"Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific: Not That Different"As I sit here, a glass of wine sitting on the table beside me, a dark horizon filled with stars is stretching on endlessly in the inky black sky. My computer a glowing reminder of technology before me. As I sit with my fingers poised above the keyboard, and on the verge of another New Year, I wonder how different I really am from anyone else in the world.

For you see, I live on an island in the middle of the South Pacific, so isolated that there is no airport, it takes two days by ship from Tahiti to get here, and the rest of the world hardly knows we exist.  The prospect of simply calling someone on the phone was something no one thought they could do from home prior to 2002. The idea of googling the answer to a question – ludicrous. We’re connected to the wide world now, if only by a tremulous satellite connection, but we are connected, if only by an invisible thin string.

Pitcairn Island’s community numbers around sixty – that includes residents, officials such as a doctor, social worker, teacher and Governors Representative – and me. I am a mother of five kids who can all proudly say they are descendants of Fletcher Christian, the famous Mutineer made notorious by his exile of Captain Bligh from the HMAV Bounty in 1789. I’m a New Zealand born woman who married into this usually closed community, and been mostly universally welcomed.

Looking in from the outside, it is a paradise. Coconut tree’s swaying in the breeze, green rolling lush hills. The surrounding ocean so clear you can stand on the apex of the island, look down into the South Pacific and, I swear, almost be able to count the many colorful fish as they dart between coral banks and seaweed forests. There is no pollution. There is not the usual debris of a busy little town. No wrappers, bottles or gum discarded in the streets. No homeless.  No graffiti.

I know everyone. They know me. I’m one of the few that can say that the whole country came to my wedding, and who also watched with interest as my marriage exploded. It’s also one of the few places where on finding myself with five children and nowhere to go – that relatives of my husband – no the whole island, leapt to make sure I was able to carry on, regardless of who I was married to, and why that no longer was.

There is gossip – what else can you talk about when there is no favorite television series to unpick every morning at the water cooler. Here we chat about each other, where they’ve been, what they’ve done, how their watermelon or pineapple patch is doing. The gossip here can sometimes be nasty, sure – but if you mention how old Bob Christian wasn’t feeling well this morning to Fred Young – you can be sure that word will spread. Bob will have visitors all day, someone delivering his dinner, the doctor will make a house call, and he won’t be alone.

Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific: Not That DifferentYou’re never alone here – even when you are. There are no plumbers or electricians to call if you blow a pipe or an electrical socket burns out. We just call a neighbor and laugh about our plight. Five minutes later someone will be around with a wrench or a screwdriver. We may not live on top of each other like where you live, but, if you need a hand, there is always someone who will reach out. The gossip line will ensure that if you are laying concrete for a new path, there will be more people than you know what to do with arrive to help. If you feel like a salad and your lettuce isn’t ready, all of a sudden there will be a box of fresh veges on your doorstep, and usually a smiling face behind it asking for a cuppa tea and a biscuit.

Take a walk around the island, sit at the Highest Point and look out over the ocean. You can be totally alone, only the birds and the fresh sea breeze for company, and still when you arrive home, someone knows where you’ve been. It can be refreshing to know people are watching out for you, or totally overwhelming. Prison, or paradise. It’s your choice. I chose to make it the latter.

The only sounds are the whoosh of the sea hitting the rocky shoreline around the island. Maybe the pretty song of fairy terns, or the squawks of the slightly bigger and more threatening looking gannets as they soar, high above in the wide blue skies. Maybe the putter of a quad bike as it moves around the dusty dirt packed streets, the driver yelling a smiling hello as they pass. In the background, you may hear the hum of the town’s main generator as it powers seventeen homes and buildings, but even that sound dies after 10pm when the engine goes off overnight.

So how do I make it paradise from the inside?  How does a city girl who grew up in Auckland, New Zealand make such an isolated island home?  I dream. I make my world my own. I live my life and no one elses. I work for my kids, I work for my sanity.

There is no nine to five pressure to be somewhere at some specified time for work. We all have our jobs, sure. I’m the Government Treasurer. The bank to put it simply. I pay wages monthly – a small stipend to almost every resident for their time every month. They might work as an Engineer, fixing the tractor, or loader. A Road Person, who is tasked to keep the bush back from the roads, to keep the small dirt lanes free of debris. Worksman, who repairs the library roof, or repairs a window at the school.

I can rise from my bed in the morning being awoken only by one of my children, or the natural call of the morning. I walk onto the balcony with my steaming cup of coffee and sit and watch the grey of the horizon fade to pink, then orange, then blaze into a blue sky that introduces a day so hot, shorts and a singlet and not much more are a guaranteed uniform.

I flick through a magazine, dated October 2010, because of course we don’t get the latest issue, but the gossip from where you live is still exciting – though a little behind.  Prince William is still preparing for his wedding, Nelson Mandela is still expounding his wisdom to the world, Michael Jackson is still moon walking.  Sometimes it’s nice not to know what’s really happening out there.

Once my coffee is done, and the tales from 2010 bore me, my day is still busy. There is the office to open for those who want to pay a phone bill, a freight charge or bank some money. The store opens three times a week, so if I want my pantry full for five little mouths constantly looking for food, I must run to fill my basket.  Then it’s home to do chores, maybe out to gather firewood, for burning a fire is the only way I get hot water.

Always dreaming, once the kids are at school, I write. Steamy novels full of romance, my characters roaming through a tropical haze of love. Maybe I turn to a bit of grisly and bloody horror when I’m not feeling so romantic and the gossip around the island gets too much. It’s my way to escape the isolation, to walk in someone else’s shoes.  It’s easy to dream of what may be, what could be, when the realities of life are so slow to unfold.

Of course when the school bell rings the end of the day, my house is once again full of noise.  I carry them all down the hill to swim in the Harbor – about the clearest port you’ll ever choose to have an afternoon dip in.  The island’s longboats lounge in their sheds, seeming to watch us, their keels leaning with relaxed nonchalance to the side.

The kids dive, goggles and snorkels pressing lines into their face, squeals of excitement muffled around the mouthpiece.  I fall in and paddle for a moment, wash from my skin the red dust from the roads and the cobwebs from my mind in the lukewarm sea, and then struggle out from the water – looking on with a smile as my young ones tumble up the slipway behind me with the ease and grace of youth.

Then the usual dinner, bath, bed routine, which I am sure is universal for mothers with kids. Then it is me time. A large glass of chilled white wine is poured, I check the kids are all sleeping quietly, and then it’s back on the balcony, this time watching the stars – oh so many stars – twinkling down from an inky black sky.

pitcairn-islands-sunset_99871-480x360So now 2015 looms on the horizon, and I sit and wonder how different I really am.  A mother. An author. An employee. A woman with dreams to be a best seller, to travel outside my little island home.  That alone reminds me that I am no different to anyone else – here or out there in the real world.

Maybe I won’t be out of my shorts and singlet uniform anytime soon in the New Year. My only brush with stars will stay within the old magazines I read.  Maybe my imagine fancy restaurant lunch date will only be with my four year old who thinks a sandwich with the crust cut off is weird.  I’ll cruise Amazon to see how well my books are selling, interact on Twitter, play on Facebook.

In 2015 I’ll still be writing, still foraging for firewood, still dropping a fishing line into the pristine seas for a fish for dinner. I know you could also find me hanging a freshly cut bunch of banana’s from the rail for my kids to graze from. You can be absolutely sure you will see me sitting on the balcony with my glass of wine when they’re all in bed. That I’ll be gazing into the dark yonder and be wondering what you are doing. Then I will wake in the morning, smile when the rooster crows from the next-door neighbor’s pen because he didn’t get the chance to wake me first.  My day will begin back on the balcony, watching the sun come up from the salty brine, a large coffee coddled in my hands.

Pitcairn is my paradise, and as I walk into the New Year, I plan to make it yours.
Nadine Christian, Author – www.nadinechristian.com – Twitter – @pitcairngirl


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