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Two sides of paradise
Jan. 26, 2017
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by Ivan Raconteur

This is the time of year when I start seriously considering changing my address.

I am weary of the cold, dismal winter, and spring still seems months away.

Tahiti is usually the first place that comes to mind when I am looking for a new place to live.

It is a magical place of infinite variety and remarkable beauty.

I have given the matter much thought, and I would definitely be willing to trade my computer for a paint brush, and instead of wasting my life covering city council and school board meetings, spend it capturing the natural beauty of my new adopted home.

If it was good enough for Paul Gauguin, it would surely be good enough for me. He abandoned the City of Light to live in Tahiti, and it seems he was happy enough with his choice.

I’m certain I could get used to hanging out at the beach every day, basking in the warm, tropical breezes and listening to the sound of the surf.

I’m not suggesting I have anything remotely resembling Gauguin’s talent for painting, but I’m sure I would find inspiration in such a glorious setting.

In addition to supporting himself by selling an occasional painting, Gauguin reportedly received support from his friends and admirers, which seems like a very civilized system.

If I were to relocate to Tahiti, no doubt I would soon feel the mana – the energy of life for which the islands are known – coursing through my veins and lifting my spirits.

Naturally, I am willing to compromise. If for some reason I am unable to make my home in Tahiti, I’d gladly settle for the Cayman Islands, Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Cozumel, or a number of other places in which they have never heard of snow and no one owns a jacket or gloves.

Thinking about these places occupies a lot of my time, especially at this time of year.

However, despite the obvious appeal of the island lifestyle, I can’t help remembering there is another side to paradise.

When we think of these places, we see the beauty and the relaxed, simple way of life.

Unfortunately, life is not always so beautiful for all the residents of paradise.

Having briefly visited some of these places, I can’t help but remember the stark contrast between the tourists and some of the local population.

Once we get beyond the facade that is maintained for the benefit of wealthy visitors, we see that many people live in abject poverty.

I recall passing homes that were nothing more than crude shacks, some with no doors or windows.

There were places where junk and garbage littered the street and people appeared to have lost hope.

Among the most striking images to me were those of children who descended every time a cruise ship docked or tour bus opened its doors, desperate to sell their trinkets to get some money.

Here were these children living in some of the most beautiful places in the world, and their eyes already looked old from spending their days sizing up groups of tourists looking for easy marks.

On the one hand, I wondered if it would be better to be poor in such a paradise, where at least people don’t have to worry about freezing to death before morning.

On the other hand, I wondered what it must be like to be poor in a place in which the have-nots are constantly reminded of the seemingly limitless affluence of the tourists who stream through the area daily during the season.

How does it feel to have to put on a smile and cater to the rich when one is struggling to survive?

I wonder if it might not be better, if one lived in a tropical paradise, to stay as far away from the tourist areas as possible.

To be fair, the tourist industry does provide a decent living for many people.

I recall a pair of brothers who served as guides on one of the tours in which I participated.

They got up early every morning, drove for hours over bad roads to get to work, spent the day guiding a bunch of mostly ignorant foreigners around their country, and then drove for hours to get home again.

This hardly seems ideal by some standards, but they seemed happy, and indicated they were lucky to have good jobs which paid more than many people earned in the town where they lived.

I am not going to give up on my dream of living on an island, but I will remember that the grass is not always greener, nor is the sand always whiter, on the other side of paradise.


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