A Willingness To Dig Deep and Listen Helps
MEETING locals on Rapa Nui is relatively easy but comes at a price, mainly beer, cigarettes and food. And at that price don’t expect much in the way of a conversation, rather you should expect a well rehearsed monologue.
Take Pamela, the native doctor who uses tradicional medicines to cure just about everything and seems to have treated half the population.
I met her and was invited back to her cottage for lunch. Very friendly in showing me where to buy the best local produce, but no attempt on her behalf to contribute financially. Lunch for three I enquired. Make it for six, she replied, you never know who we will meet on the way.
She normally walks home but decided on a taxi that day, apparently for my benefit. Picked up that tab too.
Or Moa and his extended family, who live on the far side of the island where the beer costs twice as much as it does in the main town, which itself is twice as much as on the mainland.
What about the three local men who started chatting with me at their front gate and invited me to sit on their porch to drink. After they shared a few sips of a local sweet liquor and I shared all my cigarettes I bid them farewell. But they still asked the price of a six pack as a parting gift.
But that’s how it is on Rapa Nui.
The other aspect is that once you are talking to them you realise that actually they are only interested in talking to you.
They will tell you how they are proud of their heritage (and right they should be) how they are warriors (in and out of the bed) and how they hate Chile and Chileans. But don’t expect any enquiries about your own culture or views – they just don’t care.
This is because they are so isolated. Living thousands of kilometres from the next country and being a small population – less than 4,000, many of them related – has led to an isolated, beseiged outlook on the world.
Another reason is that every day, hundreds of new tourists are arriving, who all appear the same to them.
Tourists are like the friends of friends who turn up to your party. Obviously you are polite to them and maybe even engage in a bit of chit chat.but really you are thinking “Who the f**k invited them?” But then again, if they bring a few drinks to share around....
This all sounds a bit harsh on the natives, but it’s just the way it is.
If you can factor the above in, without feeling you are the latest tourist fodder to be used, then it really is a small price to pay to meet real locals outside of the organised tours. With patience you will get a feel of how this tiny island ticks.
And if you have the money and like to drink excessively you’ll be in your element. Just remember to claim you are from a country which was brutally oppressed, offer a round in solidarity and you will have friends for life. Or at least until your plane leaves later that week.