By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In the middle of one of our last suppers in the urbanized world, Mark looked up from his Carney’s chiliburger and asked, “Why are we going to Rarotonga?”
Carla shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.”
We began to wonder why we hadn’t listened to our doubting friends back in January. But we couldn’t back out now. We’d told every business associate, every friend we’d ever made, as well as the whole world, via our blog, boingboing.net, about our excellent adventure. We had no choice.
On Saturday, June 21, we loaded 13 pieces of luggage — including eight suitcases, one backpack, a stroller, portable crib, diaper bag and infant car seat — into a taxi van, hopped into a second taxi and caravaned to LAX, where we boarded the 10:15 p.m. flight to Rarotonga, via Tahiti.
Twelve hours later, we touched down at the Rarotonga airport, which is just a simple airstrip across the road from the ocean and a small one-story building with a blue-and-white wooden sign that reads, “Welcome to the Cook Islands.” We were welcomed by a small group of men wearing floral batik shirts who strummed ukuleles near the immigration inspection line. As we found out later, we had just missed a four-day rainstorm, and now the blue sky went on forever, patched with just a few white fluffy clouds.
It only took about five minutes to wipe out any preconceived fantasies we had about island life. The shuttle that picked us up drove past a long stretch of petrol tanks, refineries and warehouses. We didn’t remember any of this from our first visit. Of course, they’ve always been here, but our idealized notion of Rarotonga had replaced our actual memories. Now that we’d come back, in a van that reeked of diesel exhaust, passing little houses on the side of the road with missing windows, rotting roofs, and torn curtains in lieu of doors, the previous six months of romanticizing flew from our heads, to be replaced by dread: What the fuck had we gotten ourselves into?
Our first impulse was to turn around and get the hell out of here. Our tickets are open-ended, which means we can leave anytime we feel like it. But we couldn’t do that — we had too many people counting on us to fulfill their fantasies. And worse, if we turned back now, the scoffers would never let us forget our folly. The humiliation would be excruciating.
The van dropped us off at the tiny bungalow we would temporarily stay in while we looked for a house. Mark dragged the luggage in, and it immediately started to rain. The sky was dark gray. The baby began to cry. A sleep-deprived, whiny Sarina asked over and over again if we could go to the wind-whipped beach.
Thirty minutes later the rain stopped and the sun popped through the clouds. Myna birds warbled and whistled, and roosters outside our window crowed. The baby was full of milk and sleeping soundly. We packed some water, apples, rice cakes and towels into a bag, and the four of us went to the beach. It was a beautiful day, and we had a whole year ahead of us.
Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair will be filing dispatches throughout their family’s year in the South Pacific.