A Very British Pastime

I moved to Reunion in 2007, and like any person moving to another country I tried to find a piece of home here. Cheese and cucumber sandwiches, for example, was easy to reproduce here. Football is as big in Reunion as it is in the UK, even English football is popular. There’s one English pastime that I can’t reproduce here, however. Complaining.

In England, when you see a friend on the street and you stop for a chat, the first thing you should say is « How have you been? » the second thing you say is always « Terrible weather we’re having, isn’t it? ». This is because we Brits love to complain.

Like I said, I arrived in Reunion in 2007. One of the first things I did was to try the local cuisine! I had never heard of rougail saucisse, so I didn’t order it. Instead, I went for a riz cantonais. It arrived, and it looked great. I had never tasted riz cantonais before, but I had tasted « burnt » before.

Yes it tasted like the chef put it on the hob, and then went for a cigarette break. I took it to the manager and complained. The guy seemed really aggressive about it, the way he was acting it was obvious that he had never received a complaint before. He didn’t charge me for the meal, but he made me feel like I was depriving his children of a Christmas present, or something. I’ve never been back to the place since.

In St Pierre, there’s a very famous household goods shop, that sells everything form televisions to nails. Recently they have put automatic barriers between the car park and the road. Barriers which open automatically when you enter the car park, but need a code when you exit. A code that appears on your receipt after having bought an item. But what happens if you decided to not buy an item? Well, after coming face to face with the barrier, you have to re-park your car, get out, and head back to the shop. Bloody hell.

I did this recently, and told the lady at the reception desk that the barrier system was « penible ». She responded with: « It’s not my fault, I didn’t put the barrier there! » Ah, but that’s the point! If the owner was at the reception desk, I would have complained to them! But since they’re not there, I have to complain to you, and it’s your job to pass on the message!

No, complaining is a very British pastime. Perhaps I should save my complaints for when I go back to the UK on holiday. At least then I can finally complain about the weather! 

Vocabulary

to complain – se plaindre
how have you been? – qu’est-ce que tu deviens ?
burnt – brulée
hob – plaque
guy – mec

to deprive someone – priver quelqu’un
household goods shop – magazine d’electroménager
nail – clou
car park – parking
item – article

bloody hell – bon sang !
owner – propriétaire
reception desk – l’accueil
to pass on – transferer

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Killing in the Name of Cari

I have three chickens: Zelda, Solid Snake and Link. They don’t do much, they don’t do tricks, they don’t come when you call, they don’t even fetch. So I’ve decided to eat them.

In all honesty, we bought these chicks a while ago with the intention of eating them when the time was right. They’ve provided us plenty of eggs, finished most of our leftovers, and so didn’t cost much for food and water. But I know that between three chickens running around in my garden, and three chickens roasting in my oven, there’s a small thing I have to do.

I’ve never killed anything before, nothing larger than a babouk anyway. It’s not in my culture to do so. I know that hunting is a ‘sport’ in the UK and USA, but I’ve never been a fan of this. I can’t imagine killing something for ‘sport’ or for ‘fun’. It all seems a bit macabre to me.

We don’t have these sorts of activities in Reunion, when we hunt an animal it’s for eating and not to display its stuffed head in our studies. No, when we do it, it’s for a reason. Some might argue that we as a society eat too much meat, and these people may have a point. Factory farming is rife in the western world, and even in Reunion we’re swamped with bad quality, processed meats. (Naming no names of course, but their so called ‘restaurants’ are popping up a little too regularly.) I suppose the only way to combat factory farming is through personal protest: simply not to purchase the meat. This is all well and good for those who can afford it, but harder for those with limited income. I hope that we as a society will grow out of this in the future.

I digress. My father-in-law is a classic Creole man, and has killed his fair share of chickens, rabbits, tangue and the like. He’s offered to show me how to do it, and I’ve accepted his offer. Wish me luck! I’ll probably mutter a half-baked apology into its ear before cutting its throat, but if it can’t understand the simple command of ‘fetch’ how could it understand my apology?

Vocabulary

trick – un tour
to fetch – faire apporter
chick – poussin
plenty – beaucoup
leftovers – les restes 

oven – four
hunting – la chasse
stuffed – farci
study – bureau
rife – répandu 

the western world – l’occident
swamped – inonder
to pop up – apparaitre
to grow out of – dépasser
to mutter – murmurer 

half-baked – à moitie cuit

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Reunion Island’s Staple Dish

Nations and territories each need an identity. A national sport, pastime or bird are all symbols of a nation’s distinctiveness. Something that sets them apart from other countries. If I had to think of a representation of British culture, for example, I would imagine Beckham in a bowler hat, eating a bacon sandwich.

Food is a very important icon when it comes to symbolizing a country. France has frog’s legs, the UK has their breakfasts, the USA has hotdogs, but what about Reunion? What is Reunion Island’s staple dish?

I’ve been on the island for nearly ten years, and I think I’ve tasted everything the place has to offer, I’ve savoured all the caris from anguille to zef. I’ve enjoyed every samosa flavour, tried all of the sandwiches, and sampled all the puddings.

There is one dish that stands out however. The ultimate dish that the other caris look up to, and strive to be like. The cari that makes you salivate at the very mention of its name. I am, of course, talking about rougail saucisse.

I love thee my dear rougail saucisse,
Every spoonful, every piece,
Even though you’re full of grease,
I love thee my dear rougail saucisse.

Saucy and spicy, meaty and magnificent, rougail saucisse is probably the most delicious meal that you and I have ever tasted. It’s something about the burly sausages mixed with the mild sauce. It reminds me of my favourite Italian dish; spaghetti and meatballs.

The British love meals like this. If I had a million pounds, I’d open up a restaurant in the UK, and we’d only serve rougail saucisse. I’m sure I’d make the money back in a weekend.

Now, with all this talk of rougail saucisse, I’m sure you’re getting quite hungry, in fact, I think I can hear your tummies rumbling. So let me tell you the best place on the island for getting this delight. I’m on the road a lot for my job, so I’ve sampled rougail saucisse in quite a few restaurants and snack-bars. There’s one place that stands out in my mind. The chef is a creole woman and every time she makes her rougail saucisse it’s better than the last. I am, of course, talking about my wife, the best chef I know!

If you would like to sample her dishes, just give me a call! You’d be more than welcome at my caz, perhaps we could wash it down with some homemade flavoured rum? Enjoy your meal!

Vocabulary

to set apart – mettre à part
staple dish – plat nationale
to sample – goûter
pudding – dessert
to strive – lutter

thee – vous
grease – graisse
meaty – plein de viande
burly – épeisse
mild – doux

meatballs – boulettes de viande
tummy – ventre
to rumble – gargouiller
delight – délice
homemade – fait maison

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Boxing Day

In the immortal words of Noddy Holder, it’s Christmas! Or is it?

This episode comes out on Thursday the 24th of December, which for the people of Reunion is Christmas. For us Brits, however, it’s nothing special. No, we celebrate Christmas on the 25th, which is great if you are a parent. You see, we get to send our kids to bed early on the 24th. We don’t have to wait up until midnight, while the kids run around. In fact, in Britain the children want to go to bed earlier. The earlier they sleep, the earlier they can wake up the next morning to open their presents.

This is something I will never understand about Christmas in Reunion. You give gifts to your youngsters at midnight, so they are all excited about their new toys and games, and to punish them you only let them play for an hour or so before sending them to bed!

No, we have to wait until the 25th to exchange our gifts. Don’t feel too sad for us however, because we have something you don’t. Boxing Day!

« What on Earth is Boxing Day? » you all cry! No, it’s not the day that your uncles drink too much Red Label, and get into boxing matches with each other (that’s new years eve, surely). Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the sport of boxing.

Legend goes that back in the 17th century, on the first day back to work after the Christmas festivities, employers would hand their employees Christmas ‘boxes’. Small packages containing their Christmas present. These boxes may have contained their Christmas bonus, presents for their families, or even leftovers from the employers Christmas feast. This tradition has died out, but the bank holiday remains. Nowadays, Boxing Day is celebrated by nursing a hangover, and digesting all that turkey from the day before.

So, I’m going to have a very British Christmas this year. On the 24th I intend to leave out a glass of whisky for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolph. In the evening I will hide small presents in my children’s stockings, then hang them on the tree.

A modest breakfast on the 25th while the children open their presents. Turkey, cranberry, parsnips and stuffing for lunch, and an evening in.

Boxing day will be celebrated just like in Britain. With a couple of paracetamols, and a lot of coffee.

Merry Christmas to you all, and a Happy New Year.

Vocabulary

to come out – sortir
to celebrate – fêter
a youngster – un enfant
however – cependant
despite – malgré

festivities – les fêtes
leftovers – les restes (de nourriture)
a feast – un banquet
a bank holiday – une jour férié
nowadays – de nos jours

to nurse – soigner
a hangover – une gueule de bois
turkey – de la dinde
stockings – les bas
a parsnip – un navet

stuffing – la farce

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Taxing. To Say the Least

My story starts in February, when I received my council tax. Actually, I received one, and my wife received one. Strange. As you know, council tax is based on a household, not a person, so to receive two council taxes to the same address is bizarre to say the least. I contacted the treasury in St Louis, and they recommended sending an email. Which I did.

Two months pass, and I receive a letter reminding me to pay my council tax. Stranger still, as we had already paid our tax. Well, one of them, of course. Once again I contacted the treasury in St Louis, and once again, they recommended I send an email. Which was swiftly done.

Then, on my birthday on July 25, I receive a letter saying that my bank account will be frozen, and the money I « owed », which was €1,300, would be taken from my account. Oh, FFS!! So early Monday morning, the wife and I take a morning off work to head to the tax office in St Pierre, documents in hand. After a long wait we meet with a representative. She explains that we were completely in the right, and she advised us to not pay the second council tax. She also contacted another department of the tax office that deals with account freezing, and told them to not freeze my account. I even called this department later on in the day, and they promised that the account wouldn’t be frozen.

That was on a Monday, on Wednesday my account was frozen, and my bank charged me €110 for the pleasure. Annoyed, I spoke to somebody at the bank who informed me that nothing can be done about it, as the bank manager was on holiday until August 18, and nobody had the power to refund the stolen money.

I also queued up at the tax office in St Louis, to talk to a simple little man, who had the nerve to ask me « Why didn’t you try to resolve this problem before? » Completely ignoring the print-outs of the emails I had sent in February and April. In fact, his response to each complaint I had was either, « That’s your fault » or « I don’t know ». He said we should send an email with all the information on, to the tax office. Yes, another email.

French red tape is probably the worst I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with. It certainly doesn’t help that the staff that I emailed didn’t have the decency to respond to my many emails. Nor that the left hand had no interest in talking to the right hand.

Leaving the tax office in St Louis, I saw a plethora of posters advising people to « Simplify your life, do your taxes online. » My advise to you, is to do everything in person, and with paper. Every time you talk to someone on the phone or in an office, take their name. Never send emails to them, as they seem incapable of opening them. Simplify your life, do your taxes right in their faces!

Vocabulary

council tax – tax d’habitation
actually – en fait
household – foyer
swiftly – rapidement
frozen – bloqué (congelé)

FFS – zute alors
departement – service
annoyed – agacé
resolve – résoudre
red tape – paperasserie

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Say Hello to my Little Friends

Reunion is famous for a lot of things. Its volcano, its mountains, the lagoons, the beaches and the wonderful people that inhabit the island are unique. But today I’m not going to talk about those things. I’m going to talk about some of our little friends that we all encounter day by day… the insects.

As an Englishman, I’ve been used to seeing very few insects, and those that I have seen have been tiny and harmless. When I arrived in Reunion, I was quickly stunned by the local array of seemingly enormous insects.

Let’s start with the spiders, or babouks as they are locally known. Their thin hairy legs stretch out to about six inches (15cm). The first time I saw one I was really freaked out. Also, these things can run fast, and once you spot one, you have to catch it before going to bed, or you’ll find yourself unable to sleep. If you ever do catch one and decide to squash it, don’t forget to look at it closely first to see if it’s covered in smaller spiders!

Scorpions, thankfully, are a lot rarer than babouks. I had lived in Reunion for 5 years before seeing one. Then on that same day, I saw 3. Since that day, I always give my closed shoes a tap on the ground before sliding my foot in. You never know.

The worst of the worst have to be the cockroaches. They are twenty times as big as the beetles in England and they can fly. I can’t imagine anything more horrible. They just need fangs and they’d be something out of a Wes Craven film.

Confronted by all these monsters that I had never seen, my first reaction as an Englishman, was to crush them into tiny pieces. However, while my wife and I were first dating, she was unhappy that I wanted to annihilate a scorpion that we found clinging to the wall. She told me that every creature in Reunion has their own place and their own job to do. Margouillats, for example, feed on mosquitos, and the babouks keep the insect population low.

Keep in mind that if you choose to live on a tropical island like Reunion, you have to respect nature, and learn to live with all the inhabitants. Except mosquitos of course.

Vocabulary

To encounter – rencontrer
To be used to – être habitué à
Tiny – minuscule
Harmless – inoffensif
Stunned – choqué

Local array – selection locale
Seemingly – apparemment
Hairy Legs – pates poilues
Freaked out – terrorisé
To squash – écraser

To slide – glisser
Cockroach – cafard
Fangs – dents pointues
To crush – écraser
However – cependant

To cling – s’accrocher

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Journey to the Centre of the Volcano

The billboards read ‘July 5, are you ready?’. Well, we were all ready on July 5, everyone except for the mayor of Tampon. One month late the Cité du Volcan finally opened it’s doors.

Our adventure started on Sunday. My wife, Stephanie, invited her parents, aunties, uncles and cousins to spend the afternoon in La Plaine des Cafres, to have a great lunch and to visit Reunion’s newest tourist attraction. Along with my daughters, there were twelve of us in the group. Quite a tribe! We ate at ‘Ti Resto Lontan’. A local restaurant serving the finest of Reunionese cuisine. As a rougail saucisse connoisseur, I can tell you it was very tasty. I’m glad we’d booked a table, because the restaurant staff were constantly sending away waves of tourists looking for a bite to eat before exploring the new museum.

At two we arrived at the museum, and face to face with a massive queue. There were at least a hundred people in front of us. A hoard of locals and tourists reaching from the main entrance, through the car-park, and arriving at the road. To queue or not to queue, that is the question.

After two hours, we made it inside. The lobby was spacious, modern and clean, albeit packed full of people. Looking around, I saw the gift shop and various signage for the souvenirs, all translated into English. Brilliant, I only found one translation mistake!

The museum itself was just great. My eldest daughter is 7, she had a great time playing with the numerous touch-screen games and activities. Stephanie’s cousins are teenagers, and they enjoyed reading about how the two volcanoes formed our island all those years ago. There were local fables, a 270° cinema, samples of lava rock, quizzes. The staff were friendly, informative and helpful. Even the security guards. I’ve heard the Cité du Volcan being compared to Futuroscope in France, I have to say that’s not true. Futuroscope doesn’t have Gran Mèr Kal.

The cherry on top had to be the 4D cinema. Now I’ve seen 3D movies before, and haven’t been all that impressed. The cinema at Cité du Volcan, however, was a marvel. You go into a small cinema, with maybe 30 seats, put on your 3D glasses and experience the film. I won’t spoil the surprises that the film has up it’s sleeve, but they are sure to make you jump!

So, was it worth it? Ninety minutes’ drive, two hours’ queue for one hours’ visit? Yes it was. I highly recommend the Cité du Volcan. Even to locals. Now everyone can journey into the centre of the volcano!

Vocabulary

Billboard – Panneau publicitaire
Tasty – gouteux
Lobby – la billeterie
Albeit – bien que
Signage – panneaux

The cherry on top – la cerise sur le gateau
To have something up ones sleeve – avoir des surprises en réserve
It is worth it – ça vaut la peine
Journey – voyage

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A Google Image Problem

Last week I was looking for images for the website. They had to be pictures of Reunion Island, something beautiful, intense, cultural. Something to really show Reunion off should someone come across Anglais.re who hadn’t heard of it. First stop: Google Images!

So I typed ‘Reunion Island’ into the search box, and was given this: The first was from a site called blacktomato.com, It looked to me like a travel site. It was a picture of a lush mountainside with waterfalls flowing down the side.

The second, third and fourth photos were of Reunion Island’s geographical location. Useful images, sure, but not what I was looking for. The fifth photo stopped me in my tracks. It’s a photo taken in May 2013 of three policemen and two ambulance drivers carrying a corpse across a beach in Saint Gilles.

Hold on. Is this the sort of image English speakers get of Reunion? One of a dangerous, deadly island, unfit and unsafe for tourists? Apparently, yes. Now in no way am I belittling or downplaying the aforementionedtragedy. What happened was awful, and I hope steps are being taken so that this doesn’t happen again.

But why is that the fifth image? Since that picture was taken in May 2013 we’ve had Le Grand Raid, Sakifo, Leu Tempo Festival, Florilèges, Mielvert and even a volcanic eruption! Surely there was someone at those events with a camera and a blog!

Imagine a non-French tourist doing research for their holidays and noticing that this is the fifth image that comes up. They must presume that this is all the Island is famous for. That’s a tragedy for tourism. I say non-French tourist because if you type ‘Isle de la Réunion’ into the search box, you get a very different search result. Try it out yourself.

So what to do? Simple. If you own a website that has nice pictures of Reunion, why not label them with the keywords ‘Reunion Island’ not just ‘Ile de la Réunion’. Maybe then we can fix this image problem of ours.

Vocabulary

to show Reunion off – mettre en avant la Réunion
to come across – trouver par hasard
lush – riche
waterfalls – cascades
useful – utile

it stopped me in my tracks – ça ma choqué
corpse – cadavre
to hold on – attendre
unfit – inapte
to belittle – minimiser

to downplay –  dédramatiser
aforementioned – susdit
steps – les mesures
camera – appareil photo
to notice – remarquer

to come up – apparaitre
to fix – réparer

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Infused Rum

On the weekends, I like to go out with the family. I sometimes take my daughters to the bouncy castle in St Pierre, and I take my wife to the town centre for some shopping. But it has been very rainy recently, certainly not the weather to be walking around town, or playing near the beach.

So, a rainy weekend activity for me is flavoring rum. It’s a local tradition! And very quick & easy.

First, decide your recipe. Think of what fruits are in season, and which fruits marry well together. Banana and vanilla is great! Or what about strawberries and mango? Whichever fruits you decide to use, make sure to avoid buying them from the supermarkets. Supermarkets tend to use chemicals to speed up the growth of their produce. I always find that the best fruits are found on roadside fruit and veg stands.

Once you have decided your mix, cut the fruits up so that they will be able to fit in the neck of the rum bottle. If your fruit has a peel, don’t forget to cut that off, or it will give your rum a nasty bitter taste. I’ve even tried rum with coffee beans. And, as a joke, one of my Créole friends let me try his chili rum. That was not my favorite to say the least!

Then, get your bottle of rum. (Charette, of course!) You can use a 1l bottle, but I prefer a 1.5l bottle because it looks nicer. (and there’s more of it!) Take out about a third of the rum, then add your fruits.

To finish off, add about 50ml of cane syrup. That part is very important; the sugar helps your ingredients to mix with the rum. It also increases the alcohol content.

Last week I tried my hand at making a bottle with passion fruit, melon and pitaya. Pitayas, as you probably know, have very little taste. But it makes the infused rum look great!

So now I’ve finished my bottle, it looks very pretty sat on my kitchen counter. I have to be patient though as it needs to infuse for about 6 months before it’s drinkable. My father-in-law is looking forward to tasting it. It’ll be a nice fruity toast at Christmas.

Vocabulary

bouncy castle – chateaux gonflable
to flavour – parfumer
avoid verb+ing – éviter de verbe
tend to – avoir tendance à
speed up – accélérer

growth – croissance
roadside – bord de la route
cut the fruits up – découper les fruits
neck – coupeel – zeste
bitter – amer

chili – piment
a third of – un tiers de
try my hand – se faire la main
kitchen counter – comptoir de cuisine
drinkable – potable

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Translation Errors

I read a very interesting article recently at Tourism-Review.com and I’d like to share it with you. It’s called “Translation Errors Cost 120 Million Euros for E-Tourism in France Alone”

“Sixty-five percent of travel sites in France contain blunders or translation errors, according to the latest study by TextMaster, professional translation services, as well as writing and editing online content is estimated at over a 120 million euro loss each year.

“Our top stay,” “Challenger Destination,” “Acceptable Use Policy,” “Speedy Rental,” “Some Useful Informations,” and “Well-Being Expect For You” are all expressions found on the pages of travel sites.

The E-Tourism sector is worth €18.5 Billion in France. With a conversion rate that is increased to 70% when a site is completely multilingual, it is estimated the industry loses more than €120 million annually because of bad translations or flagrant errors: “Multilingualism is fundamental for a tourism site that aims, in essence, to reach for an international audience. But sometimes it’s the best translations that are the enemy, and it’s better to translate a site poorly into 40 languages than excellently into 5-10 languages,“ says Thibault Lougnon TextMaster CEO. The study also reveals that 58% of these sites have non-translated texts, i.e. phrases in French in the English version and English expressions in the French version. Finally, 33% of French travel sites have no English translation at all.”

So what are your thoughts about this article? Leave your comments in the Facebook box below, and we might feature them on our main page.

Vocabulary

Travel – voyage
According to – selon
Study – étude
Loss – perte
Rental – location

Billion – milliard
It is worth – il vaut
Rate – taux
To reach for – à atteindre pour
CEO – PDG

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