We have been in Mauritius for about a month now. It still feels like we are on vacation, here only for a visit. I know that will change as the days pass by and the permanence of our move finally sinks in. That vacation feeling might have something to do with the fact that we are currently living with Oli’s parents and they insist on doing almost everything for us including cooking and cleaning up. I totally lucked out with my father-in-law, Clive, in particular—he is the most thoughtful and generous person I know. We have a routine now where he will make me a cup of tea each morning when I wake up, and an Ovaltine each night before bed (he makes hot drinks for everyone); he’s always bringing home the English language edition of local magazines and newspapers for me to read; and he always asks me what I want to eat so he can make it especially for me (and I always insist I enjoy eating everything and anything). We have a running joke in the family where we warn guests not to point out what they like in the house or else Clive will insist they take it home with them (this is how a large and very heavy wooden dodo ended up on the mantelpiece of our friends’ home in California). I still remember an incident from my very first visit to Mauritius, right after Oli and I were married, where I casually mentioned how much I liked peanut butter and so Clive made it his mission to find a jar of peanut butter for me (it was a public holiday so shops were closed and it took him all morning to track down a jar but he did it!). I’m still a bit embarrassed about that incident, but it just shows how much my father-in-law will go out of his way to please others. Oli says his father has always been this way, and Oli remembers as a young boy his father giving his toys away to other kids, much to Oli’s annoyance.
My in-laws have also been very helpful with childcare which has allowed Oli and I to get out and about and do some things we wouldn’t normally have the time or the energy to do. While our days are mostly spent running errands and shopping for the new house, we’ve managed to pack in a number of social engagements since we arrived and, in true Mauritian fashion, our social calendar has been filling up fast. I thought I’d share a few highlights from our first month in Mauritius:
A week and a half ago we celebrated André’s second birthday. His Mémé (grandma) planned the entire party, including all the decorations (it was Cars themed), the birthday cake (a custom made Lightening McQueen chocolate chip cake), and finger food. I offered to do face painting for the few children that were there. Our guests were mostly adult family members and old family friends, but we do know of a few other families with young kids in our local community (particularly the Bahá’í community) and we are hoping to deepen our friendships with them. I’m anxious for André to meet other children and interact with others his age. I miss his friends from daycare and mommy groups in California, and my friendships with their parents. In any case, it didn’t seem to bother André that there were few children at his birthday party, and I think he had a good time.
One of the highlights of André’s birthday party was when Titi the tortoise made her grand entrance! André’s Papi (grandpa) Clive had decided he wanted to gift André a tortoise that had been in the family for many years (decades, in fact) and had been living with one of Papi’s brothers. Her age is still in dispute but she’s at least 50 years old! André is still a little scared of her, but most mornings he asks to see her to say good morning (from a safe distance) and he likes us to tell him “the story of the little tortoise named Titi” when we change his diaper. Titi lives in our yard where she is free to roam during the day, and at night she is kept in a secure shelter. She’s not the most riveting pet (ha!) but she’s unconventional (at least to me—Oli tells me that tortoises are common pets in Mauritius). She’s also very low maintenance compared to our little dog that we had in California (oh, I miss Milou!). I don’t know much about keeping a tortoise, but I do know that Titi likes to eat leafy greens and that her shell needs an occasional scrub and polish. I hope she’ll be happy with us!
Last Saturday Oli and I attended a friend’s wedding at Le Meridien Ile Maurice, a beautiful beachfront hotel in the north-west of the island. The venue could not have provided a more stunning backdrop for the event—white sand, the vast Indian Ocean, dramatic clouds, and a striking sunset on the horizon. A rainbow made a brief appearance, peeking out from behind the clouds, an auspicious sign for the newlyweds.
The outing was a bit of a milestone for Oli and I as parents. It was the first time since André was born that we had left him with others (in this case his grandparents) for an entire evening, and the first time that someone else put him to bed. That’s a lot of weeks without a date night. I wish we had done it sooner! It felt so weird not having him with us at the event, and I felt a little guilty for having a night out and actually enjoying it. We’re so used to it just being the three of us and having our lives revolve around André. It’s different now that Oli and I have grandparents to help us out with childcare, and it will take some getting used to, but I think it’s good for André and it’s good for our marriage. Here’s to more date nights!
Last August, Oli and I, together with my parents, visited Mauritius for a month-long vacation and we happened to be in the country during the filming of the first Hollywood film in Mauritius (Mauritius is a popular filming location for Bollywood, but the Mauritian government is hoping to attract Hollywood heavyweights too). Coincidently, my mom’s good friend and former art school classmate, Andrew McAlpine, was also in Mauritius at the time working as the production designer for the new film and he invited us to visit one of the sets in Trou aux biches. It was such an unexpected and surreal experience! (Side note: Serenity, staring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hatthaway, is being released October 19. Official trailer is here). I can’t wait to see how Mauritius looks on film, particularly the bar and jetty sets that we visited.
Two weeks ago, we had another one of those unexpected and surreal experiences that seem to happen to us only in Mauritius! Out of the blue, my brother- and sister-in-law received a message that Payam Zamani and his family (Bahá’ís from the Bay Area, California) were on vacation in Mauritius. We were fortunate to spend a couple of hours with them at a local cafe, talking about the reality of life in Mauritius, tech ventures, social entrepreneurship, and the state of the world. Payam and Gouya Zamani are both highly successful entrepreneurs—he is the founder of One Planet Ops Inc, a business operator, angel fund, and startup incubator, and she is the co-founder of GouyaShannon, a fine jewelry company. Payam has founded a number of highly successful businesses in the past, including Autoweb.com, the first online car buying service (you can read more about Payam and his ventures here). They were such a lovely, down-to-earth family and shining examples for those who are striving to make a meaningful difference in the world and use their resources for good.
For such a small and rather remote island-nation, it’s amazing how many exciting things are taking place in Mauritius, particularly in the tech and social entrepreneurship scenes. And perhaps because it’s such a small country, where everyone seems to know everyone, Oli and I have had the good fortune of meeting some of the interesting individuals who are creating, innovating and driving change in the country—Wes and Kelly at FarmCity (an organic farm start-up), Min and Alam at RedDot (an innovation training/strategy/consultation firm), and my own hubby at CardCity (apparently I’m not allowed to share anything about that just yet, ha), for example. There are many others that we are yet to meet! I would love to feature these incredible individuals and their projects on this blog in future so stay tuned!