Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Independence is happiness—Susan B. Anthony

We all need a vacation, and nothing’s better than a vacation within a vacation. That’s why they sent us to Mauritius: to take a break from the stressful and demanding life of a 3.5 month cruise around the world(?). Hey—if the white sand beaches are there, you might as well dig your feet in!

Much of the ship was ready to head to Flic en Flac, a really cool name for the Southwest part of the island with beautiful beaches. People already booked sleeping arrangements before we got there, but myself and some others stuck with our usual technique: pack a backpack, and hope for the best. We paid our taxi driver a little extra to take us to Flic en Flac, get us to an ATM, and find us a bed for the night (and to not leave us until we do).

After denying a few sketchy hotels, we found some luxury condos near the beach. I just knew we couldn’t afford them for three nights, but then again, I must have forgotten we’re not in America anymore. A six person, 3 bedroom, 2 full bath, including master bedroom, a dining room, kitchen, a flat screen television, a pool outside our door, and a stones-throw to the beach cost only 80 U.S. American dollars a night (take that and divide by myself, Bob, Ryan, Sara, Becca and Lindsay). Yes! I could start a lemonade stand and afford to live on an African island for life!

In most ports we try our hardest to avoid other groups of SASers (or as we jokingly call them, “tourists.”) But for some reason in Mauritius it didn’t matter. We’re a few hundred American college kids renting out villas, condos, bungalows and beach houses, so it just makes sense to all hang together. Naturally, we took the social scene to the beach.

I don’t think I’ve seen my fingers and toes wrinkle-up and prune since my bathtub days, but the Mauritian ocean was one big bathtub and I spent hours swimming around. SASers grouped together and lounged beach-style. If we weren’t at the beach, we were snacking by the pool back at the condo. In the mornings my “roommates” and I cooked our own breakfasts, and on nights we went out to eat. On our last day, we went out on a boat and went snorkeling in one of the coral reefs. On our last night we ( all of the SASers) started a bonfire at midnight on the beach sat around and bonded.

The one and only bar in the area was supposed to close at 10:30pm each night, instead it didn’t close until 4am. By the end of the week, they just hung signs outside “Private Party for MV Explorer.” When the MV Explorer pulls up to their tiny island it’s like a national holiday. Some of the taxi drivers have Semester at Sea t-shirts and photos in their taxis from past voyages—they’re our biggest fans. Not our biggest fans are the owners of condos, neighbors, and normal people who don’t benefit from the overwhelming immaturity of the SAS population, but that’s a whole other story.

For our last day in Mauritius we headed back to the ship, dropped our backpacks and decided to explore Port Louis which we initially bypassed for the 3-day beach vacation. Port Louis, the capital city and home of our ship, was interesting. The Mauritian people are Indian (as a result of slavery), and speak French or Creole (as a result of French settlement) but also speak English (as a result of British control). Becca and Lindsay had to find a fish market for their biology class. We found a smelly market and a guy beating a live octopus to death with his machete. And less comforting was the poultry market, but you know what happens to those chickens.

For a final Mauritian thrill, I embarked on a journey to find me a new digital camera. (Apparently the tile floor of our condo doesn’t cushion electronics well). With the help of several Mauritian police officers in a society without modern shopping malls, I dragged my friends through city streets and electronics stores before finally purchasing a digital camera that I think will work out for me.

In all our ports so far, we’ve averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night. We wake up early, climb the biggest mountains, take the longest taxi rides, and then stay out late and do it all again. It was nice to just sit and watch the world go by. In Mauritius I could reflect on the last month, the month ahead, or I could just think about nothing. With the unsettling extremes of India next and an insane Asian itinerary to follow, we are slowly approaching the part of the voyage where we become physically and emotionally drained. In one 30-day period we have only 9 days of classes with the rest spent throughout Asia.

It’s quite possible I missed out on a cultural experience or two in Mauritius, that I won’t deny. But, I know I’ll be thanking myself later for taking it easy and just living in the natural moment that be. Sometimes, I don’t think I do that enough.

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