“Le one stop shop pour le pick and pay” and other Mauritius realities

The driver from the Prime Minister’s Office used to be a bartender at Club Med and now whips around the island’s roundabouts with deft precision and enough gusto that I’m never susceptible to the jetlag I deserve. Thankfully the occasional traffic jam lets me soak in the spectacular jagged ridges of the mountains in the distance, the lushness of the flowers inundating the roadside.

The beauty of Mauritius was absent from this morning’s breakfast. There’s only so much fake wood paneling my eyes can take, and this hotel’s restaurant is plastered with it floor to ceiling. The weeping fruits at the buffet table a depressing contrast to the radio announcer’s vibrant lilt. The radio ads played upon my bilingual neurons: “Le one stop shop pour le pick and pay.” Quoi?
My brain still at a loss when I am approached by anyone of Indian descent who speaks a Parisian French that puts my bon québécois, ostie in the deserved category of verbal ruffage. Even stranger to my mind that everyone speaks Creole to each other. My mind saying this is so different, at odds with everyone else around who likely never, ever thinks that.
The day was filled with formalities both necessary and pleasant. Although it frankly sucks that the only time I wear a suit and tie is when the weather nudges the 30-degree mark.
It would be cliché to label Flat Stanley’s friends as two-dimensional.

My bartender-cum-driver is waiting for me at the hotel by 8:30 sharp. The first visit is to the Prime Minister’s Office. It’s always welcoming to have people greet you who are genuinely happy to see you. Handshakes firm or gentle are exchanged followed by a discussion on my purpose on this island: to gauge how human rights education can be integrated into secondary schools. The PMO wants it to happen, the Commonwealth Secretariat wants it too, and the Ministry of Education, same notation. In my head, the familiar argument that would be a typical teacher’s reaction: I don’t have time to teach anything extra. No problem, we can work around that. I’ll have the chance to speak to some heads of secondary schools this Friday during a workshop I am unexpectedly facilitating. I outwardly cringed at the horror of facilitating for 200 people, but the challenge is a welcome one. Besides, the invitations had already been sent out, and I have never had my name written on such fancy paper with a dodo on it.

Sunset from Flic en Flac beach.
How often do I get the chance to sit down with a retired judge of the Supreme Court, among many other accolades? Another first for which I was thankful. After informing me of what would best be called A Concise History of the Legal Framework of Human Rights in Mauritius, he took me to lunch to a Chinese restaurant sitting atop an Audi dealership. Actually the restaurant was on the third floor; sandwiched in between was an art gallery. Who thinks of these things?
Zipping through traffic, we were running late on the afternoon meetings but had plenty to talk about with Ministry of Education and the Mauritius Institute of Education, which develops curriculum frameworks along with a many other things. Waiting in a conference room for the next group of people on the day’s agenda, I sensed Flat Stanley’s unrelenting call for freedom. Released, he found solace in the companionship of other two-dimensionals on a poster celebrating diversity. He was happy. A walk on the beach did everything to reinvigorate me and wonder, why the hell don’t I live in a place like this? Strolling with bartender-cum-driver, we talk with an ease that belied the fact we’d met only the day before, and see a magnificent sunset that probably goes unnoticed far too often.

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