Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Thoughts on Expat Life So Far....

Mauritius was a complete unknown to me before actually setting foot here just a few weeks ago. I had read some history and somethings about the politics and nature on the island. I knew bits and scraps from what Fred has told me from his many visits here- but it was all abstract having never been here myself.

My first days were spent tentatively venturing out into the surrounding towns with Fred. The mix of cultures here is diverse- it remixes me a lot NYC in that way. Sitting at a cafe or going to the grocery store, you hear dozens of languages spoken. 

Driving down the streets there are women in brightly colored saris, people of all colors and on about every mode of transport you can think of. 

As in all places, you have to know the ground rules and how to keep safe- where to go and where not to go. Fred found himself in San Francisco not too long ago, accidentally walking into the Tenderloin district and quickly feeling the dangers around him...on a recent visit to Manhattan, I turned a corner in the middle of the afternoon onto a place that I knew immediately I shouldn't be in- it is the same here. There are retractable bars on the windows like in San Francisco, NYC, and in the suburbs of many European cities. Not like Shell Beach, but in Shell Beach we didn't feel safe letting Tristam play outside in the front yard unsupervised with all of the tourist traffic going by our house- here we tell him to go out and play and don't worry about it because we are in a gated community. 

Some of the things that frustrate me so far are the simple things that have to do with being unfamiliar with a place. Not knowing where it buy what and how much things should cost, for example. Not knowing how to navigate around here and what is where. The Indian class system is a strange ghost here too and from what I understand the Hinduism practiced here is what was practiced in India generations ago...that said the 20 something Indian-Mauritians are as modern as any 20 year olds around the globe...

There are so many things that remind me of Europe here- especially of Belgium and France. Walled streets (bend them are houses, apartments and neighborhoods) and most people greeting each other as you walk by them with a nod of the head, or a "bonjour". We have met the nicest people here. 

My favorites are some of Fred's friends we had over a few nights ago. A couple who had come here over 20 years ago, she from SA (South Africa) and he is a native Mauritian- their daughter a beautiful 22 year old woman who had gone to the same school that Tristam now attends. Charming, so welcoming, so truly wonderful. We were put at ease about life here- they had gone through a very similar process of adjustment arrived in Mauritius that it was to move here with her husband and that the roads were not paved back then and that she was moving from a big city and landing on this little island. Now it is home truly home. 

My parents were expats before when I was a kid. They wrote this to us in an e-mail not too long ago:

It was really great to hear from you.  We have been following the updates on the Stephanitely Blog and on Facebook.  Thank you for the new photos and especially for the explanations.  You are handling the new culture very well.  When working with expatriates in Belgium and Germany we saw them go through phases.  The first phase was the honeymoon phase where everything was new and charming (wow, look at the little cars darting around), then after about 6 months they tended to see more of the negative side.  It was not actually negative, but they were no longer new visitors and were now learning to deal with the new culture around them which of course was "not normal" by their personal historical references (Did you see how that idiot cut me off in traffic).  Then they went into a more positive phase where they started to acclimate into their new culture (Did you see how I cut that guy off in traffic).  I am sure you have lots of adventures ahead of you.

I know that it was a great experience for me as a kid and that it changed me forever. This morning after dropping Tristam off at school- he was so excited- we thought the same thing about what lies ahead for him.

This is a grand adventure. We are all learning French and learning to listen more than talk. Learning to be patient and not jump to conclusions and learning to open our minds up to new ways of thinking- 

A statue of Ganesha on the beach- left as an offering (which of course we left there- fyi). Ganesha- the God of success, remover of obstacles and patron of the arts and sciences, and diety of intellect and wisdom. I think I need to get one of these and make my own offering for this new journey into the unknown. 

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