The Pearl Pretense


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Oceania » French Polynesia
January 7th 2016
Published: September 30th 2017
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Postcard Perfect ...Postcard Perfect ...Postcard Perfect ...

... Due to the cloudy weather in Moorea, we haven't taken too many great photos - this was the nicest picture of the trip so far, with some spectacular hues of blue that you typically see in Tahitian travel brochures.
Geo: -16.7493, -151.01

If there is really an example of complete and utter perfection, it may well be the pearl - not only is it perfectly-coloured with a perfect complexion, it's also perfectly-shaped. What's even more amazing about this, is that it's a byproduct of a completely organic process, mother nature at its finest. But silly me and my even sillier naivete - even though I knew that the whole concept of cultured pearls involved at least a small amount of human interference, I never imagined how intensive the process was!

I'm not sure whether or not it's a good thing that French Polynesia's purveyors of pearls are so upfront about their pearl culturing process, because while, on the one hand, the long and difficult process somehow justifies the high cost, it also obliterates the myth and romanticism of Mother Nature producing something so perfect. I always knew that pearl culturing involved man introducing something foreign into an oyster, which causes the oyster to try and reject it, and in the process, a beautiful pearl can be formed. But it was amazing to learn exactly how intrusive a process it is, tantamount to surgery, the equivalent of an oyster boob job!

First off, a
Must Be French Fish ...Must Be French Fish ...Must Be French Fish ...

... Since they love their baguette so much! It was funny how the tour guide told us just to dip a whole baguette in the water, rather than rip it up into pieces for feeding.
suitable oyster is identified as a potential donor, an oyster that is known to produce certain desirable colours - a piece of its flesh, the mantle, is grafted into another oyster, in the hopes that it will result in a beautifully-coloured pearl. That in itself isn't so bad, but the kicker is that a piece of shell from another mollusk is implanted into the oyster, but only after it has been machined and polished into a perfectly-spherical shape. It makes sense in a lot of ways, because that's how you increase the odds of obtaining a perfectly-shaped pearl, but in many ways, it really devalues the pearl.

Back in the day, before pearl culturing became popular, the odds of obtaining a flawless and perfect pearl was infinitesimally small, which made that pearl all the more desirable, since they were impossible to find. But as with everything else in the world, humans always find a way to improve upon perfection, and have come up with a completely unnatural process to mimic the natural. Even then, it's still a completely flawed process that only results in a very small percentage of high-quality pearls, the majority still ending up misshapen, or pockmarked worse than
Oyster Shell Jewelry ...Oyster Shell Jewelry ...Oyster Shell Jewelry ...

... Sometimes oyster farmers will glue the nucleus directly to the shell, with the intention of cutting out the embedded pearl with a section of the shell itself, to make pendants and the like.
an acne-ravaged pimply-faced teenager.

It's really enough to give you a headache, but luckily for us, there is a great cure for that in French Polynesia - grab another Hinano beer, stuff yourself with some more poisson cru, and then have a nap on yet another paradisiacal beach. That's far better than wracking your brain, trying to understand the sham that is pearl production!



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Nucleus ...Nucleus ...
Nucleus ...

... the pearl itself grows around the nucleus that is placed inside of the oyster, which you can see in this cross section.
Different Grades ...Different Grades ...
Different Grades ...

... there are multiple grades of pearls, and this was one of the poorer ones - look closely and you'll see all kinds of imperfections and dimples.
Rejection ...Rejection ...
Rejection ...

... some oysters refuse to accept the nucleus and spit it out. The oysters are placed inside of these mesh bags, so they can at least recover the rejected nucleus.
Oyster Farm On the Lagoon ...Oyster Farm On the Lagoon ...
Oyster Farm On the Lagoon ...

... The story goes like this - the expat owners got tired of all the insects in Huahine, and one day noticed that there were no bugs in the middle of the lagoon. So they decided to build their house and business right on the water!
Mascara Fish ...Mascara Fish ...
Mascara Fish ...

... Though that's not that brightly-coloured fish's real name, it ought to be! One of the most interesting fish we saw anywhere in French Polynesia, its brightly-coloured eyes look like a bad case of makeup.
Fish Trap ...Fish Trap ...
Fish Trap ...

... Ingeniously simple, underwater walls of rock funnel the fish into the larger rock pool where they become trapped, making for some easy spear fishing.
Gimmicky But Good ...Gimmicky But Good ...
Gimmicky But Good ...

... Yes, eating lunch at a table with your feet in the water is definitely gimmicky, but also quite memorable.
Cozying Up in a Shell Necklace ...Cozying Up in a Shell Necklace ...
Cozying Up in a Shell Necklace ...

... A few of our accommodations gave us these as gifts either upon arrival or departure, but we really didn't have much use for them. But the Buddhas did!
Beauty and the Beast ...Beauty and the Beast ...
Beauty and the Beast ...

... Makana Confections' amazing Butter Toffee Crunch is as beautiful as it gets, while Pascal's Pineapple Lumps are as horrifically-ugly as it gets. We finally managed to polish both off while in Huahine, but it was done in two very different ways - since leaving NZ, we rationed the Butter Toffee Crunch, slowly savouring every last crumb of it, like two sailors marooned in paradise. We had to force ourselves to down a couple of Pineapple Lumps each day, like kids made to take the most disgusting of medication - our only saving grace? At least the Pineapple Lumps are meant to be taken orally, and not rectally!
A Revelation ...A Revelation ...
A Revelation ...

... Sure, chorizo and serrano ham are obviously good, but hazelnut sausage? Divine! Whichever culinary genius that first decided to put whole hazelnuts into sausage, certainly deserves a medal of some sort! After our hotel picked us up, they advised that the hotel restaurant was closed, and that there was nothing else close by, and asked if we would like to stop at the grocery store to pick up some food. We went crazy in there, picking up enough stuff for lunch, two dinners, and three breakfasts!
Worst Dessert Ever ...Worst Dessert Ever ...
Worst Dessert Ever ...

... lychee yogurt, kiwi, and ... Pineapple Lumps! The yogurt we purchased turned out to be quite cheesy tasting, so it wasn't that great to begin with, and the kiwis were sour. That combo was acceptable to some degree, but those pineapple lumps ... so incredibly bad, it defies description!


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