Tales from the volunteers

Our first month in Réunion is coming to an end and we’re starting to get into the flow of life here on the island. Christmas lights and decorations are being hung in the streets, at the same time the weather is getting hotter and more humid as we approach mid-summer – a bizarre thing for us northern-hemispherers. Things have been mostly quiet since our last testimony, work has been continuing around the office – at the reception, participating in theatre rehearsals and multimedia workshops, helping out with the English lessons for the Leonardo Trainees who will be travelling to England next January.


We have also started to teach our own English lessons, our class size is small but we’re enjoying it a lot. We have two dedicated students who want to pursue careers where English proficiency will be useful, fellow colleague Raphael has also been attending on occasion. Our lessons are taught very casually, usually involving lots of conversation – more social than academic.  It has been a great learning process, even as a native English speaker; it’s surprising how much difference there is between knowing how to speak and knowing how to teach a language.


In the office kitchen, we’ve had two team-building, culture-exchanging, food-making workshops with the Mission Locale team. Our mentor Philomene suggested the idea to the staff and everybody was immediately on board. We spent a morning being taught how to mix dough and make pizzas for a lunchtime feast, everybody choosing their own toppings.


A couple of days later, Aurélie and I prepared Full English Breakfasts, to serve 12, all cooked on a single-burner camping stove. We spent the previous evening going back and forth between the local supermarkets searching for some of the more elusive ingredients (bacon, baked beans), and borrowed a toaster. The meal was curiously-but-well-received, one of the questions asked being “Do you eat this every morning in England?”




We used some of our free time to go on an expedition to Cirque de Salazie, one of three major mountainous zones in Réunion. A three hour drive took us to high-altitude Hellbourg, a traditional Créole village nestled between the mountain peaks and stunning views. Waterfalls cascaded through openings in the rock faces surrounding us as two men sat in the shade of a painted wooden house jamming together with an accordion and improvised beer-can drum + lighter drumstick percussion. After looking around town, we walked through a short way through the woods to the ruined remains of old thermal bathhouses, made obsolete by domestic bathrooms, flowers planted in patches around them.


During the return home, we suddenly pulled over by a bus stop where Philomene had recognized an old lady waiting there. The two warmly greeted and Philomene explained they knew each other from Church. The woman had been waiting for an hour for her infrequent Sunday bus, and planned to wait another 3 ½ until it arrived. Bus being the only way to make her weekly commute to Church for Sunday Mass, she would wait every weekend for hours at that bus stop. We let her in and gave her a lift to her house, where she insisted that we come inside for a drink and biscuits with her family – an encounter that really demonstrates the hospitality of Réunionese people.


Saturday saw Aurélie’s sad departure from the island; we drove to the airport and shared goodbyes. It was sad to see her go; we’ve made a good team during the past few weeks.  And especially sad for her – she loved it here and didn’t want to have to leave.


I’m going to be alone for the remainder of my stay, the thought of working and communicating only in French without anyone to be my translator is nerve-wracking, it will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks.


 Project part of Gaining Through Training
and supported by ECORYS UK
and the Lifelong Learning Programme
of the European Commission.



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