Tribute to a life in New Caledonia
“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.
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.
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.
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.