new caledonia

Paradise Confined

April 11, 2020

Life in New Caledonia has been the closest to paradise we’ve ever had, because it’s literally their slogan and who are we to argue. But at 11:59 pm on Monday 23 March, New Caledonia went under a nationwide lockdown and our access to the beach life was put on hiatus – thanks a lot corona.

New Cal has taken a zero to 100 approach. In the beginning, while the rest of the world started imposing measures in incremental steps, we were like “meh – pass ze cheese and don’t mind all those cruises and international flights”. It wasn’t until New Cal got its first case when Thierry Santa snapped his fingers: within 24 hours notice all business-as-usual international flights were canceled, domestic transport was suspended, and a two week quarantine was announced. Hotels were turned into quarantine cells for anyone who came in on the last flights into New Caledonia and only one family has managed to escape. Tribes started blocking the roads, and we had a stint there of rushing around town to four different supermarkets to find eggs and toilet paper. A third week of quarantine was announced, and now a fourth. 

But after the initial craze died down, everything is pretty calm. The regular beaches, which are usually full of watersporting-Caledonians, sunburnt tourists, and boobs, are empty. Everything that isn’t essential -health, food, telecommunications- has been shut since quarantine started and will continue to be shut. 

As of today, New Caledonia has a total of 18 cases and that number hasn’t moved for six days. Most people seem to be sticking to the isolation rules until about 5pm at night when the whole neighbourhood goes to hang out at the basketball court down the road. Sometimes there are lines outside the supermarkets, but not all the time. Our favourite patisserie Peche Mignon has not yet run out of the best chouquettes in town.

We’re still a little grey on the quarantine rules because the Paper keeps changing. The Paper is what we call the declaration that we have to take with us every time we leave the house explaining why we’ve left the house. The Paper changed two days into quarantine when we didn’t have access to the office printers so we had to start writing them out by hand. This was hard because we’d have to have to have a fight over whose turn it was to write it and most of the time we decided it was just easier not to leave the house (I see what you did there, Government).

When the government announced on day 11 that the quarantine would be extended, I finally made Nid go to the office and print off 200 copies. Yesterday, we threw away our remaining 187 copies because the government made it digital

You would think we’d be dying to get out of the house but we’ve gotten pretty comfortable with our sedentary and pantless existence. The screaming kids next door sound like they think otherwise but for us, the meanest adjustment is not being able to go to the beach – at least it’s within the 1km radius allowed for solitary exercise so we can look, but no touching.

Nid has been able to work from home, so that’s good. We set up on schedule on Day 1 to keep us on-track. It’s definitely working and not at all ornamental.

Working from home, Nid has been having competitions to keep himself motivated. One of them is seeing how few items of clothing he needs to survive. A load of washing these days is my weeks worth of clothes and five pairs of Nid’s undies. Another one was his face-hair competition with a coworker to see who could become the most sauvage. That came to an end when the big boss ordered a face-to-face meeting last week so he had to shave it all off.

The crux of my day is getting my photo: my friend and I send each other daily exercise-proof photos to goad each other into exercising. Half the time I just roll out my yoga-mat, splash some water on myself, and scowl. Or sometimes I send dubious exercise poses at creative angles.

During these 2+ weeks of quarantine, we’ve only watched ONE movie. But we’ve spent 100+ hours of quality time with this guy (Geralt of Rivia).

Nid has replaced all outside hobbies with a bromance for the Witcher and has taken to saying, “Wind’s howling” in his best, rugged, bass every time we turn the fan on. 

On April 1st our neighbours’ kids left us a fish on our fence. Those punks! Get your grubby corona fingers off our fence!!

It is French custom for kids to make paper fish on April Fool’s Day – they stick them onto the backs of unwitting suspects and then giggle about it. Fish don’t seem like a very practical thing to stick onto backs, but I’ll do it! 

Yesterday, we left them a bunch of ice-cold easter eggs that don’t have any chocolate in them whatsoever. NOW, who’s pranked?

The most exciting thing to happen to us under quarantine was probably the French Toast incident. This story actually started 2.5 weeks ago, two days before quarantine started. This was a few days before the borders closed and one of our friends was forced to take one of the last flights back to Australia to join his wife and son. As he was expecting to move house later on this month, he had one day’s notice before he left the country to pack up his entire house because who knew when they’d open the borders again. Being nice people we gave him a hand which was silly of us because we forgot to ask if he used the KonMari method (never heard of it).

We ended up clearing his fridge which he’d just stocked up with food like it was going to run out or something. One of these items was half a bottle of Pure Maple Syrup, you know, that expensive liquid-Canadian-gold kind of maple syrup.

When Nid finally got around to using it, we turned some stale bread into French Toast which, I should add, is not what the French call toast. Nid had got that perfect crispy brown caramelisation: little bit of crispy brown, little bit of eggy yellow, you know what I’m talking ‘bout.

Nid, being Thai, is all about the sauces. So he poured that syrup on like it was the last bottle of maple syrup on the island and took a bite like, “Come at me, World!”

It was fish sauce.

Our friend’s wife thought she’d leave her husband a funny before she left. It was funny 😅 (But not for Nid).

Holding out to see real fish in another week, fingers crossed.