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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Try to Come Back in One Piece

There are two types of tourists, those who book five-star hotels and spend their days sipping coconut punch while tanning on the beach, and there are those who travel to experience every last sensation possible. My sister-in-law falls into the latter category, and even though she is now a pro (having visited the island three times now), I will never forget her first time here.

She arrived with an itinerary planned out for her fourteen days on the island: Piton des Neiges, catamaran, the volcano, Mafate, mountain biking, horseback riding, ULM, and of course a little time to enjoy the beach.

Hike number one: Piton de la Fournaise and to add excitement to the hike everyone decided to jog all the way back, so as they jogged across the lava all of a sudden my sister in law lost balance and fell onto the jagged lava rocks, she was bloody and bruised but nothing serious.  The next thing on the itinerary would continue as planned.

Mountain Biking in Maido’s lush forest, since they were seeking an adrenaline rush, they didn’t bother with the beginner trails, and after a few minutes my sister in law was on the ground, bleeding from new wounds which were inflicted when the bike hit a rock and she hit the ground.  But like a champion (and without much choice) she jumped back on the bike and finished the trail.

The next day she woke up sore, and sadly Piton des Neiges was canceled due to the injuries sustained on the mountain bike. So, they decided to take it easy for a few days on the beach instead, nothing can go wrong in the lagoon… right? Wrong! More blood as the coral reef took its revenge.

So with all these dangers around us, we decided to get off the island and relax for the day on a catamaran.  The day was going perfectly, sipping coconut punch and laying in the sun, we were finally living life without danger! As if it couldn’t get any more perfect, dolphins surrounded our boat, and we tried to slip into the water without making a splash to get a closer look, when all of a sudden we were in the ocean surrounded by a pool of blood… Everyone immediately forgot about the dolphins and struggled to get out of the water as fast as possible.  My sister in law had sliced the entire palm of her hand open on the boat.

“Reunion Island- l’île intense” had really lived up to its name on this first visit. As she boarded her plane she had a few extra bruises and a couple of new scars that would always remind her of this beautiful island full of extreme adventures.

Vocabulary

to sip = siroter
to tan = bronzer
latter = dernier
itinerary = itinéraire
mountain biking = VTT 

horseback riding = équitation
to jog = trottiner
jagged = coupant
bloody = ensanglanté
bruised = couvert de bleus 

lush = luxuriant
adrenaline rush = montée d’adrénaline
wounds = blessures
inflicted = infligé
sore = avoir mal 

injuries = blessures
to slip = glisser
to splash = éclabousser
to struggle = lutter
to slice = trancher

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The Fourth Cirque

Ask anyone, just ANYONE, the question: ‘How many cirques are there in Reunion?’ and everyone, I mean EVERYONE, will say ‘three?’

Wrong! There are four. You have probably only heard of Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos. This is because the fourth cirque, or ‘caldera’ can no longer be seen as it was completely filled up one day by a massive eruption of lava. And what is its name? It is called Cirque Des Marsouins. Marsouin means ‘porpoise’ in English, but you won’t find any of those here… And where is it? Well, it is located between Salazie and La Plaine des Palmistes.

Hang on”, I hear you cry! “That’s the Forests of Bébour and Bélouve!” Exactly. Over 150,000 years ago, our lovely Piton des Neiges was warming up for her swansong, preparing to give one final explosion of sulphurous ecstasy! Turning the taps on full flow, the vast crater was filled up to the brim with molten rock, fire and brimstone. This explains why, when you come up to the Col de Bébour, the wonderful panoramic view shows a forest which looks completely flat! And you’re standing on top of what used to be a towering cliff!

It might seem like a long way to drive – but if you live in the south, it is only one hour from St Pierre, and if you’re in the north and you fancy some exercise, the drive to Hellbourg only takes an hour from St Denis. From there you can hike up to the wonderful Gite de Belouve with its stunning view over Salazie, and the short walk to the famous Trou de Fer. While I’m on the subject of the Trou de Fer, I would formally like to invite everyone in Reunion to stop translating it as ‘The Iron Hole’. This means nothing! The French word ‘fer’ here does not mean ‘iron’, but ‘horseshoe’, because of the U-shaped configuration of the many waterfalls. Granted, ‘horseshoe hole’ doesn’t sound much better, so why don’t we go for ‘Horseshoe Falls’? Please pass this information on to EVERY helicopter pilot you know!!

Anyway, coming back from our horses to our porpoises, I have to admit that the Cirque des Marsouins is the one part of the island that I have explored the least, and just looking at the names of places and hikes to do there is enough to get my running shoes and camelback on! So, I’ll see you in the Cirque des Marsouins – may the Fourth be with you!!

Vocabulary

anyone = n’importe qui
everyone = tout le monde
wrong = faux
no longer = ne plus
to fill up = remplir

located = situé
between = entre
to hang on = attendre un instant
to warm up = s’échauffer
swansong = chant du cygne

taps = robinets
to the brim = à ras bord
molten = en fusion
brimstone = souffre
flat = plat

towering = gigantesque
to hike = randonner
stunning = éblouissant
granted = effectivement
anyway = (ici) bref

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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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Ice-Skating in Reunion

I’m going to share a secret with you, in my dreams I am a champion ice-skater.

Whenever I watch ice-skating on TV, I can hear and feel the blades cutting into the ice.   Intuitively, I can recognise the precise moment when the skater inclines his foot and changes from the outside to the inside edge of the blade.  As a child I skated regularly. Later in life there were few opportunities to skate and my boots were often out of sight, but never out of mind.

Before moving to Reunion, in July 2000, my husband diplomatically brought up the subject of my skates. “Sheila, what is the point of taking your skates to Reunion?  Tropical islands don’t have ice-rinks.”

Well, of course he was right. For nearly three years they lay at the back of the garage gathering dust, until one day, out of the blue, I noticed a poster in town. Wow! A former French Olympic Champion was coming to skate on a specially constructed outdoor rink in St Denis where I live!

Back home, I dug out my old, shabby skates and polished them, much to the amusement of my family. I was now a woman with a mission. I was going to skate in the tropics.

Several months later, I drove down to the venue. I hadn’t managed to get an invitation to skate even though I was a client of the main sponsor. Not surprisingly, the security guard at the gate wouldn’t let me in. Stubborn as ever, I decided to hang around outside.

There I was, standing at the entrance, skates flung over my shoulder, when a large car pulled up at the entrance. The driver was involved in the logistics for the ice-show. Staring at my skates in sheer disbelief, he stuck his head through the car window and listened to my story. With a ‘tranche papaye’ smile, as they say in creole, he told me to come back the following day. I was on cloud nine and rushed home to tell everyone the news.

I remember vividly the strange sensation of skating outdoors in light summer clothes, trying forgotten figures and a simple jump, only to fall on my bum and get soaking wet! With dripping clothes and a bruised ego, I got up determined to make the most of every second. In no time at all I was bone dry again and smiling.

Reunion Island had come out tops once more with this amazing one-off skating experience.

Perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea to bring my skates to Reunion after all.

Vocabulary

ice-skating = patinage sur glace
blades = lames
out of sight but never out of mind = loin des yeux mais jamais loin du cœur
to bring up the subject of = aborder un sujet
what is the point? = quel est l’intérêt?

dust = poussière
out of the blue = en sortant de nul part
outdoor rink = patinoire à l’extérieur
to dig out = ressortir, déterrer
shabby = usé, miteux

stubborn = têtu
to hang around = trainer
flung = jeté
to pull up = s’arrêter
I was on cloud nine = j’étais aux anges

to rush = se précipiter
bum = fesses
bone dry = complétement sec
to come out tops = arrive en tête
one-off = un cas unique

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