NEW CALEONIA SEPTEMBER 2016

During the September holidays, a group of 11 French Language students and 2 adults set off for an adventure of a lifetime to a small country, in fact, our closest neighbour, New Caledonia. The boys stayed with French families who generally spoke only French and attended the local college where everyone was in awe of these young kiwi stars. The New Caledonian people lavished us all with their wonderful hospitality, the local New Caledonian students spoilt the Lindisfarne lads and the weather was a welcome break from a cold New Zealand winter.

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We left Napier early in the morning, flew to Auckland and immediately on to Tontouta, the main airport in New Caledonia. We travelled three hours directly north to arrive at a little township called Koné which is about the size of Waipukurau. We were greeted warmly by families and young French teenagers who despite having communicated with the Lindisfarne students for several months wee suddenly very shy. Usually schools will have exchanges with schools in or around Nouméa the capital city, so it is unusual to see so many strangers in this small northerly township. Principally, the Koniambo Nickel Mining company supports the small townships of Voh, Pouembout and Koné, providing employment and service industries.

The following two days was spent with the boys attending the local college of Koné, which caters for students from year 7-10; equal to a middle school in New Zealand. The Lindisfarne lads following their hosts to the various classrooms and they were amazed at the differences in education between the French system and the New Zealand system. The students in Koné were often at school by 7am to start class at 7.30am and there was very little interaction in the classroom. Mostly the teachers lecture the students and there is total discipline for the entire hour. There was not the general chatter like in a New Zealand classroom but on the other hand, relationships between the teacher and the students was not as familiar or as friendly. The other difference was that the teachers moved and the students stayed put, so the classrooms were very bare, with few resources on the walls.

Despite this, the Lindisfarne students had a wonderful time going to college and without exception, they all commented how they had wanted to go to school for a longer time. They were idolised and often followed around by the younger students, and being a co-educational school, it was quite a novelty to have girls in the same class. The people in college of Koné were incredibly generous, showering us with kind words, praise for the Haka performed by the boys and finally we were all given a College de Koné uniform polo shirt.  

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Ryan Lines continues;

 After attending school for two days, we did a variety of activities around Koné, the first one being archery. Even though it was the first time for many of us, we managed to have a really good competition, which Cameron Joe finally won from Jack Alexander, in a hard fought battle.

 A new day, a new activity; sailing and kayaking was next. We spent the day on a beach about 15 minutes away from the town centre. We were sailing on two-man catamaran yachts in a ‘friendly’ race and out on the sea all morning. This was followed by an afternoon kayaking around the mangrove swamps. The only downside for this day was the relentless sun which affected all of us coming from Winter.  On our last day in Koné, we met up with the group from College de Koné and had a BBQ on the beach, eating fresh fish caught by Cameron Joe’s host family. The girls from the college composed a song especially for the Lindisfarne boys in response to yet another Haka performed on the beach. There were many tears of farewell and promises of keeping in touch.

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George Walton continues:

Nouméa was great. It was a massive change from being up north where it was very rural and quiet. Nouméa is the capital of New Caledonia and as such was all hustle and bustle. The district was so spread out from the industrial area which we passed through on the way to the more touristy part of New Caledonia, Ansa Vata Bay which is the bay with the majority of the hotels and souvenir shops.

The hotel is used to having groups to stay and we were all very excited to have all the facilities for our use. After visiting the aquarium, we set off and took a small bus ride to the city centre which was a large green square where everyone would relax and where markets would be held. My New Caledonian experience was thoroughly enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone that is taking the French language, you will think you know next to no French to then go there and to be able to converse with everybody you pass down the street you will surprise yourself.

We had two stunning days at Duck Island and at Phare Amédée where we sunbathed, swam and snorkelled with the Turtles. What an amazing place. We look forward to the students from Koné coming back to Lindisfarne so we can show off our country and big sports grounds.