Today, I leave Paradise Taveuni for Makaira Resort. Makaira is located a few hundred meters south of Matei Airport – so I’ll get a sense of the whole length of the island. Travelling with me are two Slovakian guests from the resort. I say my “Good Byes”, take a last look at the resort – to impress the images into long-term memory - and jump in the car.
During the hour trip north, we decide to stop first at a store selling pearls. There’s a pearl farm just off of Matei’s east coast. “The owner is Polynesian (not Melanesian) – the taxi driver informs us.” It seems to be an important point for the taxi driver. After passing the airport, we pull into a residential driveway, lots of dogs barking. The taxi driver tells us to get out and knock on the door. There’s a porch with a table and a caged parrot. No one seems home (besides the dogs). We knock and a child opens. From one of the back rooms, we hear a lady yell, “We’re not open today! It’s a school holiday!” The door partially closes.
“Oh, O.K. Well, thank you anyway.” We politely say as we walk backwards towards the car. The tone is definitely one of “you’re trespassing and bugging me.”
As we start to get back in the car, the proprietress walks out of the house and exclaims, “Wait! Do you really want to look at pearls?” Her tone means “buy”.
“Umm… yes. If you don’t mind.”
“Well, I’ll go get them. Stay on the porch and I’ll bring them out to show you.” I walk back on to the porch and notice a few more caged birds inside the house. They’re competing nicely with the dogs and the children, who are running around inside.
The lady comes back out with two small velvet blankets. She unfolds them to reveal a collection of different black hued pearls and a collection of jewelry (pearls encased in silver).
Buying pearls is an, hmmm, how do say it, umm, interesting process. There are prices on the pearls – but that’s only the first step in the negotiation (unless you’re a fool and pay the quoted price without bargaining – ahem – like Americans). I can already tell by the disposition and stance of the proprietress that the key to a successful purchase is to feign complete disinterest in the pearl(s).
The Slovakians, I can tell, are not good at the game. The proprietress is keenly watching their faces to see which ones they want. They’re giving it away – their eyes are getting nice and big – yep – she knows she’s got them. Her face says, “The pearls you want are definitely of a higher quality than the pearls to the right and left” (which to my eyes look exactly the same). There’s a pause and she voices my very thought. On top of it, the Slovaks are feeling awfully guilty about bugging this lady on a holiday (I’m realizing now that our initial introduction was part of the game and that she had no intention at the get-go of letting us walk away.).
As the prices go back and forth, any thought of purchasing the pearls of “lesser quality” for my family dissipate. Apparently, they’re of a higher quality too – now that I’m showing interest. The Slovaks, though, with the Euro, think it’s still a bargain. Hooked – with the line and the sinker. With their purchase complete, it’s my turn to negotiate, but I’m not in the mood and I want to get to Makaira. The prices keep dropping even as I close the door on the taxi. I’m done.
After bidding my friends “farewell” at Matei Airport, the taxi drives for a minute and then heads up a steep hill to Makaira.
As I get out of the car, Roberta Davis is there to meet me. She’s all smile. The sky is overcast, but as I survey the beautiful property I look down and see the Tui Tai schooner anchored just off shore. It is certainly pretty here.
Note: All pictures in this blog are of Makaira, the Tui Tai, and Roberta Davis.