Reunion is a very diverse place. I will leave it at that until a later post. But basically, you have people who were born here and people who were born in France. Those born on the island likely grow up speaking the local Creole language, which is phonetically very close to French but altogether unintelligible to French speakers. Before I got here, I was under the impression Creole would be easy to understand. But nope, not really at all. And to make that very clear, I had my first interaction with Creole speakers today on my way to the beach.
On my way down the mountain on my new bike, I came across a group of young local guys about my age standing idly on the side of the road. They also had bikes. They seemed to notice me from a distance, and I could tell they were going to say something to me. I prepared to ignore them, not knowing what they were up to, but then one of them shouted something that I understood to mean “hey do you have a bike pump?” I did! Pulling over, I noticed a flat tire and quickly offered over my pump. The dudes seemed pretty amicable and kept saying things to me, but I explained to them in French that I had no idea what they were saying. It was pretty funny and we all laughed, and they were apparently shy to speak in French so the conversation didn’t get very far. Meanwhile, one of them had taken off the bike tire, located the puncture in the tube, and begun tying a tourniquet on each side of the leak with a shoe lace to keep the air from escaping when he pumped it back up. Of all the flat tires I’ve come across, not once did it occur to me to patch it up with a shoelace. One of them noticed how impressed I was and said something to the effect of “Check it out, you see how the Reunionese are? We can fiddle around with anything and make it work.” And in no time they were back on their bikes, and I was back on mine.
Sorry, I just lost my train of thought. There are roosters crowing outside my window right now, which is making me really angry because they’ve been waking me up at 5AM every day, and now they must have figured out that 10PM is when I’m about to go to sleep so they can begin bothering me then too.
Something about Creole. Yeah, it’s a funny language. I’ve heard one of my middle schools is really “tough” and when I pressed further to find out what that meant, the teacher said “they speak only Creole.” Considering most kids here haven’t really learned much English by middle school, I can’t wait to see how we’re going to communicate with each other.