Paul Gauguin famously moved to Tahiti after growing disillusionment in the milieu of 19th century France for the beautiful island shores of Tahiti. For many years, he had become symbolic of that artist who left the trappings of civilization to live in freedom and peace.
Nowadays, we know that Gauguin was a sexual deviant and a charismatic, but abusive lover, and yet his paintings still draw attention and even admiration from his own biographers. Beyond the artist, people see what he saw in Tahiti: the beauty and openness.
Before Gauguin, myths of the precolonized vahines giving out sexual favors to foreign men freely spread across the world. Even more incredible than that, however, were stories of unworldly beauties who proved devoted lovers, wives, even mothers. Culturally, Tahitians today explain the sordid aspects of the myth as remnants of a pragmatic tribal cultural context. In the modern world, those vahines are no more, but Tahitians are still a beautiful, accommodating people.
I almost did a Paul Gauguin myself thanks to this wonderful girl I met during my increasingly extended visit. Hereiti. Her name meant ‘little love’ but she had definitely more than a little love to give.
We had a lovely guide in the tour group I was in as well, but Hereiti, I met her in serendipity. We took a lunch break in a cozy open air restaurant along the way, and we just bumped onto each other in the way to the toilet. A few minutes coming back from the toilet, just as I noticed my pockets were feeling a little bit lighter, I catch her from the corner of my eye coming up to me, my phone in hand. Those rare seconds I caught her earlier were enough to make me recognize her, and the image of her coming to me would stay vivid in my mind forever.
Everything all those European men found in the island long ago, that made them many of them want to settle and raise their families there, I also experienced. Tahiti itself is a natural paradise, and the perfect backdrop for a full day date.
I found myself separated from the tour for the rest of the day, as I found myself with an impromptu amateur tour of my own. I spent the whole day with Hereiti, learning more about the island and about her. As much as I could not fathom how she could exist, I found it even harder to believe that she would also fall for a guy like me. But Hereiti just wanted to love, and wanted to be loved, and I just happened to be at the right time and place.
Hereiti gave me the sweetest goodbye the night before I left. The entire night before. Leaving felt bittersweet, but as usual, it was the woman who seemed stronger and ready for what was to happen next. We shared emails although we both knew it was highly unlikely anything was going to happen between us again.
The tour organizers seemed unhappy that I ran off, being one man short on all those other reservations they had made, but the guide just beamed that sweet, but naughty knowing grin at me when no one else was looking. I had paid for the trip after all, and so after a few minutes of talking I made my way back home.
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