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 :)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Month two - still sane :)

Salut friends and family and  also any randomers who have stumbled upon this page, - bear with me and try to stay awake as I give the next  installment of life here in Mauritius. . . .

Guess what …  Mo cause Creole! Well . . . a little bit - I’ve finally given learning this slang language a shot, (although I was disappointed they haven’t published a “Creole for dummies” book yet). I can now interact more with the kids, especially the young ones who only seem to know Creole. I seem to be getting a lot of practice at asking people to ‘speeeeaaaak morrree slowwwlly’ as they fire phrases at me at hundred miles an hour! So far I’ve learned that Creole is a very easy language to master once you know the basics. It is very closely linked to French and much of the grammar is completely made up which suits me down to the ground . . . There have, however, been some bloopers while practising my newfound Creole – for example telling the kids I was pregnant instead of full up . . .

Before the end of the school term we had the Hindu festival ‘Divali’ – a huge deal in Mauritius as 70% of the population are of Indian descent. As the actual day was a public holiday (I’m finding there is any excuse for a public holiday here!) we had a party the day before in the CEDEM School.  For weeks before we had been decorating and it was a great party with the kids all wearing their churidars and the teachers in their saris. On Divali itself, my partner Helen and I went to Mandy, the Project Trust field worker’s house for a barbecue. The traditions of Divali are visiting relatives and friends with special sweets and cakes and also draping the house with fairy lights. Mandy’s son and his friend showed us a house in Curepipe which is famous for having the most amazing display of fairy lights around the house each year for Divali. Best seen at night, it was fantastic – a really great display with what looked like a million lights at least - and I was amused to learn that, as the house brings so many visitors to the area each year, the owners are given free electricity for that day.  Afterwards we visited Mishal, Jay’s friend’s house and his mum almost drowned us in cakes – which she had been baking since two in the morning! Needless to say we loved our first Divali experience and we were dining on all the gifted Divali sweets for breakfast, lunch and dinner for quite a few days after . . .

Right now it’s the holidays at CEDEM and, like everybody in Ullapool at school holiday time, all the girls want to do is sit around watching telly!  But it’s my job to motivate them for activities which can be a really hard task! I’ve enjoyed getting to know all the kids personally and finding out what they like to do in their spare time. One of the girls wants to learn Spanish so I had the tricky task of translating the English / Spanish text I printed off the internet into French / Spanish as well. . . my brain is still hurting from that one!   I have a range of creative projects and individual activities tailored to each child and right now we are making a lot of Christmas decorations. Money is pretty tight here for the charity and therefore resources are very limited in CEDEM;  I’m always on the look out for ideas for projects that I can do with the kids so if you can think of any please let me know.  Also, any donations of arts and crafts resources would also be very gratefully received.

Having been in Mauritius for 2 months now, we decided to try the hotel experience (before prices get too expensive in a couple of months) so we booked one night a few weeks ago in a hotel in the north. Freya and Daisy, my two flat mates who are also project trust volunteers, work in a shelter for women and children and, as an end of term treat, they were taken up to a beach in the north and Helen and I were invited along. It was really great to spend time with the girls and put faces to the names that had been in Freya and Daisy's stories. And then at the end of the day, we checked into La Plantation – the hotel in the north. The spa was fabulous and the food at the buffet delicious.  However it was sad to realise that the many western tourists who were also staying there wouldn’t get to experience the real Mauritius as we are doing and how much more interesting the country is away from the luxurious beach resorts.  The final straw for me, however, was when I was charged 115 rupees for a coke which I could get at my home in Eau Coulee for 15 rupees – I quickly realised that I would much rather be back in my own community back at ‘home’ in Toofany Lane!

For CEDEM’s end of term outing we went to Ile aux Aigrettes in the south of the island. This island is set up as a nature reserve by the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, to help protect and preserve species (such as lizards, plants, birds, flowers and insects) which are endemic to Mauritius but which are endangered. Many of the species of birds have been saved from the brink of extinction with numbers having dropped as low as twelve known birds before the wildlife foundation stepped in!  I fell in love with the most amazing giant tortoise – ‘Big Daddy’ who was 150 years old and huge -what a dude!  I found the reserve really interesting and I’ve been looking into it as a secondary projec t for me while I am in Mauritius.. Unfortunately the placements for volunteers are usually two weeks+ so it is not possible for me to take part in the work camps because of my commitments to CEDEM. But they have offered me the chance to help out in the office a few hours a week after work which will give me a good chance to learn more about the Mauritian heritage and also allow me to visit a few more of the nature reserves around the island for free on the weekends. For more information, their website is http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org/application/

Other exciting news is that, after much deliberation and haggling, I’ve finally bought a bike! This gives me much more freedom to explore and I’m no longer bound to the bus routes. The bike I chose had been on outside display in the rain and so I got it for 2000 rupees (£50) – a bargain though the lady warned me to get it oiled as soon as possible to minimise the risk of it breaking. Of course I didn’t take that advice and on the second day the pedal fell off … while I was riding down a busy street … great!  However there was a silver lining as when I went into a shop and got chatting to the owner about my problems with my bike, he came out and immediately fixed it for free! The local postman then took me to his friend’s garage to get my bike oiled – and this man supported Celtic – so I knew instantly that he was a good guy!   So it seems my ropey 2nd-hand bike has got brought me great opportunities to make friends!  Now the locals all wave at me cycling past and ask after my bike more than about me!  Mandy has insisted that I get a helmet as the driving is so erratic here.  I can see her point as, cycling to work the other day I realised the traffic lights at a busy crossroad had been turned off … to save electricity I was told … only in Mauritius!

Another potential secondary project I've been looking at is the charity ‘Paws’. This Mauritian charity runs an animal shelter on the outskirts of Curepipe, housing some of the dogs and puppies picked up off the street (strays are a huge problem here). The charity also offers free dog spaying so as to minimise the number of mongrel puppies being born on the street. As I have Fridays free during term time, and after falling in love with the puppies, some as young as only a few weeks old, I’ve decided to go muck out at the shelter on a Friday. The charity also offers an education program in Creole for kids to educate them about caring for their pets so I thought I would take advantage of this and tie my two charities together.  Hopefully a volunteer from Paws will come to CEDEM to teach the kids there to love and care for animals and it will be a really good excuse for them to get a chance to cuddle a little puppy.   For more information the Paws website is http://www.pawsmauritius.org/

We’re planning Christmas already. As it’s going to be a world away from anything we’ve experienced before, the 4 of us are going to make it as unconventional as we possibly can.  We are currently thinking of heading to a huge leisure park with zip lines and lion feeding safaris on Xmas day itself and a water park trip on Boxing Day! Very exciting and, as we’re reaching midsummer and 30C heat, a very non-traditional way to celebrate Christmas! At the moment I would kill for some snow to cool me down!

Presents will be sent in the post which could be tricky as recently I was sent a parcel from home containing iron medication which rattled.   I was called up to Port Louis, to the main post office, for questioning and had my medication tested by the head chemist – I think they were disappointed I wasn’t the big time drugs criminal they ‘d hoped for!

Also a word of warning – when on a gap year, never opt to save rupees and have your partner cut your fringe . . . . I’m now rocking a bowl-cut fringe which is much shorter than intended – hilarious at the time but thank goodness for Kirby grips to pin it back!!
All the deep fried food is getting to us (we don’t have an oven, just two rings and a microwave so frying food is the easiest option) and the four of us have taken up running around our neighbourhood after work for exercise.  I don’t think Eau Coulee has ever seen anything like it! We’ve had people running beside us, taking photos and clapping their hands – we’re fast becoming local celebrities in this neighbourhood, I tell you! And finding suitable running clothes which are comfortable and yet decent is proving very difficult . . .

Well that’s about it – back to work tomorrow and starting dancing classes on Tuesday! Mosquitos are continuing to make my life hell but, otherwise, I still love every minute of my time here! Will update again very soon J

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