Patience is not optional in New Caledonia. Well, I should say, that patience will make your life easier. I am not a very patient person. I try to be and I guess I have patience for many things but like many people in my generation I expect things now!
Living in New Caledonia gives patience a whole new definition. It seems that you need to wait for everything. My first experience in waiting happened immediately after our plane touched down at Tontouta. All the luggage came of the plane and onto the carrousel. We picked it up and then proceeded to wait for 25 minutes for our stroller, because it was ‘gate’ checked. At that point, we had been travelling for 40 hrs and it was hot and I had a tired 14 month old with me. I thought my patience had just run out.
As it turns out, this would be the first of many moments where I would have to wait. Going to the bank for instance, there are two tellers. If it’s busy…you wait. If you need to mail a parcel at OPT, where it’s always busy, you wait. Or maybe you need to get gas, you wait. This is a town that is growing, and growing quickly. Often, businesses have not had a chance to expand or to improve their service.
Then there is waiting for things to arrive by mail! This is a lesson in patience that puts you to the test. At the beginning of February a parcel was mailed to us, it has yet to arrive. Eight weeks and counting! I often catch myself day dreaming about my parcel. Where is it? On a ship? A plane? In a warehouse? A shipping container? Who knows! But how I wish it could tell me when it does arrive! I imagine what life must have been like with no telephones or Internet only letter mail. Those people had patience!
Then there is also the patience needed while waiting for certain groceries to arrive in shops. Like my favourite cheese, which has been out of stock for three weeks now. Or the patience needed while waiting for each of the stores in Le centre commercial Téari to open! Or maybe being patient for the next trip to Nouméa. Patience is important!
Patience is also required while you are waiting for your permanent housing. You need to wait, as they are working as fast as they can, but some days it’s hard. Weeks go by and you just keep waiting. All of this patience is needed, all of the time.
But, like almost all things, I have come to learn that on this island you are given many opportunities to learn something or to develop a new skill. And what I have learned is that sometimes waiting makes things so much more special. When you finally receive that parcel in the mail, it is so much more exciting than it was before. You are filled with the glee of a child on Christmas morning! You catch yourself smiling in your rear view mirror all the way home. And I am sure in the coming weeks when I receive that call that our house is ready, that my joy with be great. The wait will be well worth it. So next time you are impatient about how slow your web page is loading, take a deep breath and remember patience!