Freitag, 31. Juli 2009

Google sei Dank!

Es ist schon erstaunlich, auf welche Hilfsmittel man heute beim schreiben zurück greifen kann. Auf Tahiti habe ich noch selber recherchiert, beim Virus geht das nicht, wir schicken Maeva ja um die ganze Welt. Zur Zeit befindet sie sich in Sydney. Kein Problem, Google machts möglich. Nicht nur Sydney erschließt sich mir auf wunderbare Weise, ich kann meine Protagonisten bis ins Hotel begleiten. Ich kann ihr ein Zimmer aussuchen, die Aussicht checken, Cording in die Bar schicken und tausend Dinge mehr. Alles ist authentisch: Namen, Einrichtung, Atmosphäre. Die Welt ist perfekt ausgeleuchtet, bis in den letzten Winkel. Nur riechen kann man sie nicht. Man leidet auch nicht unter der Hitze, spürt weder Wind noch Wellen. Irgendwie fühlt man sich auf so einer Reise um das Wesentliche betrogen. Der Leser wird davon kaum etwas merken, denn schließlich verfügt der Autor ja über genügend Phantasie ...
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Donnerstag, 30. Juli 2009


Ra’iatea, Monday 27th of July 2009

On Monday I had a pretty long fight with my laptop (software problems and none of my personal computer nerds around to solve them) and cycled to Uturoa to get some groceries (I think Suzie wouldn’t accept money and we always eat together). The capital city (second largest city in French Polynesia) is huge! They have three grocery shops, a post office, a pharmacy and even a city hall!

Raphael read and expanded his knowledge about hydropower plants. There seems to be a fair potential here and in Tahiti which is not (at all/fully) exploited – the good thing about hydropower here: since it rains quite a lot it can guarantee a pretty constant base load (meaning the electricity which is always needed, even at night) – it doesn’t fluctuate as much as solar and wind power and can be stored (up to a point) on the other hand big dams can cause biodiversity to decrease dramatically).

Final thoughts of the day:
Computers can be helpful but very time consuming – especially when you don’t understand them properly.
Living with a family is also quite time consuming (in the evening you wonder: what did I do all day?!?) but really nice, especially when you’re used to just living on your own/with busy flat mates.
I wonder if I could live on a little island - I always have such high expectations so maybe I’d have difficulties finding friends - on the other hand it’s nice that everyone knows each other here. I guess it’s the anonymity of big cities that makes people act in a selfish and irresponsible manner…

Ra’iatea, Tuesday 28th of July 2009

On Tuesday Raphael and I cycled to Uturoa together (and bought a bike lock (although I don’t think anyone would be stupid enough to steal a bike – most people here are related/know each other – but Nelson had advised us not to leave the bicycles unattended… wonder why he’s so suspicious) and some parts on the way – Polynesians don’t seem to enjoy bicycle maintenance (I always generalize!) so Raphael gets to fix them).
Unfortunately all the boats going back to Tahiti are fully booked up until the end of August! So I guess we’ll have to stay here ;)
We went to the Marina to find a millionaire but the two yacht-chartering-companies didn’t have any boats going back to Tahiti but Raphael met someone who knows someone… who works in the energy sector/is the energy sector in the city hall in Uturoa, who also owns a boat/could potentially get us on board of one of the ships.

At lunch Xavier told us that one simply has to turn up shortly before the boats leave and the captain decides if he can put you (in one of the containers!) but apparently it’s more difficult to get into Pape’ete now since there is a lot of Gendarmerie who have nothing better to do than check for illegal passengers.

Then Raphael went with Xavier to measure ocean currents while I went to the beach to read and measure the intensity of the solar radiation (once again my head got too much sun and found that it is more than sufficient to be exploited) – since there wasn’t enough space for me on the little boat.

In the evening Raphael and I cooked dinner and luckily everyone liked it (add fish and they’ll eat anything ;)
I went to the Heiva festival site with Tefa and Tauirai who wanted to have a chocolate tart and meet some friends. Tauirai wanted to know how I liked it and I had to admit that I though all the plastic and American eating habits (I tried to be slightly diplomatic and did without mentioning latter) didn’t quite fit in with the traditional dancing and bamboo stalls.

Final thought of the day: I have a bad conscience: Suzie did our laundry and didn’t even give us a chance to hang it up!

Ra’iatea, Wednesday 29th of July 2009

Today Raphael and I both didn’t feel quite fit: Raphael has a fever (I’m hoping it’s not Dengue… probably not – he doesn’t have the rest of the symptoms), I had a headache and we both felt really tired and exhausted.

One of Nelson’s friends, Maurice, who had been working for Marama Nui (the company who used to run the hydropower plants in Tahiti) and now works for EDT came over for lunch and we got to ask him lots of questions. Then we visited the thermal power plant (running on gasoline) where he (more or less happily) works (he’s a renewables fan)

As we waited (Maurice had a meeting) Raphael and I estimated the capacity of the power plant (which caters for the electricity needs of about half the population) – I went for 1,7 and Raphael said 2,5 megawatts. It turned out the plant has a peak load of 1,8 and a capacity of 3 MW (just like the CHP on the main campus of my university – that comparison made me smile benignly). The other gasoline power plant (that provides electricity for Uturoa and surroundings) has a capacity of 4 to 5 MW. There are two individual grids and Maurice has suggested joining the two but for some reason the people responsible for the other power plant are refusing… Maurice gave us a daily load profile and a study he did on the potential of hydropower here in Ra’iatea – a ray of hope! Talking to Maurice was really informative, we got quite a bit of useful data from him and he made no “mistake” (from a tree hugger’s point of view – Raphael will criticize me for writing this and remind me that we’re not missionaries) on the last question of my questionnaire (“If the population and government work hand in hand, do you think it’s possible for French Polynesia to be energy-self-sufficient (using 100% renewables) in 15 years?”) – he is an optimist and answered “Oui!”.

We were actually supposed to meet that energy-person (who can potentially help us get back to Tahiti) in the town hall afterwards but when we called he said he was on the other end of the island – so it will have to wait until tomorrow. We were actually quite glad since we were both so exhausted.

The table is getting full: today Tauirai’s girlfriend/wife (?) Caroline came back from L.A. (she’s an English teacher here)

Final thoughts of the day:
Everyone always lays the blame on the others: Maurice claims that EDT is not investing in more in renewables since there are property issues...

Maurice told us that on the Marquesas (see map of French Polynesia in slideshow) people still use horses as a means of transport. I’m just trying to picture modern technology (renewables) and people on horses next to each other – it makes me smile… (Side-note to dampen the brightness of Utopia a bit: for some reason horse manure doesn’t work nearly as well as cow shit when inserted into a biogas plant).

I really hope we manage to find a way to get back to Tahiti soon – I don’t want to exploit Suzie’s and Nelson’s hospitality too much longer…
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Dienstag, 28. Juli 2009

Harsh Reality, Money, Drugs and Smugglers

Aute II, Wednesday 22nd of July 2009

At 10:00 we met Terii Vallaux – he seemed quite stressed (possibly due to the feed-in-tariff which was just recently introduced) but took a lot of time to talk to us (two and a half hours in total)!

He started his job in March with the new government (there have been 7 different governments since 2004) and says that there is a lot to be done. He mourned a bit about there not being much political will and private interests always dominating (not sure whether he meant the current government or the previous ones).

At the end of the end of 1980’s the majority of the ownership of Marama Nui, the partly-governmental company running the hydropower plants in Tahiti was sold off to Suez which lead to neglect of further expansion of the hydroelectric capacity – French Polynesia is still a minority shareholder, but doesn’t have the money to buy it back (Terii employed an analogy here: David and Goliath…).

EDT (Energie de Tahiti) is not in debt (meaning they’re ripping off the Polynesians – apparently (or according to the locals) electricity in French Polynesia is the most expensive in the world) so at least they are investing – they’re building Tahiti’s first sewage treatment facility (as appalling as it may sound: all the sh… (including all the harsh chemicals used for cleaning (here)) goes directly into the ocean) and Tahiti has a excess capacity up until 2020 – I am not too sure whether that is a good thing though… it could also mean that the dirty fossil power plants aren’t running at full load which could mean that EDT could try to suppress renewable energy development (this is mere speculation)… I think the feed-in-tariff will help open the market for renewables (other companies) and wiggle on the monopoly’s foundation a fair bit :)

Terii and his coworkers have created a plan for 50% renewables in French Polynesia by 2020 (and 100% by 2030). I asked about the time periods as I thought (or had read that) the second stage (from 50 to 100 %) would be more difficult to implement since more storage capacities would need to be expanded. He optimistically argued that technology will have developed by then so the last 50% would actually be easier to achieve.

When we asked about the transport aspect (which had been neglected in the study) he just replied that this wasn’t his métier but offered that he could put us in touch with someone from the terrestrial transport ministry (communication between the different ministries seems to be a difficult thing (here)). Terii also mentioned that he has bad experience with “le truck” – apparently the locals (including the bus driver) were all very unfriendly (only spoke Tahitian) and he also criticized that there are no timetables (I totally agree with latter point but apart from that we’ve always enjoyed our le-truck-rides).

Terii also shared an anecdote about getting a new fridge with us. He wanted an energy efficient one but couldn’t had to go to six different stores before he found one with a label (for the energy efficiency rating A,B,C,D,… which is obliged by law to be on electrical appliances in the EU – also in French Polynesia). Unfortunately there is a lack of executive staff to control and sanction such norms (this really rings a bell: environment ministry and rangers… I wonder where all the money goes… it’s not being spent by the ministries – at least none that we’ve heard of… probably it simply evaporates - strange).

Unfortunately (am I using this word too often – not that the reader gets the impression that I’m a pessimist – I wouldn’t be here doing this if I were ;) Terii could not even give us a daily load profile – since it is intellectual property… of EDT!!! He doesn’t even have it himself – Raphael and I looked at each other and shared a feeling: shock!

At the end of our conversation he gave us a contact number for coprah oil factory – I really want to go and see how it’s produced! We also want to get in touch with someone from EDT to visit a hydropower plant and maybe ask if they would be so kind to share their intellectual property with us – for an independent study of course!

After this sobering meeting (no money, no staff, no data) we hitchhiked to Météo France in Fa’aa who are situated just next to the airport hoping to be a bit more successful in gathering useful/positive (or at least neutral) information. We immediately walked into the right office and one of the meteorologists there gave us a book with some meteorological data for French Polynesia (solar radiation, wind velocity,…) and Raphael made a list with specific data which he wanted in a digital format – in order to put it into a computer simulation. At least something worked out today!

We hardly had any energy left (it was really hot today – wonder how the people here survive the summer) but thought we should give the customs and immigration office at the harbor another try (following the advice I had been given by the harbourmaster of the Marina Arue yesterday). As we put up our Au-secours-RAIATEA-Help-SOS-sign outside (the office was already closed) someone peeked out the window. We told him about our situation and he looked up all the private boats going to Ra’iatea and found exactly ONE, leaving tomorrow: the Galahad! That immediately brought our hopes back up. After patiently responding to our questionnaire he offered to give us a ride to the Marina Taina (in a police van as it turned out – I can’t say that I ever had such positive feelings towards the police as during that moment). He (Carlos) asked about our plans for the evening and suggested that we could spend some time together – if I had been on my own, I would have gotten suspicious – sad that absolute kindness has become such a rare virtue (or has it always been and I am romanticizing the past – the good old times when I wasn’t born yet) – he said he would pick us up at the Marina after dropping off the police van to get his own car.

The Galahad was neither at one of the quays nor responding to it’s radio, so it had to be somewhere among the approximately 50 boats that were anchored off the coast. When a Zodiac came by, I put up my thumb and asked if I could hitchhike. When the boatman inquired where to, I could only respond “Galahad” – not knowing where it was. He was actually just heading for his boat, but took a detour so we could glimpse at the names of the boats. We had already lost the hope of finding it (we were already on our way back to the quay) when Raphael spotted it. The captain was away so I left a letter with our phone number.

Carlos invited us for a drink at a posh bar (Celine with whom we shared a dorm at the Pension Te Miti works here – this island really is small – you get to meet everyone at least twice) by the quay with the Zodiac - he still remembered the face of the captain. After about an hour we received a call. The captain (Flavius – a systems engineer (computer nerd) in his 30’s who has been travelling the world with his sailboat for 3 years) had found our letter and came over to meet us! I couldn’t believe it – he was actually willing to take two strangers aboard his ship!

After arranging a time and meeting place with Flavius, Carlos insisted on taking us for dinner (at a Chinese restaurant) before driving us home. We learnt quite a few new words in Tahitian and also, that he has two grown up kids and was born in the Marquesas. His parents were farmers and didn’t know how read or write – that really flabbergasted me (I had simply assumed he came from an educated background – it’s so easy to assume and take things (like education) for granted when you haven’t seen much of the (real) world, I guess).

Back “home” we tidied up the flat (in case someone else moves in while we’re gone), packed a backpack with the most important material things and assembled a few wind turbine parts (final assembly will take place on site for ease of transport) before going to bed (late).

Final thoughts of the day: Sometimes crackpot ideas actually work out! It’s amazing to wake up in the morning, have a relatively ordinary day and suddenly in the evening everything changes and then you go to bed and just wonder – had we been somewhere else at that point of the day… we wouldn’t be going to Ra’iatea tomorrow! Not sure whether I should believe in coincidence or not… Hope the reader can relate to this/understand my train of thought!
Just remembered that Terii suggested equipping public buildings with PV-panels – to set a good example.

Tahiti --> Ra’iatea, Thursday 23rd of July 2009

After having cold pasta and tomato sauce for breakfast (really early in the morning) we went downtown with Manuel who was slightly worried about us – I think he has heard too many stories about boats, drug dealers and weapon smugglers…
After picking up some drugs (just for our own use - against motion-sickness - at the pharmacy) we met Carlos who had a look at our passports and prepared the papers. Then he drove us to the Marina Taina again and quickly did the paperwork with the captain.

After boarding the Galahad, Flavius tidied up a bit (to make some space for us) and explained the “security features” of the boat: toilet with sea-water pump, life vests, fire extinguishers and motor.

Unfortunately there was no wind (only rain) when we wanted to leave (at about 11:00 am) so he switched on the motor (which uses about 2 litres of diesel per hour; the tank holds 200 liters, Ra’iatea lies about 220 kilometers northwest of Tahiti and our top speed (with wind) was about 7 knots – don’t worry I’m not trying to make this story more exiting by making the reader believe this piece of information will have any relevance later on – we don’t get stranded… in the middle of the ocean – what an elegant choice of words!).

On our way towards Moorea we saw a sea turtle and some very keen surfers (they had obviously used a boat to get there – I could see the “me too!!!!” on the back of Raphael’s head as he gazed over to them). After taking loads of pictures of the small wind turbine, the two photovoltaic panels, Raphael and Flavius, I went to lie down for a bit. After getting up from my nap I immediately felt sea sick. Luckily we had a bit of wind later on so at least we were spared by the smell of diesel. I stayed outside, underneath the small roof by the helm for the rest of the journey – was too afraid to leave behind some unpleasantly fragrant souvenirs of my presence (successfully managed to dehydrate myself – males definitely have an advantage when it comes to emptying their bladders over the railing).

The obnoxious feeling in our stomachs prevented pretty much any form of conversation, so there is not much to report for today… well the Galahad has two masts and was built in 1974.

Although we had an Autopilot (ribbed rubber band with small motor attached to the helm) connected to a GPS device our poor captain still had to come out and check/switch over the sail every 15 minutes or so (the next morning he looked rather sleep-deprived). We really were more of a burden than a help to him. I had a bad conscience, but my stomach made me egoistic (move as little as possible) and I wasn’t in any state to learn how to sail so I hugged the railing or bucket instead, while Raphael managed to keep an eye on our course – at least for a bit so Flavius could get some “sleep-shots”.

Final thoughts of the day: I must admit I had romanticized sailing a bit and couldn’t really enjoy the (falling) stars…
Was lying there wondering whether the Polynesians ever got sea sick, how many of them died on the way to find new islands to settle on and how they navigated when it was cloudy and they couldn’t see the stars.

Raiatea, Friday 24th of July 2009

After a rough and stormy night – and an admittedly beautiful sunset (it was so stunning that I couldn’t let go of the bucket) – we finally arrived at the “Ra’iatea Marina” where Flavius tossed out the anchor. I put on my snorkel, mask and fins and went for a dive (couldn’t wait to get off the boat) but the 29 meters were a bit too deep for me to go down so I only observed a few colonies of single celled organisms (? damn – I should have studied marine biology) and some barnacles on the hull of “our” ship.

Raphael called Nelson and we went ashore with Flavius in his Zodiac. After waiting for about half an hour Nelson’s older son Tauirai (who works in his father’s company) came to pick us up in a pickup-truck. We quickly stopped at the police station (the only one on the island which has about 10,000 inhabitants (according to the locals) and 8413 (according to our Lonely Planet edition from 2009 – and that’s including the population of the neighbor-island Taha’a which has roughly 5000 inhabitants – I’m such a nitpicker) but they were having lunch and told us to come back later. So Tauirai drove us “home” and we also had lunch, which his mother Suzie had prepared. Her other two kids Iotefa (who is currently home for his summer holidays – he’s studying Biomedical Science in Toulouse, France) and her daughter Vaiana (who is currently on maternity leave but usually works at the University of French Polynesia in Tahiti as a librarian), her boyfriend/husband (probably latter: they’re very catholic here), Xavier (a physics and mathematics teacher) and their baby are also visiting at the moment.

I had a bit of a bad conscience because we arrived so spontaneously (Raphael called Nelson only about 24 hours before our arrival to confirm our stay) and on top of that Suzie has the flu (not H1N1!) so I suggested we move into a hostel but she insisted that we stay with them since we had arranged to come well ahead of time… The welcoming and spontaneous way of life of the Polynesians really is something!

In the afternoon Suzie drove us to the Gendarmerie where we had to wait ages until the local police decided to put a stamp into our passports and also write something illegible beside it to confirm that the captain of the Galahad (Flavius) had safely “disposed” of us in Ra’iatea…

We weren’t up to much when we got back because we still didn’t feel quite stable on our feet. When Nelson came home from work he talked about his renewable energy plans here in Ra’iatea: he wants to install photovoltaic panels on the roof of his house (5 kilowatts) and possibly a small vertical axis wind turbine (now that the cost amortization period is significantly shorter – thanks to the feed-in-tariff). Raphael recommended a PV-producer in Germany and will get Nelson some technical and financial details…

Nelson is also envisioning an incineration plant for Ra’iatea (running on local wood (apparently there is an invasive plant here shedding a lot of biomass) and all the waste produced here (I don’t think that he took my point about waste minimization and discouraging recycling seriously)).

Hydropower would definitely be an exploitable renewable energy source here as well: there used to be a hydropower plant (and also some energy-self-sufficient houses running on PV-panels and batteries) on the island. This development had ironically been encouraged by the CEA (Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique) back in the 80’s. In the 90’s the community decided to connect everyone to the grid (which was later taken over (yes, taken over – not bought - by EDT!) and switch from renewables back to fossil fuels (devolution). Nelson promised to take us to the “ruins” – maybe they’ll be revived someday… soon I hope!

We all had dinner together with the family – around the big round table (Raphael and I really get along quite well but it’s nice to have a few more people around – especially after living on a hill for a while). We talked about culture and food and laughed a lot.

Ra’iatea, Saturday 25th of July 2009

Today I only did a bit of writing and helped Suzie in the kitchen – she has quite the hoard of people to feed now that her children, son in law, grandchild and we are here. In the evening we took captain Flavius for dinner to thank him and went to observe some more Heiva… I mean hip energy – it’s amazing how much even the little kids are already producing (maybe it’s because they’ve got so much freedom – apparently they decide where they want to live (with their grandparents, aunts, uncles or friends – among the numerous spectators (I guesstimate that at least a quarter of the population were present) the toddlers were moving from one arm to another across the hall)!

Final thoughts of the day: I bet the lurid/populist title of this blog entry lured a few readers into reading this…

Raiatea, Sunday 26th of July 2009

This morning Raphael and I learned how to scrub and fillet fresh fish. We went in the backyard and tossed around fish gills, guts and scales with Nelson.

Then he took us for an island tour (once around – approximately 120 km) on the way we visited the remainder of a hydropower plant (Nelson is planning on bringing it back online with his company), a Marae and picked some wild papayas, sweet grapefruit, bananas, chilies and coconuts. We kept stopping on the way and Nelson got out to get rid of the plants that were invading “his” power line poles (his company put them up). Nelson really is a work horse – he can’t even be stopped on a Sunday.

When we came home we had a very good lunch: the fish we had prepared in the morning, taro, three different types of potatoes, coconut milk and chili sauce - everything local and no pesticides – good food makes me so happy :)

After siesta Raphael and Nelson went outside to play on the road a bit… Nelson has quite the large machinery for digging/drilling holes in the ground – apparently the rain water flows down the hill across the road and keeps flooding his property. My arm muscles couldn’t compete with Raphael’s so I decided to work with my brain cell instead. I went into Nelson’s office (a container in the front yard) and checked my e-mails. We’ve received a response from the publisher promising that he would read Le Projet Tahiti – at some point.

Raphael just walked into “our” (Tefa’s (?)) room and suggested we stock our dirty laundry under the bed until the smell becomes intolerable. I don’t think this blog entry will get any better (let us not sicken as the plot thickens ;)

Final thought of the day: Ra’iatea is so much nicer than Tahiti (judging from what I’ve seen) and we feel at home with Nelson’s family. There’s so much life in this house :)
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Sonntag, 26. Juli 2009

Ich habe es kommen sehen ...

Da ist sie ja, meine erste Schreibblockade! Vielleicht sollte man sich vorher doch ein wenig genauer überlegen, ob man einen erfolgreichen Roman fortschreibt. Idee und Geschichte des "Tahiti-Virus" sind gut und logisch, sie rechtfertigen einen zweiten Teil, keine Frage. Die Schwierigkeit ist nur, dass ich mich damit automatisch zum Gefangenen des ersten Buches gemacht habe. Ich bin Gefangener des "Tahiti-Projekts". Warum? Weil ich gar nicht umhin kann, den Duktus des Vorgängers aufzunehmen. Eine verhängnisvolle Situation. Als Autor bekommt man da leicht den Eindruck, sich in eingefahrenen Gleisen zu bewegen, zumal ja auch noch viele Protagonisten aus dem "Projekt" übernommen werden. Man muß sie ausreichend beschreiben, aber man kann sie nicht neu erfinden. So entsteht beim arbeiten schnell der Eindruck, dass es der Schreibe an der nötigen Frische fehlt. Ich kann mich als Autor nicht mehr selbst überraschen, das ist bedauerlich. Also bin ich ständig in Versuchung, aus der im "Projekt" gewählten Erzählform auszubrechen. Das ist gefährlich. Zum einen tut man dem Leser keinen Gefallen, der sich liebend gerne an vertraute Muster hält, zum anderen kann dies zu einem unruhigen Stil führen, der zwar seine Highlights haben mag, aber in sich nicht stimmig ist. Dabei hasse ich jede Art von Routine. Also bleibe ich wohl oder übel auf dem von mir selbst ausgelatschtem "Pfad der Tugend". Es geht schließlich um große, hehre Ideen, die vermittelt werden sollen und nicht so sehr um den Selbstfindungsprozess eines bedauernswerten, mittellosen Schreiberlings ... (Schnüff)
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Donnerstag, 23. Juli 2009

Raiatea we're coming!

Found an experienced Frenchman - setting sail today on a small sailboat!
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Mittwoch, 22. Juli 2009

Spannung pur

Das "Virus" hat zu Beginn eine ganz andere Anmutung als das "Projekt". Während der Protagonist Cording beim "Projekt" aus der Katastrophenwelt in die heile Welt Tahitis wechselt, ist es beim "Virus" genau umgekehrt: Hier wird zunächst Abschied genommen, wohl wissend, was einen draußen erwartet. Zumindest ist es Cording bewusst, der sich deshalb um so mehr dem Schutz Maevas verpflichtet fühlt. Dass dies zu einem fürchterlichen Missverständnis führt, welches Cording letztlich zur tragischen Figur des Romans macht, ist für mich besonders reizvoll, da sich in seiner Person, so wie sie sich im "Tahiti-Projekt" darstellt, viel von mir selbst befindet. Ich habe überhaupt den Verdacht, dass die Virus-Story einen Zacken spannender wird als das "Projekt". Aber das liegt in der Natur der Sache. Es ist eben ein Unterschied, ob man aus einer funktionierenden Gesellschaft heraus berichtet oder sich auf das globale Schlachtfeld begibt ...
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Aute II, Monday 20th of July 2009

This morning Manuel dropped us off at the harbour where we had to sit and wait for the “Taporo” (freight ship) office to open. There are only three or four ships going to Raiatea and they are all occupied up until the 18th of August… after this first disappointment of the day we bought another Manacard (I think it’s time we ask them to sponsor our project) and carried out our daily “desk duty”.

While Raphael made some phone calls I went to see Antonina to ask (politely) if we could move in with her anytime soon – I had to sit there and wait three quarters of an hour until she was finished with a customer – just to learn that her guests had decided to extend their stay and her family from Rarotonga was coming right after they left. I guess that means we’ll have to stay on the hill – far away from the beach a bit longer...

Disappointment number three: The Ukulele-chap Raphael was in touch with won’t be able to sell him one for at least another two weeks (“the Japanese are buying up everything and they’re willing to pay any price”) – we could really use some diversion up here in the middle of nowhere…

After Raphael paid the energy ministry another quick visit and I bought some black, red and yellow construction materials we made our way to the marina (I had the crackpot idea that we could find some millionaire and hitchhike to Raiatea). We saw some disgustingly huge and shiny private yachts - we were too intimidated by their size that we decided to talk to the owners of smaller sailboats. We found two people who knew someone potentially going to Raiatea so we swapped phone numbers. We also put up a note in the little shop and by the launderette. I doubt that anyone will respond but it’s always worth a try!

We had been spoiled with success and everything running smoothly…
Back home Raphael designed a rotor blade for our host presents. I cut them out and we assembled a prototype which we attached to our wooden spoon (I guess we’ll have to use a metal one to cook dinner tomorrow ;)

Final thoughts of the day: Originally I was going to skip the blog-entry for Monday since I felt like I had nothing positive to report but now that I’m looking at our wind turbine spinning in the kitchen (all our windows are open and there’s a nice breeze coming in) I know that yesterday wasn’t a complete waste of time!

Aute II,Tuesday 21st of July 2009

Raphael is preparing for the meeting with Terii Vallaux (the energy minister’s renewable energy consultant) and I shall cycle down to Arue (yesterday we learnt that there is another), find a millionaire to take us to Raiatea – and pester more people with my questionnaire and look for a Manaspot to keep in touch with our contacts.

Final thoughts of the day: Optimists don’t worry about cycling back up the hill while they’re enjoying the wind blowing through their hair on the way down :)
Bicycles with a built-in tailwind would be really handy – I bet they’d encourage more people to cycle!
Going to the other Marina in Arue was probably a waste of time – no millionaires there – only locals with small boats (very unlikely that anyone is going to Raiatea in the near future – only three sailboats with strangers: from Sweden, Norway and the US – left a note on one of them, the other two where anchoring somewhere off the shore) and I only got three questionnaires filled in today…

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Montag, 20. Juli 2009

Miti, Mahana, Tahora pope, Matai, Opaa - or nature and local energy sources

Aute II, Pape’ete Friday 17th of July 2009

This morning I dressed up a bit – I hate having to make a good first impression. First Raphael laughed at me but then decided to start an experiment and put on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt (haha – it turned out to be one of the hottest days ever – at least from my perspective – having been here for only three weeks (of the “cold season”).We went downtown with Manuel again. On our way he told us that there actually hadn’t been any passengers infected with H1N1 on board of the Dawn Princess. The *beep* press had just spread the rumor in order to sell more “news”papers. He also stopped somewhere to try and organize a spot on a boat (heading to Raiatea) for us - he seems to be quite the important man who knows a lot of people… unfortunately that didn’t help.

We had turned up way too early so we behaved like “proper” business people and sat down in a back alley with our laptops. At 8:30 we met Christian and handed him our last copy of the French “Tahiti Projekt”. He seemed quite overworked and not as enthusiastic and interested as I had hoped. His lector is on holiday so he has to read everything himself at the moment. When Raphael mentioned that the author (Dirk) was probably coming at the end of August to write on the second part (the “Tahiti Virus”) I added that Tahiti sets an example in the first part and the idea spreads (across the world) in the second part. Now he seemed slightly more interested and said he would try and manage to read it (or have it read) by the end of August.

After walking downtown we got our daily kick (internet) went to reserve two tickets for tonight (the Heiva festival ends tomorrow so we thought we better not miss the chance to take some hip energy measurements). Raphael met with someone from the energy ministry again and then went home to eat and do some laundry while I stayed in Pape’ete to work (he really has “house husband qualities” ;).

I had a few people in the parc Bougainville complete the questionnaire and then went across the street to the Assemblée (parliament building) where I plugged in my laptop to suck some juice (coming from an inefficient fuel oil power plant). I kept a few members of the security staff off work (well… they were just standing around anyway) and found out that one of them could have passed as a tree hugger (he answered all the questions “ecorrectly” :) I also talked to a few other members of staff who were also standing around chatting – I’m not too sure what their function/job there was (always making sure to whisper the question “Who do you think is preventing French Polynesia from developing in a sustainably sound manner - The economy, the population or the politicians?” – needless to mention that the majority voted for latter). It was so rewarding to talk to them! One of them didn’t speak French very well so his colleague translated. I learned a few new words in Tahitian and asked if I could come back and learn some more – they all agreed happily. Whenever someone came by/left the building/area under the roof (a lot of buildings here have spaces which are not enclosed by walls) they gave everyone bisous – since I was sitting there too I got some as well...

Back in the park I talked to all sorts of different people (and noticed that hemp seems to be a popular plant happily consumed by all age groups). I approached a teenager with my questionnaire, hoping not to be rejected with a few derogatory words (my experience with the average german teenager). I was surprised to find that the girl (smoking, garbage from a certain fast food chain beside her) was very open-minded and immediately engaged in a conversation. She was clearly not of Polynesian origin but when I asked about her connection to “fenua” (the earth/Polynesia) she said “lien très fort” (strong connection). Before I had a chance to ask she told me that she was born here. I also interviewed a few of her friends and was pleased that they also filled in the last question (e-mail address to receive a newsletter on the progress of our work here). I managed to get 18 questionnaires filled in today - that might not sound like much but it’s important to take time and listen to what people have to say – I’m learning a lot (without even reading very much).

When I left the park an old man with whom I had spoken yesterday (he was sitting on the same bench again) waved his hand and smiled at me. Raphael came to pick me up (and brought me a sandwich/mustard-cucumber-baguette in an empty müsli bag (one gets a lot more creative not having certain things – such as lunch boxes)) and we made our way to the stadium, collected our tickets and waited for the event to start. There were 3 different dance groups with drummers and a choir who performed on the stage/ground. It was quite stunning to experience this cultural event but we both agreed that four hours were really quite a lot. We managed to hitchhike home and fell into our beds, totally exhausted from the long day (we’d left the house at 6:30 and weren’t home until midnight). All in all a very good day (at least for me – Raphael is having a few bureaucratic problems with his university).

Final thoughts of the day:
My throat is always a bit sore at the end of the day but engaging with so many different people and learning more about the culture is very rewarding.
It’s so difficult not to judge people by their “shell” but I think I’m slowly learning to become a bit more tolerant and less judgmental.
Sometimes I wish I could just blend in – I don’t like to look like a tourist… the only advantage of blond hair and white skin: apparently it’s easier to hitchhike.
One doesn’t need much - our apartment is quite sparsely equipped but we’re still coping just fine

I just thought it would be incredible to learn to live off the land with a tribe (a tightly knit social network where everyone depends on each other) somewhere in the bushes – at this point my mother will probably be scared that she’ll never see me again – on the other hand I was born into an interconnected world full of technology (mankind can truly benefit of at least some of it) and I have the shocking but yet amazing chance to take a look at the bigger picture (the globalised world) and possibly make a difference (which would be quite difficult/impossible if I decided to live somewhere off the beaten track).

Aute II, Arue Saturday 18th of July 2009

In the morning I hitchhiked down the hill to go grocery shopping (at Carrefour, my excuse: I wanted soy flour as an egg substitute for baking a cake, it turned out not even this gigantic supermarket spread over an area that felt like a square kilometer had something that specific – the shop assistant had never heard of a vegan diet and was shocked when I told her about child labour on coco plantations in the “third world” – Carrefour even has a few Fair-trade products). When I put my loose veggies on the scale to get them weighed the person in charge of pressing the colourful fruit&veg buttons refused to give me a sticker since I hadn’t complied with the system and used a gazillion plastic bags for all the different veggies. I insisted on saving the packaging (the people waiting behind me had mixed emotions: annoyance/impatience and bemusement). I told him that last time his colleague had put all the stickers on a piece of paper. He was quite annoyed at first but went to get me an old cardboard box, telling me this was an exception and that I would have to use plastic bags next time (I disrupted the smooth flow of goods and customers). I was so frustrated and said “mais l’environnement” – little person, big supermarket, huge world, “small” issue… I told him that we’d run out of petrol eventually, the sea level is rising and that we can’t simply buy a new planet once we’re done with this one. He probably sensed that I was about to cry and suddenly became very understanding. Him talking to the manager wouldn’t do any good (“they don’t listen to us – employees”) – so he suggested I start a petition and collect signatures… that made me feel slightly less bad – at least he showed compassion.
I left the store wondering whether the two employees I’d talked to would give child labour and plastic bags another thought…

Back home I cleaned and tidied up a bit – I find external order can make it easier to bring a bit of structure into the internal chaos. Then I wrote a bit while Raphael was reading and studying the data he had received from the energy ministry – he is so much more disciplined than me! Maybe I wasn’t meant to sit and read all day… I just don’t have the patience and my thoughts keep distracting me…

Final thought of the day: Wasn’t mankind happy without plastic bags?

Aute II, Sunday 19th of July 2009

Comme toujours we read and wrote a bit and now we’ll tag along with Manuel and his wife who are going to Papara for a few hours (to visit Manuel’s mother and sister) – conveniently Papara has ocean currents which are interesting for our project…

Final thought of the day: Some waves refuse to be scientifically analyzed…
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Samstag, 18. Juli 2009

Die dicken Bretter der Dummheit

Ein Tahitianer, der zur Lösung des Energieproblems für den Bau eines Atomkraftwerkes auf Tahiti plädiert, ein Verleger in Papeete, der die Idee des "Tahiti-Projekts" nicht versteht - mir scheint, liebe Kimberley, als seien wir nun auch in der Südsee in der Wirklichkeit angekommen. Wie reflektiert Cording in dem Roman doch so schön: "Die Bemühungen, dem weltweiten Ökozid Einhalt zu gebieten, erinnern an den Versuch, einem heran nahenden Tsunami mit aufgeblasenen Backen Einhalt zu gebieten ..."

Eric und ich waren in Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz bei der Verleihung des Nachhaltigkeitspreises, den die Neumarkter Lammsbräu jedes Jahr in vier Kategorien verleiht. Ich war gebeten worden, eine der vier Ladationes zu halten. Unter anderem zugegen: Ehrenpreisträger Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, mit dem wir hinterher in ein launiges, angenehmes Gespräch gerieten. Der Mann ist grandios und versteht es vortrefflich, seine dringende Botschaft (Umdenken, umdenken!) zu vermitteln. Aber natürlich weiß auch er, dass die dicken Bretter der globalen Dummheit nicht zu bohren sind.

Aus diesem Grunde werde ich an diesem Wochenende den Moderator der GO!-Show (sein Name ist Shark!) komplett ausrasten lassen. Hoffentlich lande ich danach nicht selbst in der Psychiatrie ... 

Wer sich heute seine Zuversicht bewahren will, muss sich schon den Tunnelblick angewöhnen. Aber wusstet ihr eigentlich, dass ich unter eine Tunnelphobie leide? 
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Freitag, 17. Juli 2009

Mustard for breakfast, Pestbeule Pape’ete

Aute II, Pape’ete Wednesday 15th of July 2009

This morning we left with Manuel at about 6:20 (I’m usually awake by sunrise, so I really like starting early). He had to organize some things/meet some people since the “Dawn Princess” – a big cruise ship was supposed to anchor in the harbor of Pape’ete (if the doctors found it to be safe – they had a few passengers with swine flu on board (seems to be spreading across the globe quite fast – just got an e-mail from Dundee yesterday saying that a few members of the university are also infected)).

Since we’d left without breakfast we made our way to the next supermarket (which conveniently opened at 7:00) and bought some milk and Müsli (Raphael had packed a bowl and spoon). I am quite sick of all the sugar (they don’t seem to be able to eat anything sugar free for breakfast here – I miss oats and rye bread!) so I became a bit rebellious and grabbed some mustard. Then I wanted a cucumber too (I didn’t think it was a very bright idea to carry an open (half full) pack of milk around in the heat all day) but Raphael thought Müsli was enough… I got grumpy so he agreed (I am so stubborn! Most of the time I get what I want (apart from a happy and healthy planet… and a flying carpet) – people around me are just too compliant).

We had a very classy Müsli-baguette-mustard-and-cucumber-breakfast in the Parc Bougainville from where we could observe some locals (women of all ages around the table near us) who had been sitting there chatting from when we first walked past (just before 7:00) and were still there when we left about two hours later. No one seems to be in a hurry here (I am repeating myself)! And they don’t seem to be bothered by noise very much. An idyllic humming of a leaf blower filled the air of the parc – I wonder who invented these annoying things. Pape’ete really is a “Pestbeule” (plague spot - as Dirk writes) – especially with all the unsound tourists swarming into town bringing money (probably the doctors were bribed to let them out in order to help the stricken economy – profit always comes before health… that’s probably one of the golden rules of economics*) and disease ;)

We finished the printed version of our questionnaire (decorated it with our universities’ logos - to make it look more professional) and after a few fruitless attempts to access the Manaspot and download my e-mails (technology can chew up so much energy, time and patience) we walked to the ministry for the environment to ask if we could spontaneously see the minister or Paula. They both weren’t there so the secretary offered us help and we printed 200 questionnaires (2 per page – double-sided… unfortunately not on recycled paper, I think) and had all the employees around answer one. I think some of the questions are too difficult to answer and I wonder whether the answers of the employees will influence our results in a “positive” way – it’s so difficult to be neutral!

We bought two clipboards (probably made in China – “life is all about compromises” as my dad would now say), Raphael called Nelson Teiti (Tai’nas brother, who has a company that also installs photovoltaic panels – we’ll probably take a boat to Raiatea (one of the Leeward Society Islands) next week and stay there for a bit), Christian (the publisher – we’ll meet him on Friday) and Lauren Catlain (the contact from Paula). Then he went to see latter contact (or his secretary) to pick up some documents and went shopping while I set out to bug some locals with 22 questions each (before asking for Manuel at the tourist information (avoiding to touch anything that could potentially have swine flu on it – my mommy made me a paranoid ;) – I could already see us going home so late - so that we could get a ride up the hill in his… car). I tried to ask a variety of people (different ages and genders – not too sure whether I should tick “vahine” (female) or “tane” (male) when I come across a transvestite (there are quite a few here – it seems to be a very normal and natural thing)) and found out that they all want renewables, if they’re not too expensive (money seems to be of big importance) no one here knows about geothermal energy and they all blame politics for the unsustainable development. Females are more optimistic when it comes to achieving energy autonomy within the next 15 years and at the end of the day my tongue felt fuzzy from all the talking.

When the vendors covered up their stalls with colourful pieces of fabric for the night I wondered why Raphael hadn’t come to pick me up yet - shopping couldn’t have taken that long! I found him sitting by one of the exits (fortunately my intuition/coincidence lead me to the right one) he had been waiting for about two hours because he couldn’t find me – I was probably talking to the ladies making flower bouquets and bast-leaf-leg-thingies for Heiva at the back). We took “le truck” towards Pirae where we got off to try the next Manaspot. We got quite a few responses – someone didn’t understand how to answer one of the questions (filling in numbers from 1 to 5 – meaning 1,2,3,4,5!) and I also found a very rude and offensive e-mail from a man with whom Raphael had hitchhiked (he had been involved in the nuclear weapons testing here – I wonder how someone like that can have a conscience at all – but he must since he was kind enough to pick up Raphael). He got quite personal and claimed “my” questionnaire to consist of leading questions and proposed a mini nuclear power plant for Tahiti to achieve energy autonomy (wonder where he sees the autonomy aspect – I am quite sure that Tahiti doesn’t have uranium deposits – so that would have to be imported - and he’s probably not thought about a place for final repository of the nuclear waste… well I guess one could just dump it in the ocean which is full of strange looking fish anyway… – but I’m the one who’s stupid and hasn’t though enough – grrrrrr). I got so angry and charged up when I read this that Raphael and I got into another fight :(

When we came home (fortunately we had settled our differences) we talked about unscientific things and Raphael suggested I take a vacation… from worrying (my conscience?! How does that work?)!

Final thoughts of the day: If one could switch off emotions, one would be a lot more efficient; our insect repellant supplies are rapidly diminishing and I am quite excited about leaving Tahiti and seeing another island!

*this reminds me of “the Yes Men” – two men who played an amazing trick on Dow Chemical by announcing that they’d finally accept responsibility for the explosion of a chemical plant and pay compensation to the victims in Bhopal, India.

Aute II, Pape’ete Thursday 16th of July 2009

Today we both spent a bit of time writing and Raphael called the office of the two ferries heading for Raiatea – there seem to be no spaces up until the 18th of August! I shall wander around Pape’ete again today and pester lots of people with my questions. Raphael is staying at home to read.
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Mittwoch, 15. Juli 2009

Passive Sunday, productive Monday!

Aute II, Pape’ete Sunday 12th of July 2009

On Sunday we went to the market in Pape’ete (again! – but there’s nothing like Pape’ete on a Sunday morning – well I guess it is vaguely similar to the “Fischmarkt” in Hamburg (my hometown)… mountebanks, colourful stalls with fruit, veggies, clothes, flowers, fish and other seafood). It was good to go there with Manuel and his wife – she pointed at all the different veggies which I didn’t know and explained some regular dishes they regularly eat. When I asked about a local breakfast Manuel suggested baguette and croissants (which wasn’t quite what I meant)… We should really cook an uru (breadfruit) sometime soon - hope the tree in the garden has some ripe ones before we leave – on the other hand we’re both hoping to move out in the near future – we’re quite far away from the ocean (haven’t been swimming for at least five days now – and we’re on an island… and I love swimming) and we both can’t say that we’re particularly fond of this upper class neighbourhood…

We met Rudolf (I think he was a bit disappointed that we aren’t staying with him) on the market and gave him one of our rare copies of the French edition of the Tahiti Projekt – now we only have 2 left… well actually just one, because the other one already has a dedication to Eric’s friends in it. We need more copies!

Today I was quite grumpy (due to a lack of sleep), passive and still restless today (no internet and no word from a certain person I left back in Hamburg for almost two weeks) so I cycled up the hill, took some pictures, cycled back down (a bit) and then tried to be disciplined and read or write while Raphael was productive and read (about hemp – there are so many things you can make out of hemp: even car parts!) at least for the time I wasn’t distracting him whining about the ants in my pants.

Later we climbed up the crooked palm tree in “our” garden about half way and then resorted to picking up two coconuts from the ground which still sounded fresh. One of them actually was still really fresh so we added some chopped coconut to our tomato sauce (added some crunchiness) and I made an “Eumel” (“kultigen” cup scouts use) out of the other one – I sometimes feel like working with my hands to have something tangible to show for.

Final thought of the day: I could do with some more concentration and productivity! I admire Raphael’s patience if I were in his shoes I would have already torn out my hair!

Aute II, Pape’ete, Monday 13th of July 2009

After a quick breakfast in front of my laptop (Raphael helped me with my writing and a technical question) we went downtown with Manuel (who told us that he’d ordered the Tahiti Projekt (in German) and that there was someone from Germany in Tahiti at the moment who worked on making a town energy self-sufficient (if I understood him correctly) – he remarked that Tahitians don’t like theory, they need to see and touch things in order to understand them (sounds a bit like me), so with an exemplary town like that, they’d immediately embrace renewables as a valid solution). Oh and Nuihau’s publisher called – he didn’t have time to meet us today but we should ring him up the next time we’re in Pape’ete (we’ll probably do that on Wednesday).

In Pape’ete we wanted to buy a 10-hour “Manacard” (card with a code and password on it to access the internet via “Manaspots” which are installed in certain spots of high population density across French Polynesia… might come in handy once we go to work on other islands – the communication infrastructure is quite a bit “behind” here) but discovered that we both hadn’t really taken enough money – perfect example of anarchic organization… it had worked quite well up until now - so we opted for the 3-hour one.

I must admit the McDonalds-hotspot next to the noisy road didn’t really appeal to me very much so we went to the Assemblee (Parliament building) next door where we’d found that art exhibition by coincidence about two weeks ago. It’s really nice and quiet there. We found an unsecured network and were thrilled (free internet?!) – Somehow we couldn’t get it to work so I went over to one of the security people to solve the mystery. He sent us to someone else who took us to a nice computer nerd (who might be working there). That someone might have done something to help us a bit… on the other hand he might not have.

We spent a few hours solving technical problems and reading e-mails: Pierre Blanchard and Terii Vallaux both responded (Mauruuru Nuihau :) – we’ll meet both of them next week – and Paula sent us her suggestions for our questionnaire which Raphael refined and put online while I worked on the blog at snail-velocity. Raphael accidently deleted the online survey – so he had to do the whole thing again (he called it “bloody” for the first time – I guess his patience is not infinite after all… apart from that he’s almost always perfect just a little bit too modest ;) fortunately the internet mysteriously got faster at around 16:00 which strangely coincided with employees leaving the building. At about 17:45 the security guys were done locking up the building and kindly reminded us that the rear exit was still open.

The questionnaire was finished but we still had to put the blog entry online and carry out a fight with the software. So we sat down in the parking lot outside – I know it’s not very energy efficient and I think the radiation from WiFi is not particularly healthy but I must admit I was quite happy that they’d left it switched on…

On our way home – we were hungry and found out that the last “truck” in our direction had already left – so we started walking “home”. After just a few meters we spotted a happening across the road (on the big square next to the tourist information) and remembered it was Heiva! We went a little closer and watched fruit-carrier-race (possibly a traditional sport – quite a useful one I find). First a bunch of men got to race with 50kg (?!) bamboo stems with taro, bananas and other local fruit and veg on them. The females followed with 15kg – I felt like such a weakling watching them – amazing what kind of loads they can carry and still run!

We left the festivities after about half an hour and put up our thumbs by a pedestrian crossing (very effective since the cars get slower there). We only had to wait about 5 minutes before we were picked up by a 23-year old Tahitian party-girl who offered to give us a lift up the hill (although it wasn’t exactly on her way). She was very keen on giving us her number - so we could come and party with her… hmmm… I asked for her e-mail address so we could send her our questionnaire (instead – thought it was more diplomatic avoiding to mention that I’m not a party animal).

After dinner (fortunately we still had enough leftovers from yesterday) we hunted six of our flat mates (five cockroaches and a really loud grasshopper who had positioned himself acoustically sound right underneath a copper pipe in the dining room) with a plastic container and some paper and made them move out since we were not getting along with them very well and they never paid their share of the bills.

Manuel just came by and gave us loads of bananas from his mother-in-law’s garden :)

Final thoughts of the day:
I feel like we’re always receiving… I want to make some mini-paper wind turbines and bake a banana-coconut cake for the people at l’Assemblee and I think we should invite Manuel and his wife (I didn’t quite catch her name – it’s something Tahitian – and I find it embarrassing to ask again) over for dinner sometime this week.

I must say I’m pretty happy with today – we finally got something finished!

Tuesday 14th of July 2009

Today we sent lots of e-mails with the link to the questionnaire to all our contacts. Unfortunately we won’t be able to print it – all the shops are closed because it’s a public holiday – I guess we’ll have to go swimming and lie in the shade and read a bit :)
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Dienstag, 14. Juli 2009

Inefficient but friendly, SUVs, Independence, Tauini Huira’atira

I think I’ve never actually introduced the reader to our project properly – so here are just a few words about renewables in general (skip this paragraph if you know a bit about renewable energy):

A network of different renewable energy sources is more reliable/less vulnerable to fluctuations (wind and solar radiation fluctuate (simply depend on the weather), biomass has an adjustable output, geothermal, hydro and tidal power generally have a constant or predictable output) and so requires less or optimally no storage capacities (whenever electricity is stored losses occur – you never get out as much as you put in). Obviously the composition used needs to be regionally harmonized/can vary widely depending on the meteorological, geological and geographic factors of the surroundings. At this point I’d like to point out, that in conventional thermal power plants (such as coal fired and nuclear power stations) only about one third of the primary energy (coal/uranium) is turned into electricity. The other two thirds get dumped into the atmosphere in the form of heat. Since these power plants are so large and centralized there are not many people living in close proximity who could use the “excess” heat in their homes. Having more decentralized solutions is therefore more efficient (heat and electricity are produced close to where they are used). A network/the grid helps even out natural fluctuations.

Raphael is writing his thesis (Diplomarbeit) on energy autonomy (100% renewable energy) in French Polynesia. We are here to find out about the potential of the different sources (wind, solar radiation, ocean currents, waves, rivers and possibly heat in the ground) that are exploitable locally and using these figures we aim to propose a concept for a composition of technology (turbines, solar panels, and so on…) that could be employed to achieve a mix consisting of 100% renewables. We hope Tahiti (or French Polynesia as a whole) will be able to use this proposition and set a positive example for the world – demonstrate that a whole country can be energy self-sufficient and sustainable using renewable energy.

Paea, Wednesday 8th of July 2009

On Wednesday we didn’t do anything exciting apart from reading (taking notes) and philosophizing (about bad habits that lead to environmental destruction, mankind and life in general – and how we often understand something (for example how many resources flow into meat “production”; how rainforest gets cut down to make space for gigantic (genetically modified) monocultures (leading to a drastic decrease in biodiversity) which are treated with lots of petrochemicals (fertilizers, pesticides – polluting the groundwater and making the local people, fauna and flora and also the final consumer sick), livestock emitting methane (speeding up climate change even more)) – many people know all this but they still eat meat because “it tastes so good” and the myth that meat is necessary for a healthy balanced diet and that “we were meant to eat meat” is kept alive…) but still refuse to change our habits in order to become more sustainable – ouff what a sentence – sorry for the bad style – they didn’t teach us how to write properly in school (or how to think in a structured manner)! My point is: it is hard for me to understand why people don’t change their habits once they’ve understood injustice because they’re no less compassionate than me! There must be two different levels of understanding in order to act (differently)…

This is so black and white… but sometimes I think it’s quite simple and easy to understand: WE NEED TO CONSUME LESS – it’s the ugly truth and no one likes to hear it. Well, it’s actually not that ugly – I bet we’ll find that we’re happier once we’re less distracted by material things!

Oh, there was one exciting thing that happened today: We received an e-mail from Eric saying that they’re planning a media-coup…

Final thoughts of the day: Today was nice and quiet – time to tidy up (internally and externally), read, think and talk.

Oh, in the morning Fréd told us that almost all Marae (ancient Tahitian open-air places of worship) on the island were destroyed – the rocks were used by the missionaries to build churches. On Sunday when we passed by a catholic church it was so packed that people had to sit outside on the steps!

Paea, Pape’ete Thursday 9th of July 2009

In the morning after breakfast and our daily dose of internet we went to Pape’ete (we took “le truck” – sort of public transport) to meet Rudolf and Belinda (two old friends of Tai’na and Eric). It turned out that they lived in a really nice house by the ocean and had a room to let (usually for one person). When Belinda (clearly a business woman) started to make some calculations I thought she was going to say “but for you we’ll make an exception”, the price went up – obviously: there’s two of us and we would use up more water (not really - we both shower fast), gas (we always cook together) and electricity (well we usually just sit in the dark with our laptops)… I decided to be diplomatic and not to mention our “efficient behavior”. What she offered (Rudolf didn’t get involved) was a fair bit less than what we’re paying at Te Miti now. We said we’d consider her offer and call her in the evening.

After the “business part” Belinda went and did something else so we were left with Rudolf and his idealism.

Rudolf was recruited by the French army when he was 17 and went to France to fulfill his military duty. His initial aim was to become a general but later he realized that he was fighting for France – and really felt he should be “fighting” for his country. He decided to become a bodyguard and also spent a few years in Germany.

In 2004 he first met Oscar Temaru, the former and current president of French Polynesia. He knew he had to protect him – and his country so he went back to Tahiti to fight for the independence of his people (he sounded very patriotic saying this). One of his main issues was the racketeering of the French – he elaborated especially on them testing their nuclear weapons (193 in total) between 1966 until 1996. Apparently the Bikini islands successfully sued the Americans for the damage done by nuclear testing… Once Polynesia has freed itself from France, Rudolf wants his country to take the same route (take the case to the International Court of Justice) and demand compensation payments… When Rudolf talked to a nuclear weapons/consequences “specialist” (?) from France about the damage done – and took his harpoon caught a fish, cut it open with his knife and asked the specialist to have a piece – he refused. But the radiation levels are within the healthy limits… maybe the specialist just didn’t like fish!

Then Rudolf continued talking about his independence ideas. He remarked that a lot of people here (especially of the older generation) are afraid of becoming independent because (they think) France is financially supporting Polynesia (I’ve heard both sides of the argument now – need to have a look at some numbers). Rudolf stated that France collects about 70 billion CFP harbour taxes and 25 billion CFP airport taxes every year (that together would be almost 4000 € per year and inhabitant – I have no idea about economics but that number sounds very fishy!) and he claims France only pays 19 billion CFP for Polynesian civil servants… I can’t quite imagine this. When I asked why people aren’t rioting on the streets he replied that they simply didn’t know... According to him most Polynesians don’t like to read (the news – which are largely made by Frenchmen anyway) – I hope they’ll make an exception for the “Tahiti Projekt”…Rudolf was very keen on getting a copy (he seems to like reading). He mentioned that his cousin is a well-to-do man who would potentially be interested in lending financial support to spread the book (and with it the “virus”) across French Polynesia :)

We also chatted with Rudolf about education and all agreed that simply importing technology (like solar panels, wind and water turbines,…) wasn’t enough – there also needs to be a transfer of know-how and once French Polynesia has achieved energy autonomy they could export the knowledge which they’ve attained in the transition process to the rest of the world!

Speaking about education and the French reminds me of something else Rudolf told us: from 1904 until 1983 it was forbidden to speak the Tahitian language in school! Rudolf had always refused to accept this and was beaten by his teachers (for standing up for his origin). Apparently Temaru made sure to incorporate Tahitian into the new curriculum as a compulsory subject a few years ago.

I wonder why there are/were so many obsessive control freaks (in Europe) – how can anyone suppress a culture like that?

When I looked out of the window on the ocean side I noticed the ugly oil storage facilities in the distance (by the harbor). “If a plane crashed Pape’ete would go up in flames!” Rudolf (who seems to be drawn to exaggerations sometimes – just like me) also remarked that Temaru had already made plans to remove this “blott on the landscape”** and install facilities to harness ocean energy – something like OTEC (using the temperature difference from depth and warm surface water of the pacific to generate electricity). Apparently the location was already tested for feasibility but the project died due to “flip flop” politics. It is quite common here for politicians (from the two big parties) to switch over (according to Rudolf mostly due to nepotism “If you switch over to our party, I’ll make sure your daughter gets that well paid job she always wanted”,…), which disrupts the balance – so suddenly the formerly weaker party is in power. This unstable political situation holds back investors for renewable energy applications (among other things).

After spending a few hours with Rudolf, we went to see Antonina to find out how long her visitors are staying – she didn’t know yet… We also met Manuel (the former boss of Tahiti Tourisme in Germany) and he offered us an apartment in his house (“only 12 minutes from downtown Pape’ete”) for a very generous price.

Two offers in one day with the prospect of moving in tomorrow! We took the extremely slow bus back to Paea (traffic jam) and I confessed to Christelle that we’d be leaving the next day – she wasn’t too happy but didn’t make us pay extra.

I cooked some mashed local Yam (?) which we had with local tomatoes then we packed up our many things (well… I packed up my many and Raphael his few things – I should learn to live with less!) Raphael called Belinda to tell her that Manuel had made us a more interesting offer (hoping that she’d go down with the price a bit – which she didn’t). We were completely exhausted (probably also due to our sudden decision to move) and went to bed – last night in that tiny dorm with loud dogs and roosters that crow and bark all. I really must say I’ll miss the breakfast (not the insubstantial baguettes and sticky sweetness – I miss my porridge) but the people and the good conversations around the breakfast table (and Fréd’s good stories).

Final thought of the day: We bought a pig in a poke… and maybe I shouldn’t get too involved with the local politics – we are here for the more technical aspect (of energy autonomy… self-sufficiency – that sounds less political)

**also the title of a book by Tom Sharpe which I can recommend (if you like black humour :)

Paea, Pape’ete, Aute II, Friday 10th of July 2009

We got up early in the morning, quickly grabbed some breakfast and put our thumbs up by the main road. It only took two minutes until a 62-year old retired golf instructor of Asian origin (who surely didn’t look her age) picked us up. She said a lot of people here spend all their money (or in a lot of cases more than they have) on big cars and then live in shabby little huts. She preferred to drive a small vehicle and live in a nice house (or two as we later learnt). She also commented on drugs, violence and alcoholism connected to the Polynesians (as we drove past a few men drinking Hinano – note: it was about 8:15 in the morning).

We went into a little bookshop since we still had time before our meeting. We found “Energies Renouvelables” but thought it was quite pricey – Nuihau actually wanted to swing by and give us a free copy yesterday…

At 9:28 we had finally found the ministry of the environment and sat down to wait for the minister. He turned out to be a very friendly and approachable lad. He shook Raphael’s hand and gave me two bisous (hint of kisses on both cheeks). His press relations officer took loads of photos (for publications by the ministry) and Paula Meyer (responsible for the biodiversity division of the Department for the Environment – I’m not sure whether she has subordinates or her division consists of only one person only) sat down with us. We gave “Georges” (Handerson – the minister – here everyone is called by their first name and “on se tutoit ici” (sp.?)) a picture of Eric Bihl, Volker Freystedt, Dirk C. Fleck (the famous authors) and himself which was taken about three years ago. At first he couldn’t quite recall the event but when we handed him a copy of the book and told him about the content a bit (Tahiti in the year 2021) he remembered and smiled. He promised he’d read the book right away when he got home from work and eagerly embraced the idea of starting a media campaign and spreading the book (and with it the idea) across French Polynesia!

To loosen up the conversation we told the two that Raphael had desperately tried to find “Terrawax” (biodegradable wax for surfboards) but could only find “Sexwax” (they seem to have a monopoly position here). The two agreed that there is still a lot of work to be done to encourage retailers to stock more eco-friendly products (wonder if we encouraged another point on their To Do list ;).

Paula told us that a network consisting of four commissions (“climate, ecosystems and society”, “attenuation of climate change”, “green house gases” and “Adapting to climate change” – not too sure I understand the logic of splitting up the commissions like this – yet ;) was formed in March. They are supposed to collect propositions of projects which will be brought forward and evaluated in September. When Raphael asked how often they met and if it wasn’t a commission of empty words (again – seems like I’m not the only member of our team who could do with a bit more diplomacy) she got slightly offensive and responded that they’re working “assez efficace” – efficiently enough...

When the conversation drifted towards biomass (now that sounds exciting!) the minister told us that it takes 4 kg of coprah to produce 1 litre of coprah oil. 1 kg of (subsidized) coprah costs 120 CFP – so the material cost for one litre would already add up to 480 CFP (wow, now the reader knows I can calculate ;) – that is not counting the cost for production yet. Then the two discussed how the price for petrol (currently 120 CFP) at the stations (Total, Shell, Mobil) is made up. Every now and again (regular periods – every 3 months, I think) a government body meets to fix the price of petrol and it then costs the same at all stations. Taxes account for about 60% of the price. I must admit I'm not that interested in the current economic situation (although I should be - life is all about money and the "free" market) but would like to know how much potential there is for coprah (we'll have to find someone who can give us some numbers - hope Pierre Blanchard gets back to us soon)...

After about an hour the minister suddenly disappeared. Paula later told us that he went to meet a few rioting fishermen. Tetiaroa, the atoll that used to belong to Marlon Brando (the protagonist of the film “The Mutiny on the Bounty” which is set in Tahiti – can really recommend it) is now a place of debate. Apparently the owner of the new eco-hotel doesn’t want the fishermen in “his” lagoon (for ecological reasons… or maybe because he needs the fish to feed his guests). The atoll is private but the lagoon in front of it is public.

So we were left with Paula, who had really “thawed up” by now (side note: she’s clearly not the type of person who’s into frozen ready meals). She told us that people here “needed” their 4x4’s and daily dose of TV… and, that there are only 3 rangers in charge of 118 islands (/atolls? – making it nearly impossible to enforce laws implemented for environmental protection – of the reefs for example) and the 1% of the tax that used to be dedicated to “protéger la nature” has now been diverted from it’s intended use and is now being employed as general Polynesian budget.
At this point Raphael noted that I should explain this seemingly incoherent paragraph to the reader: My point is that people don't care about the environment enough.

A few years ago she wanted to encourage her children’s school to install photovoltaic panels on the rooftops but it turned out not to be economically feasible since the price for which EDT would have bought it back was a lot lower than the price to the ultimate consumer.

Another issue that concerned her was the construction of dams for hydropower plants. Being in charge of the biodiversity division she proposed more photovoltaic panels but since this doesn’t need a big workforce locally, her proposition was shot down. The argument of employment seems to be superior to any others…

Towards the end of the conversation Raphael pointed out that “development aid” is useless when only the technology but not the know-how is shared – she agreed but wasn’t too confident that Tahiti could one day become an exporter of knowledge.

When we walked into her office I had to smile when I saw the organic fair-trade tea on her desk – we’re not the only tree huggers on the island after all. She gave us a few documents and promised to have a look at our questionnaire (I know that last time I wrote that we’d finally finalized the bloody thing but Raphael had another change of heart – so I’m really hoping to have it ready on Monday).

After this motivating meeting we went over to the tourist office to tell Manuel that we would like to move into his apartment – TODAY! He was busy and couldn’t receive us for the time being, so we went to the bank (Banque de Polynésie) to exchange some money (which took about half an hour – Polynesians are so extremely inefficient… but very friendly (that’s probably better than grim efficiency – especially when you a born into a remarkably patient society)) and then took the extremely slow bus home (when we asked the bus driver in how many minutes he was leaving he showed us four fingers – we assumed that he meant four minutes but what he probably meant was forty – minutes or people on the bus…). We’ll be smarter next time!

Back in Paea we had some leftovers out of the fridge, said goodbye to everyone (Christelle wished us good luck with our project), grabbed our things (yes, we managed to take it all in one trip) and not even 13 minutes later a nice woman (with a big pickup-truck to fit our two big backpacks, the suitcase, surfboard and bike) picked us up and offered to give us a ride to the Tourist Information (where Manuel works). She was already convinced of renewables (like everyone we’ve talked to so far) and said for Polynesians the earth (fenua) was the most important thing (no comment). We waited for about an hour until Manuel finished work (in the meantime I took a lot of pictures of the harbor and surrounding area and talked to one of the locals who was sitting by his stall handcrafting a necklace out of bast fibres, sea shells and plant seeds, while Raphael was watching our things).

We very carefully loaded our things into Manuel’s gigantic white Audi Quattro – making sure not so leave the tiniest mark on the leather seats (I felt very awkward sitting inside in my dirty bare feet and wearing my Go Green shirt)…

When Manuel and I arrived (Raphael was cycling to an agreed meeting point in the meantime) I unloaded the car (it’s a good thing I’m so strong – the theoretical gentleman probably has back problems ;) and unpacked a few things while Manuel drove back down the really steep hill to pick up Raphael. About half an hour later Raphael (drenched in sweat) and Manuel (well air-conditioned) arrived - bicycles don’t seem to fit in Audi Quattros that have leather seats (wow – I’m learning to become more diplomatic)…

Raphael and I had a look at the large, modestly furnished but undecorated apartment (which is situated on the ground floor of Manuel’s house) and discovered that we didn’t have a pot. Manuel had to go/drive shopping anyway so we tagged along. On the way (in the huge air-conditioned car I felt completely out of place – and a bit lost as I looked out the window at the other prestige-vehicles – I’m so glad I’m not here on my own and I can always talk to Raphael when I’m overwhelmed by “concrete cancer” and other “diseases” linked to civilization).

Our gas bottle was empty so Manuel allowed us to come upstairs and cook in his kitchen – it was completely unlike what I’d expected – by no means huge or posh (just remembered the peculiar origin of this word – it stands for: portside out, starboard side home (it used to be more expensive to book a cabin on the shaded, cooler side of the ship (going from England to India)).

Why does society teach us that some animals are disgusting? I wonder if I’ll ever be able to look at a cockroach*** and say that I truly appreciate its species… I should have more respect for these amazing creatures (especially now that we’ve got a few of them as flat mates – I must admit I was slightly… surprised when I lifted up my backpack and encountered a couple of them).

I always thought after a few days my blog entries would get shorter but I’m afraid that’s not the case – there’s always so much to report!

Final thoughts of the day: First impressions aren’t always right!

***they can survive nuclear fallout – I couldn’t!

Aute II, Pape’ete Saturday 11th of July 2009

This morning I was woken up by the sun which fell through the dining room window into “my” open door (we now sleep in separate rooms – this apartment is so spacious… maybe I couldn’t sleep because I missed the company). We had breakfast (wholegrain cereal and milk which Manuel had given us last night – although we went shopping – he seems like a quite generous person :) outside on the wooden porch looking down on a very steep garden/dirt slope.

I climbed on a mango- and an uru-tree before we went downtown with Manuel (nature always manages to cure concrete cancer :). In Pape’ete we made our way to the market where I sat down with the intention to finish writing this while Raphael charged up our phone credit (French Polynesia is an expensive place to live – unless you dwell in the bushes and live off uru, coconuts and meia, I guess). I tried to find an unprotected network (for internet access) but didn’t succeed. We’ll have to buy some credit for one of the public hotspots here – unfortunately quite a few shops here already close at 11:00 o’clock on Saturday. On the other hand people can properly enjoy their weekend when they don’t have to work.

One of the locals at the market place suggested we go to McDonald’s – and access the “free” hotspot there. We couldn’t quite believe it but gave it a try and sat down outside at one of the tables. I observed the pigeons picking at the extremely healthy leftovers on the ground and couldn’t help asking myself how much shorter the life expectancy of pidgins (and locals) is who come to feed at my favourite corporation (selling fast food) regularly…

At noon we met Nuihau in the Parc Bougainville just across the road. He gave us a copy of his book with a dedication in it (guess it’ll be shared custody between Raphael and me ;). Apparently the government recently published a 20-page document with a few random spreadsheets declaring the goal of energy autonomy by 2030. Nuihau commented on its lack of depth so the absolute media guru of French Polynesia (head of most local newspapers, magazines,…) asked him to write a counterstatement. He promised to send us the document and contact Terii Vallaux (the RE-consultant), his Publisher “Au Vent des Iles” and the media guru (maybe he’s interested in a story about two students who have a big plan… or idea (we’re not as organized as we could be!) I’m really not a media person but if it serves to spread the “Tahiti Virus” I’ll make an exception). Nuihau said we should also go surfing together, when he comes back from Australia and if we ever have problems or need someone to help us move we shouldn’t hesitate to call him. Nuihau is such a nice fellow :)

Since the shop to which Manuel had taken us last night was actually already closed (and quite pricey) we were under a bit of pressure so we had to go shopping again today. Fortunately I’d left my shoes at home and the asphalt was… nice and warm (we felt like cooked vegetables when we entered the fridge (a gigantic “Carrefour” supermarket)). Usually I try to avoid shopping at big supermarket chains – but we were quite hungry and needed subsidized**** baguette (and the smaller shops tend to close early on Saturdays). We walked past one of the tills in order to enter the store (in a very logical and most straight-forward way) – a security person asked us to go back the way we came in and enter the store “properly” (strictly educating customers – what a great place to shop)… finally “properly” inside the store I was attacked with a pen by another member of the security personnel who marked our bottles as paid (and I thought we’d broken another rule)… this was the first time we encountered such strict and orderly Polynesians!

After the disappointment of not finding eco-friendly dish-detergent we luckily spotted toilet paper made from 100% recycled paper. We also needed something for breakfast… unfortunately we haven’t found a good local breakfast yet – since there’s no grain (meaning no local bread or cereals). So we went with latter imported option. Fortunately we found “Vai Ora” – fresh milk which is produced locally (not taking into account that I usually go for the vegan option when I’m in my normal tree hugger habitat). The only downside: It is about three times as expensive as the subsidized milk!
Why the hell aren’t they subsidizing the fresh local milk instead of the imported sh…?!! (excuse my French – I probably don’t know enough about politics…)

When we were about to pay (I had already packed all our groceries into my backpack - on top of my wallet) Raphael handed the teller a coupon which she refused since he had received it at another Carrefour branch. The two got into a little argument so I quickly dumped out my backpack and gave her the money. This was also the first time we met an unfriendly and impatient Polynesian (must be Carrefour’s bad influence).

Outside Raphael and I had our first argument – I managed to overstrain his patience (didn’t know that was possible) – but luckily everything is fine now – we really depend on each other (and harmony).

Back at “home” – it took quite a while of walking in the heat and thumb-signaling before someone stopped and gave us a lift up the steep hill (living here without being motorized is nearly impossible since there is no public transport and cycling up the extremely steep hill (hot asphalt) could be considered an extreme sport) – we were totally exhausted and had a little break before reading (Raphael) and writing (me).

I am such an internet-junkie: I really wanted to check my e-mails (I’ve been offline for two days now!) so I searched for networks nearby and actually found a few, which were unfortunately all protected, so I set out in search of the proud owners (people in this area don’t seem to talk to their neighbours much – often the walls around the properties are so high that it’s pretty much impossible) – and actually found a friendly neighbor across from us/below us ( the garden/dirt hill is so steep that one can hardly walk down – it’s more of a slippery slope). I explained my situation (renewables, research, student,…) but she didn’t want to give me the password – I should come over in an hour and could work on her computer. A few minutes later (I was sitting on the porch with my laptop) the next door neighbor (same level) talked to someone on the phone (she was standing on her porch) and then shouted that the other neighbour’s internet was “broken” – very mysterious… No internet for me that day (starting to show signs of physical withdrawal).

In the evening Manuel brought us an electric rice cooker – Raphael had already replaced the gas bottle in the kitchen with the one in the bathroom (which usually caters for the warm water needs of the shower but the continuous-flow-heater is broken and we’re used to taking cold showers from Te Miti anyway… I hope I’ll have enough discipline for cold showers when I get back to Scotland. They use up less water (to prevent brain freeze) and make your immune system stronger). We discussed the efficiency of electric versus gas cookers and had dinner.

Raphael went to bed but I couldn’t sleep so I boiled a pot of yogi tea and sat down at the table. My sleep rhythm seems slightly disturbed (I spent most of last night writing and slept a bit in the afternoon) – I think my little brain cell works better at night.

I just saw a gecko running around on the kitchen wall and ceiling and thought how amazing it would be if I had feet with a micro/nano(?) structure like his (life as a protester would be so much easier if one could simply walk up the walls of coal fired power stations to drop banners)… Maybe I should have studied bionics instead of renewables… on the other hand my understanding of chemistry is quite poor and hey, I’m here now – possibly making a difference :)

****Certain products, like rice, bread and milk are subsidized by the government.

Final thoughts of the day:

We found some structure in the public transport system here! “Le truck” is painted in different colours, depending on where it goes!

I actually quite enjoy working late at night – everything is so peaceful and there are no distractions (at least no external ones).

I’m starting to miss hugs – apparently one needs 7 a day to stay healthy (I bet this number was obtained in a highly scientific study)!

I also wonder if I should apologize to the reader for being so judgmental (I hope the carnivores didn’t feel offended) and… wonder how you feel about me being such a radical and “polarized” (protesting, running around in my bare feet and wearing “Go Green” shirts) black & white-thinker… I am hoping I can encourage you, dear reader to become part of our movement –
shake off those doubts - a different world is possible!
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Donnerstag, 9. Juli 2009

Go with us!

„GO! – Eine Show um Leben und Tod, um die Langzeitfolgen und das Kurzzeitgedächtnis. Eine Show, die auch für jene Generationen spricht, die sich in Zukunft auf verbrannter Erde einzurichten haben. Eine Abschiedsshow, ein Nachruf auf den funktionierenden Verbund des Lebens. Eine Verbeugung vor aller Kunst, die seit Menschengedenken herrlichste Narrenfreiheit besaß, solange die Luft rein war. Eine Hommage an Pflanzen und Tiere. Ein Blick zurück auf die kurzen Zeiten des Friedens, auf humanistische Ideale und auf alles, wozu Menschen sich hätten entwickeln sollen. Die GO!-Show : eine einzige drängende Frage, der kein Verantwortlicher entkommt. Eine große dokumentierte Ausrede. Ein vorgezogenes Tribunal. Archiv eines fehlgeleiteten Bewusstseins. Rechnen wir ab. Vielleicht bleibt unterm Strich noch etwas übrig. GO!“ 

So lautet der Vorspann der GO!-Show, eines der erfolgreichsten Formate im Internet des Jahres 2031. Nachzulesen im "Tahiti-Virus". Erscheinungstermin: 2011.

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