This is the story of my life so far: 67 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France
First Day in Tahiti
So, after 48 hours of traveling by airplane, I arrived at the airport In Tahiti.
Fa'a'ā International Airport
There, several officers of the ship I was posted on were waiting to greet me. There were the commanding officer, the executive officer and the engineer.
There was also a "quartier-maître" (French Navy rank equivalent to "leading seaman"), who was both driver and maître d' of the officer ward on the ship, with a car.
Quartier-Maître in white uniform
I was to get my luggage and the quartier-maître would drive me to the officer's club where a room had been reserved for me.
There, I was to change into my white uniform and the quartier-maître would drive me to the ship, the BDC "Trieux", so that I would officially present myself to the commanding officer.
While driving into downtown Papeete, the quartier-maître stopped and told me that it was not often that he was able to be in the city at this hour and he wanted to take this opportunity to go to the photographer to get some prints he had ordered. I found this a little bizarre, but not too much. After less than 10 minutes, he was back.
I put my white uniform on and the quartier-maître drove me to the military port where the ship was.
The military port was guarded by Tahitians that were called "muto'i", which in the Tahitian language means police or policeman.
When we arrived at the gate, one of the muto'i asked the quartier-maître who I was, then asked him to open the boot.
There, he found, hidden behind a blanket, a bottle of Scotch whisky.
I knew that in the French Navy, when an officer arrived at his first post on a ship, he is subject to various jokes. So, I knew that this bottle of whisky was part of some joke.
After discussion with the muto'i, who did not seem to be happy, I was sent to the ship. There, I was shown to my cabin, then sent to the executive officer cabin/office. He pretended to believe that I was trafficking alcohol and told me to go see the civil administrator who already had been made aware of my infraction.
The quartier-maître drove me to the civil administrator office, and him too pretended to believe that the infraction was real. He told me several times that I should not have done that.
Back to the ship, I rested an hour in my cabin. Then, it was lunch time. In addition to the commanding officer, the executive officer, the engineer and myself, the civil administrator and the muto'i had been invited to lunch. The idea that my "problem" should be swept under the rug.
Lunch was served by the same quartier-maître who had driven me everywhere.
The civil administrator explained that he would do what he could to solve the problem, as long as the muto'i retracted the report he was making. Of course, the muto'i did not want to do so.
I explained that I knew that this was a joke, but everybody pretended that it was not.
I was sure I had not been duped. But in fact I had missed several parts.
First, the quartier-maître was in fact a junior officer of the ship, and I never would have guessed that. That explained the stop in downtown Papeete for him to go to the photographer. He became a good friend.
Also, it turned out that the muto'i was also an officer of the ship, responsible for the navigation. He was from Brittany, but he looked strangely like a Tahitian.
The civil administrator was real. But, it should not have been. The engineer was a good friend of his secretary, who had told him that the civil administrator would not have been there on the day of my arrival. So, the engineer was supposed to take the role of the civil administrator.
But, it just happened that the civil administrator was there and that the engineer was busy during the morning. So, the engineer called the civil administrator, explained the story and the civil administrator agreed to be part of the joke.
This is how I was greeted on my first post, the BDC Trieux, where I would stay for a year, mostly in French Polynesia.
Continue to Part 38
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Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8
Part 9 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15 - Part 16
Part 17 - Part 18 - Part 19 - Part 20 - Part 21 - Part 22 - Part 23 - Part 24
Part 25 - Part 26 - Part 27 - Part 28 - Part 29 - Part 30 - Part 31 - Part 32
Part 33 - Part 34 - Part 35 - Part 36