Saturday, October 21, 2006

The power of....WIKIPEDIA!

So since Thursday, I've been on Wikipedia:

The principle is simple: you can edit and add to any article you find on wikipedia and it is published right away. Moderators probably crowd the place as soon as there's a change, but the thing is, if the moderator have no clue on the topic, chances that your changes are going to stay are high.

We did a little experiment on Thursday at work: we changed the article on Mauritius and put obviously wrong information on there...I don't think anybody would believe Aliens came to mauritius 2000 B.C. although no one can prove the contrary! The changes didn't last 24 hrs although my team lead added my name to the list of prominent Mauritians and it stayed there.

Yes, I am the newly, self-proclaimed Duchess of Mauritius.
Until I'm erased off wikipedia, please refer to me as SAS Carine.

A party nation....

Today is Divali...It is the festival of lights...

"Divali is the most jovial of all Hindu festivals.... it marks the victory of righteousness over evil in the Hindu mythology. Traditionally, clay oil lamps were placed in front of every home turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights; these have now been replaced mostly by decorative electric lights."

We've got 15 statutory holidays in MU whereas there are only 10 stat holidays in CA.
But of the 15 stat hols we have this year, 6 fell during the week-ends. Yes, in MU, we don't have stat holidays moved to Mondays or Fridays, they are fixed by whichever religious bodies have authority because they follow the festivals of the different faiths on the island.

The richness of the Mauritian culture comes from the different religions that make up the Mauritian population. We, mauritians, as a nation, we celebrate all the festivals from Chinese New Year to Eid-ul-Fitr. We share the cakes and the good wishes and the good humour and the diversity. That's way better than having BANK holidays, for example. :P
One of my Canadian friends asked the other day about Thanksgiving. No, we don't have thanksgiving here in MU, not because we don't have anything to be thankful for, it's just not something we have set up here by the first immigrants.

Check out the list of festivals and the list of holidays for 2006 in MU.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My day...

The thing about being in MU for my birthday is that there's a lot of surprises.

First, I was awakened at 3:50am by a text message wishing me happy birthday. I looked at the msg but was too sleepy to reply, so I went back to sleep. I was awakened again at 6am by a phone call from my mom's friend from Reunion island. Following her recent visit here, she hid a gift behind the closet for me to find on my birthday!!! As soon as I was out of bed, there goes a series of text msgs getting in, one after the other, from various friends who remembered... Even my brother who already sent a card by mail text messaged me again. When I was in CA I didn't use to receive ANYTHING from him for my birthday!!!

So the day goes on...
My ex-coworkers visited me during their tea break at 10am just to wish me a great day.
Then at 11:30, 3 of my friends at work disappeared and came back with cake and pop.
We all go into the meeting room for me to cut the cake but I couldn't convince anybody to sing for me :P.
That was my 3rd birthday cake since Sunday. When I was in Canada, I'd be lucky if I had one whole cake for my birthday in any given year!!!
I spent the day in a state of euphoria....A lot of my friends here and abroad remembered and thought of me and I felt loved, cherished and utterly spoiled. After 6 yrs of not expecting anything special for my birthday, I must say that this is way more than I would ask for.

The day would have been perfect if it wasn't for the ADSL not working when I got back home.
I installed the brand new webcam I've received as a gift and then went out to have dinner. By the time I got back home, I had to call customer service 3 times before I could finally get online and stay connected!
Webcams are great if you want to know whether u've got mannerisms, eh...I'm awfully aware of each time I was scratching my nose or my head...But the silences while waiting for the other person to respond is spent watching that person type or concentrate, which is certainly entertaining in itself!

Just when I was saying good night to everybody online, there was a power cut! In pitch black darkness, I had to find the way to my room and look for batteries and the flashlight (thank God I got that 2 yrs ago for camping!) . See, even in the mess in my room, I know exactly where things are! :P
It's not rad to brush your teeth and shower to the light of a flashlight, and even worse when you don't get hot water for your shower. It's not rad to end the day like that, but my birthday this year was just too awesome thanks to my friends.
It sure changes from a birthday that goes unnoticed in CA...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mon père, ce héros...

I drive an automatic car....
I agree, it's not the best when you want to accelerate because you cannot just shift gears and accelerate. Although you might have your foot down to the floor, the car will only accelerate at its own pace and (automatically) shift gears when it needs to, you cannot force it to do so faster. This has its own implications, for example, I cannot race at start because hell, it takes time for my car to reach 100Km/hr. But that is not the topic today.

So I drove to work this morning and I set off a bit early because my dad used the car during the w/end and the tank was half full -- or half empty (whichever way u see it). I have the odd habit of filling up on gas every time the gauge reaches mid tank, so I thought I'd stop by that gas station on my way to work. I'm a creature of habit, I'd admit, and I always fill up on gas at the same gas station near my home. Today though, it was easier for me to go to that other gas station on my way to work, coz it's on the motorway and it's easy access and exit, far from the traffic jams.

So there I was, driving in, stopping and here comes the attendant, all smiles and merry and he asked me even before I had time to stop the engine, how much gas I'd like. As far as I know, there is only a limited number of self-service gas stations in MU, so having someone serve you is quite normal around here (not the case in CA!). I told him to fill it up, and I stopped the engine, and looked for my wallet, while the attendant was busy....what was he doing? ... He was wiping my windshield! Oh wow, I thought, that's service! I didn't think more of it than that coz I was eager to set off again, it was 7:25 and in 5 mins, one of the lanes on the motorway would close so I'd be stuck on a one-lane motorway (don't ask!). When the tank was full, it amounted to Rs. 1056....Hell, where would I find that Rs. 6 now? Guys at MY usual gas station would round it off! Anyway, when he was paid and I was ready to set off again, MY CAR WOULDN'T START!!..

So first thing I think of is: I gotta call my dad. My dad goes the same way 3 days a week, and we talked about it this morning, so he knew I was stopping at that gas station. Cellphone, speed dial 3, "Dad, the car won't start, I'm at that gas station, did you pass yet?". THANK GOD, my dad was just behind me, he was there in 20 seconds flat. He didn't even stop, just passed me on the right, shouted through the window to shift the gear to "P" and drove off. So that is just what I did, I shifted the gear from D3 to P ( don't ask me how it got there, I have no idea since I would drive on "D" and not on "D2" anyway) and set off. I made it before the lane closed, got to work 5 mins later all safe.

So now, I don't know how to feel, if I should feel happy about the car being ok and that I made it to work early or if I should feel sad that I passed for a dumbass so bright and early on a Monday morning....Mind you, it was my dad and he's seen the worst and the best of me, but still.....That's not the best way to start the week....IS IT? Let's just hope the day goes on improving....

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Only in Mauritius...

I drive to work everyday.
Just that would be enough for me to post entries on my blog everyday.
There are things you see on the roads in my country (yes Javed, last time I checked, I was still Mauritian), that you can't see anywhere else....

Today, I saw a 4x4 drive over the "island" separating the lanes on the motorway and merge into traffic going in the opposite direction....Ok, maybe that's forgivable, there was a huge traffic jam ahead because of an accident and I understand some people will do anything (and I mean EVERYTHING) to avoid traffic jam.

But I once saw a van stop on the right lane (the fast lane!) of the motorway and let people off right in the middle of the motorway. What was that about? Did the driver even THINK about the people driving at 120 km/hr on that lane and that stopping might cause a huge domino accident? Nooooo....he probably just thought that since he's got to stop, everybody else on the motorway should stop too! Now, let's not think about the cars coming on the left lane who might just not realize some people are getting off the van and knock them off coz that would just be too graphic for my imagination.

I've also seen a family of 4 travelling on a moped! The dad holding a kid in front of him and the mom doing the same on the back seat, kids not wearing helmets or anything! I don't think they realize just how dangerous it is to carry more than the indicated number of passengers on those thingys....I think mauritians have no clue that the indicated number of passengers allowed on those is 2 MAXIMUM!

And what about the man sitting on his moped facing oncoming traffic on the motorway this morning? I think he wanted to cross over to the other side of the motorway when all he could have done was to ride 100m up, take the roundabout and ride down the lane he wanted to cross!

Now, that's only a few examples....
Driving in MU is like an obstacle course: you gotta watch out for cars just coming out of nowhere, cars hindering traffic because hell they can, bikes, mopeds, hens and roosters, barking dogs, kids playing football (soccer!) on the streets, low branches of the trees by the road, hawkers and their wares (taking up half of the street) and of course the oh-so-many potholes along the way. And let's not get started on the bus drivers who think that since their vehicles are larger, they can pass other vehicles in any situation, even if that means oncoming traffic has to come to a complete stop. And mind you, if you are coming in the opposite direction at full speed, they'll flash their brights at you so that you stop far enough for them not having to slow down to pass the other vehicle!

If all the drivers in MU went to a driving test in any other country, I don't think half of them will get their driving licence no matter how many times they try. I got mine in Canada on the 2nd try :P
But it's true what they say: if you can drive in MU, you can drive ANYWHERE!

Monday, October 09, 2006

The grass is greener on the other side....

Since I've been back from CA (almost a year now...), I've been asked quite a few times WHY I didn't stay there. The reason is quite simple, I've been booted off: work permit expired, not renewable.

It's true what people say: you're never as patriotic as when u're abroad. Though I've been back a couple of times during my 5 year stay in CA, from time to time I'd be homesick. I'd miss my parents, my room, my dad's car...all the little things that make MU what it is for me. I'd miss the dholl puris, the samoussas, the briani, the alouda, the beach, the almost-always sunny weather.... These would be missed when it's -25 degrees outside with wind chill and I've got to go to work in 30cm of snow, but before I head out, I gotta put 3 layers of clothes on, not forgetting the boots, the scarf, the hat, the gloves and a lot of courage. When I've been waiting for that damn bus for 15 mins in bitter cold, that's when I asked myself "What the heck? why did I leave my little paradise island again?".

Then I would find myself talking about MU, being proud of coming from such an exotic place....Most people in Canada have no clue where MU is found, so I told them, it's a tiny dot in between South Africa and Australia. Believe me, that's the fastest way for them to understand! Since the coming out of the animated movie Madagascar, Canadians are more likely to know where Madagascar - the country- is, but before that, it was just HOPELESS to try to situate MU by telling them it's next to Madagascar! I could totally make them believe that MU has only 1 main road and a crossroad, that we feed on fruits right off the trees, that we reside in huts, and even that we walk around wearing leaves. There were times when Canadians would ask, with a puzzled look on their faces, "So why did you leave that paradise to come here?".

Now that I am in our little paradise lost in the Indian Ocean, I find myself missing snow from time to time. I miss the hush when all goes to a slower pace because of heavy snowfall. When you're walking in knee-high snow, trudging your way to your house, and around you, there's nothing else but snow and all you can hear is your heart beating and your labored breathing. I miss snowboarding and ice skating, I miss the hot dogs and the chips (crisps, according to Brits). I miss all things the "eh?" they add every now and then at the end of their sentences....

One year ago, I felt like I belonged there. Nothing at home felt like home, I was uncomfortable with the heat, I was complaining about the crazy drivers, the fact that you can't go out without bumping into someone you know or the gossip. For 3 months I stayed home like a hermit, chatting with my Canadian friends on MSN till the wee hours and waking up at noon, resisting to adapt to the lifestyle here. Then little by little, I got used to the mauritian ways again. Now, I'm one of the crazy drivers..... When in Rome, do as the Romans do they say.

People are never satisfied with what they have. When I'm in MU, I think of CA, when I'm there, I think of MU. I wish there could be a way to merge the 2 worlds I belong to.....instead of always feeling like the grass is greener on the other side.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The first entry

Here we go, my first blog.
Ok, it's not good to start with a lie, I do have a blog on Mauritius Interactive (MI) but then it is for members only. Although it's free sign up, not a lot of people would go through the trouble, especially if they think it's for sino-mauritians exclusively (which it is NOT).

But this is exciting and the idea came from Javed.
I still do not know what I will blog about, I had trouble with the title!
But since people notice that I often refer to my years in Canada, I think I will not run out of topics to compare Canada and Mauritius.

This morning, for example, there was an accident on the motorway (we would say highway in CA) on the opposite direction and some drivers ahead of me were causing a traffic jam on this side of the road because they were slowing down to watch! Ok, maybe traffic does slow down a little bit in the opposite direction in CA, but imagine a huge traffic jam in both directions on 401 on a Thursday morning because of an accident in ONE lane? Just not thinkable. Come on people, just move on, you can read about the accident in the newspapers later on.

I just got started...