A two days escape at La Digue was like a glimpse of paradise. Until the very last moment, Mahé buses rose up stress. It is useless to wake up earlier as buses came only at 7am this day. Unfortunately, we had to be at the boarding gate at 7am. But, fortunately, we had half an hour before really leaving the port.
This weekend was a true meeting with nature. A small boat took us near Coco Island and Félicité Island. We did some snorkelling and admired the beautiful marine fauna. It was amazing! Experienced divers will probably laugh at me but for me, it really was heaven. We have met five almost friendly turtles, all kind of fishes, a ray, two small sharks (“pointes noires”). From the boat, we saw six dolphins gently swimming. The instructor went a bit further without us and came back with octopus. I was fascinated by the color of suckers: almost fluorescent.
This immersion into this world is deeply fascinating and one more time, I find it good as it places human being to a more humble place, at least the one he should sometimes take. Facing the first shark, I must admit adrenaline made my blood running fast once. It was not panic but we could say rush. The second time, it was not fear. Let’s say I was more observing. It was more scared of me then I was from it. We were on shallow waters with lots of currents and it was surely not comfortable. The day after, I kept this feeling of harmony and fascination. It was so beautiful! I did not want to touch fish. It was the very last thing I wanted to do. Simply witnessing these movements of school of fish, like a veil blown by the wind, this school of other fish grazing coral, similar to butterflies sipping nectar on flowers, light glowing on their scales like the opening and closing of wings.
This beauty and peace surrounded me for a while but _unfortunately_, I’m still following my reflexions about human impact on nature. How would you hurt these creatures? I’m not telling about never fishing and eating fish and octopus ever but about organising gloomy industrial fishing, scraping the bottom of the sea, sea and barrier reef pollution. What does it worth to us to think about sharing this magnificent underwater life with our future generations?
Another escape to Saint-Anne Marine Park was quite relaxing. It was a very different experience as we were on a very big catamaran with 50 other fellows. I’m not that bothered by the number (except that some of them took ages to do simple things and were wondering and lost themselves where you cannot lose yourself) but I was more about attitudes. As residents, we benefit good deals and tourists coming in here are mostly quite wealthy. Some attitudes of those people make absolutely no sense for me.
We had a buffet on board for lunch. I did not understand a man sitting on the next table emptying his plate with ‘waste’ (which did not look at all like rubbish to me) and who went back to the buffet to get...exactly the same thing! At this table, they got an extra plate to put their ‘rubbish’ into it. It was forming a little hill. I had to turn back to calm myself and watch beautiful islands...
To mention more positive things than me throwing people over board, we saw a peaceful ray and follow it, not too close to let it breathes. We also saw fishes than we did not see anywhere else.
The Treasure Hunt and the Francophonie
Students from Secondary, part of the “Club de français”, participated to the Treasure Hunt organised by the Alliance française des Seychelles for the Francophonie celebration and the Week of the French Language. We prepared a bit this event in looking for vocabulary about treasure hunt and orientation. I’ve checked French History of the Seychelles and tried to identify French places in Victoria. It is a fantastic History. ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ is a bit pale compared to it.
It is a bit of shame that local History has not a bigger place in the curriculum...
This hunt had been real fun, even if I probably have lost few litres of water running in the hellish heat of the afternoon. Our team, ‘Scorpions’, solved enigmas leading us to the National Library to see the stone attesting of the French possession, to the Pierre Poivre’s bust, to the Bel-Air cemetery where were buried many pirates amongst first French settlers (and a giant!) and to the Ecole française. I wanted to film the students to get good memories but they were running like mad and I was more focused on any potential dangers (crossing roads, keeping the group together...) and not losing my things. Anyway, I did lose my bus pass...
In the end, everybody was happy to participate and was wondering when would be the next one. It was the first time the Alliance was organising something like this and in my opinion, it was a real success. Of course, few were critical (but they are French!) but in general, everybody enjoyed it.
For celebrating the Francophonie, we also did a visit to the Alliance française’s library with ISS students. I’ve seen extremes with one class with misbehaviour and the second one with exemplarity. It is always so enjoyable to teach students who want to learn. I imagine this is the dream of all teachers.
My parents visited me during my holidays and we went together on La Digue and Praslin with the catamaran (see previous post).
After going through turquoise waters of the Saint-Anne Marine Park (among Saint-Anne, Moyenne, Longue and Cerf islands), we went to Praslin. The sea was calm and the pace quiet. It was beautiful to see islands from far. I felt in love with Silhouette’s shape. Something mysterious is calling me onto this island. I’m fascinated by it probably because I know there is a wonderful nature trail crossing primary forest over there...
We anchored in Saint-Anne Bay in Praslin. The night was quiet.
We visited the World Heritage’s Vallée de Mai. We were a bit like Lilliputians walking on a forest. François went back to Mahé for work and we kept on sailing, following Praslin’s shores up to Anse Lazio. We went close to Curieuse Island which looked beautiful, with turquoise waters. We went through our first rain there. My father told me about ‘la risée’. This wind wrinkles the surface of the sea and announces rainy weather, which could be tricky as irregular winds change things for a sailing boat.
We anchored around 4pm in Anse Lazio. My father and I wanted to swim a bit from the boat to the beach. We were about 200 meters from the shore. I had my palms on and my father had my brother’s which are bodyboard ones, shorter than standard ones. There were not a lot of fish. I just saw a turtle when we went back. We were swimming at the same pace but I saw my father swimming on his back. At one point, he asked me to go and get a floater. We were not that far from the boat. I rushed to the boat and asked my mother to throw it at me so I could give it to him. I must admit I was really worried that he collapsed. He felt weak and took several minutes to go back up onto the boat. He told me I ‘saved his life’ but I only gave me a floater.
Saying this, we are now equal. I had to recall him because he forgot but he saved me once. I was 13 or 14 when he grabbed me as I was slipping into the icy water of a mountain pond in Reunion Island. Algae made the stone really slippery and I could not talk because of the thermal shock. We were doing a nature trail and it was really hot.
We were lucky because there were a shark attack in 2013 in Anse Lazio...
The night there was agitated. We had lots of wind and rain. I went on the deck around 11pm and I could see worried silhouettes on other boats. It was so beautiful to see, these ebony waves. Small waves were shaking the boat like thousands of tiny hands.
The next morning, we saw mora rays turning around the boat. My father and the captain were thinking there was maybe a shark around, as they usually stick to them. But then, we saw them stuck onto the hull: we were the shark!
The day after, we went to La Digue, going north of Curieuse. We anchored facing Grand Anse. The night was calm, only punctuated by lightening and light storm.
The next morning, we went on the land. We took the dingy. We could see waves from the boat on the beach but we took our chance and went. Everything was ok, we pulled the dingy high enough for not being carried by the sea. The sea was calm.
We walked from Grand Anse to la Passe and came back by taxi. It was around 4pm. It was quite hot. I had a little swim in these crystal-clear waters. There were few waves but nothing too bad. However, they had a weird movement I saw before in Reunion Island. They were breaking towards the beach but formed a second wave going towards the sea.
Then, it was time to get the dingy back to the sea. We knew we had to wait the good time and push the harder we could. But my mother is not a mountain of muscles and would be closer to a underfed hobbit and mine is not far from it (except the height). My father and the captain had more strength but the waves were powerful. In a spectacular failure, the dingy took water, without returning but a young French guy, witnessing our difficulties, came to give a hand in order to cross the line of waves. When I’m thinking back about this guy, so discreet, not asking anything, just helping out, I’m really grateful to him, to this endangered species of humble and helpful people. My father was alone with the only row on the dingy and was going away from waves in order to avoid going back on the shore. Waves caught me and took me down as I was pushing the dingy. This day, I had my glasses on. I just gave their expensive price few minutes ago (as I’m not covered because of my eyesight is not bad enough, even if I cannot further than 50 cms). I was really afraid of losing them: things would have been really bad for me otherwise. Fortunately, I was quick enough to grab them on time.
I wanted to join my father with the second row as the engine was drown but my mother and the captain thought it was too dangerous to do so. I was really worried that my father felt bad. I could see him rowing and that it was an effort (as walking, pushing the dingy from and into the water). I was worried because of the day before.
So he rowed up to the catamaran for about 200 meters. Once again, I thought I should swim to him. The sea was calm and the water still clear. Then the light started to fade and did not want to take risks (as sharks attack at sunset and waves could go bigger). We had no way of communication with him. People on the beach were watching us and some, according to the captain, were even taking photos and filming.
My father took back the dingy and wanted to come back and collect us. We all agreed that it was a bad idea and that crossing waves was dangerous. We tried to shout but he could not hear us as he was too far. At one point, against my mother and the captain’s will, I swam to him. I couldn’t let him rowing alone. My mother and the captain were afraid of swimming.
Glasses on, I swam. Not too fast, as I know stress can significantly strength, but quicker enough as I did not know about his health condition. I came up onto the dingy and rowed to go back to the catamaran, a bit against my father’s will. Once on board, we tried to contact another catamaran staying in the next bay, Petite Anse. We put the talkie onto the emergency frequency, 16. We sent a message in French and English. Nothing at all.
I asked my father which signs we are supposed to do in case of emergency, things to know. He showed me signs to do. I did them towards the other boat. Nothing at all.
I finally took my mobile phone, which is really water-resistant. I called the taxi driver. I still had his number on a tiny bit of paper, which, fortunately, did not join fish during the waves crossing. I explained the situation in French first. Then, he passed me someone else so I explained again the situation in English. Then I passed the phone to my father which explained the situation in Mauritian creol...in vain.
Looking back at the situation, I’m feeling lucky to know at least three languages. I would have been much harder if I was speaking only Russian for example...
Of course, I tried to discourage my father to go back on the dingy and go again towards the beach...in vain. I kept on waving my hands at the cata staying in Petite Anse. I even thought they saw me at one point as a dingy came to them. No answer. At this moment, I think I’m really lucky not to have something really dramatic such as a heart attack or someone victim of a shark attack on board. Non-assistance to people in danger will not be use in front of a tribunal then...
A fishing boat with tourists finally appeared. He is answering to my signs (finally!!) and come closer to me. I’m explaining to them the situation. They went to see my father and dragged him to the catamaran as my mother and the captain disappeared from the shore...
We did not really know what to do.
In the end, a small fishing boat came straight at us and on board there was... my mother and the captain! The captain offered them money to go back on the catamaran. Fishermen told us not to stay there as it could be dangerous. We stayed in Petite Anse for the night.
After this episode, a contact from the French embassy told that Grand Anse was the most dangerous place in La Digue because of waves...
Despite all this agitation, I’m really happy to be on holidays and the sweet rest. I finally know the joy of sleeping in and beach escapades. I had the chance to see rays jumping out of the water and doing big splashes. According to scientists, they are doing so to attract females but it is only hypothesis...
The future of Teaching French in Seychelles
I had the chance to go to a meeting about Teaching French in Seychelles at the University of Seychelles. An extract from a Courteline’s theatre play by students reactivated my nostalgia of acting. I’m missing this thrill.
Teaching French is a challenge in Seychelles. The language is not the youth favourite one. Some of them even fear it. Young and older Seychellois are afraid of doing mistakes when speaking. Teachers know they need help in training. Maybe it was at a time associated to more rigid Church teaching...Moreover, the country went totally English with the Commonwealth...
However, kreol Seselwa is clearly French-based, as it’s syntax shows. Few English words here and there.
I came across an interesting discover when chatting with a Mauritian living here. He told me that colours are not the same in Seselwa. My surprise was complete when he asked a Seychellois working closer to come and talk about this difference.
First, he showed her grey bench and asked her which colour it was. She said: ‘Cend’, which I could guess what the kreol version of the French ‘cendres’ (ashes). Then, she said ‘gris’ (grey in French) when he showed a brown leather bag (I was quite confused at this point) and then ‘rouz’ (rouge in French so red) when he pointed at my skin, as for any mixed complexion. But the more intriguing is that when Seychellois speak English, colours are going back to ‘normal’ (in the end, it is just a point of view, right?).
I have to check that my Kreol-speaking students are not confused with colours!
I read Åke Edwardson’s ‘Shadow and Sun’. I was quite dark so I asked my favourite librarian a recommendation. So I read Franz Bartelt’s ‘Le fémur de Rimbaud’.
I read a very interesting series of comics about cathares called ‘Le Dernier Cathare’ (The Last Cathare). Realling interesting.
I went to the National Library and I was surprised to find a really and expensive French selection. I’ve borrowed Florent Couao-Zotti’s ‘Poulet-bicyclette et Cie’. They have heaps of French-speaking African authors. It reminds me a poster seen at the Alliance française about the Young French-speaking Writer or something like this. If lots of countries had one figure participants, Bénin had about 44!
The National Library premises were just renovated and it is really nice. And the membership is free!
My contract with the Département de la Réunion was just renewed and I’m really happy about it! I will have the chance to enjoy Seychelles for one more year!