Nouméa: From mortifying to festive
It’s been a week of sordid and horrible stories in Nouméa, one I haven’t wanted to write about. It started with an inebriated husband threatening to chop his wife to bits with a mincing knife (he was arrested), stories of students torturing a cat to near death on Monday (which went viral on the web; the cat was later saved by other students and teachers at the school), to a homeless man being brutally and almost ritualistically massacred early Wednesday morning by 4 teens (one of whom was 14) shortly after they had whispered a prayer of condolence (the 4 are in custody), to another story of a father beating and binding his 18-year-old daughter for nearly 2 days (depriving her of food and water) because he wanted her to take her studies more seriously (he’s been condemned to a year in prison), to a story that dated back to a year ago where a 20-year old had been impaled with a branch and beaten by 3 others (the leader was condemned to 2 years in prison this week), to, topping it all off, 3 young men jumping on a car that arrived at a crosswalk in Nouméa at 6pm Wednesday, kicking in the windshield and jumping on the hood and roof, before jumping off.
I ask myself, where am I living? What is this?
Some tell me it is the nature of the reporting on a tiny island. We don’t really have a New York Times or Le Monde here to keep our minds “more gainfully employed”. We have a local paper that reports on the very worst of humanity. But I asked my husband, “If a young girl were bound for days or a homeless person brutally murdered, would we hear about it in France or the United States?” His thought was yes. We probably would not hear about a tortured cat or a man threatening to chop up his wife, but we’d hear about the “bigger” stories. So why does it seem we have more bigger stories here? Is it more violent? It certainly seems so to me, as I’ve mentioned before.
This whole week, I found myself shaking and scratching my head, trying to figure it out. If it is more violent, it seems it is our youth that are troubled, our youth that are at the heart. If it is not more violent, then it is the press and the public who have to answer to sensationalist reporting and consumption.
If anyone can explain what is going on, I’d love to hear it. It’s keeping me up at night – and keeping me from blogging. I don’t want every blog here to be off-putting, and we’ve had a fair few negative ones of late, from high prices to road fatalities. So, to the positive …
We were very happy to see some good news in the city at the end of the week. Tahiti had come to town, in a manner of speaking, and set up an entire village at the Place des Cocotiers. A big “heiva” had been organised – four days of Tahitian dance and music competitions, stalls, and sports competitions.
Heiva means to assemble (hei) and community places (va) refers to activities, pastimes, physical exercise, and festivals. Music, dancing, singing and sporting events have always held an important place in Polynesian communities – and we were happy to participate a bit, from Nouméa. My husband and son enjoyed the dance competitions on Saturday afternoon, and I went along for the coconut-opening competitions this morning.
The first thing we noticed about the competitors for the coconut-opening contest was that they wielded large axes barefoot. Needless to say, both men and women did so. We also noticed how precise they were at breaking the coconuts open! (Not a skill many of my city friends [or myself for that matter] can say they possess.)
The winning time for the men (for opening, taking apart, and getting all of the coconut fruit out of 7 coconuts) was an incredible 3 minutes, 51 seconds! For the women, it was 5 minutes, 34 seconds for 5 coconuts. I think I would have chopped off a foot (my own, mind you) within seconds and sliced off a hand minutes later (take a look at the tool you use to get the fruit out and you’ll see what I mean).
What fun it was to get out and see something new and unknown in our little world today. We followed up with a visit to the huts down the street from us (which will be the subject of another post), an impromptu picnic lunch at the beach, a walk along a windy promenade and breathtaking views for all of us. Just what was needed.