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 July 2007

New Caledonia's Online Phonebook

A resource we use all the time here in New Caledonia is its phonebook. It contains helpful maps that show all of Noumea's one-way streets (no other maps seem to do so!), restaurant advertisements (it is hard to know about them otherwise, strangely enough) and of course professional addresses, like doctors and dentists.

I had never been much of a phonebook user (I seem to look everything up on line), but moving to New Caledonia changed things. New Caledonians are from the old offline world - and living here one realises how much faster a simple phonebook is (find it, open it up, figure out the French for "doctor" - medecin- and away you go).

As our phonebooks are packed up and on a slow boat to China (they make great souvenirs - and serve as proof that we were here!), I am now using the online version of the phonebook. Though helpful, it is somehow not as good.

With a paper version, you can see tangential and yet relevant companies and services. Online, you have to know the name of the company or the category -- and the categories are bizarre here. I can never seem to get my category right. Plus, you cannot type in an address to find a company (which is very useful as you may know the street but not the company name).

Maybe the online version just isn't user-friendly enough yet - or maybe I expect too much.

In any case, if any of you are looking for friends, family or companies in New Caledonia, go to, right-hand side.
  • If you are looking for a person, type in the last name under "nom", the first name under "prenom", select the city and click on "rechercher".
  • If you are looking for a company, click on "pages professionelles" and you will be taken to a page where you can type in the name of the company, or a category and the city.
Have fun - and let us know if you find the online version easy or not.

27 July 2007

Rock of Contention: Free French and Americans at War in New Caledonia, 1940-1945

For those of you interested in the American influence on New Caledonia (which was, in truth, a bone of contention with the French government), I recommend Kim Munholland's "Rock of Contention: Free French and Americans at War in New Caledonia, 1940-1945".

The following excerpts are from a review of the book by Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney in H-France Review Vol. 6 (April 2006), No. 47:

Rock of contention

"The Americans, under the command of General Patch and then Admiral Halsey, overwhelmed New Caledonia with their men and machines. The presence of tens of thousands of soldiers and their matériel, the demands they made on local accommodation, the largesse of American dollars and the military exigencies they imposed all grated on the French. De Gaulle and his comrades in London reacted angrily to what they saw as the bossiness of American officers and to what they feared was Washington’s aim of taking over the French colony at the end of the war.

The French governors, in the American perspective, placed obstacles in their way, even to the point that an American official thought that one governor ought to be charged with abetting the enemy.

The French, on their side, sometimes said that the Americans posed more of a threat to New Caledonia than did the Japanese.

In fact, as Munholland justly points out, two priorities clashed: the American determination to take whatever measures necessary to win the war in the Pacific, the French determination to keep control over New Caledonia and to retain sovereignty over their overseas empire."

The American influence on the ground

"The American presence could not but bring great changes, at least temporarily, to New Caledonia. 'One might have said the Martians had landed' one Kanak student is reported as remarking.

The population of Nouméa soared, especially as the Americans put up Quonset huts, built an airport and constructed a “mini-Pentagon” at a beachside suburb. GI’s spent dollars lavishly for food, drink and other entertainments--86 bars opened in Nouméa during the war, and by 1944, the Trade Winds bar (*) alone sold 18,000 beers and 5,100 hamburgers a day ...

Many Melanesians were astounded at the sight of African American troops in positions of responsibility (despite the segregation practiced by the US Army). Many Kanak, and Asians, found employment with the Americans, and were even paid for their work--Kanak had been required by the French to donate free labour for public works projects. Although only a quarter of the Melanesians had held paid jobs before the war, during the American years two-thirds had such an experience.

Similarly, many of the Caldoches benefited from the American presence and the opportunities it provided; the Spanish-born head of the local Communist Party (and a Republican in the Spanish Civil War) sold bootleg liquor to US soldiers for what they claimed were exorbitant prices."

* Readers may recall that we know of someone who worked at the Trade Winds ... Lucie Agez.

My thanks once again to Marc ("Le Cagou") for sharing this with us.

25 July 2007

President Marie-Noelle Themerau Steps Down

The President of New Caledonia, Marie-Noelle Themereau, resigned yesterday, 24 July.

Elected president of New Caledonia in 2004, Ms. Themereau had given plenty of warning she intended to leave politics.

The resignation means that New Caledonia's Cabinet is now dissolved, and its members will form a caretaker government.

Within 14 days, the national congress has to decide which of the country's politicians will make up the new government, and who will hold which portfolio.

The new cabinet then decides who amongst them will be president.

23 July 2007

Consequences of the American Presence in New Caledonia

A bridge built by the US army, Poya, New Caledonia

On 12 March 1942, a large convoy of 17 000 American army soldiers, under the orders of General Patch, landed in Noumea - which then became Pacific headquarters (to stop the advance of the Japanese during World War II).

Airports were built (Tontouta, Gaiacs Plain). Amunition and gasoline filled all possible ports, medical clinics were installed at Anse Vata, Conception, Dumbea, north of Bourail, on the coast and in the far north.

What tremendous upset to the country's daily life! After having endured a period of food rationing, here is what was distributed all over the island:
  • Chocolate.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Ice cream.
  • And, last but not least, whiskey!
The Americans also introduced modern farming. They cleared land with a bulldozer and planted crops with machines. They also worked with the tribes - who received salaries in dollars for the first time.

In 1944, military operations began to distance itself from New Caledonia. 1946 marked the departure of the last GIs and the return of the volunteers.

- Translated loosely from a text used in a 2005 BEP history-geography exam in New Caledonia. The subject: "What are the consequences of the American presence in New Caledonia?" (Source: Bulletin d'accueil, Vice-Rectorat de la Nouvelle-Caledonie)

Special thanks to Marc ("Le Cagou") for sharing this with us.

21 July 2007

New Caledonia: Seven Things We Will Miss

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

Officially one month left in New Caledonia, time is slipping through our fingers. Two years have flown - where have they gone? New Caledonia is a part of us now and as some readers know, will always be a part of Pablo (who was born here). I think it will always be a part of all of us (and perhaps a small part of all of you).

So what will we miss, you ask?
  1. The sun, the light, the warm weather.
  2. The coral, the shells, the white sands.
  3. The trees, the flowers, the fish and the birds.
  4. The ease of life, the ease of living.
  5. The silence and the wind.
  6. The smiling people, the women who take your baby in the post office when he gets bored, the people who help you in grocery stores.
  7. The blue, blue, blue of sea and sky, the transparent waters of the Loyalty Islands, and the visions of sailboats on Wednesdays at 5:15 pm.

18 July 2007

Trekking Greener Grasses: A New Blog on Living in New Caledonia

Photo by David Giustizia, 2007.

"Trekking Greener Grasses" is a great new English-language blog on moving to, and setting up life, on a tiny island in the South Pacific - yes, in New Caledonia. Authored by Canadian, David Giustizia, with input from his wife Alana and sons David and Nathan (and technical expertise provided by son David), this little blog promises to be an interesting look at what it is like to leave the snowy mountains of Canada for the coconut trees and breezy bays of New Caledonia.

David and his family will be living in Kone - which is about half-way up the island - and is home to about 2000 inhabitants. Their adventures will differ from those you have read here (life in a capital city is far from life in the outback!) ... I wager they will be much closer to what living on a tiny island is really like.

Thanks, David, for taking over the reins of "Sojourn in the South Pacific" - and have fun, everyone, reading about life in New Caledonia, from a different angle.

16 July 2007

Ile des Pins: Kunie Scuba Center

Kunie Scuba Center on the Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines) is a well-run, professional and friendly operation.

My father and stepsister, Livia, dove with the Kunie Scuba Center recently and were very impressed with the care and attention they received along with the professionsalism of the staff.

The dive itself was wonderful - among the best you can find in New Caledonia.

13 July 2007

Ile des Pins: Oure Lodge

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

Our favourite place to stay on Ile des Pins is Oure Lodge. It is a beautiful hotel on the Baie de Kanumera - made up of bungalows right on the lagoon as well as nested in a tropical garden (pictured above).

Here is what we love about Oure Lodge:
  • The staff are very friendly and helpful.
  • Kayaking and snorkelling equipment is provided free of charge.
  • The American breakfasts are both delicious and generous.
  • The restaurant provides a range of dishes, including delicious fish.
  • The bungalows themselves are spacious and come with every comfort (including a bathtub and shower).
If ever you do end up at Ile des Pins in the rain (as we did this last time in June), we highly recommend Oure Lodge.

10 July 2007

Ile des Pins: Grey in June

Photo by James D. Harris, 2007.

One cannot live in New Caledonia and not visit Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines) regularly. It is a heavenly place - far from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.

Characterised by blue skies, towering pines and silky white sand, a visit there returns one - or helps one find one's - home, dream, paradise.

At the end of June, we returned to Ile des Pins to show it to my father and stepsister. Laurent, Sophie and I had been there for the first time in December, 2005. We returned again in October, 2006 with our friend Sheila. This June trip was grey - but still beautiful. We were there during one of Noumea's greatest storms, safe from flying chairs.

Livia and Jim got to go diving, Pablo played in the water, and Laurent and I drank in our last time at Ile des Pins.

07 July 2007

Blogging: A Home Away from Home

Photo by Julie Harris, 2007.

This blog has brought many unexpected pleasures. When I started blogging almost 2 years ago, I did so to try to provide a service for those looking for information on New Caledonia - in English. A secondary (and no less important!) reason was to keep family and friends abreast of our little adventures half way around the world.

Today, this blog has brought me many new friends. I have spent time with them on line and off. My friends Jo and Sean generously hosted us (as well as our friends Anne and Melissa) in New Zealand. Jo and I came to know each other through our blogs. What a marvelous person she is!

I have really enjoyed coming to know the Lucie Agez family, descendants of New Caledonia, living in the United States. Again, marvelous people. Very kind, generous and loyal readers.

I have enjoyed hearing from readers such as "Le Cagou" (Marc) in Liverpool and Dave Thompson in the United Kingdom as well as many others.

I have come to know David and his family from Canada, who will be moving to New Caledonia (Kone) in the fall. They are currently visiting Noumea and it is an immense pleasure spending time with them.

Finally, most recently, a fellow blogger in the United States named Anthony has featured "Sojourn in the South Pacific" on his blog, "The Lives and Times of ... Anthony McCune" (Do go see his blog - it is full of interesting posts and beautiful photographs). Anthony scans literally hundreds of sites and took a generous liking to this little space.

I'd read recently that blogging is about community - connections, linking, commenting, forming a world on line. I have to say I agree.

Thanks to all of you out there who have made this funny online world a "home away from home".

05 July 2007

Enjoying New Caledonia's Winter

Cooler days during New Caledonia's winter (July and August) mean dips below 20 degrees (at night). During the day, however, temperatures can cascade back up as far as 22-26. This last weekend the sun enticed us out for a long walk along the bays (with visiting dad and stepsister, Livia). And nothing, but nothing, stopped Pablo from going for a dip of his own - and a taste or two of the ocean.

03 July 2007

All Packed Up and Ready to Go

Photo by Julie Harris, 2007.

The movers have come and gone. After a month's preparation and 40 boxes later, our container of 10.5 cubic metres is packed, sealed on its way. The boat will take about 8 weeks and our books, clothes, toys and coffee maker will all land on our doorstep in Paris on or around 3 September.

Never fear, we've kept darling Pablo with us, along with Sophie and Tjiba and Laurent.

We will leave New Caledonia on 21 August, via Auckland, Los Angeles, and London. Final destination: Paris, 29 August. On beautiful sunny days such as those we have today in Noumea, we are praying for an Indian summer in France ...