03 January 2020
“beautiful bones, not the clown!”
That's how Beaux Os (pronounced Bozo) corrected spelling of his name when we wrote down his phone number.
Lisa and I arrived in Rangiroa the day before. Word was that dinghy gas and diesel were available in the other village, Avatoru, 5 miles away. We were pretty sure we had enough dinghy gas to get there and back to Otetou. We also loaded up some five gallon jugs for diesel. We arrived in the Avatoru and were told the service station was back a kilometer or so. Dinghying along the beach, we saw nothing but a skinny, old man fishing. He spoke English and told me the gas station was not far from his beach but north again. He offered me to take his old, pink bike to see if they were open. I pedaled away while Lisa struck up a conversation with Beaux Os.
The gas station was closed but would re-open the next day. Lisa was shown Beaux Os's artwork of coconut fiber weavings, incorporating black pearls. We promised to visit him another day when our friend, Caroline arrived. We would bring some of our pearls for him to make into bracelets.
Beaux Os and his son Hopi lived in palm frond huts on the beach. They are not tall enough to stand up in but have just enough room to lie down. Beaux Os insisted we call him in advance to visiting with Caroline. We rented a car a few days later and arranged to meet Beaux Os at his beach just after lunch. We pulled in near his hut and were whistled into a beautiful beach house next door. Beaux Os told us the owner was away and often asked him and Hopi to look after the place. It was full of Polynesian art as the owner was a professor of history. Beaux Os laughed and said it was a bit of an upgrade from their huts.
I was reminded of the Buffet song, “Gypsies in the Palace.” We sat on the porch and he showed us some of his work. Beaux Os delighted in weaving a ring with a big pearl into Caroline's hair. Sold! He looked at the pearls we brought with approval. He recognized the beautiful colors from Gambiers where we haunted the pearl farms last season.
His son, Hopi wove coconut fiber rope for use in native drums. They showed us how they select specific coconuts from only three trees on the motu, soak them in sea water and pound them into individual fibers. The fibers are cleaned and woven. Hopi made a meter of rope for me and showed me how to continue weaving in more fibers. I treasure this piece of local art and the lesson.
Beaux Os explained that Hopi was named after the Southwest American Indians who he believed make up part of his lineage. That brought up questions about his family. Beaux Os has 16 daughters and one son. He also adopted more sons, most often troubled boys out of detention. He told his kids to move far away from French Polynesia. Why? So he would have places to stay when he traveled. Beaux Os was well traveled.
We left three sets of pearls for bracelets and Beaux Os promised to have them ready by 4:00 the following afternoon. The next day it was raining steadily. With no rental car, I volunteered to dinghy the 5 miles to pick up our jewelry. Beaux Os and Hopi were still in the professor's house. The bracelets were stunning. He picked them up and said, “This one is for Caroline. And this one is for Lisa.” He clearly was taken by the ladies and did his best work.
We chatted on the dry porch for a bit. Beaux Os said he was so pleased that we took the time to visit him and get to know him. I said, “That's why we travel the world, to meet people like you.” There may have been a few tears shed as we hugged goodbye.
Why Beaux Os for a name? He explained he is just skin and bones but beautiful bones!