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A woman from western Japan, who calls herself “Amy,” couldn’t find paradise in Thailand, Cuba, Brazil or French Polynesia, so with the last of her $300 savings she bought a one-way ticket from Tahiti to Rarotonga. Then, claiming to be penniless, she walked from the airport to the police station and asked them to shelter her.

A jolly female officer, who had studied in Kyushu, gave Amy room on her floor, then sent her to stay with a doctor near the trailhead for Te Manga, the island’s volcanic peak known as “The Needle.” Then, still destitute and unable to afford the $4 bus fare, she hitchhiked around the island in sandals and a floral dress that accentuated her deep tan and Pacific beauty. When I met her on a sunny afternoon, she was carrying only an envelope containing her passport and a certificate from a “school of Thai massage” in Chiang Mai.

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