False Alarm

In January, my parents visited me in Reunion. I’d planned tons of great stuff. Going to the natural pools, eating delicious creole food, visiting the volcano and of course checking out the beaches.

My parents weren’t so keen on that last one. Unfortunately, when they’d looked up ‘La Réunion’ online, they were met with stories of shark attacks. After I explained that there are several measures to protect swimmers in the lagoon, they agreed. And once in the water with their snorkels on, they loved it. After an hour, they came out with huge smiles and finally it was my turn.

Fast forward twenty minutes and I was feeling completely serene, with only the sound of the water filling my ears. Suddenly, the serenity gave way to complete chaos when I lifted my head up out of the water for one moment. The next twenty seconds seemed like twenty minutes. The first thing I saw was my Dad standing on the sand waving at me with both arms and shouting. Then he pointed to where the waves were crashing behind me. There, where he was pointing, was a boat of people and next to it, dark red water. A bright red flare had been shot into the sky. Instant terror took hold of my body. In my mind, this was a shark attack, the red water was blood and the flare was a warning from the people on the boat. I swam as fast as I could towards the beach. I was so sure there was a shark on my tail that I swam through the shallow water full of sharp coral and cut myself all over my arms, legs and stomach. I figured it was too shallow for a shark to swim through. After what felt like an eternity of swimming, I reached the beach and, like in the movies, dragged my weary body up the sand.

After a few seconds of wondering why nobody had come to help me after my near death experience, I lifted my head up from the sand. Looking back at me was a beach full of confused people, and my father, doubled over with laughter.

It turns out there was no shark, or any danger at all. He had seen a group of marine biologists doing some drills in the water and fancied playing a prank on his daughter who was so sure that the lagoon was completely safe. So, good one Dad. You got me. And I’ve still got the scars to prove it!

Vocabulary

tons = beaucoup
to check out = aller voir
keen = enthousiaste
measure = dispositif
my turn = mon tour 

fast forward = passons directement
suddenly = soudain
dark = foncé
bright = vif
flare = fusée

shot = envoyé
to take hold of = envahir
warning = avertissement
on my tail = juste derrière moi
to figure = se dire

shallow = peu profond
weary = faible
to be doubled over = être plié en deux
drills = exercices
prank = farce

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Unruly Neighbours

You know that saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’? When you long for something that you are so sure you want, until one day you get it, and it turns out to be hell on earth? Yeah, I’m pretty familiar with it now.

I moved into a flat 6 months ago and although the flat is great, it’s well priced and spacious, I quickly noticed that mine was the only flat inhabited in the entire building. That’s one out of a possible 6. The nights grew long and lonely and before I knew it I was posting ads trying to get the word out about the apartments to rent. And it worked! The next thing I knew, I was seeing people come and visit the flats on a daily basis. At this point I was feeling pretty smug, imagining myself chatting with my soon-to-be neighbours over a bottle of wine.

Well someone should have just slapped me right there. It didn’t quite turn out that way. That’s an understatement. A few nights later at about 2am, I was swatting off mosquitos half asleep when I heard what I thought was a burglar trying to break into my flat. Terrified, I jumped out of bed and grabbed my weapon of choice, which due to little choice was my hairbrush, and crept towards the living room. Lights on, no-one was inside. But the front door handle was moving up and down and I was freaking out. I looked through the peephole and what did I see? A woman, maybe in her fifties, crazily looking around her and talking to herself, laughing and shouting all at once. I genuinely thought I was in a scene from an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

I was preparing to call the police when through the peephole I saw the door from the flat opposite open and a young woman drag her inside.

The rest of the night was a bit of a sleepless blur. When I left the flat the next day, I bumped into the same woman, who, seemingly oblivious to the events of the night before, introduced herself as my new neighbour. So there we go. I got what I wanted right? We don’t chat about our days or have a drink together, but every now and then I get the chance to hear her banging mistakenly on my door and I never feel alone, because she leaves rubbish in all of the communal spaces. Moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for.

Vocabulary

to long for = désirer 
pretty = assez
to move = déménager
flat = appartement
although = bien que

to notice = remarquer
to chat = bavarder
ads = annonces
smug = arrogant
to slap = gifler

understatement = minimisation
to grab = saisir
to creep = se faufiler
door handle = poignet
to freak out = flipper

peephole = judas
to bump into = croiser
oblivious = inconscient
mistakenly = par erreur
rubbish = déchets

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Suffering in Paradise

Whenever I think of what I’m about to tell you, I get goosebumps. This may have been the worst time of my life. In fact, I am sure of it.

It all started last year January 4th. My friends and I decided to go on holiday to Mauritius for one week. We went pretty wild. Drunkenly doing the Carlton dance and singing Tom jones’  hit ‘It’s not Unusual’ on a speedboat was a heavy feature. If you don’t know what the Carlton dance is, I recommend googling it, you won’t regret it.

Anyway, there we were, high as kites on life, and it seemed like the best holiday of my life. The day before our departure, we did something I’d always dreamt of. We swam with dolphins! I’m a pisces and I love swimming, so it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I lost track of time in the water. In fact, When i finally resurfaced, I saw that half the other tourists on their boats had left and I had swam way out of the intended area. I got quite frightened, but eventually my boat found me and after a quick telling off for spending too long in the water, the Carlton dance put me back in good spirits. However, with the excitement of having been just inches away from beautiful dolphins, I completely, stupidly, forgot to dry my ears…

Fast forward two days and I’m back in Reunion having dinner with a friend at a restaurant in St Denis. I notice a sharp pain in my right ear. Shrugging it off as the music being too loud, I think nothing more of it. What a mistake!

Several days and nights spent in the hospital, an MRI scan , 5 different doctors and 5 different treatments later, I was still suffering unbelievable pain, which no doctor seemed to understand the root of.

Some thought it was neuralgia, a nerve problem in my face, and absolutely zero doctors believed me when I told them I thought it was swimmer’s ear turned really bad. They said that an ear infection was not able to produce enough pain that would make someone need Ketamine. That’s right, the only thing that calmed me down from my screaming, crying state, was the same drug that is used to tranquilize horses. How elegant is that?

After two days of begging, they eventually let me see an ear specialist, and long story short, my ear is on the mend, but it has taken months…

The real nightmare was receiving the hospital bill.. over a thousand euros. That was the price I paid for a holiday in paradise…

Vocabulary

time to spare – du temps libre
to jump on the bandwagon – suivre le mouvement
a fair bit – pas mal de
to require – avoir besoin
willing – prêt

upfront – à l’avance
glee – joie
9am sharp – 9h pile
bright and early – de bonne heure
to set off – prendre la route

to reach – atteindre
instead – au lieu de
foolishly – bêtement
to cross the mind – traverser l’esprit
prank – farce

inmate – détenu
despite – malgré
to change one’s ways – changer de voie
to get ahead in life – avancer dans la vie

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An Unlikely Client

Hi. My name’s Kathryn and last year I worked as a language assistant in Moufia, in the north of Reunion Island. It didn’t take long to realize that the twelve-hour contract left me with a lot of time to spare and most of my friends quickly posted adverts online to get some extra cash. I resisted at first, but then jumped on the bandwagon and put an ad up offering my services as an English language tutor. I had a fair bit of response and was excited to meet new people and help them with their English.

One day, about three months ago, I received a really appealing request from someone called Michel. He said he urgently needed to improve his English for work reasons and required six hours of training each week. He was even willing to pay me a considerable sum upfront to show his commitment to the classes.

This probably should have triggered alarm bells in my head. Looking back, it was clearly too good to be true, but all I could see were images of myself throwing handfuls of cash into the warm Reunionese air with glee.

Michel, who was only contactable by text messaging, gave me the address of his workplace and told me to come along at 9am sharp the next day to discuss his objectives. So the next morning, bright and early, I set off to find his office in Technopole. I hadn’t really paid attention when tapping in the address so when the GPS told me ‘you have reached your destination’, I was surprised to find that I was not outside an office building like he had described, but instead, before me, was Domenjod Prison.

Somewhat foolishly, it didn’t even cross my mind that this was a prank. I presumed I had misunderstood his directions or typed in the wrong address. It took me an hour of waiting and unanswered text messages to realize that Michel was either an inmate in Domenjod Prison or a bored kid.

I would like to think the former; that he is an inmate who, despite the mistakes of his past, is now looking to change his ways. And what better way to get ahead in life, than to learn English?

Vocabulary

to book – réserver
bright and early – très tôt
town hall – mairie
outstanding – exceptionnel
ceiling – plafond

twisting – sinueux
staircase – escalier
lavish – luxueux
courtyard – cour
to surround – entourer

headless – sans tête
to carry on – continuer
pregnant – enceinte
grounds man – jardinier
aside from – à part

gossip – commérages
porch – varangue
to stand – situer
social ladder – l’échelle sociale
step – étape

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

When I got to the end of my teaching contract in April, I had a big decision to make: do I go home to my family, my friends, my home, everything I know and love? Or do I stay in this place I have been discovering over the last seven months, where I have found friendship, love and, most importantly, a tan.

Both options were exciting and I knew I was going to learn a lot no matter the outcome.

I have to say it was a very difficult choice. I’m very close to my family, and the thought of being far away from them pinches my heart when I let myself think about it. I have to stop myself when I imagine all the Sunday roasts I miss, my father’s crazy cackle when he watches his favourite comedy show on TV and my mother’s sweet voice when she sings in the car.

You might wonder why, then, did I choose to stay?

Well, I simply asked myself these questions:

Firstly, where in England could I wake up to the heat of the sun beating down on me, motivating me to start my morning almost every day? Back home, the only way to get me up on a cold British morning is as follows: plug hair dryer in next to bed, turn hairdryer on, blow hot air under my duvet to defrost and prepare myself for the cold day ahead. It’s not the best kind of motivation!

Secondly, where else can you pick up a week’s worth of delicious free mangos and lychees off the road on your walk to work? In England you’d pay a fortune for those types of exotic fruits, but here mother nature just gives them to you for free!

Finally, where else can you get on a bus and feel like you have walked into a disco? Every time I get on a bus here I feel like dancing along to the sega or maloya music they have blasting out of the radio. I really don’t know how everyone manages to stay still, my feet always tap along to the beat. You just don’t get that loud appreciation for music and life on public transport in Britain.

Of course, I love my home country and everything that comes with it, even the frosty mornings and silent bus rides, because they are all part of my story. And in an ideal world, my family and friends would move to Reunion and we would all live happily ever after in the sunshine on the beach. But for now, I am going to stick with this Island, see where it takes me and who knows maybe one day I will call it home.

Vocabulary

tan – bronzage
outcome – résultat
close – proche
thought – idée
roast – rôti

cackle – gloussement
to wonder – se demander
plug – prise électrique
hairdryer – sèche-cheveux
duvet – couette

to defrost – décongeler
blasting – à fond
to manage – arriver à
beat – rythme
frosty – glacial
to stick – rester

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P*tain des Neiges!

Here is a story about my recent trip to p*tain des neiges!

I’m sorry,I mean Piton des Neiges of course. The highest point in the Indian Ocean standing tall at 3069 meters high.

So, on the14th and 15th of April, a bunch of friends and I decided to embark on a journey of self-discovery and endurance.We started hiking on Saturday at around noon after a hearty lunch of bread and cheese and off we went. For an hour and a half, we climbed slowly but surely.It was a hot day though, so water levels were going down quite quickly and we were desperate to fill our bottles up somewhere. The mountain took mercy on us and after a while we found a beautiful natural source of what looked like nice, clean water to drink from. We figured beggars can’t be choosers and off we continued.

The walk was going well, we were singing marching songs and playing games to keep morale high. After thirty minutes, despite everyone’s tiredness, it seemed people were less eager to walk at the back; they all seemed to want to go quicker. Struggling at the front, I couldn’t understand why, until I ended up behind the majority. It seemed something else had joined our group… A stomach bug… And it was leaving its potent mark in the air…

Before I knew it, we were all covering our noses with our hands the rest of the way to the gite, trying to reach toilets as quickly as humanly possible. Some of the group didn’t make it that far, they sacrificed their pride for relief in a bush, but for the lucky ones, and I use the term lucky very lightly, we managed to get to the gite before it was too late.

I won’t go into details, I wouldn’t want to put anyone off their dinner as they’re listening to this, but I will just say what I have learned from the experience:

First of all, on a long hike, bring extra bottled water, some baby wipes, and don’t trust a source just because nature is beautiful. Also maybe avoid eating cheese beforehand. Oh, and flatulence, much like a strong wind behind you, will help you up a steep mountain.

Interesting side note: In our room that night,each of us partook in an involuntary game of musical beds. But that stays between you, us and the mountain.

Vocabulary

bunch – bande
hearty – copieux
slowly but surely – lentement mais surement
to take mercy – avoir pitié
beggars can’t be choosers – il ne faut pas faire la fine bouche

to keep morale high – garder la motivation
tiredness – fatigue
to be eager – être pressé
to end up – finir
stomach bug –  problème de digestion

pride – fierté
relief – soulagement
bush – buisson
to go into details – entrer dans les détails
to put someone off – dégouter qqn

baby wipes – lingettes
side note – détail

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