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 August 2006

Nouméa's Opening Hours

Sitting waiting for a pharmacy to open the other day, we were amazed when we looked at the opening hours:


Who in heaven's name gets up and goes to a pharmacy at 7.30 in the morning? Well, Nouméa does. I've mentioned before that the island folk rise and set with the sun. We do. This morning I received a phone call at 7.45. The sun had been up since 6.00 or so, so no problem. (I have to say, though, that it has been hard getting used to early morning phone calls and visits!)

All this being said, I was a bit perplexed earlier this week with regard to how people get things done in this country. Case in point: we had to purchase a "vignette" (sticker) for our car. People do this every year. You buy it at the post office. It is on sale Monday through Friday from 7.45 to 14.00. So I went after lunch, thinking things would be calmer then. How long do you think I waited in line, in tiny little old Nouméa (population: 91 386)? 40 minutes! So how does a working person buy a vignette here? You know, a person with an office job? You can imagine what it must be like at lunchtime when the demand is highest and the postal workers go to lunch leaving only one window open. I have to say, I stood there scratching my head in wonderment. It wasn't the first time. Nor will it be the last.

24 August 2006

Cowboys à la Française (or Nouvelle Calédonienne)

We recently spent a day at New Caledonia's largest "foire" (fair): the "Foire du Bourail", about 2 hours north of Nouméa. It was a four-day extravaganza of cowboys, rodeos, Tahitian dancers, cows, pigs, fresh oranges, local art, leather goods and cowboy hats. Who knew that in addition to being the home of thousands of Melanesians, New Caledonia also has its very own cowboys (cowpeople?)? I was stunned - and amused. I am so used to the American cowboy (e.g. George W) that I found the French version intriguing.

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

22 August 2006

The Crazy Things They Do in Water

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

I was horrified to see scores of military boys plunging into the sea, fully clothed and equipped for battle, just outside my window recently. We live in a relatively peaceful place in the middle of the South Pacific for heaven's sake! Why on earth are we being invaded? Laurent laughed a belly laugh (unheard of in the French) and his "Silly Julie" look flashed across his face. "They are just training," he explained. "They are required to do that every day for two weeks. They are on a 'stage'. They have a 'parcours' they have to climb, jump off from, swim to and back from. They have to carry heavy logs and hit each other." What in the world for, I ask. "Just in case," he explained. In case, what, I ask. "You never know," he said. Know what, I ask. No answer. Do people ever die doing these exercises, for it certainly looks dangerous, I ask. "They sure do. All the time," Laurent smiled.

New Caledonia in BBC News

For a recently updated overview of New Caledonia, its history and its politics, see the BBC's Regions and territories: New Caledonia page. Though they mention our nickel and the wealth on the island, what they fail to mention is that the building of a second nickel mine in the south is highly controversial (and is being blocked by the locals) and that the money on the island is in the hands of the Caldoches (two major families) and the Metros. (See A Country Thrice Divided for a short description of the difference between the populations.) The Kanaks live as they can, however, many of them in squats.

20 August 2006

View from a South Pacific Island

It's been a year since we landed in New Caledonia and I swear it only gets better and better. We recently moved into a bigger villa (babies - and their equipment - require more living space, even in the South Pacific) and boy oh boy did we hit the jackpot! Here is a view from our balcony (and our living/dining area). Boats, blue skies and turquoise waters. Palm trees and hills. I literally stop what I am doing several times a day and just stare at the view. Talk about a great office view. Working at home - and taking care of a baby - has never been so good!

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

02 August 2006

Everything Grows Faster in New Caledonia

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

Voilà Pablo at almost four months. Far, it seems to us, from the baby he was all those weeks ago. But we should not be surprised. Everything grows faster here, or so they say. We can attest to the fact - our hair and nails both need to be cut more frequently. We've never seen anything like it. I was told by a beautician who was told by a doctor that everything grows faster here because we are closer to the sun ... who knows? In any case, here sits Pablo a mere four months later. Would you believe his first two teeth are already coming through? Oh la la!