La Réunion Lé La !

When I went back home to visit family and friends in March, I was flooded with questions about how life was on the ‘distant and far away’ Reunion Island.  In Australia, this island is something exotic, and not everyone has heard about it.   I remember the time I told my mum that I was going to live and work in Reunion, and a look of panic came over her face – “But, aren’t there pirates in that part of the world?!?”  When I told a lady at the cash register that I was teaching English in Reunion, an island close to Africa.  She looked at me in awe = ‘we need more people like you in the world who devote their time to aid work’ …

The usual spiel I give people consists of the following observations: it’s hot, there are bugs everywhere, fruit is abundant, buses don’t run on time, people don’t run on time, the lagoon is awesome, just like the pictures you see on postcards, the people are friendly.  But the island has become something more to me, which is an idea that a text like this can’t convey.

Both periods of time that I have been in Reunion have been moments of self-discovery and creativity. Travelling anywhere away from home will evoke this type of personal growth, but why do I always end up here?  For me, there seems to be magic or a connection that I can’t see, but I certainly feel.  To express my gratitude to this incredible place, I wrote a poem, which soon turned into a song.  Here it is…

Needing a change, fly to an unknown place.
Trying to find the perfect option, a tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Where white birds with straws for tails fly overhead,
And the locals speak in special code, it’s Creole I think they said.
Beach all around and coral lacing the sand,
A paradise of sorts with the sun on demand

Réunion Lé Là, we come together,
People from all over, with their cultures to offer.

Hiking, Canyoning, essential oils, plants growing from volcanic soil.
Those who come understand, Reunion is a lucky island.
Lychees light up the trees with scarlet, bananas grow at the drop of a hat.
Sugar cane fields line the roads, in summer we drown in mangoes.

Tour the island in a weekend, share a picnic on Sunday with family and friends.
A place where I can always see the ocean, where spirits are high and arms are open

Réunion Lé Là, we come together,
People from all over, with their cultures to offer.

Vocabulary

to be flooded = être inondé
cash register = la caisse
spiel = baratin
bugs = insects
to run on time = être à l’heure 

to convey = exprimer
self-discovery = découverte de soi
personal growth = culture personnelle
to end up = finir
straw = paille

overhead = au-dessus de nos têtes
to lace = orner
on demand = sur demande
soil = terre
lucky = chanceux 

to light up = allumer
scarlet = écarlate
at the drop of a hat = tout dans un coup
to drown = se noyer
spirit = esprit

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Natural Beauties

There’s nothing better in life than when we feel truly lucky!  The delight comes when there are no expectations set, no worries about missing out, and having an idea about how to acknowledge and experience feelings of gratitude.

Upon coming to Reunion Island, I already felt like I had won the lottery – having found such a great opportunity, which seemed like something ‘out of the blue’.

Within my first week of being here, I heard about the complete solar eclipse which was to darken the island on the 1st of September, 2016.  Best place to see it?  Oh, you know, Central Africa/Reunion Island… and even better still – it was taking place at the New Moon – a time of change and new beginnings in the Lunar Cycle.

My colleagues had organised to attend a special Solar Eclipse Meditation.  I gladly went along.  Not only did we witness the moon passing over the sun, we were also able to connect with ourselves with Tibetan bowl ceremonies, yoga, and affirmations, as well as each other (hugging each and every other attendee at the very end and celebrating such an exciting natural event together).  You couldn’t wipe the smile from my face since I was just so appreciative of the whole experience.

So one can imagine my surprise when September’s Full Moon conjured magma from the depths of Piton de la Fournaise to spill out from one of its many active openings!

My first attraction to La Réunion (since 2010) was its volcano, which sits in the top 3 of the World’s most active. It was my first time EVER seeing a volcanic eruption, having completely missed its eruption of 2014 after my first stay on the island.

We spent a good one and a half hours driving to the site, and caught the sunrise above the clouds as we ascended La Route du Volcan.

The hike from the parking lot to the viewing point was on terrain that appears to be quite dry and rugged.  Up at those heights on the island, one gets a sense of drought, so no surprises when I had flashbacks of hiking in the Flinders Ranges back home!  I had forgotten my handy head lamp, but thanks to impeccable timing, the full moon lit most of the way for me.

So there you have it, two incredible, natural events within less than a month… a friend of mine tells me that all good things come in threes…

Vocabulary

expectation = attente
to miss out = rater
to acknowledge = reconnaître
gratitude = reconnaissance
the lottery = la loterie

out of the blue = inattendu
to darken = assombrir
to take place = avoir lieu
colleague = collègue
gladly = avec plaisir

to connect with oneself = reconnecter avec soi-même
to wipe =  effacer
to conjure = faire apparaitre
depths = profondeurs
to spill out = se répandre

sunrise = lever du soleil
rugged = accidenté
drought = une sécheresse
Flinders Ranges = chaine de montagnes en AUS
handy = pratique

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Mi Aime a Ou … Or Not

It was a Monday night, and I had just ridden my electric bike to the local fruit and vegetable shop where I’m on a ‘first name basis’ with the owner.

This particular night, a local man came into the shop to buy a beer for himself and his mate.  While he spoke Creole with my friend at the counter, I tuned out, knowing that I wouldn’t understand a thing!  After a while, I asked them both with a smile of wonder – “Are you speaking Creole?”  They looked at me.  The man asked me in his best French “Are you from Mainland France?”  I replied, “No, in fact I’m from Australia”.  This changed everything!  And after I showed-off some of my best Creole phrases, we had a laugh, and then he left to give the beer to his friend.  Upon leaving, he turned and said with a big smile “Mi aime a ou, this is important Creole to know”.

Should I have expected him to approach me again when I was walking to my bike?  Immediately he started the famous ‘small talk’, Creole-style.  Where are you from?  What do you do here?  And the burning question: “Did you come here alone?”  To his surprise, I had.  He insisted I take his number…because that’s custom here in Reunion…

Usually I would throw this number in the bin.  No matter which country or culture I’m in, I get shy when someone is so forward with me.  But this time I was to play it differently.  I messaged him back “thank you for the attention, but no thanks, I like being alone.”

To my surprise, the next day I received a barrage of messages from an unknown number: “Bjr c bien Clara svp” “cosa I passe avec ou et willy” “je peu sava ou s azote la rencontre a zote” “pourquoi tu répondre pa?!? Ou peu bien repondre! Mi sa pa mange a ou!”

Well, I had to ask one of my sixteen-year-old students to help me decipher the message.  It seems that Willy’s interests are spread far and wide, and my simple message from the night before was enough to send someone on the hunt for my blood!  In my best French/Creole I replied with a message that explained that, in fact, nothing had happened between myself and Willy, and to leave me alone. I then tactfully wished them good luck with him.

Since then I have received messages from Willy wishing me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… and this time round, I didn’t reply.  Ignorance is bliss.

Vocabulary

first-name basis = bien connaître quelqu’un
mate = un ami (UK/Aus)
counter = la caisse
to smile with wonder = sourire avec de l’émerveillement
to show-off = d’être une frimeuse

to have a laugh = rigoler
small talk = banalités
burning question = une question brûlante
custom = une coutume
bin = la poubelle (UK/Aus)

to be forward = être entreprenant
barrage of messages = un déluge de messages
unknown number = un numéro inconnu
to decipher = déchiffrer
to be spread far and wide = être très étendu

to happen = se passer
to leave someone alone = laisser quelqu’un tranquille
tactfully = avec tact
this time round = cette fois-ci
bliss = le bonheur

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