Clean and Sober

Hello again from the Big Blue!


I’ve just returned from my evening run so forgive me if my thoughts are scattered. Who am I kidding? It doesn’t take forty-five minutes of exercise and general jostling of body parts to scatter this brain.


So, here’s something you’ll never see in North America: the local highschool handing out machetes to teen boys. But you’ll see it here…and you wonder why I love this kooky island! Seriously, I was scootering up to one of our local grocery stores – Neibaa, (so named because it’s in the “neibaahood”, get it?), to be precise – when I passed the highschool and saw it was the annual landscaping day. Hordes of Aitutaki children were out on the school property, weeding, raking, cleaning gutters, and pruning bushes. Never mind that the mere act of forcing our tender young to do something as hideously dangerous as yardwork, (gasp), would land any US or Canuck school principals in the slammer, can you ever picture a day when a group of fifteen year old boys would be handed long knives at school and sent out into the street? (I’ll wait while you finish laughing). Yet, there they were, hacking away at the shrubberies and throwing the branches into neat piles.


Lovin’ the shrubberies!


The smaller children were not given weapons; they were up on the roofs clearing leaves from the gutters. Oh, I really do love this place!


For every day I wish I were back in a place where I couldn’t recite the contents of the grocery store by heart, there are an equal number of days I think, “Yep, I’m so freakin’ glad to be here.” We are far away from everything, which at times can be frustrating but also gives us a strange perspective on the world at large. Sometimes, looking at the globe from Aitutaki is like looking at it through a pair of binoculars turned the wrong way around.


The current global economic meltdown seems no more than a hiccup from where we sit. Sure, we’ll be affected, we already have been, but life here is already so simple that the damages will not feel as extreme as it will to the guy in the nice grey suit who stands to lose five of his seven houses and will have to settle for driving a Volvo instead of a Mercedes.


On this little patch of sand, we already know what it will feel like when the petrol stops flowing – our stations ran out two months in a row. Guess what? Life goes on. We know what it’s like to do without. When the store runs out of something, it isn’t a matter of waiting for the truck to deliver some more, it’s a matter of waiting for the monthly supply ship and hoping that the item in question is on it. And we have it good, some of the outer islands only see a supply ship twice a year. The internet, water, and power all go off on a semi-regular basis. We bitch and laugh and think about making angry phone calls to people who don’t care and won’t do anything anyway…and then we just keep on keepin’ on.


Outta gas…



It’s been a good lesson, doing without. I’ve learned that there’s really a lot I don’t need. You all know I’ve always been an Anti-Stuff advocate but this year I’ve seen how much further the philosophy can be taken. (Right now, my friend Deb Mac is thinking, Mmmmmm I have got to get that girl off the island; she’s gone bush!)


Now, this bailout, this seven hundred billion dollar bailout…


Hold on. Think about that number for a moment. Holy cow! I can barely process that amount. Seven hundred billion dollars. I mean, seven hundred million seems like an enormous sum but billion? Seven hundred billion???!! Whoa.


So this bailout leaves me wondering what the *bleep* happened?! How do so many mess up so badly and why on earth are they being bailed out? Are there not men, (come on, you know they’re primarily men), who are paid millions of dollars to run these financial institutions? And these men, I should hope, aren’t they well-educated, experienced, and sharp? Do they not, in short, know what they’re doing? And if not, why were they being paid millions of dollars? Hey, for a half a million, I’ll run your financial institution into the ground and I won’t even ask for medical benefits!


Yes, yes, I know, it’s complicated. But no, no it’s not. It’s just greed, ladies and gentlemen. Plain and simple. What we’re witnessing is the hangover brought on by first world nations binging on rampant consumerism and doing shots of over-extended credit well past closing time.


I’m not the big meany pointing my finger and tsk-tsking, I’m just the humble girl up at the podium, clutching her one year chip and trying to take it one day at a time. When Prez and I were in the film biz, we were greedy little piglets. We used to joke that we didn’t get out of bed for less than a grand a day. Sure, we had a lot of fun, and we were occasionally risking our lives so the high pay was, I suppose, justified but when I think of what we could have done, what we should have done, with that money I feel…dirty.


Money is terrific. I’m pro money. If someone were to hand me several crates of money tomorrow, I wouldn’t say, “Oh no, please, I really don’t need this.” But the problem with money is it’s like every other drug out there, it changes you. What’s worse, the discrepancy between the haves and the want-to-haves sets the stage for some serious nastiness.


On tiny Aitutaki, where everyone knows everyone, (or is related to everyone), and no one wants much more than a scooter, a TV, and a meat pie or two, you can give teenage boys machetes and set them loose in public, safe in the knowledge that they’re not likely to use them to chop off someone’s hand for their Rolex.


Look, I’m not saying we all have to live like monks and toss our possessions into the sea – hey, the sea is polluted enough already without your 32” flat screen TV floating around in it – but I guess I am saying maybe we all need to think about this: 700 billion dollars.


Maybe it’s time we got clean.


Good advice…even with the spelling mistake.



QUESTION: What the *bleep* happened?!


Until next week, (if the internet is working), I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin life!

The Princess



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