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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Driving Licence

Mine is a fairly strange case.  I was born in England so I have a European passport.  But I grew up in Australia. So all of my papers are Australian.  This seems to cause a whole lot of confusion. Take, for example, the case of my driving licence.  I found some seriously conflicting information about how you convert an Aussie licence to a French one and realised that a trip to the prefecture was on the cards.

Once there, I hand my papers through the slot, thinking that this all seems a bit easy! Well, it wasn’t long before the bubble burst! I was politely informed that my papers couldn’t possibly be taken – I had filled in the form in blue pen, not black!  And I wasn’t even in the right place…  All things concerning driver’s licences are dealt with in St Paul.   I took another application, reminding myself to fill this one out with a black pen, and headed back to St Paul… only to be told that all things concerning driver’s licences are dealt with at the prefecture in St Denis!!  AAAhhhhh!

Back in St Denis and I’m determined to get this sorted out! I hand over my papers and, upon seeing my Australian licence, the lady asks me for my visa. This is where it gets interesting! I explain I don’t have a visa as I am English by birth and have a European passport. « Where is your British driver’s licence? » she asks.  I explain that I left the UK when I was 11, so I don’t have a British licence… « But, why not? » she asks… Uuummm, 11 year olds in the UK don’t get driver’s licences!!  She seems to think this is quite strange, but finally accepts it!

20 minutes later and she suddenly « realises » that this is all pointless and says that I don’t need to change my licence at all!! It’s fine for me to use my Australian one.  Unbelievable!! So all seems well.

That is until I was pulled over by the cops for a random check. The prefecture was right… I can use my Aussie licence… But only for 6 months!! So now I have to head back to St Denis to start the whole process from scratch!!

Vocabulary

to grow up = grandir
to seem = sembler
conflicting = contradictoire
Aussie = Australien
a trip = un trajet

on the cards = inévitable
slot = la fente
to burst = éclater
politely = poliment
to fill in = remplir

to deal with = traiter
to sort out = résoudre
to hand over = donner
birth = naissance
strange = bizarre

pointless = inutile
to be pulled over = se faire arrêter
cops = les flics
to head back = retourner
from scratch = de zéro

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Life in the Circus

Like so many of us today, I sometimes find that working can be stressful. Whether you’re an employee, executive, or freelancer like myself, you often feel like a circus performer: you could be a lion-tamer managing your boss, a high-wire artist trying not to fall, or an acrobat juggling a hundred different hoops at the same time.

Personally, the circus act I feel closest to is the plate-spinner. You know, they have a whole load of plates spinning on wooden sticks, and they have to keep rushing from one to another and back again to stop the plates from falling and smashing on the ground.

Of course, it depends on the time of the year. But just one glimpse at my timetable and to-do list for this week is a daunting challenge. I’ve three main activities: coaching, interpreting and translating so, in reverse order, this week’s plates have included translating the following documents: Air Austral’s in-flight magazine, a European regional funding report, a short film in Mafate and the finishing touches to the Musée de Villèle website and application.

As far as interpreting goes, I need to brush up on my technical vocab for next week’s Iomma, the three day Indian Ocean music market before Sakifo kicks off.

And as for the coaching, every week involves a lot of driving. As I work between St Louis and Ste Suzanne, I usually do an average of 2000 km per month. The companies where I teach business English at the moment work in fields such as sugar cane, automobiles, IT, tourism, construction and regional cooperation.

Ok, this might sound like a lot, but it’s not finished yet! I do my own admin, so there are all the quotations and invoices to send, money to chase up and, of course, taxes to pay! And not forgetting working on anglais.re’s podcasts and e-learning program with my fantastic friend and colleague Richard, and having the privilege of working with all my fellow English trainers, translators and interpreters. You know who you are!

Like them, I enjoy keeping myself busy. But I must admit it would be nice to work just a little bit less! However, once a plate has started spinning, you can’t let it stop and crash to the ground! Which reminds me, I have to go now, as my circus act is calling me, and there are a few plates which need my attention! That’s life in the circus folks!

Vocabulary

whether = si (oui ou non)
executive = cadre
lion-tamer = dompteur de lion
high-wire artist = funambule
circus act = numéro de cirque

plate-spinning = assiette tournante
to smash = éclater en morceaux
glimpse = aperçu
timetable = planning
daunting = décourageant

to brush up on = réviser
to involve = impliquer
average = moyenne
fields = domaines
my own = ma propre

quotations = devis
invoices = factures
to chase up = relancer
fellow = confrère
however = par contre

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Heat in the Kitchen

I thought that there wouldn’t be too many people at the grocery store on a Thursday morning, at the end of the month. Boy, was I wrong. Fortunately, I got to talking with a nice lady in the line and it helped pass the time.

She noticed a box of couscous in my cart and wanted to know all about how I prepared it, telling me about the one and only time she attempted to make it and miserably failed. After explaining how to cook it, she asked, “What do you eat it with?” and I replied “All sorts of saucy dishes, even rougail saucisses! When she heard that, you would’ve thought, by the look on her face, that she had swallowed a fly, no wait, maybe more like a hedgehog.  I was ready to catch her had she fainted, but she managed to squeak out “You eat rougail saucisse with couscous?” I sheepishly said yes, and even that it was a delicious option to change things up a bit. She nodded and smiled but I could tell she thought I was crazy.

I feel like this example of utter bafflement pretty much sums up my relationship with Creole cuisine. I love to cook, take pride in constantly trying new things and pushing my culinary limits. I love the food here, so naturally I have tried to recreate it at home. Even though I am well aware that I do not have one Creole bone in my body, the numerous cookbooks I have invested in don’t make it easy either.

One of the books has the recipe, a picture with all the ingredients, and step-by-step pictures of how to make it. But what do you do when the recipe says 3 eggs and there are only 2 in the picture? Or what about when a recipe calls for shallot but then talks about an onion instead? I mean, I’m used to, and now enjoy improvising after years trying to find certain American ingredients for some of my beloved recipes. But when you’re using a local cookbook, written by a local person, using local ingredients, why can’t the final outcome taste like the melt-in-your-mouth vanilla duck at the hole-in-the-wall down the street?

Maybe that’s just it. I have often been disappointed with the Creole food I make, but rarely when I buy it from a shack or eat at a restaurant. After only a year of living here, is it already time to throw in the towel, retire my mortar and pestle and get out of the kitchen? I think I’ll invite my supermarket friend to come over for lunch; she’ll make the rougail saucisses and I’ll make the couscous.

Vocabulary

grocery store = supermarché
line = fil d’attente
cart = caddie
to swallow = avaler
fly = mouche

hedgehog = hérisson
to faint = s’évanouir
sheepishly = timidement
to nod = hocher la tête
utter = total 

bafflement = confusion
recipe = recette
beloved = cher
outcome = résultat
hole-in-the-wall = boui-boui 

disappointed = déçu
rarely = rarement
to throw in the towel = jeter l’éponge
mortar = mortier
pestle = pilon

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