I’ve just had a whirlwind visit to Kanak Country, otherwise known as New Caledonia. It was part work, part pleasure, mostly paradise and definitely good for my body and soul. From the moment their winter sun (warm enough for us Sydney-siders to swim) hit my face, the stress that had been causing my neck and shoulder pain and headaches for a week seemed to just slip away with the tide.
I have much to be grateful for during my week-long stay, but here is just a handful of the most significant moments and people I cherish:
1) The Association of Writers of New Caledonia: I am indebted to the network of local writers of this tiny island of around 250k residents (100k less than the ACT!). From the extraordinary lunch hosted for me (coincidentally on my birthday), to supporting me during my event at Caledo Livres (here’s a lovely blog by a local about the night), to the very generous chauffeuring service they provided to and from my hotel. I felt incredibly privileged and ‘special’.
The highlight of my literary week was – to my utter surprise – being announced as an honorary member of the Association (me with certificate below!). What a thrill and indeed, an honour!
I’m particularly grateful to the following writers who went out of their way to ensure I had a memorable visit: Claudine Jacques, Catherine Laurent, (both pictured below), Frederich Ohlen, Nicole Perrier, Nicholas Kurtovich, Christine Marou and deadly Kanak writer and former Vice President of New Caledonia, Dewe Gorode.
Thank you also to Sonia Lacabanne for acting as my translator at my book event, Dominique Buzance for hosting my event and Cathie Manne from Bookin for making sure the French edition of Who am I? The diary of Mary Talence was available. And of course, I'm grateful to all those who came along to learn about the Stolen Generations.
2) Aquarium des Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie: Right below my apartment was the jewel known as the aquarium. Typical of most days, the morning was grey, cloudy and rainy, so I ventured to the oasis with no real expectations and so was overwhelmed by the experienced that offered a wave of peacefulness as I took in the vibrant colours of coral and extraordinary fish / sea creatures.
3) The 'Make a Wish' church: Yes, it’s true, there is a church - Eglise de Voeu -where you go to ‘make a wish’, and by all accounts said wishes come true. So I visited the church, made my wish, and now... I’m waiting patiently. I’m grateful simply for the sense of faith it restored in me during my brief, hopeful visit! I’ll let you know if my wish comes true!
4) Palm trees: Of course, I took some much needed time out to lie under palm trees in the Baie des citrons, the Baie de I'Anse Vata and the Ile aux Canards. There’s something to be said for learning to appreciate blue skies from a horizontal position and to read for pleasure without looking at your watch to check where else you’re supposed to be. (highly recommend P.M. Newton’s The Old School). I’m grateful for the few hours each day that I had to just chill.
5) French food and bubbly: What can I say? I now have a baguette-butt after a week of the world’s best bread, cheese and bubbly. I had more three course-meals in one week than I’d had this year. I don’t know how the locals aren’t all fat (I somehow managed to gain 4kg in seven days. I think my body was shocked and now my scales are in shock). The hour-long coastal walks each day, didn’t seem to make a dent in the damage the crepes, gelato, local fish, pastries did. Need I say any more??? If you're looking for me... I'll be in the gym... indefinitely!