The French Army’s visit happened to fall over Bastille Day (July 14th). This meant that they got to take a break, have a little celebration, and interact with the community.
They started the morning with a brief ceremony. The New Caledonian troops entered with a droning march in. There was a short speech and a flag raising with some singing. Then there were refreshments. Refreshments were interrupted small by the students singing them a song. One of the students was holding a bird while he sang. Why? Because that’s how they roll here. Then there was another interruption when a kastom dance started up. The kastom dancing consists of a core group stomping and chanting while chiefs dance around them. After they finished the first dance, the camp sergeant went up to offer them refreshments. She got pulled into the outer circle for the next dance and the other ranking officers joined in. After a couple circuits, all the other soldiers joined them. It was fantastic to watch and everyone loved it.
Following the ceremonies was a tour of the camp. The ranking officer took the francophones around while the second in command took the Anglophones (his English was quite good.. apparently learned from Texans and New Yorkers in Afghanistan.) It was interesting seeing everything, though it did make me jealous. Hot showers will do that. My favorite part was when the washing machine was being explained to the ni-vans. They were very impressed. I know I am by those things.
After more waiting and storying, the Tahitian pig roast was finally done. They had bought two pigs and cooked them in a pit with taro and some flavorings. We got to join in on eating which was delicious. There was a nice awkward bit where we all had our food but were waiting for someone to say grace. Usually they’re on top of that but I think they didn’t want to step on military toes.
After the meal and a short spell, it was down to the sports field. The French ran small tournaments of Football/Soccer, Basketball, and Volleyball. I didn’t pay enough attention to these to know who won. I did enjoy watching the kiwis tower over the ni-van school kids but have the kids keep up on their athleticism. There was also a group doing games for the kids. That was the part I was most entertained by. They had a volleyball net set up for them to play on first. Then they brought out a rope for tug of war. First the kids vs kids, then the French joined in, and finally it was the soldiers vs the youngfala. The youngfala won that one on their experience of pulling cars out of ditches and such. Finally they had a dizzy race. After failing to find an appropriate stick, they decided to use coconuts. This meant that the competitors had to go down on all fours over the coconut and spin. It was hilarious and got much whooping from everyone.
All-in-all, a very good day