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The Reunion Island Fascination Continues: CAST YOUR VOTE!

accelerated degrees

Whether this is your first time visiting, or you followed along with me from the very beginning, please take 5 seconds and vote for my blog to win the 2012 Fascination Award for an English Teacher Blog.  Voting ends April 23 at 11:59PM.

Meci a zot ! Thanks!


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Hot off the ironic press

Sorry Mom if you are embarrassed that I am quoting you for the whole wide web to see, but the irony was just too much.

Yesterday being my birthday, I got an email from home containing the following excerpt:

Dad told me you were having a BBQ with lots of friends on the beach.  Glad you stayed out of the water… don’t need any shark stories in your blog! 🙂

While at the beach for said birthday BBQ, we also received rumors of the following true news story developing on another beach about 45 mins away:

The headline is: “Shark rips off surfer’s leg”

I’ll let your imaginations or French skills tell you the rest of the story.

Update and side note, I am using the word “ironic” now because of my new ironic hipster moustache.  Photos to follow.

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The hunt is on

This week, the Elmer Fudds of Reunion celebrated the season opener of the one and only endemic mammal living on the island that I’ve ever heard about: (no not the “wabbit”) the tenrec.  They are small, ugly, and maybe blind as well, rather like a shrew.  As far as animals go in this region, Reunion got the short straw.  Madagascar has lemurs, Mauritius has antelope (and had the dodo), the Comoros have flying foxes, and Reunion has what?  The tenrec.

Wait, but that doesn’t mean there are no NON-endemic species.  Au contraire.  Reunion has feral dogs like mad.  You’ll see big packs of them running through the city late at night, little dogs, big dogs, cute dogs, nasty dogs, all living happily together, as diverse and yet as harmonious as the people of Reunion claim to be.  There’s one dog that always chases me on my bike in downtown Saint-Louis where one of my middle schools is located, and usually he catches me by surprise, choosing different street corners to leap out at me, barking and going mad like I’m the mailman or something, and give me an unwelcome early-morning panic.  But yesterday I was prepared.  Entering Saint-Louis, I preemptively unsheathed my secret weapon (water bottle) from it’s holster and prepared for the sudden attack.  This time the dog had foolishly put himself in one of his most predictable spots, and I saw him from a mile away.  Bottle ready, aimed, and fire!  Right into his mean, feral eyes.  It was one of the most gratifying early morning bike rides I’ve ever had.

Back to hunting, I am on the hunt as well.  Job hunting.  It’s a weird process to be undertaking from 10,000 miles away.  Not to come across as a little desperate, but if anyone comes across any interesting job, internship, or fellowship opportunities for a recent college grad who knows a little political science and economics and speaks French and German, drop me a line!  Ok yeah, I’m desperate.  Kind of.

To close this post, I leave you with this sweet map that offers an interesting geo-political perspective on Reunion and the Indian Ocean region.  I love maps.  Sorry it’s in French.   


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January Scrapbook

Above:  the volunteer house in Tulear, where I helped out a local NGO called “Bel Avenir” (Bright Future) focusing on educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth, community development, and environmental awareness.


Tulear is reputably the driest (and poorest) region of Madagascar, but sudden and strong rainstorms are not uncommon.  This one dumped heavy rain for some 10-12 hours straight.  I got wet.


The dusty streets became Venetian style canals, with the rickshaws rather than gondolas.


Travelling north with two other Americans living with me on Reunion, our driver stopped to buy literally BUCKETS of mangos, which gave the car a sometimes overwhelmingly fruity aroma for the remainder of the four day trip.


Street scene in the Malagasy capital, Antananarivo – or Tana, which is less of a mouthful.


The view from our bungalow on the north coast of Grande Comore in the Comoros.  We were the only guests for nearly our entire stay.  Interestingly, this region of the island hasn’t had power or running water since 2001.


I really dislike taking pictures of people, but I got this one clandestinely at the Mitsamioulli market to show the sandalwood mask many women in Madagascar and the Comoros wear to protect their skin from the sun.  The guy in the plaid is the famous Zorro.


“Mayotte is Comorian and will remain so forever.”  Mayotte is the fourth Comorian island but has belonged to France since the other three became independent along with the rest of the French colonies in Africa.  The UN has repeated called on France to return the island to the Union of the Comoros, but the Mahorais (citizens of Mayotte) refuse to give up their French passports and so the island is becoming further integrated into the French Republic.  In March, it will be given full “departement” status, putting it on the same administrative level as Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and New Caledonia.  We were supposed to travel to Mayotte… but… got stranded on Grande Comore.  Whatever.


“En Afrique quand un vieillard meurt, c’est une bibliotheque qui brule.”

“In Africa when an old man dies, it is a whole library that burns.”


And for the grande finale, here’s a link to a video of chasing Indri Indri lemurs through the jungle.


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The petrichor is in the air

For the first time in three months of living in Saint-Pierre, today it rained.  For an island which holds world records for rainfall (several feet of rain in 48 hours), it has been conspicuously dry, meaning that the conditions were just right for a fresh whiff of petrichor.

Over the summer, I worked with a Lebanese guy about my age, who always asks English speakers what their favorite words are.  It makes for good airplane conversations and helps build his vocabulary.  One of his favorite words gleaned from English-speaking travelers is “petrichor”,  or the pleasant scent that accompanies the first rain after a long dry spell.  You know that smell, of dewey vegetation, earthworms, and puddles.  The sudden coolness of heavy air, stirred by a shifting breeze.  This is petrichor, and it is still wafting about me as I type this from a random WiFi spot on the sidewalk along my street.  (Our internet has been out for over two weeks.)  I really hope it doesn’t rain while I’m sitting here.

Now you know the word too.  Put it to use!

Sidenote, today was my last day of work of the semester.  I have 6 weeks of vacation ahead of me.  Paid.  This job is absurd.


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From Indiana, to the Indian Ocean

Hello and Bonjour!  I’m setting up this blog to chronicle my experiences as an English Teaching Assistant on Reunion Island for the next 7 months.  I hope its an enjoyable read and that you all might leave me comments or toss me an email while you’re here, so I can stay up to date on your lives as you do with mine.

As I write this, I am packing my bags in Noblesville and quickly realizing that I have no clue what one is meant to  bring when one moves to a remote French island in the Indian Ocean.  Any advice is welcome.  And yet, I’ve lived out of backpacks and  suitcases pretty much since I graduated from Middlebury in May.  I’ve put over 8,000 miles on my family’s cars and 700 miles on my bike.   When it comes to packing up and hitting the road, by now this old dog should know what he’s doing.  But my bags are still pretty much empty, and definitely not due to lack of time.

The next time I post on here, I will likely be in Amman, Jordan, the first stop outside the US on my fairly circuitous itinerary to Reunion.  Let’s hope I have more than a raincoat and a pair of Birkenstocks in my luggage by then.  Or on second thought…?


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