All this talk about moving has us reflecting back on the beginning and how so much has changed in Koné since we arrived. I thought it might be fun to do a little then and now comparison. It might be interesting for friends that have previously left the island.
Whenever we arrived I found grocery shopping such a challenge. Most days there were very few fruits and vegetables. We usually could get our standard apples, pears, carrots and potatoes. There were 3 stores; Le Centre, Roes and Leader Price. I spent most days travelling to all three to try and buy groceries. Well, today is much easier and I can’t explain to newbies how easy groceries are now (don’t get me wrong, its still tough) In the first month we were here Discount opened. I remember people being so excited. It was wasted on me. It was big, it had more selection and they started getting in things on a regular basis. English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, seasonal fruit and grapes. This new store brought up the standard as everyone tried to compete. Leader Price upped their game with Tuesday produce delivery day which had more often than not fresh lettuce!! As another year passed it only got better. Roes could be counted on for bananas and fresh herbs, Mainland Cheese (think cheddar, mozzarella and Swiss) Le Centre upped its butcher counter and now sells more variety of meat. You still need to go Wednesday for pork, Thursday for chicken etc but it’s still much improved. Discount opened a Bio row of products and we also saw a health food store open. A second bakery opened in town with whole bunch of types of bread, as well as pasteries. This past week Leader Price moved to its brand new location and its huge. And I imagine it’s causing a few ruffled feathers since I see Discount employees there copying down prices.
If you needed anything other than groceries it usually meant a trip to Noumea. I’d keep a running list of wants in Noumea. Sporting goods, food, appliances, furniture, toys etc. And I never went to Noumea without asking the gang if there were any wants. About 2 years ago Decathalon opened in Noumea. It’s a huge sporting store with everything you can imagine from camping gear to tennis gear to equestrian gear. In the past year, Koné has gotten; Darty, a home appliance store chain, Mr Bricolage, a home improvement store, Stop Affaires, a clothing, sports & homewares store and Fly, kind of like the French IKEA. There is a kitchen store, a shoe store and a laundromat. When they opened I heard so many people say, we don’t need to go to Noumea anymore!
In the beginning we only ever ate out in Noumea. And we still probably only eat out once every 8 weeks or less. It’s a good habit that I know will be hard to keep up after we leave. Four years ago there were the three hotel restaurants; La Nea, Koniambo and Hibiscus. All serving generally the same food. There was one pizza place and L’Escale. All of the restaurants only opened after 6:30pm. Not ideal for feeding children under 5. But, that’s the French way, and who am I to judge their culture. Since the beginning we have had an influx of new options; Mamma Mia, an Italian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant in the mall, and most recently The Stone Grill. Add to that the new Food truck area in Pouembout with three food trucks, including the red kebab truck ( yummy!!) on Wednesday there is an ice cream truck at the Aire de Repos and as always Tania’s rotisserie chicken truck. Rumour has it McDonalds has purchased land but who knows is that is true.
Green Acre Subdivision
When we moved here Green Acre was THE place. It had the biggest houses and yards and it housed basically only the expat community. If you wanted a house in Green Acre then good luck! Eventually a few houses became available and now there are even empty houses!! As the expat community shrinks, the subdivision now houses people from all places of work. It’s much quieter. We used to have play groups with 20 kids now we have 4 not in school.
The community in general
General changes in the community include two more hairdressers, a new large OPT building being built, a fishing and baby store, two caves aux vins, a large building being built in the only parking lot in ‘downtown’ The hospital and cinema are being built. The new college and another pharmacy have opened in Pouembout and of course the pool is open.
The changes really are drastic and empty fields are now filled with houses. You can buy curtain rods, towels, muffin tins, and plastic storage containers. For those that have never been here it sounds pretty basic but that was life at the beginning of our four years here. In a way I am happy that we experienced the beginning. It made me more flexible in cooking, less reliant on what we knew and much more open to trying different things. It’s been fun to live in a community that is always growing, changing and developing. It’s made us also much more patient. Sometimes you have to wait. The ‘I see it, I want it, I get it attitude’ can’t exist here and sometimes waiting for things let’s us realize two things, first, that you appreciate things more when you’ve waited. And secondly, sometimes waiting makes you realize that you really didn’t want or need that item. It was just a fleet idea. In any case, life has forever changed in Koné and for us. I’d love to see what the future holds for Koné.