It’s now six weeks since I returned from Reunion to London. I’m teaching a summer school in English for Academic Purposes at the University of Westminster. This means my life has completely changed. Instead of jumping into my little Peugeot and racing along the coastal highway by the beautiful blue ocean, I squeeze into the Docklands Light Railway carriage with dozens of other commuters, and rattle along the high-rise buildingsinto the city centre.
Instead of winding through sugar cane fields with a backdrop of spectacular velvety-green mountains, I walk from the station over the River Thames on a pedestrian bridge, with a panorama of St Paul’s cathedral, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. Instead of listening to Maloya or Séga on my car radio, I can hear the sound of a busker who plays English traditional songs on a trumpet – very badly.
Instead of a low, modern campus with a courtyard shaded by palm trees, Westminster University’s Regent Street building has stone columns and a marble entrance hall. Instead of a leafy car park there’s a busy street, where red double-decker buses and black London taxis trundle past all day long, creating noise and fumes.
In the class, instead of students who all speak French, there are learners from all over the world: China, Brazil, Viet Nam, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Japan and Iran. Instead of explaining some difficult words or phrases in French, all the classes have to be given entirely in English. This is an intensive language course, so the students are in class for five hours each day. And of course, so am I!
At the end of the day, instead of unwinding by stopping off for a drink at a beach bar and watching the sun sink behind the horizon, I sit with a friend or colleague at a busy pavement cafe, and watch the never-ending stream of people, heading to the late-night shops on Oxford Street, the bars and restaurants in Soho or Fitzrovia, or home to the suburbs.
London is a busy, dirty, noisy, vibrant, multicultural city in Northern Europe. Reunion is a lively, crazy, friendly, uniquely beautiful island in the Southern Indian Ocean. Every day I ask myself: where would I rather be?
rattle along – bringuebaler
high-rise buildings – tours de bureau ou d’habitation
velvety-green – vert foncé de velour
busker – musicien de rue
trundle – cheminer
unwinding – se détendre
never-ending – sans cesse
Soho, Fitzrovia – quartiers de Londres