It will be three months on Friday since I left my family and friends in the UK for a new home in Mauritius. I needed an occupation permit to live and work on the island which I was soon granted with clear instructions on what I needed to do at Immigration and passport control if I wanted return as a resident rather than a tourist.
It was a strange feeling as the plane took off from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam airport at Plaisance. ‘I’m leaving home’ I thought then fell into a deep sleep, well, it was 11:00pm.
Arriving in Dubai at breakfast time I was looking forward to spending some time off the island where there was space, skyscrapers, shopping and sand. It soon wore off; I felt unsettled and uneasy there in the concrete and glass jungle. I came back early from this multi-billion legoland dream in the desert and felt immediately comforted as I boarded the plane less than 48 hours later to return to Mauritius.
‘Have a nice holiday,’ one of the Mauritian officials wished me as I approached the immigration desk in Plaisance airport.
‘I live here,’ I replied proudly with a little indignation in my voice.
The heat and humidity hugged me as I stepped out into the airport car park, I grinned as the unique sugar cane sweet aroma of Mauritius hit me.
I smiled the sunniest of smiles as I later drove past the amazing mountains on my way back to the apartment for a shower and a change of clothes.
That is, Happy New Year to those who follow the Chinese celebrations. On 8 February, a public holiday let many islanders celebrate this with family, friends, food and fireworks!
A monkey symbolises unpredictability so that is what the Chinese predict for this year; who can predict what a monkey will do?
This restaurant had some interesting bottle decorations.
It is traditional to bring gifts for good luck. Two Chinese colleagues gave me some snacks to eat and take home.
It was also a day when the Mauritius Meteorological Office issued a severe weather warning and it started to rain … heavily. Quite a relief as the temperature was in the late 20’s and 90% humidity causing serious strain on any recently applied anti-perspirant spray!
A strong anti-cyclone and low pressure West-North-West of the island has intensified into a ‘tropical disturbance’. Gusts of 100km/h and serious rain left beaches empty and many sheltering indoors, watching films and eating popcorn.
Torrential rain turned into persistent showers in the early evening and then back into an electrical storm which knocked out the power in the Flic en Flac area. Driving back to Tamarin was exciting, the only light coming from the occasional other car but mainly from lightning crazily illuminating the landscape from the blackest of sky.
‘No electricity. How will I get into the apartment?’ There is an electric gate, keypad entry to the block, elevator to the apartment, air conditioning …. hmmm.’
Unsurprisingly, the security guard was awake and reluctantly pushed the gate open to let me in the apartment block car park. The keypad worked somehow, I climbed the stairs past the silent elevator and used the service door into the apartment.
I was home safe and sound.
The view from the balcony was incredible, the most amazing lightning, heaviest thunder, torrential rain.
Next time, I will be prepared to photograph it properly.
Note to self:
Buy a tripod
Read camera manual on photography at night
Book diving lessons
Yes, it does rain sometimes in Mauritius, it is almost like being back in the UK!
The journey to work the next day had less traffic, all the schools were closed due to the weather, but there was a lot of surface water and flooding.
So there we have it, after three months for bathing in sunshine, I am now drowning in rain… and it is the summer!
P.S. The local newspaper, Le Mauricien, published the rainfall around the island in the last 24 hours.
In case you don’t know what 77.6mm represents, …
Because of the weather, the Government is sending us home now!
Sometimes a view can stop you right in your tracks and you can only wonder at the true beauty of the world we live in. Stunning is a word often over used yet it is only one of many superlatives that shout out to describe the sunset witnessed this week. The photos have not been manipulated with software or photoshopped, only cropped, and do not do justice to the moving light show that those who were looking were privileged to experience.
It would have taken ten more minutes to drive home but I was impatient to stop and take in the beautiful sunset developing in front of me.
I had pulled over into a lay by, crossed the road to look down over the cane fields before the sea at Flic en Flac on the West Coast and spent a few minutes taking some photos.
The sky was changing colour fast so I decided to finish the drive home to continue taking photos from my balcony. I had to rapidly change my mind as the sky was suddenly going red or was it blue so I turned off the main road, went straight to Tamarin beach and ran from the car to the shore. It was spectacular.
No one was talking. It was very calm and peaceful, even the dogs had stopped barking and the birds tweeting. There were a handful of people watching the ever changing sky, some trying to capture the images on their phones, the only sound coming from the waves as they lapped on the beach.
I wondered if the solitary body boarder was enjoying the view as well.
A swimmer had been drinking in the view from the sea.
The colours suddenly were washed with light shades of grey, the vivid reds and blues quickly replaced with dusty pinks and oranges in the rapidly fading light. It went dark and then lighter again.
Finally the view from the balcony.
This was a staggeringly stunning sunset, indescribably beautiful and a natural phenomenon. You just had to open your eyes to believe it.
When you actually agree to move abroad, the clock starts to tick and the countdown has started.
You make your lists, tell your family and friends and a date goes in the diary.
First thing to do? Book the removal company, even if you do not know where you are staying, you know when you are leaving! Order packing cases, parcel tape and bubble wrap. Now book your flight. Prepare for sleepless nights thinking about the things you have forgotten to do.
You are now moving house and country, there will be a different climate, culture, language and you have a new job to start. Advice comes thick and fast for ‘The Big Project, the task, actually picking up your life and moving it, in my case to the paradise island of Mauritius.
People know Mauritius as a fabulous holiday destination. Well, it is so much more than 5 star hotels and palm fringed, white sandy beaches surrounded by a turquoise lagoon under a fabulous blue sky!
You know where everything is where you currently live, this is what you will be leaving behind, local knowledge. There is support all around for you from friends, colleagues and especially family. You know where the shops are, where your doctor and dentist are, the supermarkets, shops, cinemas, theatres, the gym, how to travel, book things, pay for services and get things repaired. This is familiar and what you take for granted .. until you don’t have them!
Where do you get advice in the country you are going to and who do you listen to? I asked people who had been expats, family and friends, and their advice was excellent but not specific to where I was going.
“Don’t turn down any invitation, you never know what you may experience or who you may meet”
The internet was of course a source of information, some of the international removal companies were great but one website stood out not only for advice but also for support, both before and after moving.
I joined this website which has immediate access to expats living all around the world. Having registered as a potential expat specifically for Mauritius I now had access to people who had already done what I was going to do. This was invaluable, easy, free, immediate and totally up to date unlike many travel websites or blogs.
Information I needed concerned basic but essential things like:
How do I get a work and living permit?
Do I need a visa?
How long does it take?
How do I open a bank account?
What is the health care like?
Where is a good and safe place to live?
What is the public transport like?
Can someone recommend a Lawyer, Accountant, Doctor, Chiropractor?
How easy is it to buy a car?
Where do you sign up for a mobile phone, internet, tv?
What is the process for importing your belongings and tax implications?
The beauty of the expat website is that there is practical advice before arriving and after. This was a great help to me.
I was lucky in that my new work colleagues went out of their way to help me too, not everyone is that fortunate. Moving on your own is a little bit more challenging than as a couple or a family but that is the same wherever you are relocating.
The day came for the boxes to be collected and there it was, my life condensed into nine cardboard boxes ready to be despatched, by Thompson Airlines I later discovered, 6,000 miles away to this beautiful tropical island.
I flew to Mauritius two days after the boxes were collected. It was very exciting to see the boxes being delivered … having paid just under £3,000 import tax, all refunded after my work permit was issued by the BOI, 19 days after arriving.
It was a bit like Christmas opening the boxes, many things I had forgotten I had packed. Not one thing was broken, not even these New York Parade cows!
Every box had been opened by Customs, the contents checked against the itemised spreadsheet showing quantity and value, then repacked and resealed. I checked eight boxes and ‘I still hadn’t found what I had been looking for.’
Talking to other expats in your own language can be very rewarding, relaxing and supportive. http://www.expat.com offers forums and messaging to do this not only with people of your own nationality but also expats from other parts of the world. Organised events and meetings allow you to socialise with other families and people like yourself to share experiences as an expat and make friendships.
“How, where, what, when?”
These are the questions that become more urgent when you are alone abroad, in a different country and you don’t know quite what to do. Colleagues, neighbours and other expats can help you, so can the locals who in my case have been truly exceptionally friendly. Their support and advice together with the opportunity to make friends with others like yourselves has been truly great.
Ten weeks have flown by.
I would like to thank all the people who have been so kind and helpful to me whilst I have been here. I am thoroughly enjoying the Mauritian culture and way of life … but their driving needs improving and the traffic jams are worse than I had expected … but it gives me time to listen to the odd podcast …
.. and to think about what I am going to cook for dinner. I certainly miss the familiarity of the shops I used to frequent and the brands on sale, I have not recognised a single brand of chopped or peeled tomatoes in any supermarket yet. Only two types of potato are on sale, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Hang on, there are three varieties of this!
The weather has been very hot, even the locals say it is hotter than usual, well over 35 degrees and not below 20 degrees at night. Its essential to drink lots of water and the occasional ice lolly.
There are so many brands that are unfamiliar, it is difficult to choose. You can always ask an expat but I prefer to buy a few different packs or tins with varying prices and see what they are like. Microwaveable rice, ‘cooked in two minutes in the microwave’ is not on sale anywhere. The amount of space given to rice is incredible. Here is a small selection of packs of rice and these are only the 5kg packs!
And finally, my second goat story of the year. On the way to the supermarket on Saturday, three goats crossed the road in front of me.
Then, in the supermarket I noticed this …
After ten weeks, which have flown by, I have learnt a lot, achieved so much, seen so many things I had not expected and met some really good people. It has not all been plain sailing, or snorkelling for that matter, but enormously rewarding. I impatiently look forward to the next adventure and experience; it cannot come quickly enough.
Warm Greetings, no, Very Hot Greetings to you all and thank you for the Christmas cards sent by friends and family. They truly had so much more meaning to me this year for many reasons.
Christmas was very different as you can imagine this being my first in the beautiful tropical island of Mauritius. My son and his girlfriend came to visit for two weeks and it was extra special to spend it with them and explore some more of the beaches, scenery and restaurants on the island.
My festive decorations were minimal but effective and were taken down on 12th night. Christmas was not the major event it is in the UK for example, much more fuss was made of New Year.
Lots of places still have their Christmas decorations up, perhaps until Chinese New Year on 8 February when there will no doubt be more fireworks.
Anyway, who needs decorations when beach looks like this?
We enjoyed excellent lunches at the Lux hotel in Le Morne, La Pirogue in Flic en Flac (‘free and flat land’ in Dutch), Le Captaine in Grande Baie and Ile Des Deux Cocos near Blue Bay just to mention a few!
We had a long, lazy brunch one morning at Lacaz at Cap Tamarin and Le Moustache, Cozy, Medium Rare, Lazy Lizard and La Bonne Chute all served memorable dinners for us in Tamarin – five totally different places to eat, all recommended.
One night, we had a long drive for dinner at Savinia in the Bagatelle shopping mall on one of the busiest shopping nights of the year. Not only did it take us ages just to get into the full and overflowing car park at the start of the evening and 15 minutes to get a space but the restaurant were adamant they did not have our reservation. Fortunately they squeezed us on to a table outside which was kind; most Mauritians are very kind. Imagine our surprise half an hour later when the restaurant we should have been at telephoned to ask if we were still coming. The 90 minute drive could have been avoided with a five minute walk. It also took us twenty minutes to find the car as I could not remember where I had parked it.
With temperatures regularly above 35 degrees and humidity between 75 – 90%, regular trips to the sea or dips in the pool were essential. The beach at Le Morne was particularly spectacular but most of the beaches here are… especially when you see the colour of the turquoise lagoons and blue sea.
The holiday season is now over, most people are back at work and the schools have started again. This means the traffic is jammed and journeys are taking much longer! It gives you time to listen to a podcast, reflect on the holidays or contemplate the beauty of the Mauritian mountains; such iconic views of the island.
There is no road rage here, much to the surprise of many a visitor, despite overtaking on the left (rather than the right) and pulling into gaps at high speed, with or without indicating, that a small mouse would struggle into. Give way is the only way!
New Year was celebrated feverishly by the local population who have more than a mild obsession with letting off fireworks, in particular firecrackers.
There are many wild dogs on the island whose main activity is either to bark for hours on end when an ant walks past or if a leaf falls off a tree up to a mile away. Strangely, the fireworks don’t seem to bother them.
Conclusion. All the dogs here are deaf….from fireworks.
It is a lot warmer on the West coast than in the centre of the island, maybe 5 degrees difference, and strangely less wind. Feeling extremely hot, I jumped at the opportunity to go for a drive and a walk in the forest close to Grande Bassin.
This time the deer were not hiding.
There are thousands of deer in the forests, wild boars and hare as well. You need to keep your eyes open at all times, you never know what you might see.
I was lucky to have chosen the right clothes today as I had checked the excellent weather forecast…for once!