EDITORIAL & OPINIONS
Coming together in
da island coconut
Before my summer began, I thought living on
a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean would deprive
me of any contact with the outside world. Was I ever wrong.
I made some general assumptions prior to moving
to the small French island of La Réunion, situated approximately
800 kilometres southeast of Madagascar. I assumed being on a
tropical island meant I would be going to the beach every afternoon,
where everyone listened to reggae beats and smoked a lot of
pot. What I learned very quickly upon my arrival on the island
was shocking, yet remarkable.
My first eye opener was the people and how
culturally diverse they were. Due to physical location, the
island is built up of four races: Chinese, Malgash (from Madagascar),
Indian and Caucasian from the mainland (France). Over the past
150 years, people on the island have mixed up a fair bit, yet
individual cultures are still present. You can be in a town
on one side of the island and witness fire-walking Indian rituals,
while the other side of the island could be celebrating the
Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana.
Like the people, the music in La Réunion
can also be classified as hybrid. You can, big surprise, hear
reggae blaring out of many cars by the beach. Granted, they're
probably tourists in their rented cars trying to fit in, but
they are nonetheless. The real music of the island you would
hear at parties and bars is Sega and Maloya. A melange of reggae,
soca, pop, Latin and at times choral music, is infectious and
erotic music and it begs to be danced to.
While the island held the facets of the tropics,
the main attractions were the mountains and the live volcano
that happened to erupt, as if on cue, upon my arrival. Instead
of spending lazy days at the beach with a cocktail, you would
be more likely to find traffic jams on the roads heading into
the mountains at 6 a.m., because that's when you had to leave
home if you wanted to make it to the summit before clouds moved
in late morning.
First impressions are a funny thing. You can
find them incredibly surprising or entirely predictable. I was
fortunate enough to have spent my summer working on an island
halfway around the world, yet found the nature of the people
remarkably similar to us here in North America.
I'd like to claim myself as a bonafide island
girl, having completed the prerequisites of surfing, scubadiving
and lots of island cocktails, but I think true island spirit
lies in the heart, which I don't think one can learn.
It seems wherever you go in the world, people
stay the same. They have the same goals, passions and needs.
It just goes to show assumptions and first impressions have
nothing in common.