Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sick

It's been a while since I have been sick like this, but now it seems like I am making up for lost time. I feel sick everywhere. One thing good...I for sure will call in sick tomorrow. For some reason, those stolen days seem more delicious than normal days off, like they are somehow illicit and I am getting something extra that I normally wouldn't be entitled to. Of course, it is also good to pamper oneself. I think no matter how self-indulgent we may be, we rarely really ever pamper ourself, at least, not without guilt. But if you are sick, you HAVE to, since you want to get well, so no reason for guilt.

Apparently this started with diarrhea, which I still have. It came upon me three weeks ago, which I think is a long time to have diarrhea last. It made its awful presence known my final morning in French Polynesia, not entirely ruining the last day of my wonderful trip, but pretty close. I think I know where I got it, but maybe not. As I was suffering having to go to the toilet every half hour, I had plenty of time to think about how I might have gotten this, when I suddenly realized that I been "lured" into drinking tap water in the hotel in Papeete. I was wanting to enjoy everything my hotel room had to offer, and there was a rather intriguing-looking coffee-making thing in the room. It looked more like a steam locomotive, was more horizontal than vertical in shape and design the way coffee makers are in American hotels. This made coffee from little capsules. It had two pages of instructions, all in French, but fortunately the drawings illustrating each step were more or less clear. And one of the steps was filling a hopper with water, which, without thinking, I filled from the sink the bathroom, just like I would with a Mr. Coffee coffee maker in any American hotel room. It's funny how deeply-set habits are just repeated automatically.

Well, I had had no warning that drinking the tap water in Polynesia was bad (if, indeed, it is, which I am not sure). Not like Mexico, which everyone knows, or St. Petersburg, Russia, which well-read travelers will know. The fact that I had been served water in bottles everywhere I went in Polynesia (and they even had them in the hotel room) did not compute in my mind; that would have been only one vector in my awareness, that required at least one other axis in order for the principle to be pointedly clear...which I guess getting three weeks (and counting) worth of diarrhea provided that other vector, and so now you have heard that, here. Don't drink the tap water in Polynesia, it will apparently be WORSE than the water in Mexico.

My brother questioned, "But wasn't the water heated when it made the coffee?", but it wasn't BOILED, and not for so many minutes. It surprisingly quickly heated to a mild coffee-drinking temperature, nothing that would generate a lawsuit against McDonalds if I had spilled it in my lap. So I still think it had to be that hotel tap water.

This case has been surprisingly severe. When I got Montezuma's revenge in well-known "don't dare drink the water in Mexico" (from having a Margarita in a luxurious restaurant in San Miguel Allende--it's the luxurious places that get me--was made from a chipped block of ice, which may as well have been made with sewer water), I was sick for less than a week, and that was while traveling a long way away from home. Not three weeks, like this, and with me doing everything I can at home to fix it, such as taking the antibiotics that came in a traveler's diarrhea kit that I bought last year from the place that gave me all the innoculations for my trip to Palau, and when those were all gone, swallowing charcoal pills(supposed to absorb all the bugs), drinking diatomaceous earth (supposed to cut to ribbons all the bugs), and doubling my probiotic doses (the good bugs fight the bad bugs).

Finally today I called my general practioner, requesting an appointment and, I hoped, a prescription for something extremely powerful. However, all he did was recommend the BRAT diet, not one item of which is allowed on my weight-loss diet--bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast--all carbs carbs carbs and I am already going to be in trouble when I see both my weight loss doctor and my cardiologist tomorrow, who freak out whenever I gain even two pounds and, unfortunately, after my trip to Polynesia and then during the remaining weeks of my vacation AND in-service week at the school where we have been fed every day (attendance at those meals has been mandatory), I have gained something like ten.

However, I am successful at losing weight but so far haven't been at curing my diarrhea, so I bought all the BRAT stuff anyway, although for the life of me, while I was at the store, I absolutely could not remember what the "B" stood for, so I failed to get bananas. My mind seems to be going, as well, and that is due to the distraction of all the aches and pains I feel in my body, my constantly runny nose that is its own little waterfall, my chocking cough, and the feeling that the whole inside of my throat is crawling with creepy-crawlies (maybe they are the diarrhea bugs making an upstairs escape). Where did all that stuff come from? I really have no idea, but we did have half a day's first aid and CPR training yesterday with other sick people in a room that was ice-cold. The school continually harps on attemping to be "green", yet the air conditioning in the gymnasium was on so high that several people were shivving the whole time, while others wrapped themselves in blankets. (This with it being 108 degrees outside.) As for me, as soon as I got home, I sat outside on my sweltering balcony so that I could thaw out. So maybe drafts actually do make one sick (sicker).

I'm really not happy about having two doctor's appointments tomorrow where I am going to be berated for a ten-pound weight gain when all I want to do is OD on Nyquil. I definitely don't deserve this treatment and wonder why I am even in this mess in the first place. Because I have to admit that it has been a year, now, during which I have not progressed or improved my body one iota. I never ever got thinner than 170, even though I had quite easily and painlessly managed to lose over a hundred pounds in the ten months prior to that. I should have been able to slide on down to the 160s, maybe even the 150s (but needed to go no thinner than that) with absolute ease.

So in my misery today, I was thinking about that "failure", too (although it is hardly any kind of a failure to have stayed as thin as I have for a year, where I have maintained male fashion model stats), and realized it is all because of the braces. Seriously.

Since I had done so well with my body last year, this got me to wanting to work on other things that needed to be done, and the next thing in line happened to be my lower teeth. I had had braces when I was in high school, but during my freshman year in college I got so I wouldn't wear my retainer (which was required at night), because it made me talk with a lisp which was not something I wanted to have happen while living in a dorm my first year away at college.

But I am paying the price for that, now, because slowly but surely, my lower teeth began to crowd forward until the two teeth in the center began to attempt to move on past each other. So I had one central tooth in the lower jaw that had almost turned completely sideways and had become like a leaning Stonehenge pillar. Fortunately, my upper teeth stayed where they had been put (are 99% perfect, according to my orthodontist), so I needed only serious work done on the lower teeth.

However, it has been a miserable experience. These metal "brackets" that are glued onto the front facing of each lower tooth feel to me like "diamond mounts" in an engagement ring--without the diamond, only the waiting sharp prongs. So it is like having a row of sawteeth (four per tooth) rubbing against the inside of my lower lip and cheeks.

Even worse than the diamond mounts are the outer ends of the wire that is used to pull each tooth in whatever direction it is supposed to go. Somehow they have to come up with a better idea than what they have been doing, because what I end up with is like the point of a pin or a needle at the back inside my mouth next to the last molars, sticking there to get caught on by the inside of my cheeks with nearly every movement of my mouth. If I reach into my mouth to test the wire ends with my index finger, I nearly cut a slice down the pad of my finger. (My regular dentist began to wonder if I was heading for a case of oral cancer, and even sent me to a oral cancer surgeon for an evaluation.) So how would you like to spend a year with all that in your mouth? Not to mention the nearly constant ache of the teeth being torqued into position.

But even worse than those sufferings is eating with all these pointed metal things inside the mouth. Fibers of spinach wrap around each appliance. Meat is even worse, as it hunks up behind the wires and somehow crams into the spaces between each and every tooth, which I feel as if I had sand pebbles between all my toes except it's my teeth (one develops a phenomenal respect for the sensitivity inside the mouth). Fish is an immense violator, secreting its rot and fish stink into every fissure, making it essential that I laboriously brush my teeth after every single encounter with food or I will go crazy. And I can only imagine what my breath is like, although with my constant furious cleaning, I may actually smell better than ever, but who really knows?

There has been, quite seriously, a long-standing recommendation for airplane travelers to save their life by being sure to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste onboard in their carry-on bag. Apparently studies showed that during the heyday of the "take me to Cuba" airplane highjackings, the people who would be selected each day to be shot as the means to show the authorities that the hijackers were serious about their demands were always those who had been stuck there on a hostage plane and had been unable to brush their teeth. There is something about feeling a mess in your teeth that makes you aggressive, or uncomfortable, or irritable, and this aura of unease made these people noticeable to hijackers, as in, "here is one we can kill".

Well, my life has been in danger like that every single moment since a year ago when I had these braces put on. Because no matter how hard I work on my teeth with brush picks, threader floss, Oral B electric toothbrushes, tongue scraper, Listerine mouthwash, and ACT cleansing rinse, I never ever fully feel that my teeth actually ARE brushed. I even feel paranoid that bacteria is filling up the spaces next to, behind, or inside all these metal rings and appliances, so that once I actually DO get the braces off, that my teeth will end up being so rotten anyway that all this nice orthodontic work will have to be extracted and replaced by artificial implants.

So, with all this, some of my teeth actually HAVE been hurting almost at toothache level, and I can't determine if something truly IS wrong, or is this a kind of tension hysterical emotional reaction.

Needless to say, for a year I haven't enjoyed a single bite...eating either hurt too much (saw-blade and needle-cuts inside my mouth) or felt too creepy (particles of food stuffing between every tooth as I ate) or played my paranoia like the keys of a pianola, and I swear, the body has a limited capacity for feeling so in the midst of this symphony of negative sensation, I don't think I have been able to detect a single delicious taste. How can one "taste" anything in the midst of this sensual cacaphony? Well, I sure haven't...I hardly can even CHEW my food, let along taste it.

So whereas two years ago I could enjoy and feel full and satisfied from all the delicious tastes of healthy, weight-losing food, this past year I have felt hungry and unsatisfied no matter how much I have stuffed down my gullet. So it has been a battle to maintain, both my weight loss and my insanity.

So now, today, it has all come to a head, so I will go to bed early and then go to bed again for a whole day after my punishing doctor visits tomorrow morning. Surprisingly after all this heat outside, the weather report for tomorrow calls for potential rain storms, which in Los Angeles, is "winter" weather. Actually, that will play perfectly with me being cozy and resting in my bed, almost as if Mother Nature herself has come to my rescue. I love sleeping when it is rainstorming outside. So I imagine that after a day or two of that, I will be as good as new and maybe will be able to venture a bit beyond bathroom vicinity. Wouldn't that be nice!

But eating will still not be enjoyable. The metallic barbed wire inside my mouth is slated to be around for another two or three months. But you know what, that's just about how long a summer is, and we all know how fast THAT flew by. So, before I even know it, it's going to pearls and no more swine (between the teeth).











Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rejected TripAdvisor Review of Raimiti, Fakarava


RAIMITI, ISLAND OF FAKARAVA,  TUAMOTO ISLANDS, FRENCH POLYNESIA


Below is a careful, thorough, honest, and, I feel, helpful review of where I stayed in French Polynesia on my vacation this summer.  I wrote this for the website TripAdvisor, which I liked and have written several reviews for, until they rather insultingly rejected this one for reasons that I don't accept, but that very clearly let me know that from now on, they are not for me and I am not for them.  In fact, I would actually like to remove all the reviews that I have posted on their site, as the thought of my words (which always remain as a precious part of myself) present there now makes me rather nauseous (but there seems to be no way to remove them, of course).

I have noticed recently that TripAdvisor has a tight tie-in with Facebook, whereby a review or two of mine automatically ended up on my Facebook page by default.  If you do not want this to happen, you have to carefully hunt for a box to UNCHECK.  I am uncomfortable with so many things now automatically being posted on Facebook when you have not actually logged onto Facebook for the purpose of posting those things.  Things I want on Facebook, I can easily go and post them there directly.  Is Facebook going to rule my whole presence on the Internet?

So many independently-created websites that become popular get swallowed up by larger sites, so that among entities like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, YouTube, eBay, Paypal, Amazon, Facebook, and so on, it is hard to know which ones own the other ones.  In my view, this has become all too "corporate", and TripAdvisor's recent attitude toward me is a clear sign that they are operating this way, now, too.  

As I write this, I decided to see who actually owns them, and discovered that either they are currently, or were previously, owned by Expedia...hummm, that's a nice scam...as people search for reviews of places on TripAdvisor, this is giving "price negotiating tips" to Expedia, which I have never liked because their prices are always higher than the others.  I think maybe their having a hint that I have a strong desire to go to some place (based on the quantity of time reading reviews on TripAdvisor) makes them elevate the prices to that place.  Could be.

But, apparently Expedia got to the point where it wanted to "spin it off" (not quite sure what that means...sell it?) and there are on-line rumors that it will (or has already) become part of IAC, a multi-media and multi-internet conglomerate that I had not heard of until this moment, but which defines itself as the world's sixth largest network.  So yes, I now see, all these things truly are "mainstream", which is to say, more powerful, and therefore more corrupt and less good for the user.

Here is the (what I consider) insulting rejection notice from TripAdvisor (along with all the painted-on clown smiles, which is how I view their various exclamation marks and statements of "how they value" my contribution that they don't value at all):


Dear Reviewer,

Thank you very much for taking the time to submit your review! We value your contribution, and would like to be able to post it to the site. However, we're only allowed to post reviews that meet specific criteria and your review must meet the guidelines below before we can post it. If you'd be willing to edit and resubmit your review, we'd really appreciate it, and so will your fellow travelers! Your original review is included below so you can easily copy and paste it into the review form and make the necessary edits.

*Individual from a traveler's perspective
(No second-hand stories from others. No hearsay including rumors, quotations from other sources or the reported opinions/experience of others -- just individual travelers' opinions and/or customer service related experiences. Note: Hearsay is defined as unverified information heard or received from another.)

*Relevant to other travelers
(No content that is irrelevant and unhelpful to tourists. We are not a forum for general political, ethical or religious opinions. We will not post questions or comments directed to property representatives or questions/comments directed to, or about, TripAdvisor staff or other TripAdvisor members.)

We appreciate your contributions to the TripAdvisor community.

Best regards,

TripAdvisor Support Team


I wrote (but did not send) a nasty e-mail back to them, since I feel that their objections to my review are incorrect (I do not own up to what they are complaining about) and especially since I viewed their implication that my review contained content that was "irrelevant and unhelpful to tourists" to be not only grossly incorrect, but immensely insulting...they aren't PAYING me for my efforts, so why should I jump through hoops for them?  (Their little "reviewer ranking" titles and "badges" are irrelevant rewards if they control what you write.)  If they had given me some specific examples of what they didn't like instead of making me have to guess, I might have attempted to accommodate them, but since they didn't, what's in it for me?  (Especially now that I know they are so corporate.)  

Instead, I won't even bother to respond to them at all.  Because now I have gotten their number, and no longer care about them.

So, here is the review they rejected.  I have not changed a word.  If you are actually interested in the French Polynesia island of Fakarava, and especially are considering a stay at Raimiti, you might appreciate this review.  I notice that there is NO review of Raimiti on the TripAdvisor site more recent than last January.  Not a single one from this most recent high season.


------original review-------

VERY UNUSUAL, DEEPLY MAGICAL, BUT THE BEST OF ALL
WERE SOME OTHER GUESTS WHO WERE THERE

Thinking back over my experience of Raimiti, I realized how very unusual, and yet deeply magical the whole place was.  I have read every review of Raimiti on this site, and I feel that every single thing said by anybody is true, whether good or bad, and I felt, myself, nearly every one of the things that other people said, plus many things of my own that nobody else has said.    I would say at the outset that you must carefully read the Raimiti website so that you will have a full understanding of what is on offer there.  I think once you read those words and understand what they are saying that you will feel in your gut whether you want to go to Raimiti or you do not.  What you see on the website is what you get...look at those pictures...you will be there in that place, and it will look exactly like that.  There is no fakery in those photos nor are they the product of photo-shopping genius.  I, myself, took hundreds of pictures that look just like that and all I do is snap and shoot.

Your own body and soul knows what it is that you hope to get out of a stay at Raimiti, and what you want may be different from what some other reviewers wanted.  For example, many spoke of quiet relaxation and solitude, but I am not one who gets relaxation by doing nothing (I can, and do, read at home, and I can't stand lying still sunbathing), nor is solitude, per se, any special thing for me since I am quite able to be solitary at home.  I know how to relax in even the most frenetic urban environment.  But I found that what I could absorb from Raimiti that was infinitely relaxing to me was taking in that amazing blue color of the lagoon, or hearing the sound of the water lapping in what I thought of as "my tide pool" right outside my fare's front curtain (there is no closing door, and I didn't need one), or feeling the delicious shifting breezes blowing against my skin, or the motion of whatever boat we rode in as it sped across the water past perfect private white sand beaches backed by coconut palm forests.  Instead of a place of solitude, Ramiti was a place for me that brought wonderful people together--from Italy, from Switzerland, from France, (from California...me), people of sophistication, intellect, sensuality, artistry, but, most of all, heart, which, if they were drawn to this place, that they surely have. Beyond the charms of Raimiti's beauty and setting, it was these people (two newly-wed couples in particular!) who made my experience there the magnificent thing that it was.  And if these same kind of people were in a large resort, one might not ever know it or ever have the chance to know them.

So at this point, if your study of the Raimiti website makes you feel within you a "yes", then here are some hints that might make your enjoyment even more assured.

Times are hard on the island of Fakarava (a rectangular ring of somewhat separated motus around a clean, gorgeous lagoon), like they are around the whole world, making things more difficult for pension owners.  Transportation seems to be a difficulty (lately, or maybe always), maybe fuel costs have increased or it is expensive to maintain boats, but there now seems to be a sharing of boats and "captains" so that there is no such thing as a "boat from Raimiti that will meet you at the airport for an hour and a half ride down the lagoon to Raimiti's motu".  Instead, when you arrive, don't expect someone to be waiting there for you with a sign that says "Raimiti" on it, or perhaps your name (even though you will see that for some of the other, I guess larger, pensions).  Instead, you will need to exit the airport with your luggage and go out to where vans are lined up and ask one of the drivers if he knows where the van is for Raimiti.  That van may (will) have the name of some other pension on it, but it will be filled with people who will be dropped off at various pensions and guesthouses along the way.  Even though there is actually a boat dock right there at the airport, nobody seems to use it for some reason.  Instead, you will be taken to what seems to be the end of the only road on Fakarava, where there will be a small dock and from there you will be taken to Raimiti.  On the boat, of course, will be the others who flew in on the same plane who are also going to Raimiti, but there also may be other visitors taking this boat who are going to pensions further down the lagoon from Raimiti.  I recommend asking on the van who all is going to Raimiti so that you can already gain a familiarity with the other visitors who are going there with you.

One other thing about this transportation...your departure from where the van drops you off may be delayed due to waiting for another plane that will arrive after yours, that is either bringing in some needed supplies for Raimiti, or, perhaps more likely, the arriving flight for visitors going to a pension beyond Raimiti.  This is all to make this journey from the airport to the southern Fakarava pensions cost-effective, and the very boat you are riding in may actually be owned by one of those southern Fakarava pensions.  

A hint about bathrooms:  the Air Tahiti prop plane you take to Fakarava DOES have a bathroom on it (hidden at the very rear of the plane); please be sure to use it before you land at Fakarava.  The bathrooms at the Fakarava airport are not likely to be working, and you will not have a bathroom available after that until you get to Raimiti.

If you understand these transportation conditions going into it, then you will not be upset when it happens.  Disappointment comes when the reality does not meet the expectation; well, don't be disappointed.  Let this be part of the whole adventure, HOW they need to do things on this isolated coral atoll.  Make friends with your fellow visitors, who chances are will be wonderful.  You're in this beautiful place, already, so you can enjoy it.

When you book your trip to Raimiti, you have a choice in bungalows, the "Robinson" ones which (as near as I saw) were all on the lagoon side, and the "Crusoe" ones, which were all on the ocean side.   There is some difference in the bungalows themselves, as you can see from the website, but conditions-wise, visitors say that the ocean side may be breezier (which some like and some don't--it's an advantage when there are mosquitoes), but also noisier.

The way I look at it, the Robinson bungalows, while private, are more central to the action--the dining room is on the lagoon side and the boats operate from the lagoon side.  This is like the "front yard".  Also, you can swim in the lagoon and kayak on the lagoon.  The lagoon is the sunset side, so it was wonderful to be located over there and enjoy the sunsets from the front of your bungalow.

I loved my Robinson bungalow that happened to be the very first one after the dining room.  I slept like a baby in there and woke up early, feeling fully refreshed.

Showers were good...each bathroom has its own solar-heated water heater.  I had gotten the good advice from Tripadvisor reviewer Cass, who suggested using "sailor's" shampoo since the Raimiti shower water could be slightly salty.  I ended up getting Kirk's Castile shampoo, conditioner, and soap and it worked perfectly (this actually could have been used in the lagoon, itself, since it was biodegradable, but that wasn't necessary!).  I always felt completely clean and refreshed.

I am pretty sure that while I was there, no one was staying in any of the bungalows on the ocean side.  (By the way, you do not swim in this ocean crashing on this reef, which is too rough.)  While I was happy to have my bungalow on the lagoon side, my favorite special place was over in the isolated, empty, almost alien landscape of the ocean side, where I never saw another person.  I liked to go over there early in the morning and see all the crab tracks (what I called "crab crossings") in the soft sand.  Those crabs were partying during those nights!  This was the sunrise side.  But my favorite thing about visiting over on that side was what I called "Monument Valley"--hundreds, if not actually thousands, of rock and coral piles, statues, or monuments, some of them rather high, all of them unique, beautiful, and somewhat ominous in a way, as if the whole immense compound of them as far as the eye could see in either direction up and down the shore were part of an ancient "marai" honoring Tahitian gods, ancestors, or some other beings.  When I first saw them, they were an amazing mystery, but actually, it really was no mystery--these had been built by visitors to Raimiti over the years as a way of keeping their spirit there in that place.  So, I, too, made one.  Those "memorials" were probably my favorite thing about Raimiti, maybe because they were so unexpected, mysterious, and full of careful artistry.  If you go to Raimiti, you must check these out and then build one for yourself!

There will be no electricity in your fare or its bathroom (either a separate building right next to it if you are on the lagoon side, or inside your fare if you are on the ocean side).  Your light in your fare (and also on the steps in front of it) will be romantic blue kerosene lanterns, which Eric will give you the easy instructions as to how to use.  However, you are are also given solar-charged flashlights for use during your stay.  Flashlight headlamps are recommended for those who might want to read in the vicinity of their fare after dark.  There are solar lights around in the compound so everything will have a soft, lighted glow.  You won't be in the pitch black dark!

In one of my favorite movies that comes from France, "My Father's Glory", which is autobiographical of the childhood of Marcel Pagnol, the family spends delightful summers in a house that they rent in Provence and the young Marcel romanticizes the kerosene lantern that they hang from a tree over their outdoor dinner table and lights the family's doings outdoors every evening.  There on Raimiti with my blue kerosene lantern on the steps of my fare, I thought to myself, ah, yes, I have Pagnol's summer kerosene lantern, now.

Meals at Raimiti (delicious, healthy, and beautiful) are breakfast at 8 AM, lunch at noon, and dinner at 8 PM.  They will blow a conch shell horn to announce when the meal is ready.  The conch will be blown before a boat leaves for excursions and for airport departures.

When I was there, it was the wonderful Moe (pronounced "Mo-ae") who helped prepare and serve the meals and she was especially sensitive to and aware of the social dynamics within the dining room which I greatly appreciated, which had to do with which and how tables were set, and for whom, and in what combination of guests.  I always felt cared for.

Excursions may be variable depending upon various factors.  Also, the conditions at each place may be variable, as well.  It is best to take these as they come and presume that Eric (the owner of Raimiti) knows best.  During my visit, we went on five excursions:  twice to our group's favorite white and pink sand beach, once to the area of the village near the south pass, once to a protected bird nesting motu, and once to a "hoa", which is a shallow reef place where water from the ocean is flowing over into a lagoon area and has interesting shellfish embedded in the coral.  You get to all of them by boat, although the favorite beach area could be reached by visitors on a kayak.

In order to enjoy these excursions, I highly recommend that you bring a beach bag into which you can always carry reef shoes--I happen to like Salomon Techamphibian water shoes that worked really well when I thought to bring them--(thongs will not be sufficient because they are too slippery) or, alternatively, scuba-diving booties, snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, fins, and booties because those fins are likely to gouge slices across the top of your feet if you aren't wearing protection), a beach towel, sunblock, and your camera.  You will take hundreds of pictures.  (I took about a hundred each day.)  If you do not have reef shoes, you will be unable to enjoy much of the charm of each place you will be taken.  For example, at the beach, you are likely to want to walk out through the water to an alluring distant sand bar, a walk that will really hurt your bare feet.  The nesting bird motu does not have a sandy beach, but is made up of what I think of as "coral gravel".  Worst of all was the "hoa" that  (for some stupid reason), I did NOT bring my reef shoes, but instead, had on only thongs, which were all but impossible to use to walk across the jagged, broken-glass-sharp dead coral bottom.  To show you how sharp that coral bottom was, I (also stupidly) jumped off the boat wearing my glasses, which, of course, gently floated down through three feet of water and rested on the jagged coral bottom.  That mistake will cost me over a thousand dollars to replace the too-deep-to-fix scratched three-levels-of-correction progressive eyeglass lenses.  All the glasses did was gently REST on that bottom and the lenses were ruined.  What was happening to my hands and knees and legs...blood city.  Fortunately, there were no black tipped sharks around to test their normally-not-interested-in-humans nature.

One never seems to know when the snorkeling will be good or bad, despite what we are told.  There was virtually no snorkeling at all at the beach, although there were some curious snakey-like fish, but that was all.  We were told that snorkeling would be good in "the pool" in front of the village, but it wasn't really all that good, although there were some pretty yellow and also some beautiful blue fish.  However, there were black-tip reef sharks which we cautiously swam with.  While I had hugely hoped to have calving whales, dolphins, sea turtles, or manta rays, we never saw any of those ever, but at least we were in the water with sharks, so those became my memorable "big sea life" of this trip.

To me, snorkeling was best of all at the nesting bird island, where there were lots of examples of purple and other beautiful coral and several different species of fish.  It was there that I got into a relaxed frame were I simply wiggled my fins and gently moved along peacefully, enjoying all the underwater sights.  That ended when suddenly a fish shot past me in a panic and then I saw a black tip shark swim over, larger than the ones I had seen near the village.  I figured that maybe I would feel more comfortable closer to the shore, so I purposely made my way away from the shark, not in a panic, but just wanting to be on the safe side.  I would have liked to have photographed it with my underwater camera, but I used my energy to carefully move away, instead.  But that was a great experience to have under my belt.

Interestingly, my favorite place to swim was in the lagoon right there at Raimiti, and it ended up that there were thousands of a long, thin, blue fish right there around Raimiti's dock.  So "home" maybe had the best snorkeling of all, after all, even though some reviewers found none there at all when they were there.

One thing that I for sure expected us to do we did not do, and that was snorkel the south pass.  However, the newlywed couple from Switzerland did scuba dive the pass and didn't find it to be all that impressive.  The fantastic pass diving (and snorkeling?) experiences probably happen only at the peak in-coming tide times.  Looking at some tide tables, I see that, of course, these peak times slowly progress day after day around the clock and at the time you are there, the peak tide time may be in the middle of the night or at some other time that does not coincide with excursion times.  So this is not the fault of Raimiti, but conditions astronomical.  If this particular experience is essential for you (especially if you are a scuba diver and are going to Fakarava particularly for this purpose), you might want to consult some tide tables or communicate with TOPDive about this issue and select your trip time accordingly.

One dinner at Raimiti while we were there involved a fish barbecue right there at Raimiti, so that was a special activity that happened at Raimiti instead of on a distant motu.

At Raimiti, of course, like at any hotel, guests arrive and guests  depart.  What isn't typical, though, is that if you have had any interaction with the guests at all, perhaps at a meal, or along on an excursion, you will then feel sadness when they leave. And then it will be time for you to leave, when you will be sad for yourself, but there are people there who will be missing you!  It feels good, though, to feel a loss after the departure of a person whom you maybe knew for only a day, and I think that indicates the strength of what Raimiti really has to offer that I didn't see many (if any) reviewers talk about.  And, of course, all those hundreds of piled stone and coral monuments stand in mute testimony of something important, too.

There was only one bad, or problematic thing about Raimiti, and that is the language situation.  While I had completed Pimsleur's French I language course (so one cannot accuse me of being the kind of American who expects everyone to speak English), it wasn't nearly good enough, for Eric was very "French" on this subject (of perfectly executed and preferably fluent French being expected and almost required), but who did know English, while few of the staff members had the slightest clue about English, although one could have some communication with Moe.  This was not a total handicap for me thanks to three of the four newly-wed friends being quite good in English (one of whom worked professionally as an English/Italian translator of contracts and other legal documents, and another of whom actually taught English, as well as Latin and history), who kept me thoroughly abreast of the goings on that were not otherwise fully communicated to me.  Throughout my stay at Raimiti, there were 12 visitors being there at various times; two were from French-speaking Montreal, six were from France, itself, two were from Geneva, Switzerland (where French is the language), which left only two of us who did not know French fluently.  If you, yourself, are not fluent in French, I would not cause that to prevent you from going, but be prepared to feel somewhat isolated unless you have the experience I did of making friends with people who were fluent in both French and English (or whatever language it is that you speak), and who are generous in interpreting for you.

I think I did not fully appreciate Raimiti until I was putting together a Shutterfly hardbound photo book of my trip.  The page that got me emotionally was the last photo of the deep blue Fakarava lagoon at the airport before I got on my flight back to Papeete, and then home to Los Angeles.  The sudden grief I felt showed how deeply the experience had embedded itself into me.  I hope that you will find yourself having this same depth of experience with the place.  And I hope that the friends that may make there become lifelong ones.