Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When the Army Runs a Carnival

One of the first rules of cruising is: accept every invitation. (This is also one of the first rules of life, especially for an introvert like me.) So, when a friend invited us to the local military open house, I said yes.
"It's lots of fun," said Camille. "They have lots of activities for the kids."
I nodded, and wondered what that meant. I was a little surprised that Camille, of all people, was suggesting this outing.  This is a woman who steadfastly refuses to let her kids watch violence on television, play mock-battles, or otherwise engage in any aggressive activity.
"If Camille thinks this is a wholesome family activity," I thought, "then it must be okay."
So, on a cloudy Sunday morning, we headed out to Camp Broche, more properly known as Régiment d'Infanterie de Marine du Pacifique Nouvelle-Calédonie.

We have seen a lot of signs of the military over our four years on the water.  As we travelled down the East coast of the USA and through the Caribbean, we saw Coast Guard ships, aircraft carriers and submarines. We heard notices on VHF 16 warning us away from certain zones while exercises were being performed. As we sailed down the ICW toward Norfolk, Virginia, a very polite young man on the enormous warship behind us asked if they might sidle past. 
Ma'am, would you mind if we passed you?

Most of our military experiences have been with Americans, and I can sum them up this way: always polite, always correct, always at arm's length. If you want cuddly, don't go looking to the US. If you want a tour of a naval vessel, you're far better advised to snag a Kiwi captain in the ice cream shop, as we did.

When we first arrived in Noumea, we anchored in Baie d'Orphelinat, which, in French style, doubles as a practice area for the military. As we enjoyed a morning cup of tea, we watched troops jump out of planes, swim across the bay in full gear (rifles at the ready), and practice the shoreline obstacle course. With that in the back of my mind, I wondered just what these tough men and women had planned for us at Camp Broche.

I shouldn't have worried. I think I put it best in an email to Erik later that evening:

Subject: zomfg best day ever!!!
The défense open house was a hoot!  Imagine an elementary school carnival run by the army, French-style.  It was surreal and hilarious, and I am so sorry you missed it.  Attached is a by-no-means comprehensive selection of what we did.

And then I proceeded to send Erik a thousand pictures of our day.

I'm conflicted.  On the one hand, war is a serious business. You may not glamorize it. That is not cool. On the other hand, this was probably the most fun outing we've had in New Cal. And it was not a day of "kill, kill, kill" - it was more, "Lookit! We have the coolest gear!"

We started with the obstacle course:

Followed by some light mine sweeping:

A quick trip through the night vision obstacle course:

Down a zipline from three stories up:

And a quick ride on a police motorcycle, just to round things out:

Lest we forget where this all took place, there were some rather French-specific carnival games mixed in.  Aside from familiar stand-bys such as the fishpond and the dart throw, there was also the Egg Smash.

"What is that?" I asked Camille, pointing to the tent.
She shrugged. "Just the egg smash. You know, they put raw eggs on a stump, then you throw boules at them."
I looked in the tent.  Sure enough, people of all ages were lined up to throw bocce balls at eggs on a stump. I still can't get my head around it.
Is this really happening?
Yep, I see it, too.
People, this is why you travel.  Not just to watch your kids hurtle down a zipline into the arms of a waiting 18-year old in camo gear. But also to smash eggs for no good reason.


Anonymous said...

I just can't stop laughing. That was hilarious. The girls look like they had a blast. How long did it take to get the camo paint off their faces?
Love Mom

Anonymous said...

Incredible. You just can't make stuff up this good. Sorry I missed out too.

Lmao, Kate

Karen said...

Ha ha that looks great! I love the mine sweeping. That is a bit of a shame about the eggs, however.

Karen M said...

Perhaps this is a new direction for 'sports day' at the end of the school year!!