Tribute to a life in New Caledonia

Photo by Julie Harris

Photo by Julie Harris

“Live life to the fullest! You’ll go far! Never change – always stay the same!”

These are the things I remember reading in my high school yearbooks over 30 years ago. Another phrase that knocks around in my skull at the moment is, “The little things are the big things.”

And they are.

Our time here is winding down and I find myself stopped in my tracks. It isn’t enough to say I have loved it here or that I will miss it. Words such as these seem but easy, empty, to mutter while smiling, as our friends start to stay goodbye.

Photo by Julie Harris

Photo by Julie Harris

Of course I have loved it in New Caledonia – and with this second stay of 3 years, I have come to love it even more. And I have hated some of it, too. With this last time here, I’ve seen a bit more of New Caledonia’s underbelly – bloated and putrid and needing a good clean. But it has made me love it no less.

Regular readers know I have grappled with the lack of efficiency, with the lack of a true vision, with the slowness of progression on this island. But having traveled to other islands this year (Vanuatu and French Polynesia), I can tell you that New Caledonia is developed, modern, and developing at a rapid rate, in comparison. I do wish it would consider its future in more than just depletion of its natural resources. I do wish it would see the true value of its indigent cultures, its pristine waters, its towering forests, its many endemic species, its talented youth and wise women – and thus its potential for true sustainability. I do hope it will never let itself be bought or raped or poisoned – that it helps us keep our foothold in good, clean living.

I do hope New Caledonia will find a way to peacefully resolve its disagreements over independence – that it will find a way to respect this nation’s people – the Kanaks, the Caldoches and the Metros. That this nation’s peoples will find a way to respect one another, work through their racism, work through their fear, and work through and change this country’s deepening inequality. Work must be done to lower the cost of living and to spread the wealth. Barring such work, I am afraid New Caledonia will see even greater educational and social disparities, greater crime and even greater fear. All of this can be avoided, but an inclusive, far-and-wide-reaching vision is needed.

Yes, I will miss New Caledonia. Some days I ask myself what I will miss more: New Caledonia or the life it afforded me.

New Caledonia has provided us with such an amazing life. If you’re here, you know how beautiful it is, especially as you get up north or off to its islands. If you’re not here, all you have to do is look at these photos. Having traveled a fair bit in recent years, I do think New Caledonia is still an unexplored and under-appreciated island. Its waters are clear, its coral are healthy, it is home to sea turtles, dugongs, tropical fish, sharks, dolphins and passing whales. Its “terre rouge” is just stunning. It is quiet. It is calm. And it is still healthy.

The life I’ve had here has been one of “no stress“. With views like these from my “office” (see below), with walks along the promenade, with dips in a warm, clean ocean, I’ve been able to think, to be and to create. Clown fish have kissed my snorkeling mask and brought me among life’s greatest happinesses. I have swum for hours, yes hours over the last 3 years, with sea turtles nearly my size. I have spent that time you lose track of underwater, just being, surrounded by tropical fish and marine life. I have known what it is like to slow down so much you feel the slowing of your pulse and the utter peace of mind that is always waiting for you to get there.

Photo by Julie Harris

Photo by Julie Harris

Life here has also meant that I’ve been able to live and work in peace, with palm trees, and crystal waters and long, happy beach walks. It’s also meant we’ve been able to:

  • Pet lions in New Zealand
  • Swim with a dolphin and dive into the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
  • See samurai and sumo in Japan
  • Hang out with wallabies, wombats and Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania
  • Witness the splendor of the Sydney Fireworks
  • Stand on the edge of a live volcano in Vanuatu
  • Swim with sharks and rays in French Polynesia

New Caledonia has served as a base from which we could jump, explore, grow bigger and more open, and return. Without our lives here, we would not have known such adventures, here and in other parts of the Pacific. It has been an entryway, a passage, into both a peaceful and exciting life.

Photo by Julie Harris

Photo by Julie Harris

In the end, it is the little things that are the big things, though. It’s the ice cream guy at the Baie des Citrons, it’s the smiling faces who know you by name in the post office, the shops. It’s the judo classes and the windsurfing lessons and the art classes and the walks by the bay. It’s the biggest shrimp you’ll ever see and the no tomatoes or onions for 3 months. It’s the tabloid newspaper and the island radio stations, the twinkling lights at nightfall and the scary drive to the airport. It’s the regular workouts with your friends and the coffees and the lunches at Ptit Café. It’s that turtle who just happens to be there and that day at Ilot Maitre. It’s those trips to Ile des Pins that are forever etched in your brain, in your heart, with Nouka and his family. It’s the “Tata bisous”, and the thought that we’ll always be here, doing what we’re doing, now and for always, no matter what.

Tata bisous, ma belle. I love you and will miss you.

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23 thoughts on “Tribute to a life in New Caledonia

  1. Wonderful! That’s one of the most beautiful ” déclaration d’amour” I’ve ever read. Tank you so much,Julie, for reminding me why I want to live here. Have a good trip and keep in touch. François.

    • With many thanks for your friendship and support, Francois, you are one of the shining stars in New Caledonia. It has been such a pleasure and a privilege getting to know you – and I cannot thank you enough for all the goodness you have brought our family and will continue to bring, I’m sure, to other families here in New Caledonia. We are lucky to have you. See you Wednesday!

  2. Hello Julie,

    As a blog follower (always enjoyed your posts and have benefited from your advice on places to visit!) who has also just left Noumea after 18 months, my partner and I just read your post and felt like it really sums up alot of our feelings about beautiful New Caledonia ( but could not put so eloquently!) Good luck with the next adventure, Abi

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Abi. It is helpful to know that we are not alone in our mixed emotions around life in New Caledonia. I find that people do complain while here (and I’ve shared my concerns publicly as well), but that when we leave, it all falls into perspective. Among the many places in the world, New Caledonia is rather special. Keep well and best of luck in your adventures!

  3. Farewell Julie. I enjoyed your Blog so much. My son was sent to from Australia to work there by Hatch …. He was there for a very short time as the contract crashed. Happened to stumble onto your Blog and just kept reading Out of genuine interest. You have changed as a person, because travel does this to people. I like what you have become….how you can leave behind those stunning views forever, I am not so sure….good luck in the future and many blessings for your gorgeous little family along the way. Kind regards. Diana James

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Parting is such sweet sorrow, and touching are words such as yours, Diana. One never knows as one blogs who is reading or why – thus the gift you have given me in taking just a minute to let me know you’ve been following. Your well wishes mean so much – for unknown readers can reach in and support a writer just as much – or more than – our known readers. With thanks for your kindness, and wishing you well – Julie

  4. Hi Julie, As you’re leaving, I just want to write a short note and let you know that I (and my family) have enjoyed checking in on your blog from time to time – dating back to before our arrival here, which was now some 16 months ago. We share many of the same frustrations and joys of this place: it’s great … it could be greater! In part, you inspired me to write my own New Caledonia blog, one dedicated to the incredible (and incredibly under-participated) hiking this country offers (newcaledoniaoutdoors.blogspot.com). Best of luck in your future travels, I’m sure you’ll make the most of them! cheers, Steven

    • Great to hear from you, Steven! I’m afraid there wasn’t much to check in on these last 16 months, and I apologise if that’s been frustrating at all. One of my regrets has been not being able to blog as often, but with bloggers like yourself, it’s nice to know someone is picking up the slack! What a great blog you have going – hikers should know about it (thanks for sending it)! Get your blog out there – for as you suggest (am I projecting?), if we knew more about the hiking here, we’d be doing it! Best of luck in your time here – and thanks for spreading the good word about Caledonia! – Best, Julie

  5. Beautiful sentiment beautifully expressed.

    Thanks so much! I hope I get to return there again soon 😃

    Marc

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  6. Dear Julie, We have enjoyed your blog very much, especially before we went to study Intermediate French at CREIPAC in Noumea last November for two weeks. All your tips about life in Noumea were very helpful. We were very lucky to stay with a lovely family, Sandra and Ricard. Since returning to Australia we have been continuing our French studies through U3A (University of the Third Age) in Rozelle Sydney. Perhaps you should come and live in Australia some time. We are sure you would enjoy it. Regardless, best wishes for the future and we hope that you continue with your writing skills as they are inspiring. Amities Valerie et George Wotton

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Valerie and George! It is so heartwarming to hear from you – thank you for taking the time to send a short note. 🙂 It took me 2 years to get a work visa for Australia back in 2005 – and would you believe I ended up in New Caledonia instead? I just love Australia and would love to live there, but I’m afraid I’m now too old to get another work visa now. I do hope to visit again one day, as it is one of our favourite places! All the best to you – Julie

    • So lovely to hear from you, Jane – your book was such an inspiration to me just 3 years ago. Your son will be here in time for perhaps another revolution (repeating perhaps your history). I wish both him and you very well! – Julie

  7. Hi Julie
    Got smart and checked the menu for more up to date stuff. I do so wish I had found you sooner but will spend time reading your observations of this part of the world – so close to our Grande Terre but yet so different. Even this far south where the weather at the moment looks more like Paris from some of our great little cafes we can identify with the tropical world you describe. We are looking forward to our visit at the end of August.
    Cheryl

    • Hi Cheryl – I hope you really enjoy your stay here in New Caledonia in August – it will be warmer here then (last night it was 15 C here – which is VERY cold for us). Are you in Melbourne (speaking of great little cafes)? Wishing you well! – Julie

  8. Hi Julie, I have just come across your blog. A group of us from New Zealand are visiting New Caledonia on 31 July 2015 for three nights. We are staying in Deva at the Sheraton. Can you please point me towards a post of yours that sets out what would be the best things for us to do while we are there or give us a few ideas? Sorry to bother you and thanks very much in advance if you do get a chance to read and reply to this. Kind regards, Shannan Bennett.

    • Hi Shannan – You are going to have the best time at Deva! I hear it is absolutely beautiful. If I were you, I would really focus on taking advantage of the activities proposed by the resort – snorkeling, swimming, and going out on the water, if you can. If you have access to a car, you might like to drive to Bourail (not far) to see what a typical New Caledonian outback town is like (though it is the second largest city in New Caledonia, after Noumea), see the Bay of Turtles and the Pierced Rock. You can find more info here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g1112817-Activities-Bourail_Grand_Terre.html I’d also visit the beach at Poe – long, long white beaches with windsurfers everywhere. Have a wonderful time! – Julie

  9. Will you begin blogging again from your new location in France, or will this be the last post? I hope it is not. I have loved reading your words.
    Gabi

    • Thank you Gabi, for your kind words. I was working on a blog post a few weeks back, but it got derailed with our move in France. I will endeavour to finish it up and post it, though it is no longer news. I hope to keep writing when I can – thanks again!

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