Whats it all about . . .

My name is Rachel Talbot and from September 2011 to July 2012 I will be Volunteering for Project Trust, a charitable organization which sends young adults from 17-19yrs overseas to do charitable work in a range of projects. I raised 5000 pounds for this opportunity through a range of events and would like to thank everyone who donated! This year i will be working in a center for children with disabilities while immersing myself in all things Mauritian! Hopefully i can update here what i am up to, may not update religiously . . . Thanks for visiting :)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

First post!

There are a million and one things to mention so sorry if I leave anything out!

New address for letters is :
c/o Gobin Apartments
Above mini shop
Toofany Lane
Eau Coulee.
Mauritius / Ile Meurice

This time three weeks a go we arrived off the plane and our lovely country representative, Mandy, our surrogate mother for the year, met us off the plane with an upside down Project Trust sign.  I was absolutely exhausted from the 14 hour journey and Heathrow which seemed a million light years ago, but also wired and ready to explore!  Mauritius was so hot and Mandy gleefully informed us that it was only winter now; I deeply regretted packing a couple of warm jumpers ‘just in case’(thanks Mum!).  Mandy’s son drove my partner Helen and me up to our apartment in Eau Coulee while Mandy took Freya and Daisy in her car. What struck me was how you could be driving along a street and one house was three storeys high with elaborate and intricate designed balconies and immaculate lawns while, next door, was a dilapidated shack with broken windows, rotting beams of wood and the walls crumbling.  During the journey to Eau Coulee, we took in as much as possible, seeing huge fields of sugar cane - apparently the Mauritians have a very sweet tooth!

Our apartment is situated up a small lane just off the main road which is handy for catching buses to Curepipe, our nearest town, and up to Port Louis, the capital to the north. Our Landlord, Mr Gobin, was ever so helpful; he and his mother live downstairs where they tend the mini shop – very handy for popping down to get cooking ingredients.  They also let two other apartments and he works in a hospital warehouse during the day.  The apartment was a lot larger than we expected and, after being briefed on how to hand wash our clothes and operate bucket shower on training in Coll, we were pleasantly surprised to see we were well equipped with a washing machine, an actual shower, flushing toilet, fridge and gas stove!  We drew names out of a hat, and Helen and I share the bigger room with a curtain partition while Daisy and Freya each have the spacious single rooms. Once our photos were on the wall and I put up my Peace flag, it really was home sweet home!
W arrived just in time for the weekend so we went to Flic en Flac beach (as you do) on a bus about half an hour away. We were greeted with golden sand and the blissfully warm blue sea – beats swimming in Inverkirkaig Bay on Hogmanay!  We had our first experience of Mauritian food there – Fried noodles which were so tasty we often dream about them and always promise we’ll get them when we go back! Mandy advised us to be back before six so we left on an early bus, adamant we would be return!
The first working week I spent at the CEDEM (Centre Educational pour le development de les Enfants Mauricien) at Floreal. There are three classes there - the lower primary school level, upper primary school level, (about fifteen children in each of those classes) and high school level with about 25+ kids. There is a huge range of disabilities, not just physical but also children with cerebral palsy, dwarfism, children with Down’s syndrome and autism and also children who have behavioural problems.  I work from nine till two and the children’s day consists of French/English in the morning, a short break, English/French then Art; after lunch they continue with French or English. The children have a whole different range of abilities and I know it can be also quite frustrating for the teachers as many of the children can work at a high standard if they consistently come to school ;however they often have to go to hospital for appointments due to the nature of their disability and so their school work suffers.  CEDEM also has a shelter for children who can not be in the home environment - about 15 children live there, -with either travelling to their school in the morning by bus or to the classrooms downstairs.

The second week I met the co-director, Ms Shanaz, who took me to the other CEDEM Centre in Vacoas. There the children were younger and the complex consists of two buildings - one which has nursery level children and a unit for children with cerebral palsy while the other has a primary school level lower than that in the Floreal Centre.  There are also a group of young adults with disabilities, their ages ranging up to 22.  So far I have found this group the most daunting to deal with.  On the drive over Ms Shanaz told me how the Centre receives no funding and must rely on charity to buy the equipment they need.  Also many of the teachers aren’t qualified for the work they are doing, and the director travels to Britain to do relevant course s and, when she comes back, passes on her knowledge to the other teachers.  It is often hard when a child with a very sever or unusual disability is there as sometimes they just don’t know how to deal with it.  At the moment I spend a full week in one department at a time, till I get a feel for it all.  The children have been very welcoming, even with the language barrier! The only Creole words I know so far relate to the children’s games!  Also I was puzzled as to why the children repeatedly said ‘Gateaux’;   here was me looking hopefully for cake whenever they said it so you can imagine my disappointment when they told me one of the boys names was Gauteux, and my embarrassment when the teachers were laughing so hard they were reduced to tears!
Helen, Daisy, Freya and I visited Quatre Borne Market at the weekend where I saw many wonderful and strange things. I bought my first Indian clothing, a churidar, a kind of tunic with such intricate design. Some Indian women wear them over jeans while others have matching trousers.  Next step – getting a full sari!  We also gorged on the stall food – Kebabs, Dhol puri and Roti, a kind of wrap which they fill with a butter bean filling and tomato. I also discovered the joys of Piment, a chilli sauce so spicy it makes Tabasco look like child’s play. The first time I had it I thought my mouth would never be the same! Fun!
The transport around Mauritius is also a personal highlight. To sum it up, the bus I got home from Flic En Flac sounded like it would break down every time we came to a stand still! Although the buses are very cheap, they take double the time of a car! If we walk around the town, however, we are beeped on average fifty times a day – I was afraid some of the people would start crashing their cars if they don’t stop staring at us! This was unnerving at the start but now when a bus driver driving a busload of people beeps, we just smile and wave!
We visited  Port Louis, the capital town, on Helen’s and my day off on national ‘Teachers day’Port Louis has a lovely water front where we enjoyed a pina colada and people watched, - we were the ones doing the staring then when we saw all the other white people!  Bought an African outfit in the vast and busy market and sent off some letters. When all four of us went up on the following Saturday, we were invited to Freya’s friends from Britain’s cousin’s house (lots of apostrophes there!), who declared she would be our Mauritian mother and loaded our plates with fish byriani – a kind of rice and fish or chicken mix up of any spices as byriani translates as a big mess and can be applied to anything which is a big mix of things. It was delicious and, when we finished, she insisted we had more. I was fit to bursting after the first serving but ate the second which was the same size as the first - still delicious! They were so hospitable and happy to have us in their home!
On the whole, I have found Mauritian people so friendly;  women walking me to the bus stop so they make sure I get there ok and another lady who., when I had just walked into her shop to browse, declared I was her daughter and, if I needed to talk about anything, just come to talk to her! It makes me quite sad when are given this special treatment which I’m sure is because of our background but, hopefully, I can give a lot to CEDEM and the community so they start to see me less as a tourist.
This weekend planning to get a bike and visit the beach again, of course . . .
Will update again soon =)

No comments:

Post a Comment