Wednesday, November 11, 2009

what's new

I'm sure that you have all been wondering, what have I been up to lately? HAHA. The whole idea of blogging still seems a little self-centered to me, but anyway, this past Tuesday I went for a job interview to teach English to adult learners as a second job at a center for continuing education. To my surprise, the interview was conducted in English, but the interviewer was clearly put-off by my age. She said that they if they hire me, they may have a class to give me in February or something, but that it certainly wouldn't be regular work.

Yesterday, a group of friends and I went to Sainte Suzanne, just past Sainte Marie on the northeast corner of the island to go to some beautiful waterfalls (incidentally they are called "Niagara Falls.") As it was Armasist Day, we had he day off, and I used this time to go to the market (I needed fresh fruits and veggies).

This weekend I will have a little excursion into the mountains to spend the night at a creole family's home - pretty exciting, right? I hope soon to make it to the university to look at their library (they have a special Indian Ocean collection) and to go to the "mediatheque" which is a huge library (which also has dvds, music) and get a membership.

a plus,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Okay, Finally...

Inevitably the time has come for me to write about my experiences thus far on the island. However, since I have been here for well over a month already, I need to give a very basic summary of what I have done, otherwise I will end up spending hours on my laptop retelling everything that has already happened...

I arrived on the 23rd of Sept in Saint Denis, where I was picked up by an English teacher at one of my high schools, Mme Sagodira. I then met several other high school teachers at a French cafe "Chez Paul" on the coast.

The teachers were nice enough to then give me a lift to the other high school teacher, Mme Gopal, who I lived with for the next two weeks. Mme Gopal, her husband Joel, and their two sons, Victor and Paul (as well as their puppy Caramel) were INCREDIBLY kind and welcoming to me. They gave me their entire downstairs to use as a private apartment - I felt uncomfortable by how giving they were!

Rebecca, another American assistant and I searched for an apartment non-stop. It was a living hell!!! Housing here is incredibly expensive. In addition, the Universite de la Reunion is in Saint Denis, so university students were also looking for apartments the same time that we were. In the end, we found a place that was brand new, and fairly expensive (when utilities are added in). However, it didn't come with any furniture. ANY. Fortunately, my host family gave me a mattress. Rebecca and I went to chinese bazaars (equivalent of the American dollar store), markets, and cheap furniture stores to buy the bare basices (light bulbs, towels, clothing rack - yes, there isn't even a closet - etc, etc) Our next project was to find a fridge, which we eventually did (the man had what he called a "jardin des frigos" - he literally had dozens of fridges in his lawn). We still have no furniture, so while the apartment is big, clean and new, we have nothing to sit on.

The apartment came with two balconies which are absolutely wonderful. Since we are on the 3rd floor, we have a good view of the neighborhood, as well as the mountains in the distance.

We already had two weeks of vacation in October which we used to get internet/fridge, as well as visit the beaches in the West and hike around one of the cirques. The second week of the vacation we worked in the mornings as English teachers for high school students who chose to get extra practice on their oral English skills. It was such a wonderful experience to be able to lead a classroom myself, and watch the students develop their English accents and vocabulary.

For now, it is back to work. I am still working on getting regular schedules for both high schools that I work at (one of my high schools is still insisting that they change my time schedule every week). I have also started on a new project with LP Rontaunay, one of my high schools, on teaching teachers (non-English teachers) English conversation. This is a unique type of professional development that will help them in both their professional and personal lives. I have an interview next week to teach English lessons at the Chambre de Commerce in Chaudron as well.

Okay, I realize that this is a pathetic blog entry but I am exhausted and get bored easily on the computer when there is so much to see and do!

Miss you all,

Market Pictures!

So, I am going to sit down tonight and do my first real blog entry. But first, I want to share some more pictures that I have taken - specifically those of the market as I know some of you may be interested in them. Also, the picture with me surrounded by students is a picture of my small class that I taught English to for a week during the October holiday. What a great group of students, I am so lucky to have been able to work with them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Few Pics...

So, now that I have access to the internet, I can start writing posts!! Here are a few pictures to let you know what I have been up to the past few weeks.

Here is an image of Reunion Island from the plane.

...and the oddest primate award goes to the... (fake aye-aye in a museum in the jardin de l'etat)

our large balcony

front view from our balcony

me at the waterfalls near "langevin"

our hike around mafate

okay, not gonna lie, felt a little like dian fossey with this picture up in the high peaks

more pictures to come...the internet is very slow with pictures so this will take some time

hope you get you all up to date very shortly,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Video on Music/Diasporic History of Reunion

Check out this documentary that I found online about Reunionnais music/culture/history:

Enjoy. Let me know what you think.


Now that I have finished my summer job in Pennsylvania, finalized my senior thesis, and trudged through most of my grad school applications, I have finally started to seriously focus my mind on La Reunion. Today I went to the doctor to get a prescription for a typhoid shot and also a prescription for malaria pills that I may need if I travel to any of the neighboring islands.

I recently bought my plane tickets as well; I will be leaving from JFK on the 21st of Sept (plane leaves around 10pm), then fly into CDG in Paris the following morning. I will then wait in the airport for most of the day, and then leave Paris that night for a flight directly to Saint Denis, La Reunion. I will be arriving in Saint Denis around 10am on Sept. 23 (their time).

I have also received two additional job offers for while I am on the island; one involves teaching at a bilingual elementary school in Saint Denis. I just sent in my resume.

In other news, I need to start making headway on the packing front. This will surely be a time-consuming process.

I also got a new computer right after I finished my job in PA; about two weeks later it kicked the bucket. Yesterday I got another laptop, so I am in the process of "Reunionizing" the computer - changing time zones, downloading skype, etc.

That's all for now.

A bientot,


Monday, June 8, 2009

Saint Denis, Here I Come!

Exciting news, folks! I found out that I will be living/teaching in the capital city, Saint Denis! This is good, I think, as it will be perhaps the best place for someone like me who, shall we say, does not the have strongest French language skills. If there are any other Anglophone ex-pats, it is most likely that they will be snooping around somewhere in the capital. It will also give me the potential to do some activism/community organizing (shh!) and more importantly, it means that I have access to good nightlife, medical facilities, and the Universite de La Reunion if I am interested in auditing a class or connecting with a professor. The capital is known for its French culture (cafes line most corners) and its rich history of Creole peoples (of course the history of slavery and subjugation is glossed over with beautiful French colonial architecture and narratives that privilege the French, white, male colonial officers, - one of whom a school that I will be working at is named for - who bravely fought other colonizing powers, such as the British or the Portugese).

Unfortunately I did not get the 9 month contract that I had hoped for, but instead I got the 7 month contract. I will be teaching high-school students at two different locations. They are very close to one another; they are also both in east-central Saint Denis, and are very close to the ocean!

It is quite a relief to know exactly where I will be teaching next year! I can now start to think about living arrangements, plane tickets, and right, what I will be teaching exactly. Because I will be teaching at the high school level, I believe that my curriculum will be essentially given to me. However, I have some of my own ideas (some subversive teaching practices) that I would like to implement if possible.

In particular, I think it would be important for the students to read African-American literature; this would act as a way of both 1) teaching American culture - yes A-A culture is a part of "American culture" and 2) allowing students to find connections between the US and La Reunion - both of which are born out of a history of slavery, and particularly, slavery based in racism.

That is all for now.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Entry

So, now that I have graduated from college, I can finally find time to read what I want! (I know, how exciting!) And after learning that I received the assistantship on Reunion Island, I began to search for literature on the island's history/culture. Very little scholarship on the island has been published in English, but I did come across this text: "Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Metissage" written by Francoise Verges. A native of La Reunion, Verges provides the reader with a cultural and social history of the island from the period of human colonization to the present. It is one of the most sophisticated pieces of postcolonial theory that I have ever read, and she weaves between Freud to Fanon to Foucault with great ease. The reading itself, however, is both dense and academic.

Central to her analysis is the construction of a metaphorical family on the island: France (mainland) is the mother, or La Mere-Patrie, and the creoles are her children. Upper-class French immigrants on the island hold power from the colonial period to the contemporary period. However, their power was continuously challenged; maroonage was quite common, and slaves and free people of color used the rhetoric of the French Revoution of 1789 to fight for equality. In 1848 slavery was abolished, but this did not stop racist ideologies from taking hold. In 1946 the island voted to become an overseas department of France, right before the time that many of France's overseas holdings would become indepedent nations (1960s). A strong communist movement took hold during the Cold-War period, yet sexist/racist arguments used by the conservative elite continued French tutelage.

Perhaps most interestingly, in the final chapter of her book, Verges looks at how French colonial and postcolonial psychiatry has been used on the island to explain the moral degredation of the creole population. Creole women are seen as sexually promiscuous "welfare queens," and creole men are painted as violent alcoholics.

Her contemporary perspective of the island's society and culture is particularly striking. She notes that: "Education has remained so foreign to the island's language (creole) and culture that every year thousands of schoolchildren leave school barely literate." She also paints a dismal ecomonic picture of Reunion: "More that one young person out of two was unemployed in 1993...Although Reunion's population represents only 1 percent of France's population, it is the recipient of 10 percent of the total RMI, the financial aid offered to the poorest individuals by the French government after 1988." The creole language itself is very stigmatized (as in many other postcolonial French contexts, such as Haiti), and French officials have argued that it is a more juvenile language; it is less-developed and this impacts the psychology of les Reunionnais.

I have found Verges' book to be an interesting start to an examination of Reunionnais culture -- by providing me with a historical background/context, I will be able to see how the history of slavery, rape, metissage, and first and foremost the mission civilisatrice (civilizing mission) have impacted this contemporary island nation.


In other news, I still await my letter from the French government indicating where on the island I will be teaching, how long my contract will be for, and what grade level I will be instructing. It is such a painful wait!

I have also decided to apply to graduate schools this fall/winter so that I can return to North America for grad school if I am admitted (and if they give me money). My geographic interests for grad school are the Francophone Western Indian Ocean (Madagascar, La Reunion, Seychelles, Mauritius), so needless to say, my experience this year will fit right into my future plans.

A plus,