Last updated: 23 December 1998
Is there a Japanese smile that does not seem like an expression of pain?
The Samoans remained hospitable as long as someone else paid their bills.
They sat by the littered lagoon, cooling their bellies, and eating.
It is almost axiomatic that as soon as a place gets a reputation for
being paradise it goes to hell.
... the French are among the most self-serving, manipulative, trivial-minded,
obnoxious, cynical, and corrupting nations on the face of the earth ...
Polynesia is all profit for the French ... the patronizing racism inherent
in French colonial policy ..
I could never tell for sure whether I was in America or Samoa.
Except for bright little Port Vila in Vanuatu, no city or town in the
whole of Oceania was pleasant. Islanders were not urbanized at all - they
became antsy and deracinated in anything larger than a village, and without
the means to be self-sufficient they generally made a mess of their towns.
Pacific Christians were neither pacific nor Christian, nor were they
particularly virtuous as a result of all their Bible thumping. Religion
only made them more sententious and hypocritical, and it seemed the aim
of most Samoan preachers to devise new ways for emptying people's pockets.
It seemed to be one of the oldest Samoan customs to victimize the person
without a family, the individual, the outsider, the stranger, because it
was a society where, if you had no family, you had no status. Perhaps this
was the reason they had achieved so little, either here or on the mainland.
They did not want to stand out. They were the most pathetic conformists,
and so the greatest bullies, in the Pacific.
... Oceanic malaise. I never saw anyone reading anything more demanding
than a comic book. I never heard any youth express an interest in science
or art. No one even talked politics. It was all idleness, and whenever
I asked someone a question, no matter how simple, no matter how well the
person spoke English, there was always a long pause before I got a reply,
and I found these Pacific pauses maddening.
Treat people like children and they become infantile and cranky.
A traveler has no power, no influence, no known identity. That is why
a traveler needs optimism and heart, because without confidence travel
An island was a place where everyone knew where everything was, and
if you didn't you had no business there.
But an island is much more than a principate. It is the ultimate refuge
- a magic and unsinkable world.
... a car in Honolulu is the badge of one's class. I think the car is
the key thing. In such a hot city, where nearly everyone rich and poor
dresses identically, clothes cannot possibly be a status symbol.
It is usually expensive and lonely to be principled.
The Germans kept to themselves and hogged the best seats, the most food,
and with an instinct for invasion went up and down the ship, claiming the
prime areas for themselves.
The fact that few people go there is one of the most persuasive reasons
for traveling to a place.
Living on an island meant that you would never be alone.
The French have left nothing enduring in the islands except a tradition
of Hypocrisy and their various fantasies of history and high levels of
... white Australians are Aborigines in different T-shirts ...
I could never keep a straight face when I heard one of these leathery
diggers turn sententious over their drinking habits of Aborigines, for
whom they themselves were the alcoholic role models.
An island of traditional culture cannot be idyllic. It is, instead,
completely itself: riddled with magic, superstition, myths, dangers, rivalries,
and its old routines.
What I find is that you can do almost anything or go almost anywhere,
if you're not in a hurry.
... people who succeed in Australia - or who distinguish themselves
in any way - can expect to be savagely attacked by envious fellow Australians.
The Australian Book of Etiquette is a very slim volume.
Tourists don't know where they've been, I thought. Travelers don't know
where they're going.
Everyone had an opinion and no one had a solution.
They were like people who had only recently been domesticated, like
youths in their late teens sitting among adults, rather upright and formal
and wooden, because as soon as they loosen their grip or have one beer
too many they slip into leering familiarity and all hell breakes loose.
... the Pacific was a universe, not a simple ocean.
Oceania was a wonderful place if you were healthy, but it was the worst
place on earth if you felt sick.
Loud laughter was the Fijian way of conveying the bad news that something
I liked hearing stories of Polynesian seasickness. It was like discovering
people you had always regarded as cannibals to be vegetarians.
They dropped things, they forgot things, they broke promises. The drove
slowly - who else in the world did that?
It was farmed and deforested. In a word, it was possessed.
I was all for foreign aid, but there was a certain type of aid that
undermined people and made them dangerous.
This building was so inappropriate it had to have been a result of foreign
aid - one of those self-serving boondoggles in which a western country
gives money in the form of a contract to one of its own builders to put
up an expensive structure no one really needs.
"But you're a politician", I said. "And you were a human
being before you became a politician."
Missionaries and cannibals make perfect couples.
Copyright © by Eberhard Wenzel, 1997-2001