17 de gener 2016

The island's mysteries and the spirits travelling through me

 I have really broaden my Chilean vocabulary. From NYE on “carretear” (to party) has come on the top 5. And today, it is my first night indoors. And very appreciated. 
The Rapa Nui hangover is the catharsis of the things learned. In order to explain the feelings I shall write down some facts of this very fascinating place. 

First things first. I have had the privilege of staying at a person's place who really exemplifies the convergence of the traditional Rapanui culture and a modern, educated and more 'continental' background. This has allowed me to hear the oral tradition as well as to see the documented theories.

The Rapanui culture is believed to descend from the Polynesian, most probably from the Marquesas Islands. 
It is a culture strongly influenced by oral tradition, and the stories of different spirits as objects of worship, the Makemake being the creator.The Makemake symbolises a penis and the Fallopian tubes. As in many cultures, procreating has a central position. After all, the act of procreation is the thing we all know how to do.
A makemake hanging from Sebas's neck

It is also important to keep the concept  of ‘mana’ in mind, I knew the word from Maori and it means spiritual power, prestige, although it can be understood in a more modern twist as some sort of a unique “mojo”.
Leaving aside the theories of the making and transporting of Moais, these, in local language were actually called aringa ora or living faces. Why? The Moais are placed on the ahu, the plattform, where the ashes of the person with mana rested. Mana was first reserved for royals, but in later centuries, as the island was divided according to trades (like the Born in Barcelona in the middle ages and similar to the Roman example) people with special aptitudes (good carver, fisherman, etc) started to be given mana as well. 
The eyes of the Moais were made out of coral, but the corals have already succumbed the erosion of time. The Moai was erect and the corals were the last thing to place. Once eyed, it was believed that the mana of the person in the ahu was travelling through the statue and the eyes would carry their mana to the village they overlook. A very beautiful representation, although an arduous job. I jockingly said that those Rapa Nuis might have had a lot of time in their hands when they came up with the idea of building gigantic stone sculptures to carry them around the island. 

You can see some Moais with eyes, just as a replica, to get an idea of how they could have looked like

There is a lot to explain about the fascinating living faces, the legends, the birdman tradition, their Tapati festival, the mystery and magic in the island and how many people with Rapanui ancestry are so gifted in plastic arts (obviously). I shall also mention a spirit of some sort took me over in La Perouse and has showed me the relevance of what I believe to be a twin soul, but to no (deserved, undeserved or understood at all) path to resolution. 
There are 'caleta' (heaps) more absolutely unique facts from this place, but what got me was an analogy that resonated in me particularly. 

The Rapanuis burned their deceased loved ones with wood. It is believed they also transported the Moais with wood, although a proven theory suggests it was made by tilting  the statue with ropes, like when you move a fridge.
A sort of Polynesian rat also threatened the trees and so did the lack f guano from birds, eaten in times of scarcity.  In the 16th century scarcity was so big they even ended up eating each other. 

So here I go. I am now reading the book collapse which sort of deals with the ways of rise and destruction of every civilisation (with a very special mention on mining in Australia, mates). 
glad it is posed as the threat it is

The Rapanuis knew they were doomed to extinction if they didn’t modify some behaviour or put some solution-oriented methods to preserve the trees. But they didn’t stop. We are talking about quite an advanced and organised society capable of moving statues that weighted tons from the main source many km further without the use of cranes. People capable of carving magnificent statues out of rocks on a mountain.
But incapable of saving their precious trees on time. Quoting Jared Diamond from his book “collapse” [it was an] ecologic disaster unfolding in complete isolation.

It made me think a lot about civilisation. In general civilisations have many factors in common:
We settle in a place, we create hierarchies, we create Gods and give them some human or animal shapes to make them familiar according to our cosmovision, people challenge the leaders and wars unfold to be the next one, we create trading systems and we all have a tendency to create symbols, buildings, statues, phallic constructions with which we attempt to identify with and which are endangered of being torn down by a potential enemy as a symbolic threat to our societal foundations. We all want to prevail so we teach each other history, in oral, in paintings or written form. 
And, yes, we have an illusion that makes society in general believe that things can be done the same way even if destruction is evident in many aspects.
And I don’t think we learned from past civilisations. We just use other resources to do same old. It was never taught to me in history: "...and this civilisation disappeared because of the abuse of power and resources".
We are now a civilisation at large scale. I can dream of community life and economy, but we’ve never been so connected. I, a simple average-salary person have managed to see half the world the past years. Communication is possible, we should think that correcting mistakes should be more possible than ever before and alas, we are leading ourselves to extinction on a global basis. 

Maybe I am developing very pessimistic thoughts from the sample I see in this mini-Rapaworld I am discovering, but I still think, despite the quite predictable destiny, that  I prefer being on the side of awareness and change.

On a sad note I must confess being a vegan on this island filled with binge meat eaters has really become a challenge. Vegan-sustainable pescatarian so far. Still against the  murdering of the fish, but at some "asados" with locals my only choices were fish caught on the spot or chewing on a stick.

Post script: gràcies Bego per deixar-me verbalitzar el que no havia tingut ocasió aquests dies. M'ha ajudat a canalitzar els meus pensaments sempre difusos. Love you always. Wish you were here.

11 de gener 2016

absorbing the island life on Mata ki te Rangi - the eyes that look at the sky

Every New Year’s eve, while we lived in Europe, Bego, my best friend, and I tried to spend the big day (big deal) together. After turning 20 the hunt for the best party turned into a bit of a forced drag. It became same old. 
I once tried really hard to go to a remote spot, maybe in the Pyrenees, away from the booze, the frenzy and the NYE's “Notgeilen” (my word of the week, unfortunately inspired from an article about the recent assaults on the Kölner Hauptbahnhof this NYE). 
So I verbalised my dream: “One day, I will spend the New Year on Easter Island, away from all, I know it is one of the most remote islands in the world”.

So here I am, some years later. In order to come here I did the most bizarretravel  itinerary, Sydney-Auckland (6 hours stopover) -Auckland-Buenos Aires,14 hours in Buenos Aires I was convinced I could make it easy and cruisy. In Buenos Aires a childhood friend, Ori, Oriol,picked me up at the airport, great relief. He had to work, so he dropped me at a hostel, where my plan was just to pass out in horizontal position for at least 12 hours after 18+ hours on planes. But I happened to meet the hostel owner, who had happened to live in Australia and my night on the 30th of December ended up on a rooftop in the San Telmo quarter drinking mate and beer. Then–oh my- someone brought a guitar and my quiet night ended up as a rooftop concert. The very talented guitar player was just amazing and I was the only capable singer. Yet another rock star moment. 
Below an impression of the spot. it had great views of the city on the veranda side, but the ambience of the patio got me.

Woke up at 6 to get my flight to Santiago and another 22hour stopover.
the morning after

Santiago was too big for a quiet stopover so I took a bus to Valparaiso
There I impregnated myself of some needed Neruda-ness and on my bus ride back to Santiago I didn’t manage to communicate on time with my host and I was last minute hosted by a thunder of a man with whom we shared our radical-unconventional points of view. He had some friends over. It  all started with shy, polite conversations, but ended by 2 am with booze, laughs and cursing the world queer-punk style. Another short night sleep, another rushed ride to the airport at 7am and a landing, finally on the Eastern Island, greeted by the best smile in Chile, Paulina, a friend of Sebas, my host for the days.

Best possible impression of  what would feel to see such a smile after a mess of time zones

I met my next host and the plan was to do an “asado” with his family. A reputed Rapanui family from the island. Not surprisingly, they were all cousins and uncles, a repeating Pasiffika theme. I felt at home. 
After that the plan was to go to town to see the fireworks.
At that point I didn’t know the island at all, I had just landed and I had been driven around. My idea was to walk to the lonely harbour Moai, but soon before 12 the whole island and a half was heading towards the same direction. My host, Sebastián, had to work at 6am as a tour guide starting at the 15 Moais at Ahu Tongariki by sunrise. It sounded just right to make it an early night.
Sebas, my host, lives in a cabaña a bit out of town and he has 7 cats and 3 dogs. On the 31st he was worried the animals would be scared of the fireworks so he wanted to be home before 12. I felt the the right way to start the year was keeping the animals company so they would stay within boundaries and didn't feel scare of the fireworks. So shortly before 12 I had held 2 kitties and I spent a few minutes during the loudest fireworks holding a scared puppy in my arms. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to start the year. I am not a firework enthusiast myself and even on a remote island, I really didn’t feel like joining the party crowd. 
Booze was again abundant, but moderate. I went to bed at 12:10. Happily.

My first day of the year started by seeing the Moais on sunrise.
from Sebas's sophisticated camera ©Sebastian Paoa
from my camera, rather orb-sy

It is quite an experience to arrive to such a special East-facing spot. I had many mixed feelings at the sight of the Moais, very different from what I expected (note that during my last teaching year in NZ I cried for anything and I was certain I was going to be filled with euphoric emotional tears... not ??!!). I later understood after learning more about the island’s history, the evolution. It's like a small-scale analogy of humanity with its wonderful and awful ways. If anything, it confirmed I am wired differently. I can't describe the sensation. It wasn't awe, it wasn't indifferent at all. It was deeeeply, very deeply reflective of slow motion silent serenity. It's the best way I can describe it.

 Coming on, my dramatic learning curve, the Rapa Nui way to extinction and the reasons behind their mysterious Moais. My learning curve and my need to absorb everything has lead me to stay 18 days, when, initially, I thought a week was going to be enough. Small remote islands have this special magnetism, quite almost literally meant. 
I feel I need more time to sink in this cosmovision. this place in the world is helping me fill a some cognitive holes I have on my path to understanding what makes me be so fascinated and shocked by humankind. Ohne Scheiss, the older I get the more responsible I feel as part of the process.

Coming on, a global analogy from a localised perspective. 

Aroha tatou - Iorana korua