Author Archives: josh

What is up with… scented toilet paper?!

So we want to start a series of short, ranty posts about things we’re encountering that cause a response of “what is up with that?!”.

The first one is scented toilet paper.

parfume

Maybe this is typical for most of the world or something? Back in the states you’d have to seek out such a thing. But WTF? The only option at the stores is scented toilet paper? And it comes in different aromas?!  This whole scented TP thing reminds me of highschool when a smoker would sneak a cigarette in the bathroom then proceed to douse themselves with cologne so now you have someone that reeks of smoke AND cheap cologne. Get the point?! I don’t even want to know what chemicals they have to add to make it smell the way it does. If we leave the pack of rolls in our bathroom with the door shut overnight, the smell of perfume is overwhelming the next morning when we open the door…

Îlot Canard

Finally a post about something fun! And some photos too!

A few weekends ago we took a quick day-trip over to Îlot Canard to check out what the small islet had to offer. We love snorkeling (and lounging of course) so we packed up a little lunch, our snorkel gear, some sunscreen, and headed to the taxi boats at Anse Vata beach. It was a fairly slow day so we were able to buy our round-trip taxi boat tickets (about 1200 XPF each), hop on the boat, and in about 10 minutes we were hopping off at the islet. Don’t forget your reef shoes as the beach has lots of sharp dead coral and shells in some places – other places are nice soft sand.

Once we were on the island we headed down the pathway to the restaurant where we signed up for a pair of beach chairs and an umbrella. We probably could have managed with a towel on the sand under one of the small trees, but we figured we’d make a day of it and the chairs/umbrella/table were well worth it.

We had been used to snorkeling around in Baie de Citrons and having decent-but-not-amazing visibility. The water by Ilot Canard was incredibly clear and there were tons of big fish, huge corals of all different colors, and plenty to see. We were a little surprised by the strength of the current as we went around the side of the islet but managed just fine.

No post would be complete without some amount of complaining so here it goes: STAY THE HECK OFF THE CORAL YOU IGNORAMUSES! We were amazed and saddened by how many people were walking all over the coral and trashing it with their fins. Do people not realize that touching the coral kills it and it can take hundreds of years to grow back? Places like this are a natural treasure and we want people to be able to enjoy them without killing it all! WTF PEOPLE?! Do people just not know or do they not care? We need the coral police up in this place to tell people to stop standing on the coral or at least construct a sign saying as much.

IMG_0373 IMG_0336 IMG_0308 IMG_0351

Internet. Finally.

So we’ve been working on getting our internet set up for a few weeks now. Like so many other people say, things move slowly on the island (well, everything but the drivers). ADSL is the option you have here for internet and it actually isn’t so bad speed-wise if you pay enough. The difficult part is that you need to deal with both OPT (the phone company) and your ISP of choice (L@goon, autile, Can’L, MLS, etc.) and each have their own issues.

The steps to set up the internet go something like this:

1. Get a phone

For this part, we had a French speaking individual help us at the post office (OPT). You need to set an appointment for this one. You’ll have to present some verification of residence, a paper with your New Caledonia bank account info for direct withdrawal, and some ID. It costs about 1200 XPF per month plus 10000 XPF installation fee for a basic phone line. You also need to have a physical landline handset to activate your line – it isn’t possible to activate via another phone. It took a few days before our phone actually got activated. Patience.

2. Subscribe to OPTimo

OPTimo is basically signing up for the privilege of OPT to let you have ADSL on your phone line. You need to subscribe to this no matter which ISP you choose and most of them don’t really tell you that it’s going to be added on when they advertise their prices. It ends up being about 2600 XPF per month. This is a matter of filling out another OPT form and waiting for OPT to press the button on their end. It took a good 10 days from the time we sent in the request till the day the button got pressed and we had ADSL capability.

3. Subscribe to an ISP

There are several ISPs here in Noumea and most have very similar prices. The largest is L@goon which boasts unlimited data usage for all plans. The plans differ based on the maximum speed possible. As far as I can tell, all of the other providers have bandwidth caps. We went with Nautile mainly because of word-of-mouth and their website seems the most up-to-date and easy to navigate. All of their plans provide the maximum speed available on the island (16 Mbps) but have monthly bandwidth caps. The bandwidth caps don’t apply during midnight and 6am so we’ll be scheduling big downloads during those times. It’s a different experience watching our internet consumption much like it is with a non-unlimited phone plan but so far so good. Nautile also provides a web page that shows you how much data you’ve used in 4 hour chunks so that is very helpful.

All in all, things have been ok with the internet although our VoIP phone (included with Nautile with free calls to the states) seems to kill our connection when we try to make early morning calls… we’ll see if its just a glitch this morning or if its a common problem…

All in all the process took about a month… You have to deal face-to-face with pretty much every step and usually more than once for each step along the way. You need a trip/call to set your OPT appointment, show up for the appointment, go to your ISP to get the OPTimo started and fill out paperwork, and then return to them once OPT presses the button to get your modem and login info.

Patience is key when dealing with services here.

Initial Thoughts

First thing’s first: the beer options are limited but larger than I thought – there are the 2 nearly identical light lager options (Number One and Manta) that are brewed locally and a few “imports” some of which are also made locally under contract (Heinekin, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Delerium) as well as some French default beers. We’re able to get a few Aussie beers from but they still seem to be mainly light lagers. We ran into one of the head managers at La Grande Brasserie De Nouvelle-Caledonie in the store when we were pickup up a sixer and he heard our american accents. I now have a connect for grain for my own brewing activities. I imagine running into people and having these sorts of connections will be typical considering the size of the island and the town we’re in.

Food prices aren’t as scary as we were lead to believe. I think this is due to us coming from DC where we’ve grown accustomed to expensive food. In Noumea, some things are very expensive but others are very cheap – cheap stuff includes French wine, cheese, and other French products. There are some good deals on produce and fish but you have to shop around. One store has (small, local) pineapples for $3.95 while the one on the other side of the hill sells them for $1.50. The fruit and seafood here kicks a million asses. I’ll do a more detailed writeup of some of the weirdness of food prices soon…

Most days so far we’ve done a bit of beach swimming and snorkeling at Anse Vata or Baie des Citrons and we feel incredibly lucky to have such beautiful places so nearby. It may not be “OMG THE BEST SNORKELING EVER” but it is pretty darn good considering how close it is. The coral near the edges of Baie des Citrons is vibrant and full of a huge variety of fish. We can’t figure out why so many websites say you need to get out of Noumea for decent snorkeling. Our fish ID cards, books, and one particular website have been helpful in IDing some new varieties.

Although we haven’t had much time to do a lot of exploring of the city of Noumea yet, my first impression is that it will be a great place to live. People are very friendly and eager to help – especially the folks in our neighborhood have been very gracious in hosting dinners, giving us tours, and promises of boat excursions. The French way of driving is a little stressful (drive really fast and get out of my way!) but a few years of driving in DC has prepared us well. One of the next things on our list is to get a car. Walking to some places is an option but a car is almost essential to get to the stores beyond the supermarket nearest us. There’s also a large lack of sidewalks even though there are usually a lot of people walking about. Protip: when you’re crossing the street, DON’T assume the drivers will stop for you.

Not speaking french has made some things difficult but gesticulating and horribly butchered words have seemed to do the trick for buying groceries, getting cell phones set up, etc.. There is usually someone that can speak enough English to help us get what we need.

Our shipment of household goods is scheduled to arrive in the next few months and it will be good to have some of our things like kitchen knives, dish rags, ice cube trays, and other small things that you don’t really think about until you don’t have them. I don’t think the bicycles will get much use considering how fast people drive here and with all of the blind corners and hills. The motorcycle on the other hand… And the hammock… lets not forget the hammock.

Bonjour, Monde!

Hello everyone. Since we’re moving to New Caledonia and information about it, especially in English, has proven to be difficult to find online, I’m going to be writing about our experience moving from Washington, DC, USA to Noumea, New Caledonia. Since I’m a computer guy, there’s sure to be some content on techy things as well as other interesting stories and helpful information. Hopefully this will help us to stay in touch with all of our friends back home and around the world as we take on this new adventure.