Tuesday, May 5, 2015

New Diplomat's Wife Interview

My sweet friend over at The New Diplomat's Wife recently interviewed me from her Notes From The Field series, which gives you a glimpse of what life is like in places all over the world. When she asked me to talk about life in Mauritius, I couldn't say no.

So hop on over and check out my interview!

Oh, and checkout her blog too.  She's currently in Copenhagen, but before that was posted in Washington, D.C. and Vienna. Her blog - and it's photos - are just fantastic!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Mauritian Mountain Getaway

As I've sorely neglected this blog for the 20 months we've been here, I thought I'd write about some of the things we've seen and done since we arrived here back in July 2014. Today, I thought I'd share a few days we spent in a part of that Mauritius isn't internationally renowned (but perhaps should be): the mountains.
Our good friends invited us to join them for a few days in a place called Chamarel, nestled in the peaks and valleys of the mountains toward to southeast of this little island. I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being, by far, one of our favourite adventures on the island.

Our friends encouraged us to bring warm pyjamas, sweaters, and long sleeves, particularly for nighttime. I thought they were crazy at first, but I was so glad we heeded their advice. It was July, the middle of winter for Mauritius, and although in our part of the island, to the North, it barely gets below 65F (18C) at night, in the mountains to the south it dipped closer to 55F (12C) which, I assure you, feels quite frigid after a year of non-stop tropical heat.
The View From Our Kitchen Window
We arrived at our little cabin, perfectly picturesque, nestled in lush, green trees and planted firmly in rich, terracotta soil, which reminded me so much of my years playing in the red clay earth of Alabama. Our little cabin had one bedroom, big enough to house a queen bed, a twin bed, and a travel cot, thank goodness. The little kitchen had a window that framed the beautiful valley below us. The dining table was outside, so we could spend our mornings eating breakfast and taking in that perfect view.
Our friends have two little boys, one C's age, one M's age, so it was perfect. They spent all their time playing outside (not an iPad or iPhone in sight!). On our first morning, we packed everyone into the cars and drove, for the first time, to Le Morne beach to watch the kite surfers.

That afternoon, we had lunch at Le Chamarel.  We ate Kreol dishes (think roasted boar shank and dorado vindaye curry) and took in this spectular vista:
That night we had a delicious dinner al fresco, BBQ with plenty of wine, followed by toasted marshmallows as we cozied around the fire.

The following day began late, with lunch and a tour at the Chamarel Rhumerie, tasting the fabulous  flavoured rums and sampling the delicious compotes and confitures made on site:
Full and happy after a good meal, we moved on to visit the Chamarel Waterfall, where enormous fruit bats the size of hawks soared overhead. The kids thought this was amazing (as did I!). Unfortunately, they were a bit camera shy.

And then to the Seven Coloured Earth, which is quite a wonder, as apparently even if you take a big jar full of the earth, mix it all up, the different colours will eventually separate on their own into a spectrum of reds, oranges, browns, and purples. It was beautiful, especially against the green of the mountain behind it.

While there, we drank sugar cane juice (which is just as sweet as you'd imagine). They put the cane into this crazy contraption and voila!

We visited the giant tortoises...

...then headed back to the cabin for naps, play time, and another amazing dinner with friends.

On our last morning, we took the kids to The Curious Corner, where we all had a great time exploring, climbing trees, and somehow ended up standing on the ceiling.

We can't wait to go again, very soon!

*all photos courtesy of yours truly and the hubby.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Diving Back In

Today, I took my first ocean swim in three months. I sharply inhale as I entered the water, feeling a bit brave for striding straight into the cool blue of the Indian Ocean. Within seconds I feel warm, refreshed, and much more alive. I have never been a swimmer - nor, I freely admit, an athlete - but from the first day early last September that I decided to swim the length of our beach, I took to it like the proverbial fish to water.  

my view aquatic
I crave this time in the ocean. I don't have many quiet moments in my day, but the 45 minutes I steal to swim are guaranteed to be peaceful and beautiful. Alone with my thoughts, I'm able to think clearly for at least a little while. A cyclone and a Mauritian summer of storm after storm deprived me of these swims, as our little beach became filled with seaweed and I learned the hard and painful way of the microscopic jellyfish that become tangled in the ocean greenery. It eventually became difficult to even walk on our beach, the waves depositing a solid green and brown blanket of seaweed all along the shoreline. But now, luckily, our beach looks like our beach again, just in time for winter (and our dear friends who are visiting next month).  

As I push through the water, I consider my view. The water is crystal clear and tourquoise, and I can see 12-14 feet below me to the coral along the floor of our lagoon. On one swim, back in December, I saw a huge marlin swim beside me about 10 feet away. My speed increased exponentially to give me a much better workout than I intended! Luckily, the time I saw a huge ray fly out of the water and dive back in, I was standing at the shore with my little family. The fish must enjoy human company, as they don’t seem to mind you as you borrow their playground. So far, anyway. 

Along the shore I try to count the coconut trees but my efforts are wasted as I lose count quite quickly. There are evergreens that grow along our beach, too, with long, feather-like branches and tiny prickly seeds that fall to the sand and painfully remind you of their existence. Then there’s that sky. Perfectly blue, full of white fluffy clouds and the occasional airplane filled, I’m sure, with excited travellers already in love with the sight of this little island paradise below them.
With each subconscious stroke, my mind wanders further. I contemplate that we have only 3 months left here. I’m trying to savour each remaining day. Trying not to take anything for granted. Trying not to waste a moment. At the same time I’m trying to mentally prepare for what is ahead: not only prioritizing the huge task sorting and packing, but also the more emotional side that comes with every move. Not just my emotions, either, but that of our five-year-old, who I know will be very sad to leave some people behind.

It’s difficult to balance the feeling of excitement and anticipation, of the impending comfort of returning to what is familiar and, let’s face it, convenient. There will be much to miss here:  friends we’ve made, places we visit, and, of course, these stunning beaches and mountains. But there is also much to look forward to: visiting family and seeing old friends, returning to favourite haunts and discovering new places that popped up in our absence. And, of course, always in the back of our minds is our next international adventure: Mexico. 

I have some new plans and goals for the coming year and I’m looking forward to embarking on these adventures. It’s a bittersweet time; transitions usually are. But by the end of my swim I feel a renewed sense of purpose, clearer in my thoughts, and very appreciative of this crazy, incredible adventure I’m living.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Seven Months Down

Hello friends and family.  It has been a very long month since I posted anything, and since I felt like myself.  I've been slightly under the weather.  For a month.  After I recovered from my bug bites -- which were oh-so-fun, in and of themselves -- I got a sore throat, which developed into a cough, which -- over a weekend, naturally -- left me feeling like I couldn't breathe.  So, off to the docs I went, C in tow, to discover that I had some sort of pneumonia/bronchitis and a sinus infection and my little C had bronchitis and an ear infection.  Then, a couple of days later, C got the tummy bug from her father, which I mercifully escaped.  We've taken more antibiotics and other medications than I care to think about.  Took me a good 3 weeks to get over that bout of sickness, and it's only this week that I'm really feeling back to normal.  I know you're more susceptible to illness when you're pregnant but geez!!  Hoping this is the last of it for a while.... {knocks wood}

Speaking of pregnancy, this one is FLYING by.  I had heard that about second pregnancies and, guess what? It's true.  Sometimes I feel as though I'm not paying this pregnancy as much attention (or focusing on it as fully) as I did when I was expecting C.  That might have something to do with moving half way across the world, trying to make this house feel like home, and all while having an almost 4 year-old with boundless energy who is definitely keeping me on my toes!  Nevertheless, this baby is certainly making its presence known - I think it's already a tango aficionado, by the feel of things.  Sleep is getting more uncomfortable, and I think I have only a couple more weeks of being able to buckle my shoes.  Braxton Hicks contractions are in full swing - forgot how much fun those are!  But I'm thankful every day for this little peanut (actually, my book says it's as big as a butternut squash now) in my belly.
For those who have asked - this is me last week at 28 weeks.  Feeling rather large these days - larger much quicker than the first time around!

I'm currently 7 months (29 weeks) pregnant and due on New Years Day -- how's that for timing?! -- and I think that the time between now and then is going to fly.  We have decided to keep the gender a surprise, as we did when we were expecting C.  For us, it's the best surprise: that moment after all that hard work, when you find out what you've been carrying for all those months!  We flip-flop back and forth between thinking it's a boy and thinking it's a girl.  We have a list of names for both genders; we have one clear favorite for a boy and a top 3 for girl.  Picking a name is no easy task!  We're also not telling anyone what our picks are - we're all about the big surprises over here!  It drives our families -- well, certain members of my family for sure (ahem...R) -- crazy at times, but hopefully they don't really mind too much!


C seems to be very excited about the baby. She says ‘hi’ to the baby and sings to it and rubs my belly. She is also convinced that it's a girl; no question that it might be a boy, which reminds me of what my then-4-year-old brother said when we were awaiting the arrival of our littlest brother: "I want it to be a boy or a car."  Thankfully for my mother, it was a boy.  Well, we shall see soon enough if C is right!  She's going to be a wonderful big sister. She adores babies and I know she'll take good care of this one, too.
This also happened this week: "Look at my lipstick, just like yours".  Thank goodness for washable marker!
Another challenge: I haven't been pregnant in extreme heat before. We're not even in the Mauritian summer yet and already during the middle of the day I feel like I'm melting!  Anyone got any tips on how to stay cool, other than the obvious "stay inside”?  Thankfully my sweet, dear Mama-friend in Virginia shared her summertime maternity clothes with me and that has been a lifesaver, given that almost everything I wore when expecting C was for brisk Irish weather.  Between that and a couple of trips to Gap Maternity, I'm doing okay.

I haven't had any crazy cravings, and I didn't really last time either.  I eat more apples than I can keep track of, and - if I'm being totally honest - the fact that they have Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate here is NOT. GOOD. AT. ALL.  :Sigh:  Somehow I have managed not to gain much weight so far this time around.  When I was expecting C, I gained about 45lbs (can't believe I just admitted that).  I did lose almost 30lbs in the first week after I had her, so I know that most of it was water weight.  I don't know whether it's eating gluten-free that's helping me this time, but I've gained maybe 15lbs so far and I cannot understand how (see chocolate reference above, not to mention the copious amounts of Indian food we consume in this house).  My feeling is that if I'm eating well, healthily, with the occasional treat (or two), then it's all good.  Right?!

On a more serious note, the month of October is Infant & Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month (the day of remembrance was on October 15th).  If you are one of many, many Loss Mothers (or Loss Fathers), my heart is with you.  This terrible loss touches more people than you can imagine. Really, it does, but perhaps because that grief is so consuming and so personal, it's not something that is really talked about.   Losing someone you haven't met, yet love so much, is a real, heart-wrenching grief.  It's certainly something to think about (and think twice before asking someone when they're going to hurry up and have kids), particularly this month.  I never take this pregnancy for granted and always try to remember that, while I'm complaining about my sore back or getting up 3 times a night or any of the other 'joys' that come with pregnancy, I am so blessed and lucky to be able to have these complaints to begin with.  Remembering all those little angels who never had a chance to meet their parents, who love them and miss them every day.