After five incredible months abroad through ISEP, I have four weeks remaining until my arrival in Missouri. I look forward to it, desiring so much to be wrapped in the familiarity of home and the company of so many friends and family members, but I wouldn’t trade the rest of my time here away for anything. I’m so glad to savor the last few weeks of adventure, the final two of which will be in Paris and Germany with my mom and sister.
I’m two weeks away from my permanent departure date from the tropical Ile de la Reunion – an overseas department of France located 200 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. So basically imagine African culture + Indian culture + Chinese culture + France + Hawii all rolled into one, and that’s about where I am. The result is an incredible Creole mix with an entirely unique identity. Oh yeah, and the island itself (which I’m going to call roughly the size of the greater Springfield area, but with mountains as high as 10,000 ft) is dramatic and breathtaking, even known as “L’ile intense.” It’s been the adventure of a lifetime, vividly surreal and believable only for the length and tangibility of this dream-come-true.
The view from my dorm room balcony on the 6th floor. Yes, that’s the Indian Ocean.
What’s so special about this place? Well, as you can imagine, the culture is entirely unique and interesting (particularly for a Religious Studies major: the syncretism is fascinating) and the people are fantastic. The average Reunionais person is very friendly and open to all people – especially to someone who comes from a place as far away as the United States! Also, I’ve made some incredible friends from among the other foreign students: people from England, Ireland, Norway, Germany, France (mainland, aka the “Metropole”), Austria, Italy, Belgium, and Spain… not to mention fellow Americans from Oregon, Utah, Montana, and another Missourian!
But as great as the people are, the island itself is the real draw. If hiking, canyoning, rock climbing, surfing, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, or rafting is your thing, I suggest a trip to La Reunion. I ashamedly admit that I’d never been hiking before this semester, but I’m addicted now. One of my English professors here said “It’s amazing: the French will build a road ANYWHERE,” and I’ve decided that also applies to hiking trails. Imagine an active volcano, miles upon miles of coastline, a 10,000-ft peak, and three natural ampitheaters as backdrop to your weekend entertainment… one of which is accessible only by foot and the people that live there are supplied food and other goods via helicopter drop.
- One of the many landscapes visible on Reunion’s incredible hiking trails.
- The incredible Cirque de Salazie on the interior of the island. Below is the charming Creole village of Hell Bourg.
Oh yeah, and there are beaches. Lovely, lovely beaches.
- Being a volcanic island, many of the beaches (like this one in St. Paul on the west coast) have fine, soft black sand.
So my daily life here has been, suffice it to say, different, from the gloriously familiar one I’ve lead in Springfield. Things I miss the most? Variety of food choices (here it’s almost all pasta, rice dishes, and sandwiches). Driving (I’m glad to say the public bus system is significantly better functioning than Springfield’s, though). Netflix and Redbox. Silver Dollar City. My mom’s apple pie. American-sized refrigerators. A clothing dryer.
Don’t feel too sorry for me though. In exchange for these homey luxuries, I’ve had access to a few things that Missouri lacks…
- Viola, La Barachois. The northern coast from St. Denis, the capital of La Reuion.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to be here during spring semester. In the French system, semesters are only 12 weeks long (organized very differently from US institutions) which basically has left me with an extra two months of vacation after finals. In that time I’ve spent two and a half weeks in Madagascar and one week in Mauritius: two virtually opposite destinations. With all my traveling, language-learning, friend-making, obstacle-climbing, fun-having, and all the prayer, patience, determination, and flexibility that this semester has taken, I am settling down to a few conclusions and impressions, the most precious of which is the overwhelming appreciation for what I’ve always taken for granted: home.