The Whangarei Youth Hostel was hanging on the side of a steep hill above the river. After having set up her sleeping bag on a bed and paid for a couple of nights, Elle left Olympic in front of the hostel's door and walked down the hill. She wandered amongst the boats moored on this side of the river, then crossed the bridge and wandered on the city side where the marina was to be found. A great place, this small yachties harbour was, tucked away from the ocean, right in the middle of the city.
The following morning she parked Olympic on the supermarket's carpark with a sign '4 SALE' giving the hostel's phone number for would-be buyers.
She distributed about 20 little notes to yachties saying she was looking for a crew job to sail to Rarotonga or Tahiti, with that same phone number. Placed an ad at the marina's office. Then waited.
When she went up the hill again, she found a group of Maori school kids had taken the hostel over. They were visiting basketball players and were to play a few games against the local team. As they seemed to be wanting to rule the place, Elle stood up and said out loud that everyone here came from somewhere else, from Japan, Germany or Switzerland. That they'd better leave some space to those not belonging to their group. And that everyone had ethnic particularities too. Having said so much, she put a cassette in the music player, poped up the volume to loud, and, on the sound of 'rolling on the river' she started dancing.
- "Come on! come on now!" she was saying trying to get the young Maoris to dance too.
But nobody moved. All pending activities and conversations in the kitchen or in the reading corner were left hanging until the end of the music. Elle lowered the volume and said:
- "I am French."
- "Ha! Green Peace saboteurs!" one threw in.
- "Yes, we do boat sabotage and we dance too," she replied sharply.
Before her theatre act, Elle had been chatting with Dwam, a Kiwi guy on the move who knew the area well. He gestured to her and said:
- "Come, let's talk outside."
They settled on the bench against the entrance wall, where the hostel's dog was dozing.
- "I think you stun them! They haven't got over it!"
- "Oh, I just wanted to do a bit of culture exchange, you know. Do you think it worked?"
- "Yes, it did. They'll remember this," Dwam told her.
They chatted on about various issues and ended up on the subject of Kerikeri.
- "So you know Kenji too?" Elle asked in wonder.
- "Yes, he's my best friend. You know, I studied Japanese at school. I really like Japanese people."
Dwam had been born in Christchurch, had a German name, a Kiwi mother of English background and a Maori grandmother. He was rather 'metis' in style. His parents had divorced when he was a young boy sending him to a boarding school to live his life separately. A drunken father. A mother who was wed to another man who couldn't stand him. There was no bitterness in him though. He didn't seem to have the punch to battle on, either. He didn't know whether he should resume his studies at the agriculture college that he had dropped out of interest, or else, work. But work in what? He couldn't think of anything he could do really to earn money. To earn money fast.
- Only Kenji knows my secret, he said.
- I have a Japanese girlfriend, we lived together a bit and she went back to Japan. I'd like to go and look her up.
Elle was touched by the trust Dwam had just put on her. They went on chatting for a long time, talking of Kenji, agriculture, travel. He said that in a couple of days he was planning to go down to Auckland.
A novel featuring a Chinese doll, a French woman and a flute
This is not a novel really. It has no plot, no beginning and no end. It is a slice of life, the way it happened, portraying real people. A slice of life set with fantasy. This text is my own bad translation of what I wrote in French between 1996 and 1999.
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