Easter Island – Groovin’ with Rapper Nui
A man walks into a bar and sees a horse sitting in the corner, staring silently and sadly into his beer.
After a while, he can resist it no more - he goes over and asks the horse "Why the long face?"
I´m standing in front of a 20-foot tall sculpted head of an ancient Polynesian warrior, and what´s popped into my head is a stupid joke my brother David told me when I was about eight years old. The mind does that. It stores moments and anecdotes deep in a vault until one day - appropriate or not - it pulls it out, dusts it down and out it pops through the front lobe.
Had my brain decided on a more orderly form of filing, I could probably tell you when my first encounter with Easter Island happened, but I´m guessing it was probably about the time my brother was telling me those silly jokes. ( A man walks into a bar and says "Ouch!". ... It was an iron bar.). What you learn as a child becomes an unbreakable bond in adulthood.
The first vision of those chiselled, angular faces - the Moai - could have been in a book or even a television documentary about the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who built ancient rafts like Kontiki and sailed the southern seas. The brain filed it away under Interesting, But Probably Too Far To Ever See. Ha! Proved you wrong again, brain. Until this trip, I always assumed everyone called it Easter Island, but the Dutchman credited as the first European to land on its shores called in Ostinerel, the Spaniards named it Isla de Pasqua and Captain Cook returned with tales of long faces on Easter Island. The Polynesians call it Rapa Nui.
It was on day three that I hit on my Big Idea. I would stay on the island, create the first world-wide Polynesian hip-hop surfing star and call him Rapper Nui. It´s an act just waiting to happen sometime soon. Heatstroke can do these things to you.
The catalyst for my wonderlust as a child was undoubtedly a bubblegum card collection called Flags of the World. The local sweetshop run by Mr.and Mrs.Foscolo sold them. They were basically packets including a pink oblong piece of gum and a numbered card. On one side there was the flag of the country, on the other vital information like Capital, Favourite Food and Best Looking Women or something similar.
There were 80 to collect - Great Britain, I recall for no apparent reason, was No25. As time went on, the collector would accumulate a number of duplicate cards, so the school playground became an arena for "swoppsies", as we called them. I´ll trade you Thailand and China for one Nicaragua, stuff like that.
The unsuspecting eight year old didn´t have the appropriate brain file yet to work out that the bubblegum manufacturers were working a scam. Cards with countries like Australia and Canada were plentiful. Others were scarce. It was a classic con trick. The nearer you got to completing the collection, the more packets you bought and the more the playground haggling grew. And what was worse, I didn´t even like bubblegum, so either gave it or threw it away.
This is the point where mothers come in handy. My mum , seeing my pocket money and ultimately her hard earned cash going to waste, put a plan into action. When Mrs.Foscolo closed the shop at 6.30 one Sunday night, the three of us carted boxes into the back room. We opened and then carefully closed the packets for what seemed like hours, until No.3 - El Salvador - emerged.
The collection was complete, and I could move onto a new obsession '- Stamps of the World. It took me months to work out that the most beautifully adorned stamps of all didn´t come from a country I´d never heard of '- Helvetia - were from Switzerland. For years, I dreamed of finding an unstamped Penny Black or an Australian stamp with a black swan on it, which was even more sought after.
Like Rapper Nui, my hopes of riches have not emerged. But like a lot of those Moai I saw, it´s still work in progress. File under Working On a Dream.