American

A Confession

Here are some things that I used to hate when I first moved to Reunion; but have grown to like or even love:

Sparkling water, champagne, wasp larva (though definitely not at a love level yet…), the hard part of bread (I used to only eat the soft inside part), papaya, rice, coffee, fois gras, litchis…

But there is one thing that I can never grow to love. In fact; I think I hate it more and more every day.

I’m very sorry to confess, I HATE to do « the bise; »

At first it was kind of funny. I would meet new people and I would instinctively extend my hand to shake theirs, as we do in America. Awkwardly (and hilariously) at the same time, my new acquaintance would lean in to do « the bise » and I would end up kind of gently punching them in the stomach. This was about FOUR YEARS AGO and doing the bise has never gotten any easier for me.

First of all, it is not my first instinct to lean in for the bise when I meet someone or see them for the first time that day. At least once every day, I « leave someone hanging, » meaning I say hi and wave while they are extending their cheek expectantly in my direction. This causes me to snap awake, apologize, and mumble in my head about how I will never get used to doing this.

The worst might be at parties. I really really hate arriving at a big party, because you’re supposed to go around to EVERY SINGLE PERSON at the party, interrupt them, wait for them to stop what they are doing and turn around, and kiss them. This is annoying because it takes like 30 minutes to enter a party, and it’s really just awkward interrupting people who are in the middle of talking or eating to touch my cheek to their cheek. I’m actually laughing as a type this. Who ever thought that tapping cheeks together was a good way to say hello? Ok anyway, the other reason I hate entering parties is because I normally know only like 5 people at the party, which means all the rest of them are complete strangers that I will most likely never see again. Some of them are sweaty. Some of them are sick. Some of them are a little TOO friendly. I DON’T WANT TO TOUCH YOUR FACE WITH MY FACE! Oh and it’s usually at parties where I encounter a lot of people who don’t do the kissy noise when cheek tapping. I find this even more weird than doing the normal bise. If you don’t make the kissy noise; it’s just…uncomfortably silent and kind of creepy

Avoiding the bise has become a subconscious hobby for me. In the mornings I find myself walking the long way around school halls to avoid groups of adults, or keeping the farthest away possible when greeting someone. « Good morning! » I’ll yell down the hall to the teacher, hoping that it counts as our initial contact for the day. I can see it in people’s eyes when they unexpectedly run into me in the break room and want to go in for some bise time. But I just wave and run away. I think it’s very possible that I am the « Weird American Girl » in all my schools.

I don’t feel like that ALL the time, of course! I like to give the bise to my friends every so often, especially if I haven’t seen them in a few days and I’m genuinely happy to see them again! In situtations like that, the bise is just a natural extension of my love and friendship. Granted, in the US I would hug you instead, but that’s not too far of a step away from doing the bise!

In general I try really hard to not offend anyone, and to take part of the culture in which I have chosen to live. And I am doing so well drinking my champagne now and eating some wasp larva…but the bise is something I will never ever like. And here is the cherry on top as to why:

There are a few guys that seem to be without a home and hang around the streets of St Gilles where I live. I always make it a point to say hi to them, smile, and make eye contact, so that they at least don’t feel invisible. One of them once shook my hand and told me his name is Patrick. Patrick and I say hi whenever we see each other in the street. One day, while on the way to a private lesson not far from my house, I ran into Patrick. We talked for a second, and then he said « well, we should do the bise! » and I hesitated (for long enough a time that anyone else would’ve considered it very rude) before saying ok. Then when I leaned in for some cheek on cheek action I got quite a surprise…Patrick left a big wet sloppy KISS on both of my cheeks. As soon as I got to my client’s house I washed all that spit off my face and vowed that I will NEVER LIKE DOING THE BISE!! 

During our lesson, I asked my student why; WHY do some people do that during the bise? Why do they literally kiss your cheeks?? What does this mean?! And he explained that there is a lot of unsaid communication that goes along with doing the bise. A whole world of saying stuff without saying stuff that I never knew existed. With a simple cheek to cheek touch, you can snub someone, flirt with someone, offend someone, profess your undying love, or a million different things in between.

I find normal French difficult enough, I have no interest in learning secret cheek language.

And that is why I will forever hate doing the bise.

Vocabulary

to grow to like – apprenez à aimer
shake hands – serrer la main
awkwardly – maladroitement
to lean in – penchez
to punch – cogner

to wave – saluer
to apologize – s’excuser
to mumble – marmonner
creepy – qui donne la chair de poule
to hug – embrasser

cheek – joue

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Goyavier Fever

In Réunion it seems each month brings with it a new tropical fruit to discover. Now that it’s May, goyavier is the fruit of the month. I had never tried or even had heard of this delicious red fruit before I came to Reunion. I knew of guava but not goyavier. In previous months here I had goyavier juice but only recently did I get to try the fresh fruit and oh my god I’m in love. I think I could live on lychees and goyavier,

So a week ago, my landlord organized a goodbye Creole picnic for us. We drove to the Foret de Bebour since I had never been there. We brought baskets full of picnic supplies that filled up the trunk of our tiny French car like true Creoles- blankets, folding chairs, marmites full of rice and caris, rougails, quiches, salad, and lots of rhum arrange, wine, and beer, and buckets for goyavier. Instead of taking the Plaines, we took a bunch of windy side roads to discover even more of Reunion. When we arrived in the forest, our first stop was to pick goyavier. We paid 10€ for a giant bucket to pick as many goyaviers as we could. Dennis and I left the group to go search for an untouched area with big, juicy, ripe red and purple fruits. One goyavier in the bucket, one in my mouth. And so it went like this for over an hour until both my belly and the bucket were full. Then we transferred the goyaviers into our own buckets and found a nice place in the forest to sit and have our elaborate Creole picnic.

When we got home, I started looking up recipes to deal with the almost 10 kilos of goyavier! For the next four days I was busy mixing goyaviers and straining the seeds to make all sorts of delicious things before the fruits rotted. Fresh goyavier do not last long, only a few days at the most. It’s so nice though to have so much fresh produce here. In the US fruits last much longer because they are full of nasty preservatives and pesticides. I succeeded to use all the goyavier and made a bunch of goyavier mousses, sorbets, and rum of course. The kitchen was a mess as there was goyavier juice everywhere! Our other friends from the picnic made a bunch of sauces with the goyavier and we all shared our recipes and dishes. Surprisingly I’m not sick of goyavier yet. I know I must savour them as much as possible since soon the season will be over and it will be another fruit’s time to shine.

Vocabulary

landlord – propriétaire
baskets – paniers
trunk – coffre
windy – sinueuse
to pick – cueillir

bucket – seau
looking up – chercher
to strain – prendre du jus
to rot – pourrir
a bunch of – bcp de

dishes – les plats

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Homesick

I have been traveling in and out of my country since I was 18, but I’ve recently realised that this is the longest time I’ve been away without a little month’s break or something in the middle. Lately I’ve been feeling kind of homesick, so I thought I would share with you a few reasons why.

You might laugh, since French cuisine is among the best in the world, but I miss my American food! Although I’ve recently become vegetarian, I can tell you that when I go back to the US this July, I will not be adhering to my new diet, although I must add that the vegetarian and vegan restaurants are so incredible that even meat eaters would be surprised to learn that what they are eating isn’t actually meat. Vegetarians have so many more options there!! But the thing I miss the most is Tex-Mex, which is a mix of Texan and Mexican cuisine. Think spicy salsa and guacamole with tortilla chips and everything covered in lime juice, fresh tomatoes and cilantro. Also, if you have never eaten a thick Texas rib-eye steak, you have not yet lived. Sadly I know the difference involves things like injected hormones and chemicals but if I only get to eat it once every 2 or 3 years, it’s OK, right? Speaking of beef, did you know that hot dogs are made of beef and not pork, like they are here? They are a billion times better, especially with fresh onions on top and some American mustard. Finally I have to say that one of the best culinary inventions is the giant soft pretzel. I love them so much that I found a way to make them from scratch here! It takes me three hours but sometimes I just have to have them. The only bad part is that you absolutely need American mustard with them, and I’ve just run out of my stash!

Another reason why I miss the US is because of the opportunities there. If you want to study oceanography, there is a university only 20 minutes away from you, teaching it! (Also, side note, why is oceanography so difficult to study here, the ocean is RIGHT THERE!) If you want to learn vinyasa yoga, well you have a choice of 7 studios in your neighborhood! If you want to take piano lessons, there are 30 teachers in your area and someone will probably even come to your house. If you want to order a spiralizer (seriously this is a recent problem I have had here, I can’t get anyone to ship one to Reunion!) (oh and a spiralizer is something that turns vegetables into noodles.) well you just take five minutes deciding on the style you want on Amazon and it shows up at your door in only 8-10 working days! If you want ANYTHING at ANYTIME, whatever you can dream up, you can have, be, or do. You are only limited by your ambition and imagination. And I guess by money too.

Did you know in the US, the customer has the power? Capitalism certainly has it’s flaws, but when you decide to spend your hard earned money somewhere, the company at least pretends to make you feel important. Because they know you can just as easily turn around and spend your money somewhere else. And they definitely want you to stay. I used to wait tables at a bar. The wait staff is paid $2.13 an hour, just enough to cover taxes. You bring home only what you earn in tips. (Which, by the way, is 20 percent of your bill in the US, if you ever travel there! That’s why the restaurants are so much cheaper, gratuity is not included!) So the wait staff is motivated to make you the happiest/drunkest person you can possibly be. The more happy you are, the more likely you are to come back, to tell you friends to come with you, and to request your really lovely waitress who always takes good care of you. We have a time limit in the US. In general, you are supposed to be greeted at your table within one minute of sitting down, and a drink should be in your hand within the first five minutes. If your beer is down to the last quarter, you will be handed another one without even having to ask for it. The last few times I’ve been to a restaurant here, I’ve waited about 20 minutes for someone to stroll over to my table and ask what we want. Then they either forget what we ordered or mess it up somehow, or they take another hour to get the food on the table. I’m not exaggerating, this happens more than it doesn’t here. And in Reunion, when your hot water breaks down in your apartment, your landlord will apparently take the first few days to argue with you about why you should pay to replace his fifteen year old water heater, and then when he concedes, he’ll send two incompetent guys who can’t fix the problem for another five days. Back home, the landlord would have that changed out in a day, and if for some reason he couldn’t, he’d offer you some kind of « I’m sorry » gift like restaurant tickets or a fruit basket. They want you to stay and be happy, write nice reviews about them online and tell everyone how awesome they are.

So, I invite anyone to meet me in the US in July! We will share some great Tex-Mex at a restaurant with excellent service, and then go off to our yoga/singing classes because YES WE CAN!

Vocabulary

realise – se rendre compte de
lately – récemment
homesick – nostalgique
diet – régime
actually – en fait

lime – citron vert
cilantro – coriandre
a billion – milliard
from scratch – à partir de zéro
run out of – à court de

side note – notes secondaires
noodles – nouilles
pretend – prétendre
wait tables – servir des tables
tips – pourboire

cheaper – moins cher
drunkest – plus ivre
somehow – d’une façon ou d’une autre
break down – tomber en panne
landlord – propriétaire

fix – réparer
gift – cadeau
fruit basket – corbeille de fruits
awesome – impressionnant

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The Millionaires’ Salad

The day before New Years Eve, my landlord knocked on my door in the morning to ask if I wanted to go on a mission to buy hearts of palms with him in St Philippe. The goal was to make a large salad for a New Year’s party.  I figured why not. So we hopped in our car in St. Leu and headed south. 

Our first stop was by a waterfall in Langevin where we took a quick swim in the frigid water. On the way out we stopped at a lychee stand where I bought a kilo to snack on during the ride.  We asked the lychee vendor where we can find palm trees and he agreed that St Philippe was the spot. 

At every road stand we passed I was on the lookout for palm trees for sale but I only saw lychees. When we got to St Philippe, there was still no sign of any Palm trees at the expected places. However I did see a small sign that said « Red and white palmistes for sale, 1€ », which seemed suspiciously low but we knocked on the gate. 

The man was super friendly and it turns out he was a gardener and selling baby plants of the red and white palms for 1€ each. He showed me the vanilla he was growing since I never saw it on the vine before and we all had a good laugh.  Then we left with some palms plants in hand, of course.  However we still had not completed our mission. 

We continued through the wild south, passed the grand brûlée and stopped at the Notre Dame de Lave in St Rose to take some photos. Then we decided to stop for another swim at Bassin Bleu in St Anne.  Almost all the lychees were gone at this point and we still had not found any palm trees. 

Our last hope to complete our mission was to take the Plaines des Palmistes. Finally we found a guy selling some Palm trees! So we bought four. Mission completed! They cost an arm and a leg, but well worth it. I guess that’s why it’s also called the millionaire’s salad- even if you can find them, it’s expensive! Then we went home with the trees but unfortunately no lychees. 

We cut up the trees to get to the heart. Then we shredded the hearts to make the hearts of palm salad and used the leftovers for a cari. A hearts of palm salad is pretty wasteful, since it took four trees to make a large salad for twelve. But it was delicious.  It was great start to the new year and quite an adventure around the island.  

Vocabulary

landlord – propriétaire
hearts of palms – coeur de palmiste
goal – but
I figured – j’ai pensé
to hop – sauter

ride – tour
on the lookout – à l’affût
However – cependant
cost an arm and a leg – couter les yeux de la tête
well worth it – vaut la peine

to shred – ràper
the leftovers – les reste

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Getting High in Reunion

Since arriving in Réunion, my goal has been to see the Island from above. But I didn’t want to see this green gem from a plane, I wanted to see her in free fall and under my own parachute! I have been a licensed skydiver for over three years now and before I left the U.S. I discovered there is a skydiving club called Paraclub de Bourbon at Pierrefond Airport in St. Pierre. So I brought my parachute and other skydiving equipment with me on the long flights from San Francisco to St Denis.

However when I first arrived I was disappointed to learn the club was closed for a few weeks due to aircraft maintenance. Then when I returned when it was opened again, it was too windy or too cloudy. It took over two months before I finally had the chance to skydive in Réunion. By this time I was itching to get in the sky and get my adrenaline fix as skydiving is my addiction of choice.  Finally one beautiful December morning I drove to Pierrefond very early in the morning. The weather was good and the prop of the plane was turning, so I put on my gear and took a seat in the Pilatus Porter.  

From the plane I was able to see into Cilaos, past St Pierre to the south and Etang Salé to the north. It was a beautiful view! When we reached 13,000 ft (or about 4,000 m) I jumped out of the plane with my boyfriend.  Finally I got to make a skydive over Réunion!  We held hands and did some flips above the island before it was time to separate and pull our parachutes.  I was able to take in the beauty of the island in free fall and then under my own parachute, which I landed safely onto the small landing area next to the hangar at the airport. 

Finally, I got high in Réunion and it was amazing!  

Vocabulary

free fall – chute libre
however – par contre
due to – à cause de
windy – venteux
itching to – impatient de

hold hands – se tenir les mains
take in – apprecier

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Where Do I Come From?

I have a small problem. 

I’m a little confused about what I should be answering when people ask me where I’m from. 

Well ok. I know that I’m from the US. But after I say that I’m from the US, the next questions is always « Which part of the US? » And that’s where I run into some trouble.

So…Where do you come from? What does that question actually mean? Does it mean « Where were you born? » « Where were you living before you came to Reunion? » « Where do you call home? » 

You see, when I first came to Reunion, I was only supposed to be here for 7 months with a work contract as an English assistant in school. Back then, I was living in Dallas, Texas, and had been living in Texas for 5 years. My life, my college, my friends, my job… were all in Texas, and I planned on returning to live in Texas after my 7 months in Reunion. I LOVED my life in Texas. So naturally, when I first arrived in Reunion, my response to the question « Where do you come from? » was Texas! I had literally just come from there!  

Except..I never made it back to Texas. Nope, life had a few twists and turns in store…and now, my life and time in Texas seem a little like a distant memory…   

On the other hand, I was born in Michigan, and I lived in Michigan for the first 18 years of my life, until I joined the Army and started traveling the world. My childhood memories are of snowy Michigan winters, chasing chipmunks and deer in the forest, and raking up colorful leaves every fall. My family still lives there, and when I go back to the US to visit, that’s where I go.   

At some point, it stopped feeling normal to say that I come from Texas…since I won’t be going back anymore. And even though I was born in Michigan, it’s been so long since I’ve lived there that I have no idea where anything is, the roads and shops aren’t familiar, and my childhood friends are long gone.   

Half of my heart is still in Texas. My heritage and my family remain in Michigan. And me…I’m on the other side of the world living on a volcano in the middle of an ocean. 

So, where do I come from? I don’t know. What do you think?

Vocabulary

To run into – rencontrer
Actually – en fait
Back then – à l’époque
College – la fac
Nope – non

On the other hand – d’un autre côté
To travel – Voyager
Childhood – enfance
Winter – hiver
Chipmunk – écureuil 

Deer – cerf
To rake up – ratisser
Fall – Automne
At some point – à un moment
Since (because) – puisque

Childhood friend – ami d’enfance
Long gone – parti depuis longtemps
To remain – rester

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Gypsy Party

One day, I decided I really wanted to camp outside near the ocean, since I hadn’t done it before. I gathered up some friends and named this important event a « Gypsy Party, » and required everyone to dress up like cool traveling nomads.

We arrived at Etang Sale in the late afternoon and spent the first hour figuring out how to make some kind of shelter. We ended up stringing a tarp between two trees and then we put lots of colorful pillows, blankets, and snuggly things under it. We finished our little gypsy home just in time for the sunset, so we opened a bottle of champagne (I guess we were being rich gypsies) and toasted to Mother Nature.

After a while, we lit up the mini-grill and started to make dinner!! We grilled jumbo shrimp, lobster tails, sausages and a lot of veggies. For dessert, we made a classic American camping treat—s’mores! You grill a marshmallow and then you put it between two graham crackers, which are like digestive biscuits here, with a piece of chocolate in between. So you have a kind of delicious chocolate marshmallow sandwich. It was my favorite thing to do after a BBQ when I was a kid.

After dinner, we danced around near the ocean under the moonlight. I remember the stars seeming particularly bright that night, and we were all quite happy. I think we even went to bed early…around midnight! That night, I had this crazy dream that there was a pigeon who took me by the hand with his beak and was going to fly me to spiritual enlightenment. I was worried I would be too heavy for him, and suddenly I woke up—in the middle of a rainstorm!! We all got up to put the rest of our gypsy decorations under the tarp with us, thankful that it was holding strong.

Early the next morning, we made some coffee which we drank out of the left-over coconut shells. While we were discussing the events of the night, a REAL gypsy came wandering over to our camp, plopped himself downin front of us and asked for some coffee. He was wearing a torn pillowcase for a shirt, and he muttered how there aren’t many people left like us—people who know how to live off the land. He went on a long, strange rant about the government and finally, we were able to give him some food and send him on his gypsy way. You know you did a gypsy party right when you start attracting real gypsies! 

Vocabulary

To gather up – rassembler
To travel – voyager
To figure out – comprendre
Shelter – abri
To string – attacher

Tarp – bâche
Pillow – oreiller
Blanket – couveture
Snuggly – câlins
Shrimp – crevette

Lobster tails – queues de homard
Marshmallow – guimauve
Moonlight – clair de lune
Enlightenment – éclaircissement
Rainstorm – pluie torrentielle

Left-over – qui reste
To wander – vagabonder
To plop down – s’asseoir
Pillowcase – taie d’oreiller
To attract – attirer

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Halloween

Halloween was always my favorite holiday. It probably has something to do with the thespian in me…dressing up in costume, pretending to be someone else, living out a fantasy…I quickly learned that Halloween in the States is much different from Halloween in Reunion.

To start with, pretty much ALL Americans get into the Halloween spirit, and it starts in the beginning of October. Halloween goes hand in hand with thefall. In Michigan, we would always go to cider mills and eat fresh donuts and drink warm apple cider in the forest. In Texas, we’d have pumpkincarving contests on the patio at the local bar. Haunted houses were on every corner. EVERYONE decorated their homes in spider webs, tombs, and other spooky things. And then, the weekend of Halloween, we’d always have an amazing costume party. Scary movies would scream in the background. Everyone dressed up—kids, adults, dogs, cats, and we’d drink way too much vodka punch out of a smoking cauldron.

The American version of Halloween may be incredibly commercialized, but it’s fun that way! You can dress up as anything you want—Spiderman, a princess, President Obama…it doesn’t HAVE to be scary. In France and especially in Reunion, it seems that many people are afraid of Halloween. Here, they have kept the real origins of Halloween and so it’s equated to horror, the dead, the scary.

I learned this when I threw my first Halloween party in La Possession, our group costumes included 3 devils, one witch, and the rest of the guys wore ugly masks that came off the moment they opened their first beers. We couldn’t find any pumpkins to carve, so someone tried the same thing with a watermelon and a coconut. We didn’t have any creatively themed desserts, but I did spend a little too much time making spooky appetisers. There were no kids to take trick-or-treating…but I did have a little trick up MY sleeve….

I was planning on secretly setting up my friend Julie, (who was part of my original host family when I first arrived in Reunion,) with Richard’s friend Christian. Julie came to the party in a pink wig and cat-eye contact lenses, and still it was still love at first sight! The two of them hit it off and interestingly enough, they just got married a few months ago.

So I guess it goes to show you…you never know what you might encounter on Halloween night!

Vocabulary

To dress up – se déguiser
The States – les Etats Unis
The fall – l’automne
Cider mill – cidrerie
Pumpkin – citrouille

To carve – sculpter
Spider web – toile d’araignée
Spooky – qui donne la chair de poule
To scream – crier
Cauldron – chaudron

To throw a party – organiser une fête
Devil – diable
Witch – sorcière
To come off – enlever
Watermelon – pastèque

Trick-or-treat – bonbons ou un sort
A trick up my sleeve – un tour dans mon sac
Wig – perruque
To set up – jouer les entremetteurs
To encounter – rencontre

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Thanksgiving

During the first year I was with my husband in Reunion, I really wanted to celebrate all of the American holidays. Looking back I guess I was a little homesick, but also I really wanted to share these cultural traditions with him. We had hot dogs and s’mores for the 4th of July, a big costume party for Halloween, and when November came along, I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner.

In the US, hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a huge responsibility. I believe it is the only day of the year where Americans eat like the French, and we aren’t used to preparing such a giant feast! Over there, in true American style, you can buy most of the Thanksgiving essentials already prepared or at least half prepared. You throw the store-bought turkey in the oven, mix the rest of the stuff out of their easy-to-make boxes, and voilà! Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours.

In Reunion, things are a little different.

Thankfully I had the help of one of my girlfriends and her mother. We woke up very early and went to the butcher to pick up the turkey. We had to order a turkey in advance, since it isn’t something the butcher usually has in stock. This already was a shock for me, but when we arrived and he asked if I wanted him to chop the head off or if I would do it myself…I almost fainted. It was the first time I realized how far removed we are from our food in the US, (and it was also the start of why I became a vegetarian!!)

Then we started cooking. EVERYTHING had to be made from scratch. Normal Thanksgiving foods include: stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, a baked green bean casserole with fried onions, and cranberries. Ingredients that were so easily available in the US; like canned mushroom soup and fried onions for the green beans, were now things I had to look up separately and figure out how to make myself. And of course, things like stuffing mix, cranberries, and yams don’t even exist here. We somehow found a jar of something resembling cranberries, and we used sweet potatoes for the yams. So in the end, everything worked out…especially the home-made pumpkin pie!!!

Everyone arrived and I played some Youtube recordings of things we usually watch on TV; the epic Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and of course, the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. I tried to explain the meaning behind Thanksgiving; the history between the British settlersand the Native American Indians…but it didn’t seem to translate as easily as I thought it would. Above all, I explained, Thanksgiving is a day where we give thanks for what we have in our lives. Traditionally, each person around the dinner table says what they are most thankful for. Everyone was happy to play along and we had some great laughs.

They were all quite confused, however, when I put all of the food down on the table. To my surprise, they were expecting the usual number of courses during the meal…something I was not used to! I explained that we don’t really have courses, and that we eat everything together. Befuddled, they helped me bring the food to the table, including the pumpkin pie. Laughing, I told them that we DO at least wait to have dessert until after dinner!

Reunionais Thanksgiving turned out to be the best tasting Thanksgiving of my life!! I was really amazed at what a difference everything makes when it’s made from scratch. I ended up going to the US a week later, just in time again for American Thanksgiving with my Dad…and so I saw the huge difference between what we did in Reunion and what store-boughtAmerican Thanksgiving tastes like.

It was a great day…but that was the last time I tried to host Thanksgiving. Eventually I learned that if I was going to be happy here, I had to stop trying to make Reunion into America. Things just aren’t the same, and I shouldn’t resist the fact that life has changed. Instead, I’ve learned to embrace the unique and special things that Reunion has to offer, live in the present moment, and let the past rest happily in the past.

Vocabulary

Holidays (US) – Jours fériés (UK- Bank Holiday)
S’mores – Sandwich sucré fait avec de crackers
Feast – Festin
Stuff – Des choses
Butcher – Boucher

Chop the head off – décapiter
To faint – s’évanouir
From scratch – de A à Z
Stuffing – la farce
Mashed potatoes – Purée de pommes de terre

Yam – Ignames
Cranberries – Canneberges
Canned – en boîte de conserve
Figure out – calculer
Jar – pot en verre

Pumpkin – citrouille
Settlers – colons
Seem to – semble
A good laugh – rigolade
Courses – plats (entrée, plat principal, dessert)

Befuddled – confus
Store-bought – acheté tout prêt
Instead – Au lieu de

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Meet the Parents: Créole Style!

My husband Richard has deep roots in his hometown, Le Tampon. For generations, the family business was fruit farming, so this means that Richard spent much of his childhood outside on the land. When he was a kid, Richard would go out with his dad to hunt wasps for dinner. The taste of wasp brings back memories of bonding with his father, and to this day, the whole family goes crazy for a big plate of wasp larva.

When we first started dating, Richard invited me to meet his parents for the first time over lunch at their house in Le Tampon. I was kind of nervous because my French at the time was pretty horrible and they didn’t speak any English. Well actually, they didn’t really speak French either, but a mix of French and Creole. I remember being quite lost and pretty embarrassed, but we all got along just fine. That’s when I asked what was for lunch…and Richard and his dad exchanged a secretive glance. “Come on,” Dad said, “Let’s show her.”

So we went outside to the small kiosk in the back of the garden, where a large black skillet was slowly cooking over the fire. Dad handed me a giant spoon and invited me to stir. Inside were these little blackened white balls of something…

“It’s wasp larva!” Richard told me, like it was normal, and I almost dropped the skillet! “You’re joking.” “No no no no, it’s our FAVORITE plate. Some wasp, some rice, a little tomato salsa…and a GREAT red wine…and voilà, you have the BEST. MEAL. EVER!” Richard said. I gulped. I couldn’t be rude and refuse…it was my first time meeting the family, and I really wanted to make a good impression…

Later, we sat down to the table. They all thought it was hilarious to see an American with a plate of wasp. Thankfully, they let me pick out the wasps that had already developed legs and wings! I loaded up my fork with a LOT of rice, some salsa, and a few wasp larva…

Actually, it wasn’t so bad!! (Much better than the wormy zandettes, but that’s another story.) But I certainly didn’t eat anymore that day. Now, almost three years later, wasp night at the in-law’s has become a monthly occurrence. We had them again last weekend, and everyone laughed and laughed as I served myself a heaping spoonful of wasp. Funny how things change…

When I have visitors from the US, I always make sure that their trip includes a wasp dinner night at my in-laws. It’s certainly a great way to make memories!

Vocabulary

Wasp – Guêpe
Larva – Larve
Dating – Sortir ensemble
Pretty horrible – Assez horrible
To get along – s’entendre

Glance – Coup d’oeil
Skillet – Poêle
To hand – Passer (qq chose)
Spoon – Cuillère
To stir – Remurer

To gulp – Déglutir
Rude – Mal poli
The in-law’s – Chez les beaux parents

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