6 months

This morning I woke up and realized that we have 6 months left on this adventure. Six months?!? Some days I feel like I just arrived, while other days I can’t remember life before. Maybe it’s because in the last … Continue reading

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East Coast Camping

The month of May is holiday month in France. Four stat holidays mean long weekends and no school. So, with the slight temperature drop, think 20 at night instead of 26, it’s ideal for camping on the island.

Our last camping trips were north of Koné at Bora Bora. We love that beach and site but the whole point of starting to camp was to see more of the island, so we decided to go to the east coast. The east coast is a mere 75kms away. Sounds dreamy except it’s over a mountain range and on the narrowest of roads. I try and avoid it at all costs but,  what’s an hour of your life being nauseous? 

We left early Friday morning with all our gear and headed to the transversale. The boys fell asleep quickly. In the meantime Keith and I chatted and enjoyed the morning sun and a coffee ( well I did) Once across to the other side we headed 35 Kms south along the coastline to Camping Tiakan. Camping Tiakan is a coconut grove set on the beach. It’s pretty spectacular. On entry to the camp ground there is a box where you can pay for your campsite. The cost is 500xpf per adult, 350 per child over 3. So about $15 CAD a night. With no reception, remember this is New Caledonia, you call the owner and he directs you to your site. We had reserved, as we were 4 families and were directed to the grande faré site. This campground is the best in New Caledonia as far as I am concerned. It has clean bathrooms, hot showers and the owner takes pride in the place, checking in on you, gathering garbage etc. We were so impressed by the large faré, picnic tables and BBQ. 

The weather was exceptional and we played for hours in the waves, played on the beach and enjoyed the outdoors. Very close the the campsite is a store with everything you might need and more. It was a glorious weekend and we hope to return soon.  

 South Pacific Sunset

   

Our faré 

    
Even a swing set!

    
  The Casa Flynn

  
  The Casa O’Connell

 
The beautiful sunrise

Uniforms 

  As you probably have already noticed school has started in New Caledonia for the year. C’est la rentrée! It’s a big deal here, most parents take the morning or day off, there is back to school shopping and the beginning of activities. It’s the end of summer and the beginning of a fresh new year. 

This year Seth’s school has introduced uniforms. It’s a new thing in New Cal. Noumea did trial runs a few years ago. At that time some schools just did navy tshirts or blue tshirts with navy or beige shorts. There were no logos or school issued uniforms. Last year, the collège here ( middle school/junior high) introduced a school issued blue polo with your own blue, beige or black shorts, skirt or pants. Late last school year we were given the notice that École Téari would be moving to uniforms as well. Coloured tshirts, a ball cap and for the colder days a polar fleece! The bottoms are anything you want. The uniforms were affordable too! Two choices; Pack 1: 3 tshirts, a hat & fleece or Pack 2: 5 tshirts, a hat and fleece. We decided to purchase both packages so I would have to do laundry twice a week and because 4 year olds tend to ruin tshirts quickly. The total cost for 8 tshirts, 2 hats and 2 fleeces was 10600xpf roughly $135 CAD now but closer to $125 when I ordered them. They came in blue, navy, orange, green, yellow and pink. On the first day of school the tshirts were distributed. The Petite Section ( first year students) were able to purchase theirs this week and they also allowed parents to now purchase single tshirts for 700xpf. Children must begin wearing them on Monday. 

Many years ago when I was teaching in New Brunswick I remember the issue of school uniforms being tossed around. There were the for and the against but I remember one if the arguments for the against was it would cost families far too much. I have often thought of that argument in recent months. Here, where the cost of living is high, there are many big families and often family incomes are not high, the uniforms seemed like a relief to most parents. Comparing it to the cost of buying clothing at retail stores, it is less expensive. 

The second day of school I asked Seth to go get dressed and told him excitedly that he could wear his new tshirt! He was happy as a lark and spent a few minutes deciding on the colour. When I asked him what he thought of wearing a uniform to school he responded, “well Daddy has to wear his uniform to work and now I wear mine too!” After that answer I started thinking how uniforms connect people, group them and identify them as one. You are wearing high vis yellow and navy in Koné, you work for KNS. You have a colourful tshirt, you go to École Téari, you have a red tshirt, you work at Discount. I wonder if it connects the students as one?  You are all students, all part of one big group. I am sure, Seth, at four isn’t thinking about the bigger picture. He is just excited he is going to wear blue today!  

    
 

Heat wave

The last 3 weeks in New Caledonia have been hot! Twenty year old temperature records have been broken and the heat continues.

Last week temperatures soared well into the high thirties and have stayed there. Today it’s 34 in the shade. We are lucky enough to have air conditioning in our house so we are quite comfortable. But, walking from the house to my car has me breaking out into a sweat and wiping my brow. 

To beat the heat and celebrate my birthday last weekend we headed to the Sheraton Deva in Bourail about an hour away. We basically spent the whole weekend in the pool. It was hot. Hot by tropical standards. As we were being driven on a golf cart to the pool I asked the lady driving if she knew the temperature? “Well, it’s hot! 39.2 is what the resort is registering” I’d consider that pretty hot! And in that temperature even with a hat, reapplying sunblock many times and being in the shade from 12-2, I still managed a sunburn on my lips and shoulders. Have you ever heard of sunburnt lips? Crazy! 

With the heat the government has moved to level 2 warning for heat. These include;

  • Drinking a minimum of 1L of water a day
  • Staying out of the heat between  10am and 2pm
  • Doing exercise early in the morning and late in the day, while hydrating 
  • The elderly and young children to be kept inside in the cool

In Noumea, the beaches have been packed until yesterday, when 3 were closed because of polluted or high levels of bacteria in the water. It makes it tough to cool off! The nighttime lows are no relief either. Temperatures lower only to 27-28 degrees, and jump back up to high 30s shortly after sunrise. And, with the school year starting in 4 days,  officials and schools are racing to have extra fans, water and shaded areas set up for the children. 

The forecast for the next week has no temperature under 32, so it looks like the heat wave will continue, that is until a cyclone comes! 

I’m off, it’s time for more water! 

Refreshing water, oh wait, the water temperature is 28 degrees!

Temperature in the sun at high noon

AnnetTE

Sometimes people weave in and out of our lives. We sometimes think that these people are just acquaintances, people we say hello to as we pass by. But, sometimes, you find out why your paths keep crossing. You are meant to be more than that. You are meant to be friends. For me, this is Annette.

I first met Annette many moons ago when I taught her eldest son in Bathurst. She was an energetic mother of 3 boys, I was a new teacher, in my early twenties. I said hello to her, met with her for parent teacher and said hello if we passed in the grocery store. A few years later, I again taught her eldest son and again,  the next year her middle son. Then a few years later, I heard that she and her family were leaving Bathurst for New Caledonia. New Caledonia? Where is that I remember asking. Oh it’s far, far away, in the South Pacific. Oh wow! I’d never go there, I proclaimed.

Well I am sure you have figured out what happened next. Yup, a year and a half later we were on a plane headed for Koné. When we arrived I had no idea where she lived or if she would want to spend anytime together. My life had changed, I was now mid thirties with a young son. Within 24 hours, we were reconnected. She invited me to be in her book club, which I joined, but she being here a while had a group of friends. We’d see each other often enough grab a coffee an talk about the news of Bathurst. Then we moved to the same neighbourhood. Our once a month coffees turned into twice a week exercise followed by coffee and that is where she became my good friend. 

Now, this morning my good friend is leaving. Her time here is done, her path leading her to Perth. I am sad that she must go but happy that she is off to Perth. Life here is already less colourful. The cloud cover this morning seems suiting. Annette is so full of life! She is dramatic, funny and passionate. Her personality is like the colourful island flowers. She is an amazing story teller and loves to complain while we exercise. She is kind and generous and likes to drink champagne just as much as me and now, I call her my friend. 

So my friend, I wish you, Peter and the boys farewell. It’s not goodbye but until next time because now we are friends in real life and on Facebook 😉 

  
    
   

Tis the season

Last Christmas was supposed to be out last Christmas on the island so, we didn’t go to Canada because this year we’d be moving mid December and home for Christmas. Well as you have probably guessed, we aren’t leaving yet. So, in mid August the debate began. Should we fly to Canada, should we stay in Koné? I’ll be honest, and I am sorry if I insult anyone, but hot Christmas is just wrong! And after 3 hot holidays you can imagine my vote. But, after much discussion and some realizations (umm we have no winter clothes) we decided to stay here. It was tough knowing that we would again be away from family but it just made logistical sense. So, alas “hot Christmas number 4” is in full swing.

For all you North Americans I just can’t explain how completely different the season is. It’s hot. Not just warm, it’s crazy hot. This morning at 7am it was 30 degrees. It’s that heat that makes you not hungry. So, those big festive meals just seem wrong. Baking? Forget about it. All I want is a cold drink and a Popsicle. Then we move on to the hustle and bustle. There is none. No stores pumping out carols, no line ups.  It’s business as usual. The lead up is just starting to gear up, 10 days before the actual event. They’ll be an influx of smoked salmon, pâté and oysters along with cherries. There is not a turkey to be found, although, I don’t know if I really want one. 

But the lack of ramp up doesn’t mean we are letting Christmas slide. The tree is up, the gifts are bought and wrapped. Our letter to Santa Claus and cards sent. The iPad is cranking out a playlist of holiday favourites and my faux fireplace on YouTube is crackling. Today, was my Christmas coffee with peppermint mochas (thank you for the candy canes Sarah!) and Christmas Eve chowder supplies are stocked in the freezer. Instead of red poinsettias we have the flamboyant trees blooming red and instead of eggnog we will drink Champagne and maybe set off some fireworks! 

What I’ve come to realize living here is, although all is not the same, the holidays are about being with the people you love. Sometimes we are with family, whom we love dearly. While other years we are with our other family, who are very important here. The feeling is the same, being happy, celebrating time together and feeling joyful. And, the children, the excitement and joy of Christmas is universal with young children. Santa, Père Noël, Papa Noël, Saint Nicholas whatever you wish to call him brings the same sparkle to each child’s eye no matter the place. So, although we will again miss home we won’t miss the magic because that my friends, it is everywhere! 

And PS, all be home next year!