They say it’s because of La Niña, all this rain. But after a year and a half of dreadful weather occasionally interrupted by some sunny days – one must time their laundry right for it to have a chance to dry – locals agree that la Niña has extended its welcome to New Caledonia. And the commute from the mooring, where we live aboard just outside Port Moselle, is not always pleasant when it involves getting rinsed thrice a day, all in the name of education, during the dinghy/bike return trips for Azur’s school drop-offs and pick-ups. But that is the price we’re ready to pay to get French-speaking children. The investment has provided significant return: Azur is absolutely fond of school and his awesome teacher Anne-Marie, has adapting with pride and responsibility to the sustained cadence of daily homework and regular evaluations, and learnt a heap of idiomatic expressions from his school friends who’ve reserved him the warmest welcome from day one, all lined up against the fence as they were, waving and shouting “Salut Azur!” when he arrived on his first morning.
Getting him started was a piece of cake too. The director of the first school we visited referred us to Ecole Surleau, which we initially understood as “On the Water”, a bilingual school where we were met with equanimity by the director who had a print-off of the Four Agreements hanging in her neatly decorated office. She explained to us the operating rules of the school, helped us sort out the paperwork on the spot, and introduced us to Azur’s teacher during recess. All we had to do was come back the next day and leave our child at the gate like any other parent. He came back to us that afternoon with a bag full of books for the different subjects, an agenda, and a list of words to learn for his first dictation.
Our attempt at enrolling Zephyr to High School was not quite as smooth. A bit like in the Twelve Asks of Asterix, we were sent in all directions to finally end up empty handed. On entering the high school grounds, we signed in at the janitor’s lodge, who pointed us down the block to the “Vie Scolaire” where we quickly realised we weren’t in the right place, but a fun and personable PE teacher showed us to the principal’s office. He wasn’t there so we knocked on the next door to meet with the vice principal. Him and the secretary listened carefully to us explaining our situation, but it turned out they didn’t have deciding powers, so they scheduled a meeting with the principal. When we came back in the morning, a bit early, in fact straight after having dropped Azur to school, was it the reason of his irritation, the Principal immediately advised that without a formal proof of residence and decent reports from his previous school, he couldn’t do anything for our son. A week later when I had gathered all the required documents, I emailed them to the address I had found on the school website. My email bounced back a couple of times as the attachments were deemed too big for the government-managed server, so I changed them to read-only links to my Google Drive, which seemed to work, or at least I didn’t get any delivery failure notification, nevertheless I am yet to receive an answer to my request…
So, we organise our days around Azur’s school schedule (7:45-11:15 / 12:45-15:30) while Zephyr is making good progress on his Te Kura online program, Thomas is working or fixing stuff around the boat, and I recover from my late nights going out dancing and reflect on my condition of non-contributing citizen. So far Zephyr has nailed his Mathematics program for this year and the next, Thomas has built the much-awaited swim platform, connected our last solar panel, serviced our outboard, fixed and re-wired the autopilot, clocked in a few hours for Gurit and helped our friend Laurent with sizing the repairs of his race catamaran Ultra-Violet. As for me, I have installed a LED strip in the cockpit, tidied up the chart table area, modified the workshop to wedge our recycling and veggie boxes during navigation, sorted out some admin and edited the video of our trip to Fiji.
Bound to Noumea during the week for school, we can explore the lagoon during the weekends. But not today, though a Saturday. We’re the only boat left moored by Ilot Maitre, it is pouring down rain and I haven’t even stepped outside the cabin yet. There is nothing to see anyway (hence the lack of pictures in this post), it is all grey and wet. Instead, I’ve read graphic novels borrowed from the Bernheim library, taken a nap while the others played Catan (with streamed comments by Zephyr during the entire game), and played Triomino with the family, which we aborted to retreat to Nouville for the night. Too bad, I was in the lead with 399 points, when the winner is the first to reach 400! To boost our morale though, we’ve got last week-end’s memories of a roaring sailing trip, hikes and dip in thermal waters of the Far South, with our friends Laurent, Sandrine and Thomas (a topic for another post) and more recently yesterday’s great time at Ilot Maitre, wandering around the sandy islet, seeing the emblematic sea krait (Tricot Raye) for the first time, and snorkeling with a couple of green turtles elegantly roaming the water. Their zen attitude was very soothing and we followed them around for a while, witnessing their effortless swimming, and messy eating with bits of grass being cut off by their beak and floating all around them. Sadly, we still don’t have a waterproof camera to capture these precious underwater moments (I know, Dad, I know).
All in all, our routine resembles our life in Auckland, only with more exotic fauna and flora to discover and less work (for me), or friends to share our adventures with.