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.
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