dozens if not hundreds of isles and atolls under some sort of confederation. Either by location or size there is the main spot or city and their freeways that connect are the myriad of waterways surrounding them.
The cities differ drastically from Hawaii’s Honolulu and Hilo or the Caribbean Nassau and St Barts. They are gritty with commerce and haphazard growth. When examined closely the lush sub tropical landscape yields minimal housing with open air and doors to facilitate circulation. No electricity or running water is evident.
We visited one of these villages in Fiji. The residents numbering 500, greeted us with song and dance. The locale was ruled by a chief and he had the biggest house. Of course there was a church. The islands are predominantly Christian and they practice their faith.
All the residents of each country are a gentle and welcoming people. They share everything amongst themselves. The doors are always open and if you happen by you are invited in for a meal. To not do so would be an affront. They love music that is both tribal and rasto. Guitars and ukuleles abound as well as ready made drums on bottoms of pails or maracas fashioned from a pop bottle and sand.
Their main occupation is tourism and the minimum wage if available is $2.35 per hour. Sure we have snorkeled and swam and gone here and there but that visit was a good dose of reality. They are descendants of families going back millennia yet they have kept together and found tranquility in community. We could all learn a lot.
Interestingly the fanciest buildings are embassies with Australia, India and the United Staes being noteworthy. There should be no doubt the Chinese are there and more are coming. Not with throngs of tourists but investing and lending at a breakneck pace. Their largesse as part of the Belt and Road leaves no doubt of their long term plan. All nations are jockeying for position for trade and politics.
Being islands, everything comes in by boat and container. When someone in a roadside stand offers you a Coke or a Twinkee you can’t imagine the circuitous route it has taken and number of hands it has passed through. Commerce at its best and worst.
These islands need help to prosper or even in some cases to survive.. From repairing roads to building schools. Yesterday in Vanuatu our guide on a couple of miles hike to a waterfalls told us he does it twice a day 6 days a week to try to send his kids to school. The cost of tuition is $300 per child. 45% of the kids do not attend.
The trip is wonderful but sobering if you look beneath the covers. All these people live in Paradise and swim and dance and sing. That is their way of life.Part of you says how can we help and the other part says be careful what you wish for. Success ain’t always what it is cracked up to be. The kids are happy and incredibly well behaved. Should we leave it just at that?
In an incredible clash of cultures I am reading Homo Deus by Yuval Harari while on this trip. He describes a future that is sterile and barren. He speaks of how pleasure is fleeting and how we all just want a bigger hit of this or that. We want it all. Somewhere in between AI and these Pacific oases there has got to be a happy medium. I will let you know if I find it.
Kathy and I made it up that hill to the church. It was simple but elegant. It was a labor of love by those who built it. The patio overlooked the Pacific and our ship below.What a picture What a memory.
Ted The Great
There are 20 million 20 foot containers in the world today. Only 6 million are in transit at any given point In time. There are some behemoth ships that can carry 21,000 of them.
There was a ship called the Happy Giant which displaced 660,000 tons full loaded. It was the length of more the three football fields and if stood on need would be taller than the Empire State building. A few years ago it was sold for scrap and beached in India to be torn apart.
Trade Deals…Of the top ten container ports China has seven. The leader, Shanghai handles 42 million containers a year. Our largest are Los Angeles at 9 million and Port of New York at 7 million.
There are 54,000 ships in the merchant fleet throughout the world. There are 314 ocean liners with a total capacity of 537,000 passengers. There are 26 million people who cruise every year. The largest is the Symphony of the Seas with a capacity of 6687 and 2200 crew.