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October 9, 2001
C'est la vie (Gail)

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Doing laundry in Mauritius

Something I have learned from our travels so far is that the travel companies and tour books just don’t let you in on all the information.  Oh sure they say how wonderful the area is or just what place you should visit while you are in such and such place; but do they really tell you what you need to know?  Basically, no.

Nothing I read prepared me for the giant spider of Rarotonga, or for the beautiful way the Milky Way dipped into the ocean.  The ants also came as a great surprise and the fact that they have a long lasting bug spray there that kills the bugs for days after you spray them.  A wonder if you ask me.

New Zealand was much more relaxed and small town than I believed it would be.  The train across the island was something we looked forward to, “one of the top ten train trips in the world”.  Of course no one prepares you for the rain and clouds.  Not New Zealand’s fault to be sure.  Nothing prepared me for the toasted spaghetti sandwich.  Nothing.

In Australia we were prepared for death at every turn, what with this country having more hideous ways of inflicting death than any other.  We came through unscathed, never did see anything remotely deadly.  Uh, that is unless you count the brown tree snake.  Something we found out on our own was that the roads in New South Wales are just not that great.  But, as soon as you pass into Queensland they improve dramatically.  Shopping for groceries is something the average tourist just doesn’t do so I guess the tour books can’t be faulted for neglecting this fascinating outing.  Here’s how it is done . First of all you go to the mall to shop for food.  Yep.  And there are usually two grocery stores too!  You select your cart, which has front wheels that move independently of the back.  The result is that the whole thing takes on a life of its own and crabs sideways down the aisle knocking out displays and other shoppers.   You can also find your local library at, well of course the mall.  It’s right next to the toy store.  Logical.  Okay not everywhere, but it did happen.  I believe that there must not be any white cars anywhere else in the world as they all seem to be in Australia.  In one “unscientific” counting we determined that 75% of all cars here are white.  It got to be an exciting event when we would see more than two cars together that weren’t white.  Even the trucks were white.  We never did discover the reason for this so our theory is that white just doesn’t show the dirt.  It’s a theory.

China was mind-boggling from start to finish.  I will never forget the “sound” of the recorded-woman’s voice repeating what must have been a street crossing warning every few minutes outside of our Beijing hotel.  As we expected the unexpected in China, nothing came as a surprise.  Shock yes, surprise no.  We had no real idea what the train would be like.  Unbelievably the tour books neglect to say just how much room you have for your luggage.  We were pleasantly surprised.  Nor was any mention ever made about the oil burner cars that waft noxious fumes into your car as you try to sleep.  We came prepared with silk sleep sacks so at least we were ready for the marginally clean sheets.

Now that we are in Mauritius I can say that there are a few things that the tour book neglected.  The language is Creole, not French exactly but close enough to get by.  The supermarket here is probably the best we have seen since leaving home.  True everything is in French but you can look at the pictures on the labels, right?  Haricots verts?  Picture of green beans.  No brainer.  Of course US brands abound.

The tour book did not mention the 4:45 AM call to worship that I believe is sung by a man walking down the road headed for the Mosque.  As I have not ventured out at that hour, this is a guess.  But it is loud enough to wake even us infidels from our sleep.

As for wildlife, well we knew the Dodo was extinct.  Too bad the ants didn’t go too.  We are once again at war with les fourmis all over la cuisine.  We have hit them with the strong stuff, “Super Doom with lightning fast ETOC”.  No idea what ETOC is but it sure works.  I have also determined that I may as well make pets out of les lezards (little lizards) that run up and down the walls of our home here.  They are pinkish with green eyes.  How do I know the color of their eyes you ask?  Well we have a washing machine in the bathroom here.  I poured in the soap turned on the water (cold, thankfully) and reached in to remove a loose filter.  Wiggling to free himself from that filter was le lezard.  Caught by surprise but not frightened, well not much, I got the hero of the family to remove the little beastie.  Equipped with cooking tongs and a teapot (our lizard catching tools) Russell removed him from certain death and my laundry.  We released him outside sans a piece of his tail, which I believe he might have shed from fright as I found it in the teapot later.  I don’t want to contemplate his chances of making it through the whole cycle alive, or of finding him dead while hanging the laundry out to dry.  They seem to come out at night and running around in the bathroom is their favorite sport.  Makes showering interesting.  You just never know if one is in your towel or not. We are keeping our suitcases closed. No tour book will mention anything about this.

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The lizard in the laundry (sans a part of his tail)

When I booked our accommodations at Ocean Villas no mention was made of a maid.  This is a very unsettling thing for me.  Madeleine will come everyday and spend two hours cleaning.  She wanted to hang out the laundry but I would not let her, so when it came time to wash the lunch dishes she pretty much blocked the sink saying I was here to enjoy the sunshine and this is for her to do.  This is not natural and I have a very hard time watching her sweep the floors and make the beds.  I do however get to cook.  It may be unbelievable but I am so happy to be back in a kitchen creating again.  Cameron has bounced around saying “oh boy mommy cooking”.  Joss finally got macaroni and cheese with hotdogs so he’s happy too.  We have so missed garlic and olive oil that the first major meal is scratch spaghetti with garlic bread and haricots verts.  We may even have dessert.

We did come equipped well for most potential problems.  We brought anti-bacterial hand wash and wipes. Our washcloths have come in very handy, as most places have not supplied them.  Bandanas have served us well for the humidity was terrific in China.  Dampen it, place it around your neck and instant cool.  They also served as hand towels as these are pretty much non-existent in public restrooms in China.

But I think the number one most useful thing we brought and replenish often has been tissues.  This is a travelers wonder item: tissue, toilet paper, napkin, placemat, hand towel, band-aid, food wrapper, cleaning cloth.  Forget American Express; don’t leave home without your tissues.

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Culinary creativity for the first time in weeks


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