Carri Poulet

I have to admit that Creole cuisine is not my favourite. It’s not because of the flavour, it’s because of the bones. For those of you who know me, you know that I don’t enjoy eating meat off the bone. Give me a chicken breast over a chicken drumstick any day!

So when I first arrived in Reunion I was eager to try the local food to see what it was all about. When my friend invited me to her mother’s for dinner I jumped at the chance. My first Creole dinner cooked by a Creole lady, it couldn’t get any better than that! On the menu was a traditional carri poulet. ‘Great!’ I thought.

So I arrived and I was greeted by the family and we all sat around a very large table. After trying to decipher some Creole and follow a conversation unsuccessfully, my attention turned to the huge pile of rice, which was making its way to the table. I have now learnt that this was a normal amount of rice for any meal. After that the beans and the famous carri arrived – at this point I was starving!

So I was served a generous amount and was the butt of the jokes as I politely skipped on the rougail tomate. I couldn’t wait to stuff my face but being British I made sure my elbows were off the table and I ate with my knife and fork, something, which attracted attention as the majority of the family were eating with their hands…but that’s an entirely different story.

As I neared the end of my meal and ate the last bit of chicken I was just about to put down my knife and fork and then it happened. SLURPPPPPP!

I thought somebody was choking on a bone but to my surprise no! One by one everybody started picking up their bones and sucking and slurping over them. I didn’t know whether to look horrified, smile or even laugh! Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. It didn’t take long for someone to question me as to why I wasn’t doing the same. I just didn’t know what to respond to not offend anybody or be rude! But where I am from this is a no no! It is just as bad as licking your plate! I have never sucked on a bone at the dinner table nor would I ever do it, especially when invited to somebody’s house!

This was one experience I will never forget. I can still remember the SLLUUURRRPP even now!

Vocabulary

flavour = le goût
bones = les os
to enjoy = apprécier
chicken breast = blanc de poulet
chicken drumstick = cuisse de poulet 

to be eager to = avoir hâte de
to see what it’s about = voir de quoi il s’agit
to jump at the chance = sauter sur l’occasion de faire qqch
to decipher = déchiffrer
huge = énorme 

to be starving = avoir la dalle
to be the butt of the joke = être la cible d’une blague
to skip = passer
to stuff my face = s’empiffrer
elbow = coude 

to near the end = approcher la fin
to choke = étouffer
awkward = gênant
rude = mal poli
to lick your plate = lécher son assiette

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Next Day Delivery Please!

Online shopping is becoming more and more popular in Reunion Island. With a number of apps and websites, you can sit on the sofa and at the push of a button you’ve just ordered online and it should be delivered in a few weeks. I say should, but this is not quite the reality.

The post office is apparently drowning in the number of parcels they are receiving and therefore the delivery is not always guaranteed within a few weeks. I recently decided to test online shopping in Reunion Island and it is something, which I won’t do again for a while.

People often ask if there is anything I miss about not living in England and in the past there was nothing…until now. I used to regularly shop online in the UK out of convenience and more often than not I received the item the next day. In the UK you are able to order online and have next day delivery often for free. With some companies you can now shop until midnight and still have next day delivery! I realise now that I miss next day delivery!

I am not expecting next day delivery to the middle of the Indian Ocean but usually there is no delivery possible. For many reasons, many products cannot be delivered to Reunion Island, which is a real shame. I miss being able to have a huge range of products at competitive prices. We often have to wait weeks or even months for the new products to be available to purchase on the island.

My phone case recently broke and I decided to try and order online. I made my purchase and paid and waited, and waited. After a staggering 8 weeks the parcel finally arrived, I had actually forgot that I ordered it! The product looked nothing like the photo and didn’t even fit my phone. Rather than send the product back, I decided to cut my losses and learn my lesson.

I tried online shopping in Reunion Island and it wasn’t for me. I like the thrill of ordering and receiving the product in a short amount of time. From now on, I think I will stick to the “shopping malls” in Reunion Island to buy my products.

Vocabulary

push of a button = l’appui d’un bouton
to order online = commander en ligne
should = devrait
to deliver = livrer
not quite = pas forcément

to drown = se noyer
a few = quelques
for a while = pendant un moment
out of convenience = par commodité
more often than not = la plupart du temps

next day delivery = livraison le lendemain
to realise = se rendre compte
usually = d’habitude
a real shame = un vrai dommage
phone case = une coque

staggering = stupéfiant
to look like = ressembler
rather than = plutôt que de
to cut my losses = limiter les dégâts
thrill = un frisson

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The Future has Arrived!

I love technology. When I heard about 4G arriving in Reunion Island I must admit I was excited. No longer were the days of buffering when trying to stream a video, or at least that is what I thought.

I made sure my phone was fully charged and I had all the correct settings ready to finally see the 4G symbol on the 1st of December. The morning came and went, still no 4G. I couldn’t help but feel that they had somehow forgotten about me…

Around noon, I finally saw the 4G symbol. Hallelujah! I quickly went to stream some videos on the net to see the 4G in action. I was, however, a little disappointed with the speed, it didn’t seem to be as fast as the 4G in the UK. Although the videos did stream with only slight buffering, I couldn’t help but compare it to being able to watch HD videos at the push of a button. I decided to be patient, something that is very difficult for me, and see if the service improved. As the days and weeks passed the speed increased and it is now slightly comparable to that of the UK. I can now stream videos in HD but it is still not perfect.

Not only has 4G allowed Reunion Island to move with the technological times, it has also opened the floodgates for mass competition. Gone are the days of expensive phone contracts with hardly any data allowance. Now the prices are, in my opinion, more reasonable. No they are not as cheap as the UK but they are better than they were. There are now contracts, which boast 20 gigabytes of internet for as little as 25€. I think this is a massive advantage for everybody living in Reunion Island! I would go as far as to say that I think in the coming months the contracts will again reduce in price, with the introduction of other phone companies to the island.

In addition to the cheaper prices, I feel that I have better signal quality. Even when at home, I have a full signal so I no longer need to hang out of the window to try and gain a few extra bars!

As I said, I am so happy that Reunion Island is moving forward with technology and I am excited to see what the future holds for us in paradise!

Vocabulary

no longer  = ne…plus
buffering/ to buffer = charger
to stream = regarder en streaming
at least = au moins
to make sure = vérifier

settings  = paramètres
cannot help = ne pas pouvoir s’empêcher
around = vers
hallelujah = alléluia
in action = en fonctionnement

to be disappointed = être déçu
speed = vitesse
slight = léger
to open the floodgates = ouvrir la porte à qqch
mass competition = concurrence de masse

phone contracts = forfaits
data allowance = internet inclus avec le forfait
cheaper = moins cher
signal = réseau
bars = barres

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Islomania

Having grown up on an island, I never thought anything more of it than that. The United Kingdom is an island but compared to Reunion, it doesn’t feel as intimate. When I first arrived in Reunion I had thought I would arrive on a sand runway and be able to walk around the island in a matter of hours. How wrong was I!

The novelty of living on a small island has not worn off, even two years after moving here. I love the fact that I can drive around the island in a few hours, or I go to the cinema in St Paul and have to drive half way around the island to get there. It feels very surreal. To drive around England would take a day or so, so there really is no comparison.

I was on Instagram a few months ago, and I suddenly came across a post about “islomania.” This is a word I had never used before. Islomania is an obsessional enthusiasm for islands. I immediately thought, this is me. I love reading about small islands and wonder what it’s like to live on such a small island. Since living in Reunion, I have been to Rodrigues and the Seychelles, islands, which are even smaller than Reunion. For some people, they hate the fact that the islands are so small and that besides the beach and the landscape there isn’t really much else to do. But for me, this is fascinating. I love the idea of seeing open ocean and nothing else and knowing that for thousands of miles there is nothing. For others this is their worst nightmare.

I now want to explore other smaller islands and atolls around the globe to see what life is like and how different cultures survive on such small areas of land. Although I have been to many islands, they have all been reasonably developed in terms of electricity and running water. I would love to experience islands where this infrastructure isn’t in place and see the challenges you face with this. Maybe in this situation, I would hate living on such a small island…

So I guess Reunion Island has made me “suffer” from islomania, or did I always have this enthusiasm for islands?

Vocabulary

sand – sable
runway – piste
a matter of hours – quelques heures
to wear off – se dissiper
landscape – paysage

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Brits Abroad

Finally after two years of living in Reunion my parents decided to make the ‘terribly long’ journey. Although they didn’t choose the easiest route, deciding to fly via Dubai and Mauritius, they finally made it to paradise. The first thing my father noticed was the heat! Like me, my mother loves the heat, but my father isn’t the biggest fan but luckily I have air con at my place!

So after a 24 hour journey we got stuck straight into the beach and lunch. It was their first taste of island life, drinking a Dodo, eating samosas and « chillaxing » on the beach, which, as my mother adored, is just a stone’s throw away from my apartment. The first evening we headed to my favourtie restaurant in St Pierre to taste some local cuisine. I, of course, opted for a rougail saucisse whereas they both chose swordfish. My father had a shock when he tasted what he thought was a lovely little tomato salad…yes he ate a big spoonful of rougail tomate! His face was hilarious. (I’m not mean honestly.)

We made sure to venture around Réunion, well the beaches at least. As my parents were only visiting reunion for a total of 6 days, time was a limited resource and it was of course their holiday. We did, however, spend Sunday the traditional Creole way, with my friends and their family over a BBQ just below Piton Bois de Nefles, Etang Salé. I am addicted to BBQs now, every opportunity I have, I take to have a BBQ. The weather is a major factor because in the UK I hated BBQs, but here with the sun constantly shining, there is nothing better than to hang out with friends over some grilled meat!

It was here in Etang Salé that I saw my first shark in Reunion. The shark was somehow attached to buoy in the sea. Safe to say we didn’t go swimming after that! Again it was these little experiences which made my parents holiday that extra special. Although the fact that they don’t speak any French at all, made my experience a little more stressful, translating menus several times then repeating again isn’t all that fun!

On the day before our departure to Mauritius, I decided to organise a tour of the island in a light aircraft for my mother. What better way to see Reunion than from above, plus the perfect gift for Mother’s Day, which just so happened to be the same day! I did offer it to my father too, but as soon as I mentioned the idea, his face drained with colour. He suffers from vertigo, so the idea of flying in a light aircraft terrified him. So off my mother flew, and after 60 minutes she returned with a huge grin on her face. She loved it! At least this way she had the chance to see the volcano, Cilaos,the Piton des Neiges and Mafate. It was the perfect way to end the lovely, but short, stay on the island.

We then flew to Mauritius to spend a week on the beach and nothing more.

Vocabulary

journey – voyage
route – parcours
to notice – remarquer
air con – la clim
« chillaxing » – se détendre

a stone’s throw away – à un jet de pierre
whereas – tandis que
swordfish – espadon
spoonful – cuillerée
mean – méchant

hang out – trainer dehors
several times – plusieurs fois
Mother’s Day – Fête des Mères
grin – sourire

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From One Paradise to Another

Never did I think that at the age of 24 I would go to one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world. In January I flew to the island of Mahé in the Republic of Seychelles. This tiny country in the middle of the Indian Ocean has always been a dream of mine; the idyllic beaches and the laid-back lifestyle. I travelled with my best friend from England, who had come over for a 4-week stay in the Indian Ocean. Along with another friend we embarked on what turned out to be the most incredible adventure ever.

Even boarding the flight in St Denis, it felt exclusive. People, myself included, were taking pictures of the information board, which stated the Seychelles as our destination, as a way to make people envious back home I’m sure! As we landed late in the evening, we could only make out the silhouette of the huge backdrop of mountains and the quiet, deserted capital ‘city’. Early next morning, we boarded a ferry to take us to Praslin, 45km from Mahé. I must admit the ride was the bumpiest I have ever been on. Children were being sick left right and centre and even adults were running to the only toilet and returning moments later covered in water. (I can only imagine what happened!)

We toured Praslin for three days, visiting the most famous and most photographed beaches in the world. The beautiful turquoise water lapped onto soft plush white sand. This, I thought, are what dreams are made of! After enjoying too many ice creams and enduring the white-knuckle bus rides, we moved on to la Digue, 15km from Praslin.

Think of a little island, in the middle of the ocean, no cars and no Internet, this somewhat describes life in la Digue. We hired bikes and after a few uneasy starts, we toured the island also for 3 days.  Again we visited deserted beaches with powder like sand and I even found a hammock, in which I spent an incredible relaxing morning.

Cut off from the world, no phones, no Internet, nothing, it was the perfect way to really relax and take everything in.

Even as I waddled back to the ferry to return to Mahé, I still couldn’t believe I was in the Seychelles. There are not many 24 year olds who could say they casually took a trip to paradise for week!

Vocabulary

Honeymoon – lune de miel
Tiny – minuscule
Laid-back – décontracté
Along with – avec
To board – monter à bord

To land – s’atterrir
Background – toile de fond
Bumpy – cahoteux
White-knuckle – terrifiante
To hire – louer

Uneasy – inquiet
To waddle – se dandiner

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A Day-Trip to the Usine du Gol

If there’s one thing we’ve noticed about Reunion in our short time here, it’s that everything is much sweeter. Therefore we decided to visit the sugar cane factory one morning, before they are closed for production in December, to see how the magic happens.

We made reservations for a morning visit and set out to St. Louis bright and early. The tour was surprisingly full, reservations are definitely recommended.  The first part involved a short cartoon video explaining sugar production and the various uses of its by-products; but the best part was yet to come. Before you can enter the facility you must gear up(photo op!). We put on hairnets, hard hats, and special headphones so we could hear the guide. Here’s a helpful hint: the factory has strict clothing guidelines so leave your jewellery at home and make sure you wear trainers. 

Our first stop was the entrance of the factory where they weigh both the tractor and the sugarcane together. We then moved along to where the tractors drop off their cane in order to begin the refining process. The tour then moved along the inner workings of the factory, with some stops for taste tests along the way. The temperature increased drastically along parts of the tour, making sugar is an intense process! 

The most interesting thing we discovered on the tour was how much sugarcane is actually produced in Reunion, over 210,000 tons! Although 70% of Reunion sugar is exported to mainland France under the brands La Perruche and Blonvilliers, a good portion is sold here in Reunion under the brand Mascarin (be sure to try some next time you’re at the supermarket). All in all we had a great morning at the factory and would highly recommend it if you’re in the area!

Vocabulary

To notice – remarquer
Sweeter – plus doux
Therefore – donc
Closed – fermé
To happen – se passer 

To set out – partir
Bright and early – très tôt
Full – plein
Involved – impliqué
By-products – sous-produit 

Yet to come – encore à venir
Gear up – se préparent
Op (slang) – occasion
Hairnet – charlotte
Hard hat – casque dur 

Headphone – casque
Jewellery – bijoux
Trainers – basket
To weigh – peser
The area – la zone

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An Assistant Returns

After having completed one year as an assistant in paradise, I knew my time couldn’t be over.

It was a warm day in June as I made final preparations to leave Reunion, for what I thought was a long time. Even as I checked in for my flight, I had the offer to extend my stay as it was overbooked! I had mentally prepared myself to leave Reunion for at least 2 years and as I took off from St Denis I said my final farewell and mi aime à ou to Reunion.

I had spent the last 9 months living the dream in paradise. I was an assistant teaching in two colleges, one in St Pierre and the other in Entre-Deux. It was the first time I had ever taught and although, at first, it was extremely hard, I learnt a lot during the year and it was the best year of my life, so far! I had so much fun teaching the students about my culture, traditions and my way of life back in the UK, even if sometimes they thought things were disgusting, a big fried breakfast for instance!

So as I returned to the UK and planned to spend the summer in China, I couldn’t help but think everyday about Reunion and the wonderful people I met. During my travels in China, a lot of people asked what I did and I couldn’t help but talk and talk about Reunion and how they must visit. (Even though nobody had ever heard of it!) I dreamt every night of the beautiful beaches and the clear blue skies; although China was hot it was totally different from Island life.

Upon my return to the UK, I received an email telling me that there may be a position to be an assistant again next year, as my successor had dropped out.  I waited anxiously for a few days, trying not to build my hopes up. 3 days later I received confirmation that I was accepted again as an assistant and that I would be able to return to the two schools I had worked at.

This was the best news I had received all summer. I never thought it would have been possible to return to Reunion and work again so soon after I left.

Now as I make my final preparations to return to paradise for another year, counting down the days until I board that flight back to Reunion, I am eager to start working with my colleagues and with the students to again have one unforgettable experience in paradise.

Who knows if I will ever be able to leave…

Vocabulary

to check in – enregistrer
to have fun – s’amuser
way of life – mode de vie
fried breakfast – petit-déjeuner frit
to drop out – abandonner

to build your hopes up – faire des plans sur la comète
to board a flight – embarquer
eager – pressé

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