New Caledonia - Trip of a Lifetime! - 21st May 2014

Eight days on a tropical island enjoying sun, sand,
sea and French language and culture: this is what awaited
nine excited Tokomairiro High School students and their teachers
when they went to New Caledonia in the Easter school holidays.
The goal of going to a French-speaking country had been set in
April 2013 after Miss Hart spoke to her then Year 9 and 10 French
students about her fantastic experience living in the French speaking
part of Belgium. New Caledonia is the closest French speaking country
to New Zealand being less than three hours flight away. Following
many months of fundraising by hard-working parents, students and
teachers and wonderful support from the Milton and Otago community,
our departure day finally arrived.
Getting to New Caledonia was an adventure as our plane from Dunedin
had been delayed and we were very late getting into Auckland and had
to sprint from the Domestic to the International Terminal.
Arriving at Noumea Airport some three hours later, we had a number of forms to fill in, in French which proved time-consuming. The plan had been to do this on the plane but they had run out of forms. Finally, it was ‘Bienvenue en Nouvelle Caledonie’ and we were arriving at the Le Pacifique Hotel. We spent two nights at the hotel but the majority of the time was spent with homestay families. We also had classes in French for three mornings at a language school. Soon we were putting our French into action: trying to understand our homestay families, catching the local buses, ordering food at ‘Quick’ ( the French equivalent of MacDonalds ) or at a café and buying souvenirs.
While in Noumea, we visited the city museum where we learnt that New Caledonia had once been a penal colony and also the aquarium where Nikki Hall and Bree Grant saved a fish which had jumped out of a tank. One of the highlights was our trip to Amedee Island, a tiny island about 40 minutes by boat from Noumea. Here we swam and snorkelled and saw lots of fish and a turtle. Some of us were a bit startled to see a ‘tricot raye’ or sea snake swimming nearby as it is poisonous. Fortunately, it is shy of humans and swam away.
Our time in Noumea, New Caledonia was up very quickly and soon we were saying Au Revoir to the homestay families, to the lovely warm weather (a constant 28 degrees) and the relaxed atmosphere. Things were not quite so relaxed at the Airport as the computers had broken down and over 300 passengers had to be manually checked in! Eventually, we boarded the plane and a short time later found ourselves back in New Zealand.
We have wonderful memories of the people, the food, and the beaches. It was also ‘fantastique’ to be able to speak French with ‘real’ French people – some of us still find ourselves saying ‘oui’ and ‘merci’ automatically even though we are now in New Zealand.
It certainly was the experience of a lifetime and we would like to thank Ms Eames for accompanying us, Miss Hart our French Teacher who organised it; our hard-working parents, Tokomairiro High School, the Milton community and many others for their support in enabling us to go to New Caledonia.

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