Ilet Alcide

Hello! Welcome to another podcast from Anglais.re.

Here I am up in the west of Reunion Island, in an area that’s called Le Maido. Le Maido is a viewpoint looking out over the cirque of Mafate at around 2600m altitude. It’s a phenomenal viewpoint. To be more precise, I am exactly on a footpath which runs down from Maido to a village called Sans Souci. As you can see from the signpost here: ‘Ilet Alcide’ ‘Sans Souci’. Sans Souci is that way, about an hour and a half’s jog, or a couple of hours’ slow walk if you’re Richard!

Going up to the right is a place called Ilet Alcide. This is a place where about 60 years ago there was a guy who lived there, all on his own in the middle of nowhere, perched on the edge of this cliff-face. There was a river running through the area where he lived and he had a makeshift hut in which he slept. His name was Gerard Alcide Clain, and he lived there for quite some time – about fifteen years if memory serves me correctly.

In any case, this viewpoint, in fact this walk has a whole range of viewpoints, and as you walk down from Le Maido towards Ilet Alcide, I have to say it is for me the most beautiful and spectacular footpath the island has to offer. People don’t generally take this footpath, so there’s no litter. Having said that, the ONF people (the National Forestry Commission), they come down here quite regularly to maintain the footpath, and they do a great job.

I often come up here, just with the dog who’s sniffing something down there as I speak. And we have an hour and a half jogging around here, there’s no-one to be seen. It’s a great break from the crazy life of living down by the coast. We all need to get away from it from time to time, I know I do!

Anyway, thanks for joining us, and see you next time on Anglais.re!

Vocabulary

viewpoint = point de vue
footpath = sentier pedestre
signpost = panneau d’indication
guy = type
perched = perché

edge = bord
cliff-face = falaise, paroi
makeshift = improvisé
towards = vers
litter = dechets

having said that = cela dit
maintain = entretenir
sniffing = renifler
to get away = s’échapper

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Naming a Cyclone

Hello and welcome to another episode of Koz Anglais.

Here I am at Meteo France. I’ve just completed a week’s session with the WMO, which is the UN branch of the World Meteorological Organization. Every two years they have a meeting, region by region. We are in the region of Africa, so here present in the room that you can see behind me, we had delegates from Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Swaziland, South Africa, Reunion of course and even Australia paid a visit.

It was a very interesting session with lots of different things discussed, both technically and operationally – we learned a lot about cyclones, I can assure you!

The media came in, and their one question was of course about the naming of the cyclones. “Have we named the cyclones for the next coming few years?” And the answer was ‘yes’, but there were some interesting problems that arose during the choosing of the names.

For the first fourteen letters of the alphabet, more or less, they have to find new names every year – the second part of the alphabet they simply recycle names from the past. But there was the delegate from Zimbabwe who said that one of the names proposed by Botswana, unfortunately, I think the name was Cyclone KUFA, he said “we can’t have that because in Kiswahili, ‘KUFA’ means ‘die’, and you can’t have a cyclone called ‘die’”.

So the representatives from the WMO spoke up, saying “this is happening more and more. We’ve noted in the Caribbean there’s a very traditional name for cyclones called ISIS,” which is of course the name for the Islamic State in Syria. So they have to be very careful about choosing names which don’t cause problems or controversy in the different countries.

Then the other members started to pipe up – the member from Botswana said “We can’t have ‘IAN’ as a cyclone, because that’s the name of our President at the moment!” There was some laughter from that. And then the representative from Mauritius said “Hang on, you’re right! We can’t have AMEENAH, because that is also a presidential name.” But the funniest was the delegate from Madagascar who said “I apologise for being coarse, but the name ‘ITAY’ in Madagascar is a bit vulgar.” She was asked to explain this, and she said “well, ‘I’ means ‘this’ in Malagasy, and ‘TAY’ means ‘shit’”, so there was me interpreting at a UN conference and I had to say the words ‘this shit’ in English! It was quite a moment for me!

Anyway, that’s the end of this podcast. Don’t forget to come back regularly to anglais.re – see you soon!

Vocabulary

session = séance
UN = ONU
delegates = délégués
arose = survenu
unfortunately = malheureusement

careful = prudent
to pipe up = prendre la parole
laughter = rire
coarse = vulgaire

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Magma-gnificent

Hello! Welcome to another podcast from anglais.re. As you can see, this week we’re in a rather special location, up on Reunion Island’s erupting volcano, Le Piton de La Fournaise, which has currently been erupting for the last four weeks, and apparently it’s the fourth eruption this year.

Now, as it’s been going for so long, I said to myself “James, you MUST get up there as quickly as possible before the eruption stops”, because usually they only last for a few hours or a few days, but this one has been going for four weeks, and I said “if I don’t go now, I’m going to miss it!”

So, up at the crack of dawn: 2am alarm clock, a two-hour drive from St Paul, then an hour and a half’s jog round the crater to this spectacular viewpoint called Piton Bert, and here for sunrise. As you can see, the summit of the volcano is here, and here we have the vent which is where the magma is coming up, and of course you can see it flowing all the way down the mountain. And it’ll continue until it goes out to sea.

I must admit it is a very spectacular and humbling experience – I’ve been here for fifteen years on the island and this is possibly one of the most emotional moments I’ve had. To see nature in all its glory like this is a real privilege. I can even feel the heat coming off from the volcano here and I am probably 500-600 metres away. As you can see I’m on the top of a cliff looking down. If I show you to the left – there you can see the cliff. I’m not going to venture any closer. Last week somebody did venture closer and they fell all the way down to the bottom. So…I won’t do that.

OK, look forward to seeing you all again for another podcast at anglais.re. I can promise you, it won’t be as spectacular as this one.

Anyway, good bye and see you soon!

Vocabulary

rather = plutôt
location = lieu
quickly = rapidement
to last = durer
a few = quelques

to miss = rater
crack of dawn = l’aurore, l’aube
sunrise = lever du soleil
vent = fissure
to flow = couler

humbling = qui rend humble
heat = chaleur

cliff = falaise

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Welcome to Mafate!

Welcome to another podcast from anglais.re. Here we are in Mafate, in the heart of Reunion Island. Mafate is one of the three ‘cirques’. There are no roads coming into Mafate – this is one of the beauties of the place, which means it’s very calm, very peaceful – until of course the helicopters arrive and I’m sure that during this recording there will be a couple of interruptions! But the helicopters are the only way for the people of Mafate to get access to provisions and supplies.

The main activity here is tourism. There are many gîtes, which is a Reunionese word for ‘guesthouse’, where people come – they hike across the cirque, they spend the night and have some wonderful food and drink in the company of locals here.

As far as population goes, there are eight hundred people living in Mafate across various different villages called ilets. I am currently in La Nouvelle, which is the largest of the villages. There are two hundred people living here. There is a school. There is a church. There is even a Jacuzzi which has been put into one of the guesthouses. For the school, the teachers come in on a Monday morning, spend the week here with the children and then leave on Friday afternoon.

To give you an idea of the size, as I said, there are two hundred people living here, and the next village further on is called Marla. There are fifty people approximately living in Marla. To give you an idea of those fifty people, there are 13 guesthouses already, which is the same as there are here in La Nouvelle in fact. Of course, in La Nouvelle the capacity is a lot greater – they can sleep a lot more people in the guesthouses.

I’ve been staying with the team of the Rélais de Mafate, run by Mathieu Cernot and his wonderful team. Here in Mafate today and yesterday I’ve been doing English language training, teaching them the basics in dealing with their tourists who don’t necessarily speak French. A lot of tourists come from Germany and from Switzerland, not so many British, but quite a few South Africans as well are coming in, and good news: there are more and more Chinese tourists coming in.

So I recommend you come in, visit the place. It’s only a two hour walk in fact, from the car park up the hill and down into the cirque of Mafate, across a beautiful place called La Plaine des Tamarins, and I really recommend it for a wonderful break away.

Vocabulary

heart = coeur
peaceful = tranquille
recording = enregistrement
supplies = provisions
hike = randonner

church = église
further = plus loin
already = déjà
deal with = gérer
hill = colline

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Heinz Beans or Cot Citron?

Reunion Island and Mauritius both share a similar 17th and 18th century history of colonisation, slavery, and pirates, but today the two societies are very different indeed. Reunion is French-speaking, a part of Europe and a place where if you are underprivileged, or can’t find work, you won’t be left to die in abject poverty. Which is nice. You won’t be able to speak English very well, but you can’t have your cake and eat it, can you? As for Mauritius, the island is totally independent, offers very little help for the poor or unemployed and, according to the statistics, there are as many Mauritians living in poverty as there are RMIstes in Reunion. But if you’re a rich golfer, you will love it there… So the big question is: what happened? Where did it all go wrong? Or right, depending on the island you’re on.

Well, back in 1810 there was a key moment which changed the two island’s destinies. Following the French Revolution, the nasty old English thought they would attack the unprotected French colonies and steal all their goodies. They decided to attack Reunion, then known as Isle Bourbon, and on July 8th the French signed their surrender at La Redoute – that’s the stadium in St Denis, not the online fashion catalogue.

The island remained under English control until 1814, when Napoleon was defeated and a treaty was signed bringing France’s borders back to what they had been in 1792 – their colonies were returned, including Reunion Island, but there were three exceptions which were given to the English instead: Saint Lucia, Tobago and Mauritius. But the question is why? Why did the English prefer to keep Mauritius and not insist on keeping Reunion as well?

There are two big theories: one suggests that the Reunionese population, made up of ferociously belligerent warrior slaves from Madagascar, were simply too difficult to manage. Many slaves at that time thought they would be enfranchised by the English – apparently slavery was no longer their cup of tea by then – so the Reunionese did their best to rise up against their French slave-owners, resulting in the famous rebellion of St Leu in 1811. Several slaves were sentenced to death for their part in this. Strangely enough, their trial took place in the cathedral of St Denis, which was struck by lightning, killing the magistrate’s wife. Divine intervention? Maybe. Anyway, that’s one theory. The other theory is that the English soldiers just couldn’t stand the local food. French cuisine? Awful! No Baked Beans? No steak and kidney pie? No Christmas pudding? ‘We cannot stay here!’ they cried. And so, they went off to Mauritius instead. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And what of the English people still here in Reunion? Why have we not left? First of all, it’s important to point out that you can now buy Baked Beans in LeClerc Le Portail, so that’s one BIG problem solved. If you ask me why I’m still here, I could say it’s because of the amazing people, stunning scenery and sublime climate. But to be honest, it’s all about the food and drink, and this one simple truth: I couldn’t live anywhere without COT Citron.

Vocabulary

to share = partager
have your cake and eat it = avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre
unemployed = chomeur
nasty = méchant
goodies = sucreries, bonbons

to keep = garder
to manage = gérer
enfranchised = affranchi, libéré, delivré
their cup of tea = leur tasse de thé
to rise up = se révolter

lightning = foudre
to stand = supporter
left = parti

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Vergès

For Reunion Island, the 20th century was one of massive change. Reunionese men went off to fight in the trenches during the Great War, waves of immigrants from China and Madagascar continued in the 1920s, the Second World war brought great hardship to the island, the rise of communism had a huge impact on the island during the 1950s and 60s, and let’s not forget the arrival of the supermarket and the accompanying consumerism in the 80s and 90s.

Looking at the last century, there is one family which does stand out from the others. The name is Vergès, and whether it’s the patriarch Raymond, the two twins Paul and Jacques, or the grandchildren Françoise, Laurent or Pierre, no-one can deny that the family has had an incomparable influence on the island.

Born in Reunion in 1882, Raymond Vergès was both a doctor and engineer, with many travels taking him to work in China, Siam, Thailand and Laos. It was in Siam that he met his first wife, and two twins were born in 1925. His wife died three years later and, back in Reunion in 1931, he became a French Member of Parliament.

His two anti-colonialist sons would continue to make the headlines. They were both members of the Free French Forces in WW 2, and Paul was even parachuted into France behind enemy lines. Reunion then became a French Department, and in 1946 Paul was accused of organising the assassination of political rival Alexis De Villeneuve, who was gunned down in the street. Paul Vergès launched the Communist Party from 1959, and has been an MP, an MEP, a Senator and President of the Regional Council.

His brother’s path lay beyond the shores of Reunion Island. While studying to be a lawyer in Paris, Jacques became close friends with future Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. He rose to notoriety when defending an anti-French Algerian guerrilla who was convicted of blowing up a café and killing eleven people inside it. She had been sentenced to death, but with Jacques as her lawyer, she was pardoned and freed. Jacques converted to Islam, and they married some years later.

His further clients included Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal, and the former Khmer Rouge head of state. He offered to represent Serbian tyrant Slobodan Milosevic was even on the shortlist to defend Saddam Hussein back in 2003. He died in Paris in 2013.

On a personal note, I have had the honour of interpreting for Paul Vergès, and found that his messages about overpopulation and the importance of energy autonomy are warnings that must be heeded as the 21st century progresses.

Vocabulary

trenches – les tranchées
hardship – rudes épreuves
to stand out – se démarquer
whether – que ce soit
twins – jumeaux

to make the headlines – faire la une
gunned down – abattu par balles
lawyer – avocat
blowing up – faire exploser
to heed – tenir compte

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How to get Hypothermia on a Tropical Island

Maybe this is not one of your life-long goals, but if you would like to know how to get hypothermia on a tropical island, then I’m your man. I’ve even done it twice. Now, it’s not easy. You have to be dedicated to the task, and not everyone manages it. In fact, this year there were 1600 people who entered this competition in Hellbourg on October 22nd, and only 5 of us managed to be in a state of hypothermia by the time we reached La Pleine des Merles. The other 1595 people had to continue, utterly disappointed by their failure.

Of course, I’m talking about my attempt to complete this year’s Mascareignes. A little backstory. 2006, my first attempt at the semi-raid: the doctors stopped me in Deux Bras. Hypoglycaemia. 2008’s effort involved a fractured sternum. In 2009 the doctors stopped me with hypothermia in Deux Bras….again! And this year, rebelotte as you say in French, with another hypothermia. It wasn’t very cold, but it was raining quite hard and my poncho was about as effective as a paper bag, and when I reached the first checkpoint I noticed both hands had turned yellow. ‘That can’t be good, I thought.’ And then the full body-shakes arrived, and my temperature plummeted to 34 degrees. The lovely docs stripped me, wrapped me up in gold shiny survival blankets and asked ‘Did you drink enough?’ Yes, I replied. ‘Have you eaten something?’ Yes, I replied. ‘Did you sleep last night?’ Ah. Apparently, lack of sleep can bring on hypothermia. It took 2 hours to get my temperature back up to 36 degrees.

Anyway, the real adventure began there. I was in the middle of a forest at 1900m, about 10km from a main road. How was I supposed to get home to St Paul wearing nothing but a pair of trainers and a shiny gold blanket, worn like some kind of glam-rock Roman toga? Together with another hypothermia champion called Catherine, we trudged upwards to the closest track, which was the Col des Boeufs car park. A cheery smile welcomed us at the little shop there, as the owner shouted ‘Losers aren’t welcome!’ Which was nice. But with the wind and rain I was too tired to get annoyed. But that changed quite quickly. Catherine ordered a coffee and a packet of fags (bizarrely enough) and I just said ‘listen, I just want a cup of hot water please, I’ve got hypothermia.’ The man handed me a cup of water, looked me in the eye and said, ‘that’ll be €1.80 please.’ Excuse me? ‘Well, a tea is €2.00, so without the tea bag that’s €1.80.’ And, as we say in English, unbef*ckinglievable.

La Mascareignes? Never again, I said to myself as we trudged down to Grand Ilet. But the next day, when friends asked me if I would try again, I said ‘Of course! See you next year!’

Vocabulary

twice – deux fois
manage to – réussir à
utterly – totalement
failure – echec
effective – efficace

body-shakes – vibrations du corps
plummeted – chuté
stripped – deshabillé
to wrap up – emballer
blanket – couverture

to trudge – marcher péniblement
annoyed – enervé
fags – clopes
unbef*ckinglievable – IN-CROY-ABLE!

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Band Cochons

I must admit, Reunion Island is a lot cleaner today than when I first arrived in 2000. I remember walking through the streets of Saint-Denis, when sometimes the pavements were covered with dustbin bags and scuttlingcockroaches. I remember the litter along the Barachois. I even remember taking a wrong turn in Mafate and coming across the refuse tip in La Nouvelle…

Today it is different. I think people are more aware of the importance of keeping the island tidy, and the local councils are doing their best to keep the place clean. But not everyone is helping. How many smokers still stubtheir cigarettes out in the sand? How many people throw chocolate wrappers on the ground? How many people decide just to leave their old washing-machines by the side of the road?

I had a bizarre experience not so long ago in the town centre of Saint-Paul. I was sitting in a traffic jam, and the road was blocked. Looking at the car in front of me, I watched as the woman inside threw an empty plastic Coca-Cola bottle out of the window into the street.

I opened my door, picked up the bottle, walked to the woman and said (ever so politely!):

‘Excuse me, you seem to have dropped something. Here you are.’

Her response was rather curious. ‘It’s not mine’, she said.

‘Ok’, I replied, ‘just for your information, my car is right behind you and I saw you do it.’

‘I don’t care,’ she said. ‘It’s not mine.’

I kept my cool and said ‘I’ve got an idea – either you can look after it until you find a bin, or if you want, I can do that myself. What do you think?’

‘I don’t care,’ she repeated. ‘Do what you want.’ I kept the bottle.

Now this could be an extreme case, but her use of the words ‘I don’t care’or rather in French ‘je m’en fous’ is pretty unfortunate, and it will be difficult to keep the island clean with this kind of mentality. But there is hope! Have you heard of Band Cochon? It’s a website which charts rubbish, litter or fly-tipping around the place, helping to promote a cleaner Reunion Island. If you see rubbish somewhere you can upload your photo to the website.

Another idea would be simply to ask the radio presenters on RFO, Festival and Freedom to simply finish each programme with the words: ‘Thanks for listening, good bye, and keep your island tidy.’

But not in English of course…

Vocabulary

cleaner – plus propre
pavement – trottoir
dustbin bags – sacs poubelles
scuttling – courir vite
cockroach – cafard

litter – déchets
refuse tip – décharge
aware – conscient
tidy – proper, range
to stub out – écraser (cigarette)

wrapper – emballage
washing-machine – machine à laver
traffic jam – embouteillage
to throw – jeter
empty – vide

to drop – faire tomber
to keep your cool – garder son calme
to look after – s’occuper de
bin  – poubelle
pretty – assez

rubbish – ordures
fly-tipping – dépôt sauvage

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Mouflonouton

You‘ve heard of the Centaur: half-man, half-horse. And what about the Hippogriff from the Harry Potter films: half-horse, half-eagle. And let’s not forget the Mermaid: half-fish, half-beautiful lady!

But did you know that in Reunion Island we have our very own hybrid creature? No? Then let me introduce you to the Mouflonouton of Saint-Anne!

The Mouflonouton is a cross between two animals: a sheep and a mouflon. If you don’t know, a mouflon is a kind of wild mountain sheep. Its skin is red and brown and it has stripes along its back. It also has huge horns that can be over 80cm long.

This charming animal is the pride and joy of Jean-François and Chantal Acquier, owners of the Miel & Vie Ferme Pédagogique’ in Saint Anne. It is possible he is the only one of his kind in the world! Check out the picture! He looks a bit like a goat, but with beautiful curling horns and a shaggybeard of long white hair. I had the immense pleasure of taking my kids there. We stayed for three days, living to the sound of the farm animals. There are the standard farmyard animals such as horses, donkeys, cows, sheep, rabbits, pigs and chickens, but along with the Mouflonouton, there are also some lovely surprises: pheasants, deer, a stag, and even four alpacas, a close relative of the llama!

It’s a beautiful region of the island, with delightful walks, waterfalls and sugar cane as far as the eye can see. We walked around the Forêt des Ravenales and even had a dip in the clear waters of Bassin Bleu!

I recommend a visit to Miel & Vie: a great place to go camping, with excellent food and company: a real breath of fresh air!

Vocabulary

our own=notre propre
cross=croisement
stripes=rayures
huge=énorme
horns=cornes

goat=chèvre
check out=regardez
shaggy=hirsute
pheasant=paon
deer=biche

stag=cerf
to have a dip=piquer une tête

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Canyoning

Here is a story about my very first week in Reunion Island back in 2000. My diary reads:

“Monday: The alarm wrenched me awake. I couldn’t for the life of me realise why it had been set for 6.00am when I had clearly only been in bed for 3 hours. And then I remembered. Canyoning!

‘Canyoning?’ I hear you cry. ‘What can this mean?’ Basically, it’s white water rafting… but without the raft.

As the sun appeared over the ocean I met the mountain guide Philippe in Saint-Denis, and after a quick coffee on his balcony we headed east down the coastal road towards St Suzanne. Turning off at the Riviére des Roches exit, the tarmac road soon became a dirt-track as it weaved in amongst a vast plantation of sugar cane. Palm trees lined the track and the sugar cane leaves encroached on the path. About five kilometres later we came to a clearing and parked the car.

We donned our wetsuits and made our way up the mountain path, the river winding through the gorge below us. Philippe gave me a few pointers, stressing in particularly that if I didn’t want to jump off any waterfalls, I didn’t have to. Abseiling down instead was suggested. Down the slippery slope we began, the morning sunshine filling up the gorge below us. The first waterfall arrived, and we climbed out of the river to get a good jumping point. It would have been far too dangerous to let ourselves be carried over, as there was the possibility of the current dashing us against the rocks below.

We reached the top and below us lay a drop of about 6 metres. Philippe went first, and with a loud cry he vanished below. From where I was standing I couldn’t actually see him land, but the long pause before the splash was enough to set my knees trembling. I was left standing alone.

Picture the ridiculous image: I was standing in a full-length blue jump suit and a white hat, arms out-stretched to keep my balance. I looked like a paranoid smurf. What the hell am I doing here? I asked myself. Suddenly, my old office in London flashed before me. A far cry. It was a long way down, but here I was, hovering dangerously over a precipice on an island in the Indian Ocean. Looking at the sun up in the sky shining down on me I realised that it was for moments like these I had come. The fear went and I launched myself screaming into the void below.

In total there were 4 more jumps made as we continued down the valley, the penultimate one a massive leap of 11 metres. In the long journey down it felt like I had enough time to recite Hamlet’s soliloquy before landing. To be or not to be… I don’t know the rest…

We stopped off for a bite to eat and upon getting back to my flat I went straight to sleep. Having just woken it all still seems like a bit of a dream. Was it real? It must have been – my vocal chords are killing me…”

Vocabulary

diary – journal intime
to wrench – arracher
coastal – littoral
weaved – arpenté
clearing – clairière

to don – mettre
wetsuits – combinaison
winding – serpentant
pointers – conseils
abseiling – descente en rappel

slippery – glissant
slope – pente
waterfall – cascade
to land – aterrir
knees – genoux

flashed before – défilé
void – la vide
flat – apartement
killing me – me fait très mal

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