Pics again

Time to drop some pictures. Kids are growing up and the activities continue.

6, 4 minus 16 days and 22 months:


A visit to an authentic Kanak Tribe:

2011-06-14_Tribu de Ouelis

The Bourail Fair:

2011-08-13_Foire de Bourail
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Early March I have to head to Noumea for a meeting. I leave the house at 4:30 am and about one hour into the trip I blow a tire. Not too many tow trucks you can call in NC at that time of day, so I put on the spare so I can keep going. Two more hours to go at normal speed, but with the spare I am not supposed to drive more than 80 km/hr. Oh yeah, and my speedometer is not working (that’s another post). So I was hoping for the best. In Noumea I make it to a garage and find out that my tire is well beyond repair. And so is its neighbour on the driver-side. Two new tires please!

About a month ago Nathalie decides to pick up a screw with one of the tires of her car. At least she can make it home. We use one of those handy spray cans to fill up the tire and bring it to the garage. Again, tires are beyond repair. Four new tires please!

The next day (yes, the next day) I drive the kids through the neighbourhood with the window open, and hear something ticking. As if a small rock is stuck in our brand-new tires. No, not a rock, another screw! No air is leaking out, so I pry at it a little bit. Now the air is leaking out! Hello nice garage, please fix my brand-new tire.

A few weeks back I bought a colleague’s car. He was heading back to Australia and made me a good deal. Nice little Toyota with sporty rims and tires. Less than two weeks into my new ownership I hit a fresh new pothole on the way to work (yes, they exist here too and they are referred to as “niz de poule” = chicken’s nest). A loud bang! and a few seconds later I am on the side of the road. Because that bang was my tire blowing out. Nice big tear on the side of the tire, no way to fix it. As of today I am still waiting to hear back if they can even find a replacement tire, because it is a bit of a special model. Good thing the spare tire is a full-size one.

And then today Nathalie calls me to let me know she has had a flat tire. Again. Again she was able to make it home, but again she cannot use her spare tire. So off to the garage again to get it fixed. Perhaps she’ll get a discount as a frequent customer.

I guess that is part of island-life. Although I believe we have a serious case of bad luck. But we get to live a few years on a tropical island, so I guess we are pretty lucky after all.

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The last few months here have been relatively quiet. Or rather, we have integrated to a level where lots of things that were new, odd or unknown to us are now normal. So we think they are no longer worth writing about.

But as May is already on the horizon, I realize that it will be 8 months already since we moved here. Those last few months actually did see some events that are worthy of some elaboration.

In January, there was the cyclone. I posted a link to Nathalie’s blog as she gave a good description of what was happening, but as the 800km diameter cyclone was traversing the island a few hundred kilometer to our south, I really didn’t clue in to the gravity of the situation. It was rainy and windy, but nothing worse that a serious storm like I have seem many in Holland. But when we saw pictures and videos from the Nouméa area (where the cyclone passed) it was clear that we got off lucky; it would have been a lot worse had the path been slightly different.

Then in February, there was the house. Again, I could simply insert a link to Nathalie’s post, but I’ll actually give it my own spin.

Our house was shown to my during my pre-employment visit, last year. It was the last house available in our expat neighborhood, and I was pretty happy about it. Sure, it was a bit smaller than the house we owned in Timmins, but the yard was big (and unkept) and the view from the back was serene (rolling hills, no buildings). So in September we moved in and started our new life. Then a few months later we started noticing some heavy-equipment traffic behind our house, and through the ‘marie’ (let’s say, the city) we were informed that the local highway was going to be re-directed next to our house. Say what? After the initial shock, and a period of no activity, we knew that there wasn’t going to be a highway next to our house. But there was a whole new neighborhood to be developed, starting immediately. The noise and dust of the construction traffic (which started at 6 am) became simply too much so at last we decided to ask the company if we could move to a new house. Seems simply, but it was previously made clear to us that the neighborhood was fully occupied. But we had nothing much to lose for asking. And we didn’t. Instead: jackpot! Much to my surprise only 20 minutes after I spoke to a colleague about the possibility of moving, she called me back and told me that a house had just become available. One street down, at the end of the dead-end road. All at the sudden things went very fast and only 2 weeks later we were in our new house. This house certainly has a lot more space in the living area, which is great for the children. They (and we) love it here!

Finally, in March, there was my promotion. I should actually say January, but that is exactly the purpose of this paragraph. Essentially I applied for the job of department head, since it had become available. I applied (or rather expressed my interest) in September and in January I was told that the job was mine. From there, it took well over 2 months before things actually become official. And even then in a particular order. The RH department announced my promotion to the entire site in March, but it took another two weeks before I actually received the offer for my job. Good thing there was nothing unacceptable in the offer, so now all is said and done. But I still chuckle when I think of the order of events. And what is even funnier is that there has been no-one that even mentioned a word about how it all unfold. Oh well, you just raise your shoulders and keep going.

To bed, if my case for now.

Next time:?

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Back to the roots

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The other day our Ozzie friends Malcolm and Amanda invited us to join them for a little outing to the caves near Koumac, a good 100 kms north of Koné. I had heard of these caves before and we were up for the adventure. After having worked several years in underground mines, this would be right up my alley.

The night before I looked up whatever little information we had about these caves in the travel guides we have brought along with us. Surprisingly, the first stated that you absolutely needed a guide to go in the caves, whereas the second one simple mentioned where to find the entrance and to have a good time. So we really didn’t know what to expect.

It turned out to be a great trip! Once we actually got to the site the scenery chances drastically from what we are used to seeing: tall, steep limestone outcrops, covered with lavish green forestry like you would actually see in a movie when they want to picture a jungle. Just before getting to the parking area we had to cross a river. Good thing we bought a sizable (read: high) vehicle when we got to NC. The picture speaks for itself.

Just getting to the entrance of the caves was an experience by itself. It started of with a gentle gravel path, which quickly changed into a preview of what to expect in the caves (narrow openings washed out by centuries of water), but with lots of daylight. To get to the actual cave entrance, we had to climb up a pretty steep cliff and it had rained before, so the rocks were pretty wet slippery. Add to that that Eloise needed to be carried in our arms steady.

Much to our surprise the caves were indeed very accessible. Certainly not a walk in the park, with some pretty narrow, steep and wet passages, but otherwise fairly wide open and the floor covered with a think layer of gravel. Of course we had brought some headlamps and flashlights.

The kids (five in all, all under 7) had a great time and weren’t scared for a moment. I think the same can be said for the parents. When we came to a point where we would practically have to swim to keep going we decided to turn around and head back. But we will definitely come back one day.

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Remember me?

I am too ashamed to even refer back to my previous post to see how long it has been. Too long, no doubt about that. So I am kicking myself in the butt to get another one out. But I must admit that I curious about the audience out there. This blog site allows me to see how many hits I get each day, but it won’t tell me who, or how many people actually subscribe.

In the next few days I will post another real one, and I hope there is enough interest out there to keep doing so.

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Last time I posted was about a month ago, and then it was only a link to Nath’s post of the cyclone that ended up passing us by a few hundred kilometers. Yup, I am doing exactly what people told me would happen: the frequency of posts reduces as you become integrated into the local lifestyle. In fact, we have gone through the cycle as we were told we would: the first month or two were full of new discoveries (the so-called honeymoon phase), then we got this sense that the vacation was over and it was time to go home, shortly followed by the realization that we were not going anywhere. This hit us just before Christmas, but as we went through Christmas and New Year’s we became adjusted and now we have all found our routines and know now that this is where we live for the next few years.

Having said that, we are changing houses in a few days. Behind our existing house they have opened up a construction site where a new subdivision is going to be build. Right now they are still in the middle for earthworks and they will be for a while still (we are actually used to this island-pace by now). This means trucks and shovels literally in our backyard. So on Thursday we are being moved to another house that has become available. We are actually very lucky, because the house is in a quiet corner at the end of a dead-end road. As we speak, we are packing everything up and once again we are surrounded by boxes. Fortunately the kids are very excited about the prospect of the new house.

Our backyard

So as our life here is becoming ‘normal’ it becomes a bit harder to find a decent subject to post about. And as long as I can I will not post about my job. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job here!

I believe the local fauna is worthwhile mentioning. Not because there are many exotic animals here, but actually rather the lack thereof and the few ones that are. When we started looking into living in New Caledonia, we found out very early there is little to no threat from animals. The biggest predator is a medium-size bat (the Rousette, which apparently tastes really good…) and there is only one poisonous snake, that you may find on the coast. The snake bite is venomous and dangerous, but so rare to occur that the anti-venom needs to be flown in from Australia if ever it is required. This is because it expires after 10 days. I have been told that it has been 16 years since they last needed the anti-venom. Needless to say that the snake is not aggressive and it will slither off before you can even get too close.

I have written before that here are lots of wild horses, deer and swines on the island, even though we haven’t seen too many of those yet. Also very prominent are several (semi-)flying insects. Don’t try to stay outside right after sunset, because the mosquitoes will eat you alive. And if you leave the light on outside, you will end up with a circus of bugs in no time, with the praying mantis as the main act.

So not much to worry about. Except for one! There is one insect present that can cause you a real problem. It is a centipede that goes by the name of Scolopendre. It can grow pretty big and it hides out in the grass of our lawn. At night, they will actually try to get into your house, so most people have a potent insecticide applied around the perimeter of the house. If you get too close, you will get bitten and it’s bite is fierce and leaves a very painful mark that can actually make you sick.

I have had my first encounter with one a few months back. I was actually sitting on the couch at night when I felt something tickle on my leg, in my pants.  Before I knew it it bit me and when I jumped up it fell out of my pants. It was a relatively small one (2 cms long) and the bit left a mark but no pain. Since that evening, we have found at least four more around the house. Most of them were dead or dying (we also had the perimeter treated), but also much bigger than the first one (6-7 cms). Nath found one on the patio this week, just before Éloïse wanted to pick it up. Using a small garden tool she cut it in 4 pieces and kept them to show me how big it was. When I saw it (several hours later) the pieces were still moving…. We now carefully check our shoes before we put them on, because that it where they like to hide when it rains.

Great, it just started to rain outside. And my shoes are out there…

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Since my wife just prepared a great post about the current weather status here, I’ll conveniently send you over to her blog:

Thalie’s post

Lazy? No, I said I was convenient…

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