Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
It persistently amazes me how many things one has to buy in order to set up a home. I made a list as soon as I moved in to my apartment, which is "furnished." Included in my monthly rent are: the furniture in the apartment, water, electricity, and a 'femme de menage' who comes twice a week. To me, that sounded like I wouldn't need to purchase many things in order to consider this apartment home. I was very wrong.
I find myself walking to the store (read: supermarket. It's called 'Spar.' Thus I frequently tell my neighbor that I am going 'Chez Spar' and it's grammatically correct) almost daily whenever I've discovered some other little domestic necessity whose heretofore presence in my life I'd taken for granted. For instance, I've been scouring supermarkets and stores across the island looking for a normal-sized household trash can with lid. I've also had to buy detergents for everything from my clothes to my dishes. I've purchased a giant squeegee on a pole so that I can push the standing water off of my back porch after heavy rains. How I've been able to find a giant squeegee and not a common trash can escapes me. I've also purchased various insecticides so that I might exact revenge on the little things that live in my kitchen and bathroom. The porches and my bedroom seem to be kept mostly insect-free due to the ever-watchful (and hungry) lizards. I named the latest one 'Reptar.'
I also have yet to purchase food for the apartment. One might think that this would be first on my list of things to buy, but I've been hindered by the dubious condition of the cooking utensils that came with the furnishings, as well as by unsettling noises that may suggest that I'm sharing the apartment with another nasty (more rodent-like) household pet. Indira, la femme de menage, seems to have the same suspicions. I hope to have greater peace of mind (and less bumping and scratching in the bathroom/kitchen walls at night) once I get in touch with my landlord and sternly explain the situation. I might be disgusted, but hey, it's the tropics. You might have guessed by now that 'femme de menage' means 'cleaning lady' in English. Indira comes on Monday and Friday mornings, when/if I remember to leave her the keys. Let me say that I would never have actively sought out such a femme. She seems to be professionally attached to the apartment building, and she seems very cheerful. I hope that we can become friends.
The aforementioned lack of food in the apartment has led me to delightfully desperate measures. I asked Lucia, my neighbor, if one could go to restaurants in Mauritius and ask for something to purchase and take home. I said all of this in French, of course. Lucia, being always helpful, replied that this was indeed a possibility and that I need only enter the restaurant and say, "J'ai envie de faire un take-away." It seems that occasionally the creolization has gone in my (Anglophone) favor. It is worth mentioning, though, that in order to be properly understood, one must pronounce 'take-away' in a French accent. I probably sound very silly, but it seems to get the job done. One might also think that ordering take out from some of the best restaurants in Flic en Flac could get expensive, and it does- but only in a relative sense. I veritably hemorrhage roupies. But, for instance, in equivalent terms, the spaghetti carbonara with curry rice I had for dinner cost me about Rs 120 (read: approximately $4). Said spaghetti came from Chez Pepe, the Italian restaurant down the street. There are also two Chinese restaurants, three snack stands, two seafood restaurants, and one Indian restaurant within easy walking distance of my residence. Let my also clarify that these designations are very fluid: Friday night I had Peking Duck, curried lamb, and 'Sicilian Fish' at the buffet at one of the Chinese restaurants. Also, every single restaurant I've entered has some kind of curry dish on the menu. Some of them are pretty innovative. Chez Pepe, for instance, offers a dish whose translated name is Indiana Shrimp. I don't know why Pepe seems to think that Indiana is a great shrimp producer, nor do I pretend to know why the dish consists of curried shrimp in some kind of pasta, but it's his place so he's the boss.
Lucia also feeds me on occasion. This weekend was the festival of the Assumption. Being a non-Creole-comprehending Methodist, however, I still don't quite understand the customs associated with the holiday here in Mauritius. I do know that Lucia and her entire family gathered for a barbecue to which I was graciously extended an invitation. I stayed for a bit, but found that Lucia's family was trying to accommodate me by speaking French (slowly) or what English they knew. While this made everything understandable for me, I could tell that I was interrupting the spirited pace of the family gathering by obliging them to speak in their second or third languages. I asked them to speak normally, and I would pick up what I could, but they persisted. I bowed out before dinner so that they could enjoy their holiday as a family, but they were still there the next night when I stayed for dinner. They gave me wonderful food and some cake. The food was served with a homemade paste of piments (chilis). I told them that I was afraid of hot chili peppers, but I tasted them anyway out of curiosity. I realized that my fears had been justified as I turned bright red while my eyes watered and my mouth burned like something out of the book of Revelations. While uncomfortable for me, I think the family was greatly amused.
Anyway, after leaving the family barbecue early, I went out to a club with a couple of my newfound friends- one Canadian and one English. Both of them are lovely girls. Anyway, we headed to a club in Tamarin, which is another coastal town a few kilometers (I'm getting used to the metric conversions for distance, but don't ask me about weight or temperature. Yet.) down the coast from Flic en Flac. The club was owned by a delightful South African man named Willie, and its clientele seemed to be much more Franco-Mauritian than any other place I've been so far. For possibly the first time since my arrival in Mauritius, I was not in a visible racial minority. Oddly enough, I found this rather jolting. After acclimating, I found that many of the people at the club were Franco-Mauritians who were a couple of years younger than me. I saw one of them passing around an American drivers' license while standing next to me. I couldn't help but inquire. Turns out, the fellow is half-American and half-Mauritian, but he lives with his mother in Houston, Texas. I was delighted at having met him and so we started talking. Our conversation, however, was interrupted by a familiar tune from the DJ. "Sweet Home Alabama" began pulsating through the club, and everyone seemed to be pleased with the choice. I quickly left the Texo-Mauritian and took to the dance floor with my friends. Let me say that I know many of the songs that are played here in Mauritius, but only one will make me sing along as loud as I can.
My Canadian friend went up to the DJ and informed him that there was a native Alabamian in the club, which the DJ then announced to everyone. I didn't notice this at the time, though, because I was too enveloped in my own homeland bliss. The DJ followed the Southern rock song with "Africa" by Toto. My two geographies had been presented musically back-to-back completely by chance. If he'd played Louis Armstrong next, I might've begun crying. After the song, my friends and I went outside for some air and sat at a table. About an hour later, the DJ announced that he was going to play a song again for the young American. For the second time in one night, Lynyrd Skynyrd lit up the dance floor. Willie, the owner, gave my friends and I libations on the house. This time, the DJ followed with a string of American rock songs, including "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns N'Roses. I wonder if Axl Rose has ever heard of Mauritius.
On the school front, my schedule at the university seems to be hammering out, thanks in large part to the benevolence of a lecturer who I probably will not even have. Turns out, three out of my five modules were scheduled for the same Tuesday-morning time slot. I've had to pick alternatives. And, as it happens, I will be studying 20th Century American literature at the University of Mauritius in a class taught by Dr. Wong. I was given some course material to photocopy by other members of the class. They also had photocopies, not originals. It occurred to me that the university is (allegedly) violating scores of international copyright laws, but they cannot afford the books for everyone. Not wanting to (allegedly) violate copyrights myself, I asked if any of the books were available for purchase. I would have to order them online. I would pay three times the cost of the books in postage from the US, and the books would likely arrive by mid-November. In the interest of not failing the course, I made the photocopies. All 167 pages. For the first two weeks. I'll probably still order the books. I also may or may not have joined a student group affiliated with an extremely liberal international non-governmental organization (I won't name it. But its initials are AI) for the express purpose of becoming friends with a couple people who work with it. Due to this, I will officially never be able to successfully seek political office in Alabama or Louisiana. I will also say that joining the Mauritius section is far cheaper than joining an American section. I know this because once, in high school, in a fit of rebellion, I considered joining. I didn't. Being 15, I would have had to mow the grass four times to raise the necessary $20. In any event, it costs about Rs 150 (about $5) to join here. Once again, I hemorrhage roupies. This time in the name of a human rights t-shirt and some Congolese political prisoners. I will say that it almost always pleases me to take part in things like this if only just to aggravate my father. I love you, Dad.
Update: Swine flu has finally come to Mauritius. I was told today that normal flu is generally not a huge concern due to the nation's tropical locality and relative isolation. People are going a bit crazy. There are masks. And students' parents are keeping them home from school. Even university. Being a non-residential campus, most UoM students, I've been told, still reside with their parents. It's an interesting 'campus culture.' More to follow. And if someone could mail me some Tamiflu, just in case, that'd be awesome.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Ah. So much to tell.
First off, I've signed a lease, and I've moved in to an apartment very near the beach at Flic en Flac. It's a one-bedroom third floor apartment with two terraces- from the front one I can see the beach, and from the back one I can see the mountains. I am, however, not alone in my house. I've found that (in addition to tons of ants), I share the house with a few lizards. I've started naming them after notable lizards in zoology, paleontology, and pop culture. So far I have Godzilla, T-Rex, Komodo, and Geico. I'll probably have more to name, so if you've got good lizard names, I'm all ears. Lizards, I've been told, are the least evil of the household pests in Mauritius because they eat mosquitoes, ants, other lesser animals. They also aren't grotesque to look at like roaches, of which I've killed exactly one. It was New Orleans-sized, but hey, this is the tropics.
In addition, I've found that I really like the neighborhood. There are a few good restaurants and an ice cream store. Oh, and the Indian Ocean. I've also found out that the other international students are renting a house very close to my apartment. Next, please let me correct some misinformation I'd passed along. There are eight international students this semester at UoM- five Germans, a Czech, a Finn, and me. I've met one German and the Czech. They seem like wonderful and interesting people. I constantly feel surrounded by wonderful and interesting people. And the Indian Ocean. In addition to the international kids, my real estate agent also lives in my neighborhood. She's French and terribly suave (note: this is not the first French lady realtor I met with in Flic en Flac who showed me properties that I wasn't interested in. This is the second, who negotiated the lease that I signed). She lives with her brother and they work together. She also introduced me to her Canadian friend, who works in exports. The Canadian friend in turn put me in touch with a man from a communications company here, who then set me up with an internet connection. Also, my downstairs neighbor, Lucia, has proven to be incredibly charming and patient with my French.
You would think that having signed a lease on an apartment, my banking woes would cease. This has proven to not be the case. After signing my lease agreement, I took a copy of it to my bank in Port Louis. My banker, the aforementioned and lovely Priyam, informed me that this was good, but that I also needed a recent utility bill. I told her that the utilities were included in the rent and that I wouldn't be getting one. To this, she responded that I would need a utility bill for the apartment in the name of my landlord. Having received this news, I called my landlord (read: Priyam called my landlord for me and explained in Creole exactly what I needed). Turns out, my landlord only recently purchased the small apartment complex where I live. Thus, he does not have a utility bill for my address. Perhaps you can imagine my exasperation. Priyam, though, was very clear that I needed something else in addition to the lease, or the omnipresent and ever-evil compliance department would close my bank account. Priyam then had an idea. I would get a telephone line. "But Priyam," I said, "There is already a line in the apartment and I don't think the landlord would see fit to letting me install another, and we've established that he doesn't have a bill for the one that's already there."
She told me that she realized that, and she then tried to explain to me exactly what she meant. Being extremely fatigued and emotionally bankrupt at this point, though, I didn't even try to understand what she was saying, I just decided to trust her. She took me out of the bank on her lunch break to another telecom company in Port Louis. There, she explained to the manager that I needed a fixed telephone line for my apartment. I was still unclear as to what exactly was going on, but Priyam knew best. Eventually, the manager took my documents and made photocopies. I then paid him some comparatively negligible quantity of rupees. He handed me a land-line style telephone, but it didn't have a wire. I had just acquired "un ligne fixe sans fil" (read: a wireless fixed line). It cost me next to nothing and I will now have a receipt and a bill that Priyam can photocopy to stave off the malicious advances of the compliance department. I will admit, I don't really see the utility in having a fixed-line wireless telephone. If someone wanted a wireless fixed line, couldn't they just buy a cell phone? I will also say that, having been here just over two weeks, I now have agreements and services from three different Mauritian telecommunications companies. My cell phone is one company, my internet another, and the phone-I-only-need-for-address-proving-purposes is a third. (note: my cell phone bill might have worked, but I had arranged for a pre-paid plan because ironically, I thought it would make my life easier)
Also, classes started this week. I, finding myself once again in a crack in the infrastructure, have not yet received my full schedule of classes. I got the partial schedule from someone in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities just as, it turns out, my first scheduled class of the week was ending, unbeknownst to me. I have been all over that university trying to figure everything out, but I have yet to be able to get it settled. I've found that administrative functions here take a great deal longer and are arguably less reliable than those at home. I know my father, for one, thinks that the Tulane bureaucracy is difficult to deal with. He would invariably be astounded at some of the stuff I've been asked or told to do here in Mauritius. I wait for vast quantities of time. I speak in muddled French and receive replies in muddled English. All in all, it's a pretty standard bureaucracy with a couple tropical twists.
I do miss Tulane, though. Roll Wave! I would reference here the mascot of the University of Mauritius, but given its remote location, it really lacks peer institutions. Maybe that's why, as far as I can tell, it has no mascot. I would say, though, that if a mascot does exist, it is probably the dodo bird. The island of Mauritius was the only home of the now-extinct dodo bird. In fact, that might be the most famous thing about it. GoGo DoDo?
I did, though, manage to attend a class today. It's called, "Socially disadvantaged populations and intercultural social work." Obviously, this is exactly the kind of thing that interests me most and simultaneously the sort of thing my father considers silly. I arrived at the classroom at 8:45 AM before class was supposed to start at 9 AM. There was no one in the room. I waited for a few minutes, and then concluded that I must have been given the wrong room number. I set out frantically in search of a staff member who could tell me where my class was so that I wouldn't be late. I was told, eventually, that the room number I'd been given was correct, and that I should return to class and wait. It was now 9:20 AM. I went back, expecting to find an empty room. I didn't. Though the professor had yet to arrive, many of the students finally had. Apparently, punctuality is not a tradition at UoM. Anyway, the social work program here is made up mostly of practicing professionals. Thus, I was one of the only people in my class today who looked like a college student. I also found that these people have every single class together, and thus they know each other very well. In spite of these things, I found them to be very accepting and congenial. One might expect that from social workers, though, right? I also found that the professor taught in English. You cannot possibly imagine how relieved I was.
I've been getting especially frustrated, but I've also been cooling off pretty quickly. In the Indian Ocean.
Spotted: Alabama hat on a Mauritian. I said 'Roll Tide.' He stared blankly.
Consumed: All manner of cooked foods. To be honest, I usually have no idea what I'm eating. Ah. Adventure.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Various services rank American universities. US News, the Princeton Review, Fiske's, etc. What had never occurred to me before last semester was that other organizations rank world universities. One day in New Orleans while sitting at a shiny new iMac at the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library (Howie T, I miss you some), I decided to look and see where the University of Mauritius was ranked globally. The global rankings, however, didn't seem reputable. Anyway, as a means of coming up with a somewhat valid rank for UoM (it's called UoM, not UM. Not sure why), I found all of the rankings on African universities that I could find and looked up where exactly my future collegiate home fell. As far as any rankings have told me, the University of Mauritius is the 22nd best university in Africa- and number two or three of African schools outside of Egypt and South Africa. I had mixed feelings.
So, let me describe my experiences thus far with the 22nd best university in the continent. By the way, Mauritius feels absolutely nothing like how I imagine 'real' Africa is. In fact, it doesn't generally occur to me that I'm in Africa at all. Anyway, I arrived at the University of Mauritius at 9 AM Monday morning for orientation (as there is no international student orientation, I was told to attend freshman orientation). First off, I counted four white people. I assumed that they were other international students, but my contacts at the university confirmed for me later that I am indeed the only American this semester. The rest, they said (all three of them), are German girls. Wunderbar.
The entire freshman class in the 'Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities' at UoM was gathered outside an auditorium at the front of campus. By front of campus, I mean it abuts the bus stop. It started to rain at about 9:05, and so they decided to let everyone in. We all huddled into the "auditorium." This is a giant room with plastic non-permanent chairs, something of a stage, and a giant screen. Everyone sat down. Shortly thereafter, a strong-minded woman with some official title yelled at everyone (in Creole) to exit the auditorium. Not having understood the woman, I simply did as I saw everyone else doing. So now, all of us (probably around 750 people) were gathered in a hallway. They probably never calculated the maximum safe occupancy level of this hallway (because it's a hallway, not a room, and because I doubt they do that anyway in Mauritius), but if they had, I'm sure we were easily tripling it. The same woman then (after 20 minutes) began calling students in according to their department. I, actually, don't have a department. Nor am I a freshman (freshers, they are called here). I am taking five classes this semester, and they are all under different departments. I am also in my third year of college. Anyway, I went in with the sociology students and was given a fancy packet. It was not nearly as fancy as said packet would have been at Tulane, but it did include a compact disk that contains the academic code of conduct. Each CD had been burned by the university, and the words "Academic Code of Honour" had been hand-written on each one. I pity the people responsible for the creation of these disks, as that must have been incredibly tedious.
Anyway, I sat through a total of five live speeches (4 in 'English,' one in French). I also saw two pre-recorded videos that were shown on Windows Media Player across about 1/30th the area of the aforementioned giant screen. They tried to make it bigger. These were words from the chancellor and vice-chancellor. One man (both of them were Indians and spoke with very strong accents. both were also very clearly reading off of cue cards) told the class that 'to be your own boss is the best thing in the world.' The other said that we should become involved in many extracurricular activities. I don't know why, but the word 'extracurricular' is incredibly difficult to pronounce for Indians speaking English. Most of the speakers used the word at least once, and the president of the student union actually attempted to say the word for a full thirty seconds before he finally got it out. Try saying it while inverting the r's. Anyway, after this tedious session (it was 'convocation.' my Tulane convocation had a jazz band), I bolted from the group of freshers and ran to find my contacts at the university. I found them. They are wonderful. Their offices lie in the tallest office in the tallest building that is actually called the 'Tower Complex.' It's rather stifling up there. I imagine that my contacts (both women) are growing their hair out so that some Mauritian knight will climb up and save them.
Anyway, I continued on to a couple other offices in order to make the leap from accepted student to enrolled student. I got a University of Mauritius e-mail address. This I plan on using only to join the University of Mauritius Facebook network.
That pretty much wraps up the university story. Now onto the barmy. When I use the word 'barmy,' I don't mean foamy. It is simply a convenient contraction of two other words: bar and army. This story begins where another one ended. I lost the apartment in Ebene due to banking difficulties, as I said. As a consequence, I decided to seek out another apartment. I went to Flic en Flac, because in spite of its comparatively remote location from campus, it's my favorite town in Mauritius. It's also a beach town on the Indian Ocean renowned for sunsets (Flickr it). Anyway, the day after my experience at UoM, I went to Flic en Flac to meet with a realtor. She was French and didn't speak any English at all. She also insisted on (rather rudely) correcting my French, which was less than professional. She also did not show me any properties that I liked, and all were overpriced.
Anyway, I went to a local hotel bar after quitting the real estate agent. There I ordered a croque monsieur and an orange soda for lunch. I also met a 57 year-old Englishman who was a freelance journalist by trade but a golfer (and a serious alcoholic) otherwise. He was drunk. Very drunk. It was 11:30 AM. He told me all sorts of depressing and despondent things about the state of affairs. He also told me that when Mauritians see white people, all they see are dollar signs. This may or may not be true, but they are also (as I've found) very congenial people, and I like them. Love them. The man's name was Tony and he told me a lengthy tale about how he'd been arrested the day before. He also told me that a man is as close to God as one could ever be while golfing. I told him that I (respectfully) disagreed.
Anyway, Tony became too drunk to stand, and he stumbled away. At that point, a Chinese Mauritian man began talking to me. He, turns out, was part of a family clan that owned a hotel (the one whose bar I was currently in), a restaurant, and a shop or two in Flic en Flac. He introduced me to his nephew, Vincent. I would have placed Vincent's age at 18. He was 27. He volunteered that he had guessed my age at 30. Maybe it's the stubble. He's not the first one to think this, either. People assume that I'm 30 and French. Priyam, my aforementioned banker, giggled when she opened my passport. "You only have twenty years," she exclaimed. Yes. Anyway, I described to Vincent, his uncle, and a couple of the staff members about my experiences with real estate in Mauritius. Within minutes of me finishing the story, the entire staff of the hotel restaurant and bar was busy trying to help me find a place to live. It was a slow day at the hotel. The barmy had been mobilized.
Anyway, the first Chinese man brought me a newspaper, someone else brought me a phone book. Waitresses were calling their boyfriends or brothers who had connections in real estate. Vincent went off and started asking around. In less than an hour I had three appointments to look at other places. They were nicer and less expensive. The barmy pretty much saved me. I decided to rent one of the apartments that I was shown. The person offering it is a realtor. A waitress at the hotel called her cousin who worked for the realtor's husband. I have been so blessed by the kindness of strangers and fortuitous social networking. I won't describe the place until I move in due to the events of the recent past pertaining to my (would-have-been) apartment in Ebene.
It was a very good day. And it ended with me sitting in the apartment of who will become my neighbors waiting on cab that they called for me. They were related to the driver. The neighbors are a couple, he a Hindu, she a Muslim. She is also of mixed ethnic heritage. I talked to them for a couple hours about racism and the ethnic situation in Mauritius. I also had discussed this with Vincent and his uncle. Everyone has interesting ideas about the subject here, and that is exactly what I came here to study: people.
Anyway, Tony was having a bad day, and maybe that's why he was so displeased with Mauritians. What Mauritians gave me that day was invaluable help with almost everything. They also make a damn good sandwich.
Consumed (in one meal from one restaurant): Beef stroganoff served over basmati rice with French bread covered in chili paste from Rodrigues. Oh, globalization.
Also Consumed: the last of my American candy. As soon as I have a mailing address, I want pralines. And Baby Ruths. And those Hershey's Cookies and Cream bars.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I was excited about yesterday when I woke up. I was on a list of people that was supposed to tour an American naval vessel in Port Louis harbor. I was told to arrive on Saturday no later than 12:50 PM at Quay A. My hotel is very centrally located in Port Louis, in fact I have walked to the waterfront nearly every day since I've been here. Thus, I decided to walk. This was a mistake.
What I didn't realize is that most of the port facilities are located several kilometers (I know. Metric. I'm forcing myself to convert) from the downtown waterfront. At about 11:15 AM, I asked a kindly harbor policeman where I might find Quay A. He pointed up the coastal highway and didn't really say anything. He muttered something about a gas station. At this juncture I probably should have sought out more precise directions. Had I ascertained at that moment the exact location of Quay A, I likely would have immediately found a taxi. A nice, air-conditioned taxi. It was hot, and I was consuming liters of water in an effort to replace what I was sweating off. I also purchased some vegetable samousas. Mmm.
I began walking in the direction the officer had pointed. I passed many things- most of Port Louis, an(other) open-air market, a large bus station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the Aapravasi Ghat) (the birthplace of the world indentured labor trade), and a Shell gas station. Still no Quay A. I would have assumed that I'd gone too far or in the wrong direction, except that along the way I passed a trio of American sailors. One was wearing an Alabama hat. Roll Tides were exchanged. In retrospect, I probably could have asked the sailors where Quay A was. This did not occur to me at the time- I was too pleased by the homeland paraphernalia.
I finally saw a sign that said "Terminal I: Quays A, B, C, and D." Ah. I followed its arrow. The only quay I found was D. This is unlucky, because I continued walking hoping to eventually reach the other three. I never found them. I did, however, find a fish terminal. I know this because it smelled like stank. The next sign of note along my journey read: "Beinvenue en Pamplemousses." I had walked into another district entirely. That district is named Pamplemousses and lies just north of Port Louis. Its name means 'grapefruits' in French. I think that's silly.
Anyway, by this time I had missed the ship tour, which disappointed me immensely. I sincerely wanted to tour the ship, but even more, I wanted to meet other Americans. Not counting the sailors, I have met exactly one other American in Mauritius, and he works at the American embassy, which is where I met him. There are plenty of Europeans though. As a consequence, Mauritians often assume that I am European. This is beginning to agitate me. "Non, je ne suis pas francais. Je suis americain." I did feel bad for the Spaniard I met last night. Not a lot of people on this island speak Spanish, and he does not speak French. As a consequence, he communicates with Mauritians in broken English, while they respond in broken English. I can only imagine what's been lost in translation.
Anyway, after giving up on the quays, I retreated to the bus station near my hotel. I then boarded a bus, hoping to make it to somewhere on the eastern coast of the island. I took the bus to a rather lackluster inland town named St. Pierre, where I hoped to catch a connection somewhere else. After St. Pierre, I found myself in Flacq. From there I took a bus whose route was supposed to go to a coastal town, but apparently only the A, B, and D buses on this line went to that town, and I had accidentally boarded C. As a consequence, I ended up taking the bus to the end of its route to a place called Goodlands. This town is located in the North of the island, very close to any number of very popular beach resorts. Goodlands itself though, seemed pretty dismal, especially now that the sun had set.
By this time, it was nearly 19:00 and knew I needed to get back to Port Louis. I waited for a bus. None came. A young Indo-Mauritian introduced himself and asked me where I was going. He informed me that I had missed the last bus into Port Louis, and that I was trapped. I immediately hailed a taxi. My new friend translated my French into French Creole, and within a minute I was on my (expensive) way back to Port Louis. The taxi driver did teach me my first Creole word, though. Zou (pronounced 'zoo'). It is an evolution of the French word 'jour,' which means 'day' in English. I'm making strides. Teensie weensie strides.
The bus station is saw while trekking to nowhere did help me, though. Today I went to it, just to see where its buses were going. I boarded a bus hoping to go to the beach, and finally, I made it. Flic en Flac (flickr it) is beautiful, and I still have a little bit of sand in between my toes.
Spotted: Muslim women swimming in the Indian Ocean in burkhas (not really humorous, just culturally relevant); also, chickens roaming free on the streets of Flic en Flac.
Smelled: Stank (from the fish pier, from other people on buses, and from manure used to fertilize sugar cane fields); also good aromas (from Indian perfume, from a couple tropical flowers, and from food vendors on the street).