This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

30 November 2005

Daily Views, Continued

Wonder what a sunset looks like in Nouméa? Well, at 18.00 more or less every evening, we leave our little villa, cross the little street and go sit on a bench overlooking the bay. Two seconds away. This is what we see.

When night falls, we sometimes stay out for the upside-down moon and the glittering lights of the sky's few sprinkled, sparkling jewels.

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2005.

27 November 2005

A Jet-ski Initiation

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2005.
Blue skies, transparent waters, blue fish, orange fish, black and white fish. Today was an incredibly perfect day to try your hand at jet-skiing. Sophie, pictured above, did just that.

Apparently it was absolutely beautiful. Sophie and Laurent spent about 3 hours skiing and 45 minutes swimming and snorkelling at the Ilôt de Signal. With an early-morning start, they were back just in time for a huge lunch and a well-deserved nap. In a group of 16 other jet skiis, Sophie and Laurent took turns driving the one they shared. The jet skis weighed 300 kgs. and got up to a maximum speed of 80 km/hour. The faster you go, the better it gets! But get ready for buckets full of water splashing your face (from the waves), and if it is anything like today, lots and lots and lots of wind.

The 45-minute snorkelling break on the ilôt was stunning. There were the most beautiful and varied fish they'd seen since our arrival in New Caledonia. Blue, blue and orange, black and white, more blue. I wish I'd been there to see them!

Asked if they would do it again, "Yes!", they both said, "But not today." Big smiles and sleepy eyes seemed to say it all.

24 November 2005

Sophie Update

Though this photo was taken a few months ago, just before we left Paris (we'd stopped in to see our good friend Susan and meet her gorgeous son, William), it shows Sophie as she is now. Gorgeous as ever!

Recent accomplishments? Sophie went straight into school upon arriving in New Caledonia. Because the school year starts in February and ends in December in this part of the world, she'd missed two trimesters of school already when she arrived here in August. But the principal agreed to give her a trial run in the grade above the one she had just completed in Paris. After a lot of hard work and a score of great grades, it looks like Sophie will pass to the next grade - 3ème - after only a few months in this last one! Nothing has been confirmed yet (we are expecting to hear next week), but her overall average is 15 out of 20 (that's fairly high, by French standards). Not bad for only a few months! Her strongest subjects? English, of course. And then physics. Go figure ...

Socially speaking, Sophie is the center of her new circle of friends and spends many an hour chatting or going to the beach with them. Ah, the life. She's started her own blog and is co-creating another one with two other friends. I often find her in front of the computer putting together incredible collages of her photos as posts for her blogs! She'll take up her drum lessons again in February and in the shorter term, will go jet-skiing for the first time this weekend. Go, Sophie!

22 November 2005

Breakfast and Lunch (and Work) in the Garden

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2005.
This is our view from the lunch table - and the breakfast table, for that matter. Ah, an ocean view for breakfast - in November. Who would have thought?

Sundays is often Pancake Day (pancake mix imported from the United States). I whip up a batch of pancakes for about 11 o'clock and we skip lunch. This last weekend Laurent and Sophie were off to the beach early after pancakes while I slaved over a new proposal for Sophie's school Web site. I happily delivered it yesterday for meetings that will take place this morning and this evening. We'll see what everyone thinks of the "charte graphique" and the structure I've laid out ... with luck it will pass and we can go on to another round of user tests before starting the actual site.

I should mention that I increasingly sit at this table (pictured above) with my wireless connection - slaving away thinking and writing and copying and pasting. Alas. Can you imagine a better work environment?

16 November 2005

Flowering Frangipani

Palm trees to hibiscus to frangipani to bougainvilla to birds of paradise - and as far as I know, none of these are endemic to New Caledonia - all are in full splendor at this time of year. New Caledonia is fifth in the world for its diversity of flora - and 75% of our flora is endemic.

We are lucky enough to have bougainvilla, hibiscus and frangipani in our front yard, along with a couple of palm trees. We also have a budding pineapple plant - and around the corner some banana-laden banana trees. I am yet to find a good book or site in English on the flora of New Caledonia, but I have just stumbled on this site on endemic plants and flowers in New Caledonia, if you are interested in our pines (yes - we have many a tall swaying pine on our little South Pacific island) and local flowering plants: Click through the pages if you have a little time -- the author has clearly studied the subject thoroughly.

14 November 2005

Weather Check

Want to know how warm it will be in Nouméa this week? Go to:

Sneak peek for the week of 14 November: between 21° and 29° C. Indeed, spring has sprung. Our thoughts go out to all our friends in Europe ...

11 November 2005

Alarm Clocks, Armistice and a Birthday

Meet our local friends and alarm clocks. These two, among others, live in the orange-flowered tree in our front yard. It behooves them to declare their undying love for each other (these parakeets always seem to travel in twos) every morning, starting at 4.30. At 7.00 they are usually done and go on about their day.

Happy Armistice Day, everyone ... and Happy Birthday, Melissa (the world's most amazing photographer, journal-er, organiser, reader, thinker, writer, documentalist - and friend)!

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2005.

10 November 2005

Books, Books, Books

Today was a day off for Laurent and Sophie (who is on school vacation). We started the day watching a friendly French-Costa Rican charity football match (proceeds went to Martinique) at 6.45 in the morning. Due to the time difference (10 hours with France), getting up early to get our regular dose of French football and Zizou has become somewhat of a habit.

After a few errands and a lunch of lemon chicken (yes, I actually manage to cook once in a while), I whisked Laurent and Sophie off to the beach so that I could get some work done for Paris.

But the best find of the day? An English-language lending library in Noumea's Latin Quarter. Another local Anglophone - check out JD Riso's blog at - had found my blog and tipped me off about a new lending library in Noumea. Yesterday I stopped into this little hidden away, underground-feeling place and spoke to my first local Anglophone since arriving here some three months ago. Books abound - ranging from beach reading to good literature to children's books to videos in English. I had just been getting ready earlier in the week to place an order with Amazon (one can never have too much to read - and finding English books here is both next to impossible and prohibitively expensive). I had caught up on all my recent New Yorkers and was coming to the end of the pile on my nightstand. So to walk away with a whole new free book (Anne Tyler's Back When We Were Grownups to contrast with my nightstand pile of current reads: Margaret Heffernan's The Naked Truth and Jason Burke's Al-Qaeda) added to the fabric of life, and the daily pleasure one finds, on a tiny island in the South Pacific.

09 November 2005

E-ruptions in France

If I don't write every day, you'll never know what is going on. I've been focussing on trying to bring you up to date chronologically - finding time when I can to work on the blog is at times a challenge, what with all our activities - but it occurs to me that if I insist on "order", we might never get there.

So what's up with this "France on Fire" or "
State of Emergency" thing (speaking of dis-order), as it is being reported in the US news (I just love their drama -- I can see a movie starring Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the making)? See "Paris Burning" on Laurent Bernat's blog at for an interesting lesson in geography from CNN (did you know Toulouse was that close to Paris? I didn't.) This whole "war-torn" thing is being reported as "French Riots" in Britain and Australia.

I spend my early mornings thinking about the massive negative energy which has come together to express long unexpressed unrest in Paris and throughout France. I watch the visuals of the "cities", or housing for the poor, parade before me and I think of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. No, I don't think the burning of 1 300 cars is the result of "mob mentality". But I do think that all of the elements have been there for a while. Group a lot of very unhappy people in one place - preferably dirty, dying and downtrodden - make sure they are young and dispossessed and watch what happens. Create a breeding ground for destruction and then ... well, tell them they all have to go home at eleven. "You're done acting up," we say after 12 days of riots.

de Villepin's plan work to stop the rioting and restore peace and order to the nation? Is it cause-oriented enough? Is it too focussed on consequence/punishment/containment? Will the army be called in? I wonder if they won't - to enforce the new curfews. Who knows?

Don't get me wrong - I do not think 12 days of violence, several deaths, and the destruction of 1 300 symbols of freedom is particularly acceptable, if acceptable at all. But I do think we need to look at this from a wider perspective. This is not the first period of unrest in France, nor is it isolated. We've seen riots around the world -- and millions of people on the streets protesting - not always peacefully - against such things as Iraq and Vietnam. But let's be honest. What we don't like is that this protest, if you will, is violent in nature. We are frightened. We are suddenly victimized. Suddenly the control we thought we had flies up in smoke. So the first thing any good society does is try to re-establish order. A pre-requisite for further action.

I don't have a solution yet - and frankly, no one has asked. But I've been thinking about the solutions, the appropriate responses. I think de Villepin is right to approach it from two directions (if not more), and I do believe (having aged) that a functioning and healthy society is based on law and order. Our dispossessed have been focussing for a very long time on what they don't want, however, and this has bubbled over into something uncontrollable. I'm wondering how we can spend more time and energy creating what they want. Does anyone know what they/we want? Has anyone really asked the question? Or will we go on making it up?