Jack's son: Philippe, with Harold, Christine, and Jack

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

We spend the day resting at Jack and Christine's. Philippe is holding the horn of the marlin that Jack caught. It is huge. Philippe is also part of the Grande Tour de Caledonie. He is bringing his vehicle for the extra baggage. Although we just met Jack's son Philippe, we can already tell he's going to be a lot of fun! Philippe has a real zest for life!

Our great friends, Jack and Christine, have been to America a lot, so they both speak a little, limited English. Jean Michel is a judge, and although he never uses English in his day to day work, he is basically bi-lingual. Which very much impresses me, I think it's very hard to speak another language just from learning it in school. I know a little bit of French, I took it in school for a year or two before we left Canada, and then another year or two in high school. Still, my French is quite limited. Annick and Philippe only speak French. Harold only speaks English.

New Caledonia sits in the south-west of the Pacific, about two hours by plane north of Auckland, New Zealand. In a region where the predominant language is English, these are French speaking islands. New Caledonia has been part of France for about 150 years, and despite adverse conditions during this period, the local Melanesian population, the Kanak's, tribal customs are still alive. The French traditions are also quite strong, brought to this far flung island, first by convicts, later by French settlers.

New Caledonians have an expression for everything outside Noumea. They call it la brousse, which means "the outback" or "the bush", an appropriate term given that the rest of Grande Terre and the islands are a world away from the sophistication of the capital. Tomorrow the seven of us will venture into la brousse, on Harleys, for five days.