Monday, November 12, 2012

The beginning...

Hello!

View from the air -
the mainland is in the background,
surrounded by smaller islands and  the lagoon,
I always said my life revolved around food - and I guess this blog is just going to prove that point more! But to tell you the truth, there isn't really a whole lot more going on in this far-flung place that I've found myself living in. Wallis Island (part of Wallis and Futuna Island) is located in the South Pacific, about an hours flight from Fiji - you can find it on Google maps, but make sure you have your glasses handy - it is a really really small dot!! 

The flag
Wallis became a French Territory about 50 years ago, and before that some Americans came during a war and built the airport. Despite these things, Wallis remains quite a traditional place. The population is around 10,000 and it's religion predominantly Catholic and the locals continue to strongly respect their religion and traditional culture.  It is normal is for people to live with their extended families. The children support the parents, and unemployment is at something incredibly high like 80%. Most young people head to New Caledonia or France after finishing school to either gain further education (there are actually more Wallisians living in Noumea than in Wallis!), join the army or find a job. My husband went to Australia, and that's where the lucky bloke met me!

There isn't much to do here - sure there are beautiful islands for relaxing on (unfortunately most of the beaches on the main land have been ruined because of people taking sand to make concrete), a wonderful reef for snorkelling (although some dynamite fishing is destroying some of it - there really is not much care for environmental protection here). It is a very basic place, there are no street signs or numbers, there is one high school (students from Futuna have to come and board here once they reach 15-16 years old), a couple of shops, and the lack of competition is seen in the prices!
Underwater view


The locals still practise many traditions, including dancing, cooking (the traditional cooking is where they make an 'Umu' - wrapping food in banana leaves and burying it underground and using hot coals/coconut shells to cook), each family usually has access to a plantation where they farm root vegetables like taro, tapioca, cape, yam etc. There is plentiful tropical fruit like bananas, coconuts, and come the right season - mango, pineapple, avocados...yum! And of course fish and other seafood. The other common dish is pork - people give gifts of pigs for any special occasion. 

The cost of living is very high - everything is imported and there is really no competition - all of the little corner shops are supplied by the same company, the food is mostly from France and a lot from Australia and New Zealand - the Wallisians love their Arnott's Biscuits, particularly Sao, and tinned corned beef! Bills are also astronomical, we average $400AUD/month for electricity, and internet is $150AUD/month for the slowest connection speed! 

The high school
But I have found myself here, with my (Wallisian) husband and my almost 1 year old son. I have left my world behind, and although I have lived here for 2 years, I only speak a little of both languages (French and Wallisian -I haven't been immersed in either which has made it difficult) and this has limited my friendship making, I hardly go out (there are no cafes or cinemas here!), and I'm pretty isolated -I do walk every afternoon when it's not raining! I have been working as the English Assistant (or Assistant D'Anglais! at the high school for the last 2 years, and am currently waiting to see if my contract has been extended). I am slowly making more friends so hopefully will have some dinner parties soon, or get invited to a restaurant (here, if you invite someone to a restaurant you have to pay for everyone so we haven't done much inviting!!) 

Although our stay here is only temporary (one more year we hope), it will always be part of our lives so I try to enjoy it as much as I can! Of course I need things to occupy my time, and although my boy takes a lot of it, and I do teach some English here, and I hope this blog will be a worthwhile experience for me! 

With this blog my aim is to talk about the local life through food! I'll blog about my cooking experiences, costs of buying things, restaurants and local events...food is central but other things will hopefully be interesting too!!

Anyway, it's my dinner time, I'm eating Bami tonight (will tell you more about this soon), 

 Bon appetit!
 Jo

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