The World According to Renee

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In honour of tomorrow’s National Day Against Bullying, I wanted to share my own experiences with bullying while I was at school.

I was bullied all through primary school, by both boys and girls. I was teased because of my hair (no matter how often I washed it, it always looked greasy), my name, how smart I was and how skinny I was (once, there was a rumour about me that I had AIDS, because I was so thin). Strangely, even though I was the first girl in my year to develop “up top”, I was never bullied about that.

Enduring hurtful comments every day was awful. I never cried in front of the bullies, but I did cry every day when I walked home. The bullies were bigger and stronger than me, and the girls were just plain nasty. My teachers knew, and wouldn’t do anything about it. My mum had meetings with the principal, who only said he’d keep an eye on it. I was sent to the school counselor, who told me to “pretend they were a tree”- I eventually worked out he meant I should ignore them. I did ignore them, every day, but it made them tease me more because they were waiting for a reaction. Those bullies wanted something from me, and even though they never got it, they tried harder.

In high school, I was bullied for much the same reasons. I was an awkward teenager: my hair was fine and oily, my face full of pimples and my mother’s Dutch genes starting to bring curves to my thin body. For some reason, my name was hilarious fodder for bullies and I was teased mercilessly. At that time, kids with similar last names from all levels were required to attend a 20 minute roll call after lunch. One girl, whom I shall name Bonnie, was a couple of years older than me and in this roll call. She and her male friend would constantly make jokes about me to my face, and I just ignored them as best I could. Bonnie and her friend Shane were two of the meanest people I have ever come across, and I was their target. I’d never done anything to them, my only crime was having a surname sharing the same first letter.

One day, Bonnie came to school with a twisted ankle. She was using crutches. After lunch, we were standing outside our roll call classroom waiting for the teacher to unlock the door. As we filed in, Shane hadn’t arrived yet and Bonnie was having trouble picking up her heavy bag while balancing on these crutches. I don’t know why I did it, but I picked up her bag and brought it inside to her usual seat, telling her I hoped her ankle was better soon. Shane wandered in not long after that; Bonnie told him the story, they both looked at me and never bullied me again.

This is a Happy Ending to my bullying story, but for so many others out there, they are tormented every day. I am so thankful that social media did not exist when I was at school. I can’t imagine the horrors that would have been posted on the internet for everyone to see and comment on. The face to face bullying is bad enough, never mind the stuff you don’t see which can follow you around long after the bullies have given up.

Nowadays the tolerance to bullying is zero. There is currently no one-size-fits-all solution to bullying either in school or the workplace. Cyberbullying, that is, hateful comments via social media, is currently unrestrained with few (if any) consequences for the bullies. The victims are well documented.

Today, remember the victims of bullying who weren’t as lucky as I am. Remember that words do hurt. Be kind to people.


March 20, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Renee’s Cruise Tips

*All prices are correct as of 15 March, 2014

*All prices are in AUD unless indicated otherwise 

Recently I went on a cruise to Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila. It’s the second cruise I’ve been on, although with a different company than the first. There’s a lot of info on the internet about these ports but some things have changed recently so I thought it would be a good idea for a blog post… Plus it’s a handy guide if you’ve never cruised before. 

Saving Money Onboard

Newsflash: Holidays aren’t kind to the savings account. Depending on the cruise company, there are ways to save some money while you’re onboard. 

Most activities onboard are free. Some of the crafts have a small charge ($10-$15) but bingo is up to $30 per ticket. That’s OK because you can win several hundred dollars. Holland America bingo tickets have poke-and-fold technology which doesn’t require a dabber. P&O dabbers are $3.50 each or you can use a pen. I recommend a dabber, so bring your own. 

P&O Cruises allow you to take bottled water and soft drinks onboard. P&O charge $2.75 per can of soft drink and $4.95 for a litre of bottled water. You do the maths on that one. Beer starts at $5.95 and cocktails are $9.90-$11.50, which is reasonable compared to cocktails at a nightclub. You can’t bring any alcohol aboard with you, not even Duty Free. 

Duty Free Goods

Port Vila is the place to go for all your sarongs and Duty Free needs. There are Duty Free shops onboard but you’ll get a better price at port. P&O offer a price match guarantee if you can prove the prices in port are cheaper than onboard. There are a bunch of rules for bringing in Duty Free goods so make sure you’re up on the latest. At the time of writing, adults are allowed to bring in 2.25L of alcohol and 50 cigarettes. 


Noumea is a very cosmopolitan city. It’s full of fashion and good French food (as well as other favourites like burgers and pizza). There are shore tours available onboard but my advice is to wait until you’re off the ship and get a tour onshoreI recommend the Tchou Tchou Train: if you pre-book, it’s $69 per person but if you book once you get there, it’s only $35. If you want to do your own thing, get a bus ticket for $15. You’ll be able to hop on, hop off at as many stops as you like around the city. Anse Vata Beach is lovely on a calm day. Noumea tours will take Australian dollars but most places prefer francs. Use your debit card, it’s much easier. 


Lifou is a pretty little island “around the corner” from Noumea. It’s a tender port, which means the ship docks out from shore (because it’s too shallow) and you catch a lifeboat-type thing to the wharf. There are shore tours which you’ll have to pre-book but there’s not much on the island… Except snorkeling. The best snorkeling is Jinek Bay but you’ll have to purchase a $15 pass on the ship! Jinek Bay is a marine conservation area and your $15 goes towards protecting the environment. There’s only a limited number of passes so be quick! If you do miss out, there’s free snorkeling at the beach where the tender wharf is. There are lots of turtles and fish to see, so you’re not missing out if you can’t get to Jinek Bay. If you walk to the right after disembarking, you’ll come across some caves near a church. It’s $5 per person fir the caves but worth it. Jump into the water when you get to the bottom for a refreshing swim.  You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness as it’s quite a steep walk . The stalls onshore will take either Australian dollars or New Caledonia francs- cash only. If you’re into hair braiding, it’s about $15 for an adult or $10 for kids. These stalls tend to take AUD$1 as 100 francs regardless of the actual exchange rate. 

Port Vila 

Port Vila is in Vanuatu, a chain of volcanic islands covered with rainforest. Pre-book your tours but once you get onshore there are also a few extras you can book. There are dozens of tours with everything from snorkeling to helicopter rides to glass bottomed boats to hiking through the mountains. Everything you could possibly want to do in Port Vila is right there. It’s also the best place for Duty Free shopping so make sure you take your $$ with you (including card, it’s easier on card). Hair braiding is about the same price as Lifou. Most shops and stalls have an exchange rate of AUD$1 = 100 Vatu but make sure you’re clear on it beforehand. Bargaining is not expected in Port Vila but you can try it with the stalls. Tourism is their only source of income so they’re happy to make any sale. It’s cash only at the stalls however the shops in town have EFTPOS facilities, but I’d take some cash with you. They’re happy to take AUD anywhere. 

Things in Port Vila are much more civilised than January 2013 when I was there last. Back then, as soon as you got off the ship there were a thousand taxi drivers yelling at you. Now they’re about 1 km away (past all the stalls) and forbidden to enter past boomgates with a police presence. Fares to and from the city should not be any more than $15 for a taxi and $3 for a bus, but they will try to rip you off so settle on a price beforehand. If you’re hiring a taxi for the day, settle on a price but it shouldn’t be more than $100. The most common way for a taxi driver to scam you is by saying they’ll take you to the city but then they’ll detour through the mountains, take you to a mate’s place with a lovely view, ask for donations and then charge you $50 more. If you know what to expect, you’ll be more assertive (I hope!)

When you buy Duty Free in Port Vila, the shop will send it directly to the ship. This is for several reasons, the two most important are: 
1) It’s only available as Duty Free when it’s re-exported from Vanuatu. This means you can’t drink it while you’re in the country.
2) It’s illegal to buy Duty Free goods for native Vanuatu people, so you can’t bargain a taxi fare with the promise of alcohol or cigarettes. 

You’ll be able to collect your Duty Free on the last morning before you disembark the ship. 

I hope that’s given you some information about these lovely ports and what to expect while you’re there. It’s a truly beautiful part of the world and well worth the effort of taking a cruise to get there. 


March 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments