Bienvenue á Maurice
My journey begins approximately 8,700 miles ago in Halifax, on the east coast of Canada, then took me through Toronto and London, ending in Johannesburg. Here, I have a brief stopover before boarding one last flight to my final destination: Mauritius!
My flight from Johannesburg takes me 1,491 miles off the east coast of Africa to the heart of the Indian Ocean. I passed over the island of Madagascar (large), then Réunion Island (smaller), before descending on Mauritius (tiny!)
The island seemingly pops out of nowhere. Cerulean waters turn to turquoise before giving way to white beaches, then sharp mountains of black volcanic rock. From above, it looks like paradise.
Mauritian-born Alain is waiting to greet me at the airport and serve as the team’s guide. As we drive from the airport to our hotel, we pass endless fields of sugarcane, pastel-colored houses, mosques, Hindu temples, and churches.
Along the way, Alain provides a perfect snapshot of Mauritian culture by telling me his own story. Alain’s family gave money to help build a Hindu temple and a Christian church in their town. Now, they worship every week in BOTH places! While not uncommon for Mauritians to observe more than one religion, this was a revelation to me. Growing up, I occasionally accompanied friends to different churches, but never encountered families that followed multiple traditions or faiths. Even though I read about this unique aspect of Mauritian culture before beginning this journey, hearing about it from someone who lives it makes me curious to learn more (which we will soon do.)
The variety of languages spoken in Mauritius also reflects the mix of cultures on the island. At any market or street corner, I can hear French, English, or Mauritian Creole – sometimes all at once! My French especially has already come in handy since arriving. I can’t wait to see if this helps me understand Mauritian Creole because it’s based heavily on French. I bet that I’ll be able to discern about two-thirds of what I hear, but speaking it will be another story. I better start practicing!