Warmth & Welcome in Mauritius
The delay in Paris was due to cyclones in Mauritius but we left around midnight and headed south on our 11 hour journey. Air Mauritius is not in the top 5 for entertainment options, but I did have the opportunity to daydream every time the reel of beautiful Mauritius scenery appeared on screen.
We arrived a few hours later than expected to a gray, rainy day - but it was 50 degrees warmer than Philadelphia... I was not complaining! I was met by a taxi and whisked across the island to my Mauritian home-away-from-home, Guest House Chez Jacques. I noticed some changes along the hour-long journey including a new gas station and a few new developments - buildings grow quickly in Mauritius! I received a warm welcome by Italians #2, 3 &4, and Snow (the dog). It was surreal to be back after one year, but I was excited for the new adventure. It was amazing how many of the locals remembered me from the previous year, and I fell right back into my old routines (which included morning beach visits, mine or roti for lunch, and Mana's or Jacques for dinner!).
Within my first week I managed to set up 2 meetings and reunions with 3 friends I had met the previous year. This may not sound like a lot to busy people, but for Mauritius it was a big deal. These meetings led to bookings to do a presentation at the Rajiv Gandhi Science Center for approximately 200 people and some mapping workshops with high schools on the island - all to happen in the coming weeks! I was also making maps for some clients and preparing for a presentation at the Baltimore Social Innovation Journal Pitch Day, so I spent a great deal of time at my Chez Jacques 'office'. The weather helped my concentration - during the first 10 days we had torrential downpours, and during the next 5 the ocean and river were so brown that swimming was not really an option!
I befriended Italian #3, a kite surfer, so on those rare sunny days I joined her at Le Morne peninsula, a popular kite destination and a World Heritage Site at the southwestern tip of the island. It is a gorgeous spot with a dark history. The peninsula was notorious in the early 19th century as a refuge for runaway slaves. After the abolition of slavery in Mauritius, on 1 February 1835 a police expedition traveled there to inform the slaves that they had been freed. However, the purpose of the expedition was misunderstood and the slaves jumped to their deaths from the rock. Since then the date is celebrated by Mauritian creoles as the Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery.
We also enjoyed Cavadee during this time. Thaipoosam cavadee is a festival celebrated by Mauritians whose ancestors originated from Tamil Nadu, India. Devotees to the cult of Muruga, accompanied by relatives and friends, will gather near river banks for the ablution rituals. Dressed in fuchsia cloth, they will join the officiating priest in prayers and mantra-chanting. Fruits, incense sticks, rose water, milk and clarified butter are offered as oblations around sacrificial fires for self-purification and sanctifying the kavadis. Kavadis are arched bamboo structures supported by wooden rods and richly decorated with fragrant flowers, coconut tree leaves, lime and peacock feathers, and are carried or dragged by each devotee to the temple. Many people offer their flesh to the 'vels' (sharp needles) or pikes that pierce through their cheeks, forehead, or tongue and commits them to silence and honors Lord Muruga.
This year Italian #3 and I joined 2 Hindu neighbors for the event, so we entered temple and also received the warm milk offering which is poured into your hands and consumed. Afterwards we shared in the festivities and were given rice and veggies on palm leaves along with a delicious fruit beverage. Everyone was welcome to the festival and we could have enjoyed the full day, but I had a presentation to prepare for... MapGirlz Mauritius was to debut the following day!
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Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference & a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born.
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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