This is a story about a Japanese tourist that decided to change her complete life. Her story that could inspire many.
In search for Paradise on Earth, Amy spend her last $300 on a ticket from Tahiti to Rarotonga, a place where she hoped she would find what she was looking for. Big cities like Thailand, Brazil, French Polynesia and Cuba had failed to satisfy her need for tranquility and so she made her way down to Cook Island.
Upon reaching her destination the Japanese tourist walked from the Airport to the police station to ask for shelter. A kind lady police officer sheltered in her house for a while and then sent her to live with a doctor. The doctor lived near the island’s volcanic peak, also called "The Needle" by many.
Though Amy had found a place to live in, she still couldn’t afford the $4 bus fair. Nevertheless, she was desperate to explore the island and so she hitchiked the way across what she thought was paradise on Earth.
This wasn’t a very daunting task, considering the floral dress and sandals Amy wore. It accentuated her beauty and deep tan. All she carried with her was an envelope that contained a certificate from a Chiang Mai school of Thai Massage and her passport. She would boast about being the only Japanese tourist in the Island with an attitude that astonished many locals in Rarotonga.
Amy was nothing like the 100,000 other tourists that came to the Cook Islands, mostly from New Zealand and Australia. She constantly turned down offers to stay in even a $25-a-night dorm. Luxury hotels that ranged from $100 to $900 per night were out of the question. The locals found it curious that Amy was not even interested in the most famous tourist spots of the island that was often compared to Bora Bora in the Society Islands of French Polynesia.
She showed no interest in exploring Rarotonga’s turquoise lagoon, spectacular peaks and lush jungles. Her explanation for this was that she didn’t consider herself as a tourist in Rarotonga. She had come to the island to live as a local and work there.
The locals constantly asked her if she had no friends or family members that could send her some money as being penniless in the island along with being a foreigner and alone could put her in a vulnerable situation. She answered them saying she had no one to help her out and no matter how difficult things got for her in the island, there was no way she was returning to Japan.
For a while there was no news of Amy. Even the island’s 200 Filipino contract laborers confirmed not having seen her for a while and knew for sure that she wasn’t working anywhere. Who would hire her anyway? Like all foreigners, Amy needed a work permit to work in Rarotonga and she didn’t have that. So legally she could not work on the island.
When the police also confirmed they hadn’t seen her for a while, the locals got worried that she may have become a victim to kidnapping or thieves. So, they planned to file a report for a missing person with the Japanese administration as there was no provision to do so in Rarotonga.
Just before the report could be filed, she was spotted in an expensive restaurant with an expensive bottle of wine, sipping it from a glass. On inquiring about the same, the locals were told she was being taken care of by a huge Maori guy, with tattoos on his muscles. The guy was keeping her in his house in the mountains.
As much as Amy would like to keep herself away from Japan and everything Japanese, the truth is a bit different. Japan influences the Cook Islands in a big way.
230 kms away from Rarotonga is a place maned Aitutaki atol where a Japense film crew was spotted filming with a camera on a remote-controlled mini-aircraft. The shooting was for a documentary about the traditional oceangoing outrigger canoes known as vaka.
The island government and hotel owners and managers are constantly trying to attract Japanese tourists to their island. Japan is also actively involved in Rarotonga’s attempt to make the island relying 100 percent on green energy. According to the island’s government, Japan has already invested $4 million for the project through the PEC (Pacific Environment Community) fund.
Ana Tiraa, the national director of climate change says the Cook Islands are an example for bigger cities and if they can do it, so can the others.
She says the country hopes to spread the same idea worldwide through tourists that visit them. However, she doesn’t agree that there are some changes necessary in the island that requires expensive flights and the quick delivery of diesel fuel by ship. Roger de Bray, former chief of Top Energy hopes the island will have solar power with storage running by this year. He agrees that what the island plans to do is not easy but hopes that technology will work in their favor soon.
Having said that, Amy is still enjoying living on the island like a local, ignorant to national crises around her.