Sunday, January 20, 2008
I made it to Mauritius Friday evening, and Yasmina (a professor at the University of Mauritius and my collaborator here) graciously picked me up at the airport. Since Mauritius is so small, I'm staying at the same hotel the entire time I'm here. It's called the Hotel Raj Mahal, and it is not nearly as glamorous as the website would have believe. With that said, it is a good value, and very clean and comfortable. But check out the view from my balcony (see attached picture).
I'm pretty sure that every hotel in Mauritius has a good view, this island is full of mountains (but not giant mountains, for that you have to go to Reunion, Mauritius's younger sister to the SW).
Mauritius is nothing like Madagascar. It is completely westernized, and I feel very comfortable walking around, even alone at night, but perhaps not in some of the more seedy neighborhoods of Port Louis (the capital). Kentucky Fried Chicken is a particularly popular fast food restaurant, and I am within easy walking distance of at least two from my hotel.
Due to a storied history, the population of Mauritius has elements of Indian (the majority), Chinese, French, and Creole (the descendants of slaves).
Mauritius was uninhabited until the late 1600s, when it was discovered by trading ships in the indian ocean. The island is the original home of the Dodo bird, but within 100 years of human settlement, the Dodo had been driven to extinction. The first colonists started huge sugar plantations, and brought slaves from Africa and Madagascar to work them. Emancipation came in the 1800s, and when that happened, the plantation owners needed more laborers. This brought an influx of Indian and Chinese workers to Mauritius, and the culture here has thrived from their influence.
All educated mauritians speak at least three languages, French, English, and Creole. Of these, english is the least used, but I haven't run into a single person that doesn't speak it and understand it well.
I have internet in my room, so I will be able to update my blog much more often. I haven't started any collecting yet, as I arrived on a weekend, but things should start happening in the next couple of days. Hope everyone is well, and I hope the packers beat the giants and make it to the superbowl.