Ben checking in, i've just updated my other blogand thought i'd best give this one some love. We've got just under two weeks till we leave for the UK, and are very much excited, despite the fact we have as yet nowhere to stay in Leeds. Laura's been busily working away though, arranging viewing appointments for furnished apartments near the Uni (LS6 is, i'm reliably informed, the postal zone to be in :)).
I've had my selected subjects approved, and it looks to be a pretty interesting mix. I'll be studying the Barbarian groups of the Later Dark Ages (Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians, Lombards etc..), 16th and 17th century Catholic Europe, great power politics in the lead up to the Great War, and keeping up with my French Language. Laur is still waiting on final confirmation for her module enrolments, but she is looking at textile specialisation, photography, patterns and culture and country house studies.
Speaking of which, i spend the last week of November over in Nouvelle-Caledonie on a uni-funded home-stay / language course. I was travelling with 5 other students, all training to be high school French teachers (French is my minor, History being my major specialisation area).
Noumea itself was a very interesting place, and i was surprised at just how French it felt. The architecture, cars, language, even the street names were lifted directly from metropolitan france. I was lucky to stay with a lovely host family (or famille d'accueil), who through originally from Madagascar had travelled extensively across the french speaking world thanks to my mere d'accueil, Sonia's, job as a paediatrician. It was interesting to hear their views on the island, and i found it particularly interesting how the various cultural groups remained largely separated, with the French 'metros' located in the suburbs and in the exclusive coastal suburbs near Anse Vatar and Baie des Citrons, and the indigenous Kanak islanders largely in the poorer inter city areas or out in the countryside.
The language courses were held by the Centre de Rencontres et d'Echanges Internationaux du Pacifique, shortened to the much easier CREIPAC. The teachers and staff were fantastic and very helpful, and the classes were immeasurably beneficial. Our courses at Newcastle focus primarily upon grammar and written work. All six of us found that we often found ourselves speaking a word or a phrase which, if we had written it down, would have been understood, but our pronunciation was so poor that we had difficulty making ourselves understood. Ourprofesseur, Jean-Pierre guided us all through the vowel sounds and we spent one very enjoyable morning looking and sounding like idiots as we struggled to learn the correct noises necessary to communicate in French.
CREIPAC itself is located in an old french Penal colony on the Nouville peninsula from the late 19th century, the school and offices occupying the old commandant's offices. I love French colonial architecture, and the beautiful weather and amazing view across the bay made CREIPAC a delightful place to study.
The six of us spent most afternoons exploring the centre-ville, including a fantastic patisserie Le Fournil Gourmand where we all overindulged on the superb pastries. Again, i was surprised at how similar Noumea is to France, as Le Fournil Gourmand was comparable to any patisserie in metropolitan France.
After a few afternoon exploring the centre-ville and the Port Moselle we spent the rest of the week at the Baie des Citrons, lazing by the beach reading and listening to music. one evening my famille d'accueil took me to the Ouen Toro lookout to watch the sunset. Ouen Toro is an old colonial fort, and several of the WWII vintage 155mm guns are still in situ.
The food provided by the famille d'accueil was delicious and healthy too. Speaking of healthy, the first day i arrived at my home-stay house, i was asked "voulez-vous vous promener?" which means would you like to go for a walk. I replied oui, expecting a leisurely stroll. I found out after a 30minute drive that I had actually agreed to climb Mont-Dore, the tallest mountain on Le Grande Terre, the largest island of Nouvelle-Caledonie. After about an hour of very steep climbing in scorching sun with no water, the urge to collapse overcame my politeness and i said that i had to go back. My famille d'accueil were fine, and actually found it rather amusing. Still, the view from most-of-the-way-up Mont-Dore was spectacular, and when i return i'll be trying to make it to the top. Next time i'll take water though. :)
Noumea was a great opportunity to practise and improve my spoken French, and will hopefully stand us in good stead when we return to France in the next few months.
Anyway, enough of the chit-chat, on to some photos of Noumea.
First off, this is a picture of the CREIPAC offices, ex french penal prison admin building.
Below is the view from my home-stay house. The mountain in the distance is Mont-Dore, a little more serious than an afternoon stroll. :) There are also some pics I took from almost at the top of the little peak to the right, the person in the picture is my mere d'accueil, Sonia.
Below are some pics around the centre-ville and the Port Moselle, the main harbour. The statues are in town square, the Place des Cocotiers, and are of Admiral Olry, the Governor of Nouvelle-Caledone from 1878-1880, and the other is the fontaine celeste. The buildings are the old customs house, the bibliothèque, not sure what the white one was. If you do go to Noumea, you must go to Le Fournil Gourmand patisserie. It's cheap, not touristy at all and the food is amazing.
Below are some pics of the Baie des Citrons. The two people fishing were two old Kanak ladies. They both had plastic shopping bags under their arms, and after every cast they reeled in a fish and placed it in the bags. They must have caught 10 each while i was watching.
Below are some pictures from Ouen Toro. The guns are 1930s vintage French 155mm GPF type, identical to the american M1 'Long Tom.'
Below are some pictures of Ilot Maitre. A few of us travelled to this resort island via Taxi-Boat on the saturday. It was nice, but very resort-y and very expensive also. Noumea on the whole was not too expensive, but on Ilot Maitre it cost 20AUD just to use the pool, and the buffet lunch was over 100AUD per head. We brought a packed lunch of baguettes, les fromages (proper french cheeses were so cheap. Why are they so expensive in Oz???), orangina (my favourite soda/soft-drink. It's basically carbonated orange juice, and is rather delicious), crisps and fruit. Looked nicer than the 100 buck buffet as well. Resort travel is not really my thing i'm afraid.
Below is a pic of me and my Uni of Newcastle friends, Daron, Ash, Bec and Lil. The last of our croup, Gareth, was taking the photo.
And some pics of me and and mon famille d'accueil. Sonia, ma mère, Jao mon frère and Sarah ma sœur.
So, that's about it for this update. T-12 days until we leave, so when I post again it'll be from sunny Leeds. Current temperature is 6°C in Leeds, and it's about midday. Good thing i've got a good coat and a decent pair of boots. Thermals too :)