I’m featured in the third edition of the Summer Exchange Newsletter that AIESEC UK sends out every week. Here is what I told them:
I’m at the airport, after a sleepless night on a 12-hour flight, ready to take in what Mauritius has to offer. After several rounds of interviews Amnesty International wants me, and my only plan is to leave in two months knowing that I have made a difference. I have the structure of a big organisation behind me, now I need to understand and experience the culture of Île Maurice.
On our way home from the airport, we stop by Blue Bay for a walk on the beach. Contrary to what the name implies the water is postcard-turquoise, and the coconut and pineapple sellers are lined up, offering fresh fruit with chili and vinegar sauce – delicious! When seeing my new home for the first time there is no water, so my first shower is taken with water bottles. I’m greeted by other EPs who quickly become like the best friends you’ve known forever – one of whom I’m visiting in Egypt during Ramadan later on. In the kitchen, which is decorated with German, Indian and French flags, a girl is getting her left foot henna-tattooed. Lunch often consists of the national dish, the dholl puri, which people sell from their motorcycles for 25p. I love it!
I start my internship the following week, and the work of a Danish EP interests me. We decide to work together on the preliminary research of the conditions of migrant workers, doing dormitory inspections and writing articles for the national newspapers about our findings. We start our blog about the topic, mwmru.wordpress.com, which two weeks later is discussed in the parliament. The leader of the opposition wants to greet us, and we are frequently published in several newspapers. Eight migrant workers who are held against their will, currently being paid 30p an hour producing garment for Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss, are being given their tickets to return to their families in Nepal. Another house with 15 Indian workers invites us in for a cup of authentic masala chai and a Bollywood movie. The country is filled with nice tourist attractions, but it is these small encounters with the true local reality that is making my summer on exchange spectacular.
A few minutes before the first time I saw Moris.
During a night visit I did with Jeppe, Edeen and Annie to some dormitories, we were invited in for a cup of masala chai and a Bollywood movie. Our Indian friends speak primarily Hindi, but having a quiet cup of tea watching a movie is amazing anyway. You may say whatever you like about the white beaches and five-star hotels; I prefer having homemade Indian tea on the floor in a crowded living room with people I can’t communicate with perfectly. I tried asking how they made the chai, and I understood enough to have a good starting point to play with when getting back home. Now I make a mean masala chai, if I may say so myself. When moving back to London I’ll take up employment as a chaiwala. When leaving I kindly said shukriya – that made them laugh. My Hindi vocabulary is pretty limited (hello and thank you are the only things I can say), but they understood me nonetheless.
I’ve had some good last days with habibti FatimaZahrae (aka Tamy). We went to Trou aux Biches the other day, spent hours sunbathing, swimming and watching the sunset. My brother, Edeen, and I have our own internal thing which is about watching the sunset upside down. We’ll stand by the water bent forward with our heads between our legs. Sometimes people walking past us stop up and try it, and they like it!
Sunset at Trou aux Biches – The Edeen and Maria Louise way.
I’m not only here to work; I do have fun as well. Whenever not spending time with the boyfriend (yes mum, I know it’s stupid…). The beach is lovely, we’ve also gone to Pamplemousse Botanical Garden and l’Aventure du Sucre, an old sugar factory. There we walked our way through the entire history of Mauritius as a major producer of sugar, and had a sugar & rum tasting. Who knew sugar could have that many different flavours.. The workers carried bags of 80 kilos on their back to move the sugar, and we got to try carrying it. Both Annie and I were strong enough, but the other girls had some problems with it.
Annie carrying the 80 kilos
Tamy and me at Trou aux Biches
One of the most popular songs:
The 21st of February 1999, Kaya was found dead in the Alcatraz Police Cells at Line Barracks. All the doctors who examined Kaya’s body acknowledged that his death was due to shock or violence. Thursday, 4 days before his death, Kaya was arrested for having smoked a cigarette allegedly containing gandia publicly at a concert two days before. The cigarette was never found, so who knows. Since then, many others have died in police custody. Kaya is a famous Mauritian musician, inventor of the Seggae, and his death caused a three-day riot with widespread looting and a news-blackout.
Kaya’s widow, Veronique (in orange), did my rastas in her hair salon.
I’ve been using my friends for photo shoots lately. Mia went and bought herself a new (and expensive) camera, which encouraged me to play a bit with mine again. Here are some of the results.
Back from the left: Varden, Pauline, Mia. Front: Anca, Annie, Tamy.
So I’m stuck. English is the official language, but people would rather speak French or Creole. I try to be a good guest and learn French, but it’s not something that just comes to you over night. Right now I’m being bound within the confines of my knowledge of the language. Yesterday I almost ordered fish curry with rice rather than without, simply because it was the only think I could say it in French.
But I like it. I’m used to there being too many things to choose between. Crevette or poisson – faratha or dholl puri? Water avec or sans lemons? Normally I can’t choose, but now that I only understand half of what is going on, it makes it a lot easier to make decisions.
I ended up having poisson without rice for lunch, but I ordered it in English. On my way to the restaurant a pidgeon shat on me – annoying. Tammy told me that in Morocco it gives you good luck when that happens. And she was right! Five minutes later Alex called me and told me that he got the two of us on the guest list for a fashion show he was doing; we had tried to get in for a week! So at 7pm we were there, and it was an amazing show. The designers were really talented and the models were hot, at least our good friends Alex and Natalia. Seeing it all from the first row with a good friend made it perfect.
Natalia, my housemate.
Every time I get some internet-time I spend it working on the new blog I’ve made with Jeppe. It has all the information about our work on migrant workers conditions here. Have a look at MWMRU.
We had our last dinner with Yara at Indian Summer.
We went to Ile aux Cerfs, which was lovely!
Pauline and Tamy on the boat we took to get there.
We got fish for lunch.
All of us.
On the way back I phoned my dad to get the exam results. Tamy took a photo of it.
We went hiking on Le Pouce.
Where I was planking.
Edeen and Alex, the brothers.
Me and Yara, the sisters.