Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Picture: First morning in Nouméa. It is cold but the sky is clear and the sun is bright.

lundi, août 6, 2012 (Monday, August 6)


It was cold in the morning. I looked out the backdoor of the hotel and saw groups of men running up and down the street outside. The big yellow buses were already transporting people to work – or school.
The morning was clear and bright but was cold.
I realized that it was colder even in August in Nouméa because it was further south of the equator than Port Moresby.
At 7.50am I was picked up by Dominique, the director of CREIPAC. She lived close to where I was boarding and told my tutor in Port Moresby that I did not need to catch a bus that morning. 
We arrived at CREIPAC and I was introduced to the ancillary staff and a few others.
There was Dani, the librarian, who was Wallisian. She told me her father was Samoan.
She said before the Pacific Games last year (2011), a group of Papua New Guineans came to CREIPAC to learn French.
Another CREIPAC worker was Louisa, an assistant, who was from Lifou, one of the big islands to the east of Grand Terre (Main Land), the island which Nouméa is on.   
The people in my group included:
Mark – the anesthetist;
Clare – the lawyer, Mark’s wife;
Kuzo – the Japanese aid worker who lives and works in PNG;
Madeleine – a lawyer;
Ashleigh – final year history student in a NSW university; and
Ross – a NZ retiree.
All were nice people, and we discussed many things over the coffee breaks – including what was happening in our countries. Mark, Clare, Madeleine and Ashleigh were Australians.
After class, I returned to the hotel by bus and waited for the host family to pick me up.
At about 5.00pm in the afternoon, Isabelle, la mére d’accueil (mother of my host family) arrived.
She came in her black 4X4 Mitsubishi double cab utility which had a cover over the back.
The spacious vehicle enabled her to transport washed and dried clothes to clients as part of her job in her laundry business.
A big cheerful lady, Isabelle came along smiling with a lei and said: “Bonjour Thomas. Bienvenue à Nouméa (Hellow Thomas. Welcome to Nouméa).”
It was a warm welcome indeed.
The last time I had a lei placed around my neck was when I was getting ready to leave Nauru on my journey to Port Moresby three years ago. (I was on the Micronesian island for almost two years helping young people learn their numbers.)
After a few words with Isabelle as we were driving away from the motel, I realised that she did not speak English – and so my real attempt at conversing in French started.
We went to a number of shops and she introduced me to the familiar staff there in French.
“C’est Thomas. Il est Papou (This is Thomas. He is Papuan – short for Papua New Guinean).”
“Bonsoir (good evening),” they said, with nice smiles.

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