Sunday, November 29, 2009
Well. November has been quite a month.
1. Tacky Halloween party with Mauritians, South Africans and Canadians (yes, October, I know)
2. New and improved lodging
3. Thanksgiving with the family
4. December adventure
"Haha, you look like an American tourist!!" I love my Canadian friend Dave. He's kind of like another big brother. He told me I looked like an American tourist. I take that as an insult. The setting was the Halloween barbecue at the new house of my friend Nadia, who is Canadian, too. Rather than a traditional Halloween costume party, the theme was simple: dress tacky. I showed up in what can only be described as color and pattern vomit- purple flower short shorts, a hypnotic multicolored shirt, and a tropically floral tourist hat. I bought two of these articles at a tourist shop in Flic en Flac. I literally walked into the store and said (in French), "I need to buy short shorts and a tourist hat that are absolutely terrible and unsuitable for any occasion." The salesgirl seemed a little hurt by my remark, but showed me around the shop anyway. The shirt was sourced from aforementioned Canadian friend, Dave. I would like to say that it was part of his wardrobe, but alas, he found it for me at a standard Mauritian clothing store. It really was terrible. Pictures to follow.
Anyway, the night was pretty wonderful with all kinds of food and drink. Unfortunately, there was a dearth of candy, but as the youngest attendee by a pretty solid margin, I'm fairly certain that I'm the only guest that noticed. Before the barbecue, I had accompanied my lovely housemate Chantal to a ritzy party at the hilltop villa of her very British boss. That party was notable as another one of the very rare times when I find myself in a social gathering populated exclusively by white people. Once again, it was a rather startling feeling. After said ritzy soiree, we returned to our house (which we had moved into that very day- more to follow) and changed into tacky garb in oh, say, six minutes before thundering off in the direction of the barbecue. Chantal was wearing a pink bra over a yellow shirt and had her ponytail up pointing towards the sky. Fantastic. Party on.
Ah. My house. So I moved from an apartment in Flic en Flac to a house on the water in Tamarin. This move was motivated by: problems with the old landlord, rodential roommates, and the desire to no longer live all alone (sniffle). My good friend Chantal (read: Italian/South African beauty of solid character and of a good family) was also house hunting. She found the place, a little house on the water in a town not far from Flic en Flac, and we decided to make it our home. There's a large back porch abutting Tamarin bay which we have imperiously dubbed 'the Veraaaanda.' Also, there's a maid that comes six days a week and makes my bed and does my laundry. Once again, I never would have sought out such an employee. She works for my landlord. I will admit, it is particularly nice to live on the water. In Flic en Flac I lived quite near the water, but in Tamarin our backyard is the Indian Ocean. If you think about it, we have the largest backyard pool in the world. Unfortunately, the water is replete with sea urchins, making my swimming expeditions a bit painful. I bought Chantal one of those inflatable pool bed things for her birthday. We have good times.
Furthermore, Chantal cooks very well and very frequently. My eating out days are pretty much finished, which is saving me rupees and making me healthier. Chantal cooks aubergines (brinjals if you're South African, eggplants if you're a simple kid from Alabama like me) with pretentious cheeses. She also makes mean pasta. Wonderful. She also has most of the episodes of Ugly Betty (modern American television) which I have unavoidably begun watching. Not a terrible life, when you think about it. A frequent house guest (read: third roommate) is Chantal's significant other, Samuel. He is the reigning Mister Mauritius and a genuinely nice guy. He teaches me Kreol words and gets in trouble a lot. Chantal says that we are kind of like her children, and in some ways, I guess you could say that. It is also worth noting that I have taken a much-welcome step backwards in grown up terms, although I fear the damage had already been done. Chantal also cooked our non-turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Canadians will tell you that Thanksgiving is in October. They are obviously wrong, as Canadian Thanksgiving is a made-up thing and decidedly fake. Everyone knows that Thanksgiving is in November and that it involves turkey and pilgrims and American Indians. Have you ever heard of a Canadian pilgrim, because I certainly haven't. Anyway, no one celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving back in October because, well, why would anyone? But as American Thanksgiving approached, I got excited. My Mauritian thanksgiving did not involve turkeys, it involved pilgrims (to Mecca) and Indians (but not the American kind).
Leah, my one real American friend in Mauritius, suggested that we create a Mauritian Thanksgiving feast and Chantal, being an organizer to the core, took the bull by the horns. After a search for turkey proved fruitless (incidentally, pumpkins were notably absent from Halloween. Sigh) Chantal acquired two chickens from her mother's butcher. This past Thursday, the game was on. Leah came over armed with internet recipes for traditional American favorites and we went to the grocery store to see what kind of homestyle we could drum up. Chantal took a half-day off from work and went to her mother's house (Chantal's mother, a budding and talented visual artist, lives twenty minutes away from our house in a remote seaside subdivision referred to by us only as 'far far away') to cook chickens and concoct other, less American, but more healthy holiday dishes.
Meanwhile, Leah and I were wandering the aisles of the local grocery store with a sense of befuddlement. There are so many things that are unavailable in Mauritius that one would never think to miss until confronted with them on a Thanksgiving shopping list. For example, there were no French's fried onions for green bean casserole to be found, nor was there any stove top stuffing, nor, for that matter, was there any celery to put in our own makeshift stuffing. We made questionable substitutions. 'No celery? I bet green apples would work just fine. No fried onions? Well we can just fry those ourselves. No sweet potatoes? Ah, let's just get squash.' At the end of the shopping excursion, we somehow had managed to acquire most ingredients necessary for a resoundingly fake but still endearingly familiar Thanksgiving feast.
We returned home and began cooking. It is worth noting that neither of us have any notable culinary experience, but Leah's a girl and much smarter than me so she took the reins. Oh, and we also found salsa at the grocery story, which we were initially quite excited about. Upon tasting, though, we found that it tastes much less like salsa and much more like curry. Sad, really. Anyway, I set about chopping onions to fry. There were tears in my eyes, sentimental onion tears. And in the end we ran out of time so I just grilled with onions with some chicken bouillon and we mixed them in with the green beans. Still tasty, but certainly not traditional green bean casserole. Furthermore, the squash casserole did turn out as a pretty good substitute for sweet potato. When looking for marshmallows, though, we only found packages that contained colored and flavored puffs of delicious. We bought the packages, picked out the white ones, and gave the colored ones to Sam. It worked out well.
In the night time, the entire family (read: most of my friends in Mauritius and a few of Leah's) came to the veraaaanda for a hearty meal. I even said the blessing like my dad usually does. Ah, so sentimental. We ate. And ate. At one point I excitedly got on my computer to check American football scores, but then realized that I was ten hours in the future and the games hadn't even started yet. Oh well. Roll Tide, by the way. And Geaux Saints. Both teams are having perfect seasons (knock on wood) and I'm 10,000 miles away. Awesome.
Also, the wood I just knocked on is located in a Sheraton in Dubai. That's right, I'm on vacation from vacation. I've tearfully left the tropical island for a month to pursue a grandiose and exorbitantly expensive compound vacation in Dubai, Greece, Turkey, and Germany. The first leg is Dubai where I will be meeting my sister in a mere matter of hours. Thursday morning I board a plan bound via Bahrain for Greece, where I will meet up with Alison Lubin and company of Tulane University social and academic notoriety. After that, I will kill five days taking buses and trains and possibly boats around Southeastern Europe in whatever direction tickles my fancy and hopefully in a manner so as to conserve as many dirhams, lira, rupees, euros, dollars or other monetary units as possible. After said whimsy jaunt I will rendezvous with Ross Kelley, also of Tulane, in Istanbul for some cheesy tourism. On the 20th of December, I'll hop a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and then a train to Heidelburg where I will meet up with my family and celebrate things. On January 5th, after flights from Frankfurt to Cairo to Dubai to Mauritius, I will be home (well, tropically speaking) once again.
I tell my father all the time, but he never seems to believe me: It is unimaginably difficult to be me. I live in tropical paradise, vacation in exotic locales, and have someone else to do my laundry. Hard life indeed.
Spotted: Hare Krishna priest staying with my neighbors. Place of birth: Nashville, Tennessee. My friends said that he talks very slow. They have absolutely no idea.