Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bus Tale

I have so many bus stories. I think I've spent literally half my gap year on a bus.

Anyway. There are certain aspects of my life over here that no matter how annoying I've learnt you just have to accept.

Like the other day on the bus home from Pointe aux Sable. Any normal bus journey really. I handed 200r to the bus conductor to pay for both Charlie and I. He took my money, handed me our tickets and then continued down the aisle. But... wait a minute... 200r? This bus journey should only cost me... 50r. HMMMM. Now, sometimes the bus conductors don't have enough change at the time so return later - which is fine. But this bus conductor looked slightly... cheeky. I was immediately suspicious of him. I looked back at him probably with a somewhat confused expression. "Ok?" He asked. No... not really. I turned to Charlie, "Did he give me my change?". Apparently not... so I waited patiently with my purse still hoping that he would return in a moment with my change. Again, apparently not. Cheeky cheeky! So, Charlie asked for my change politely. And yes, 150r came my way with little fuss or bother... but a little bit of a cocky smile.

Funnily enough though, I didn't seem nearly as annoyed or angry as I should have been. A bus conductor just tried to cheat me out of more than 3 quid! Why is this not more serious!? I suppose I've learnt that naturally, there are some people who will take one look at me and see me as an opportunity to make some 'cheeky cash'. And why not? You know, I heard a story about some tourists in Port Louis who payed 1200r for three choux choux (a green vegetable - you don't get them in the UK). For one choux choux, usually we pay about 5r in Rose-Hill. But if tourists are really this stupid then of course people are going to try cheat them - it's just easy money! The attitude I suppose is "What is an extra 150r to a tourist? Is it money they're going to miss - no, probably not". But what people don't realise when they look at me is that of course - I'm not a tourist. And in some cases my monthly wage is less than theirs.

But I suppose this has just made me think about how people percieve me here - and how much I stand out as being 'different'. It's going to be strange returning to the UK and being able to 'fit into a crowd' of people so easily. No sticking out like a sore thumb. Or looking different. Just the same as everyone else. Is this something I'm looking forward to?? :S

Monday, 20 June 2011

Le Pouce

We're now in those last few crucial weeks. The expression 'make the most of your year' has been springing to mind more so lately. Which has made me think about all those 'little things' I MUST do before I leave. Funnily enough, we have 'A List'. It's quite long. Perhaps it would have been more sensible to gradually do everything. But others plans have nearly always been made at weekends, visiting friends, shopping, going to the beach. However, I think things have turned out for the best. I feel like I'm appreciating everything so much more now that I know my time is short. Maybe, that means I'll enjoy doing everything much more than I would have 2, 5 or 9 months ago.

Anyway, Charlie and I decided on Saturday, with only 6 weeks left, it was time to start doing 'The List'. We chose something perhaps a little out of my comfort zone to start with. Le Pouce (The Thumb). Mauritius is very mountainous and 'Le Pouce' is just one of many erratic looking mountains on the Island.

Lonely Planet - "After about 700m the path starts zigzagging steeply uphill. A 30 minute climb brings you out on a saddle, from where you get your first views over Port Louis. From there it takes another 20 minutes or so walking East along the ridge to reach the base of the thumb. Allow 1 hour for descent into Port Louis".

I don't know what I was expecting but the guide book really didn't do 'Le Pouce' much justice. It didn't say anywhere 'Friggin Amazing! Go Go Go!'. It has to be one of the most breathtaking views I have seen in my life. Charlie and I managed to reach the 'saddle' fairly quickly where we marveled at the vast, lush landscape opened infront of us. I felt as giddy as a school girl, hopping and dancing about! We took a lot of photos. But again, they don't seem to do the actual view much justice. 

I'm just going to comment a little bit on landscape here - and how varied it is. On top of 'Le Pouce', it was basically grass land with lots of green plants and an open area (no trees) which meant we could basically see spectacular views 360o. Descending, it almost became rainforest like, the trees hanging over us and blocking out the sunlight. It was tropical, wet and lush green. There was a hot sticky heat, it must be torturous in summer. And then at the base, near Port Louis it almost became African Savannah. A dry heat, yellowish grass which rattled in the wind and trees which I half-expected to see a Cheetah lazily dangling in. 

But I suppose all this has just reminded me how varied and diverse things are in Mauritius. This time I'm talking about climate and landscape. But the same goes for many other aspects of life here. For example, religion. I could literally walk down one street and see a Tamil and Hindu Temple, Mosque and Christian Church. I've seen and experienced a very diverse way of life. And in any other country, I wouldn't of had the opportunity to experience this 'little bit of everything' that Mauritius is. I'm going to miss this variation and difference in my life.

Anyway, the first of many outings on 'The List' - complete. Hopefully I'll have many more to report.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


I suppose something that has become very obvious to me this year is the difference in mannerisms. There are some things which I've come to realise are very specific to the UK, European Culture. And people here just really don't understand them... But as well as this, there are some mannerisms which I've discovered are very specific to Mauritian/French Culture and I probably can never hope to fully understand.

First there are the fairly innocent ones. No one seems to understand the meaning behind "X x x" at the end of a text or card. It honestly never occurred to me that this would confuse people. It's just naturally something most of us do in the UK. I suppose the Mauritian equivalent is "Gros Bisous" (Big Kiss). Nevertheless it is extremely amusing when people ask me about the 'peculiar X x x' at the end of my last text - "Is some of the text missing?".

On a different end of the spectrum. We discovered early on in our year that there is a big difference in the meaning behind simple hand gestures here. For example the simple 'go away' wave* in the UK means completely the oppsoite here - 'come here' wave*. You can only imagine the confusion this caused us at first, "What? You want us to come? Yes? No? Make up your mind!".

Then there are the slightly more annoying ones... It's seems that in the UK we are quite anal about the 'queue system' - and I'm very grateful for that. In Mauritius, when it comes to queues, the attitude is very "ME FIRST". I've got my elbowing and shoving techniques down - yes, it can get violent. But otherwise, you're always last. Which can have disasterous consequences if the next bus doesn't come for another 20minutes! I'm just worried about going back to the UK and everytime the bus arrives running at it like a screaming Viking prepared for battle. And then everyone will look at me like, "What the hell is she doing!?".

And then there are the ones which are generally quite nice. Like the oh so lovely 'bisous'. So, in Mauritius there's a French influence which explains the language and 'bisous'. The 'bisous' is something I've really learnt to like. At first it seemed quite awkward kissing a person on both cheeks as a greeting and farewell. But it's very friendly, polite and final. Whereas in the UK we have, the awkward wave, the awkward hug and of course the awkward, "So, I'll see you later!". However, what can make the 'bisous' slightly awkward is when a child tries to purposfully lick you on the face everytime you drop your gaurd (just one of many normal occurences at SOS Children's Kindergarten) - thanks Surya.

Surya, looking quite innocent.

Nap Time!

What do you think of when someone says 'Nap Time'. Well, I think of sleepy children rubbing their eyes, dozing on their mother's lap, sleeping with their mouths hanging open etc. However, at the SOS Children's Kindergarten I've seen another picture. How about giggling, children putting their feet in their mouth and chatting at 100 miles an hour? These kids just never seem to tire. But, I know, this is normal. And there really is no point in getting a child to sleep when they're clearly not tired. However, SOS Children's Village really don't seem to understand this logic... Despite the fact NONE of the children will sleep, they're forced to lie down for 45minutes and be quiet. Hmmmm... 

Inevitably some of the more disruptive kids are moved to desks so they won't distract the other 'sleeping' children. I try to focus on these kids and find ways to amuse them! For example, drawing on the board, doing some work with them, tickling! etc.

The kids don't really see me as a teacher (or someone who they respect in that way). I'm more of a 'fun adult'. But, I really like this. I wouldn't have it any other way. However, it does create problems when it comes to that time of day where I'm left alone for maybe 2-5minutes... NAP TIME. A certain nervousness will creep over me. I know I can't control them... and they know it too. It's like they can smell my fear! So then the class will erupt into chatter and noise! Usually at this point I am helplessly flustering around the classroom waving my arms about, "Silence! Arret!". When this doesn't work I change tactics... something to get their attention. I start shouting at them in English. And then I think, "Well, that was a mistake." They find it hilarious and usually all burst out in harmony, "Be quiet! Be quiet! BE QUIET!". But, I've learnt to look on the brighter side... at least I got their attention.

At some point the teacher will come back in and take control of the class - I'm baffled. And then all is calm again.

Class 5 - Mr Clifford

Weather etc.

It's Winter again. Several months ago, on my arrival in Mauritius I wrote in my diary, "The perfect temperature - not too hot, not too cold".

It seems that this time I'm experiencing the Mauritian Winter in a slightly different way... Quite often, especially in the evening and early morning, I'm freezing! At the beginning of the year I bought a duvet for my bed. More as a home comfort than to actually keep me warm. I was seriously questioning my logic when I slept with it at the foot of my bed for most of summer - if I slept with it over me it was likely to kill me. But now I sleep with it tightly wrapped around me! So cosy! Anyway, yes, the Winter can be rather cold. I think I may struggle with climate change on my return to Scotland.

But really, I'm not complaining. The cold is a nice change to the burning sun. And I would rather be too cold, than too hot anyday. Plus, with the change of weather I've been able to change my daily wardrobe - slightly. For the first time ever (in Mauritius) I wore full leg leans and a hoodie to work! - Shock, Horror. And, as well, I'm more frequently wearing leggings, cardigans, trainers etc. I forgot how comfortable all these clothes are!

A Mauritian Winter... still quite sunny.
But, I suppose all this change in weather, sleeping arrangements and clothes - ha! - has made me think about some stuff. Like, coping with change. It's strange to think that 20oc is now my version of 'cold' when several months ago I would have been boiling!

However, it's not only this but other things too, like I really used to drink so much water. Maybe 2-3 litres a day - Katie was always gobsmacked. And now, I just really don't feel the need to. My body doesn't 'scream' at me the same way it would in January/February. I'm probably drinking the same amount I would in Scotland or less...

And this one especially annoys me, but no matter how hard I try I can't seem to sleep in much passed 9am. I used to love lazy mornings in bed where I would doze until about 11/12am before making an appearance out of my room. But now, the sun slowly creeps into my room early (6ish) and my body just naturally wakes up. My biological clock has changed. Gr!

To round up, our bodies adapt in order to cope with change. And this is just something that has become that much more obvious to me since starting my life in Mauritius.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


So, I've done it again. Something else I've learnt about myself this year - I can't seem to commit myself to diaries or blogs. Therefore, inevitably, my New Year's Resolution of keeping my blog up to date has failed.

Anyway, just thought I would add a small blog entry to let everyone know my thoughts on... Coming Home! It's only 6 weeks now. I can barely believe how fast this year has passed. I now know why Project Trust encourage a year away. It seems that these past few months I've had the opportunity to do and see things (which I'll write about in other blogs!) which I wouldn't have been able to at the beginning of my gap year.

It's funny how much I've surprised myself. I'm a little worried about coming home. I can 'kind of' remember a brief talk on Isle of Coll for Training some 10months ago about 'Culture Shock'. What was strange to me (at the time) was the fact that most volunteers experience more severe 'Culture Shock' on their return home. Well, you can probably imagine what I was thinking.... "NAHHHHH :S" - haha! 

But I can totally understand now. When I left the UK, I knew I would be coming home in a year. I knew that my friends, my family and everything else would still be there by the time I finished my year out. But leaving Mauritius, I really don't know when I'm going to be coming back. I've built up friendships, a home, a work routine. Will I be able to come back in 5 years time and just fit back in??

I don't know. But what I do know, is that I'm coming back. Definitely :) Whether it be for a couple of weeks next year. Or a few years... 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Chagossians and SOS Children's Village

Estelle pulling a slightly funny/scary face
So, I'm now counting down my last few months in Mauritius! Eeeek! Recently I've been a bit crazy trying to organise myself and work for the remaining time! I've started teaching at the Chagossian Centre in Pointe aux Sables with Charlie. We share a class of 20 pupils of varying ages (11-19 years old). I like it a lot and it can be lots of fun but I've learnt the success of a lesson rests heavily on lesson preparation! It can be quite difficult to teach a class with such varying levels. Sometimes it feel so unfair on the older ones as we have to try and balance out the level of the work. It's often far too easy for them! But then again some of the work is far too difficult for some of younger ones! So Charlie and I are going to split up the class to try and combat this problem! Some of them have exams in a few weeks aswell so hopefully we're going to go to the Chagossian Centre more often to help them.
As well as all this I've started working at an SOS Children's Village in Beau Bassin. So, SOS Children's Village is quite a well known worldwide charity. I'll try and describe it! So basically it's like a village where there are several houses arranged around a courtyard. In the houses live several children who for whatever reason have been placed in the care of the village by the CDA (Child Development Agency). In the houses the children live with an SOS Mother (sort of an adopted Mother) and they basically live as close to a normal family life as possible. Which is really nice. You can totally see the benefits to them. A lot of the children are very close to their SOS Mother. So, at the moment I'm working with a Social Worker in the village. I'm helping to write Child Development Reports. I sit with the Social Worker, the SOS Mother and the Child and take notes while the Social Worker interviews them. It's very interesting and the experience will be very beneficial for my Child Nursing I think! As well as this, I play with the kids in the village and I'm going to start working at the Kindergarten they have! I went to the beach with them before the holidays and had lots of fun!
And I'm still working at Namaste also a couple of days a week. I'm really enjoying the varied work at the moment. Everyday is different and new and I love this! My gap year is just getting better and better!