April 5, 2007

Where the heck is Mauritius?


That's what we said when we first reviewed our itinerary with Semester at Sea.
Turns out that Mauritius is well known in these parts as a tropical vacation getaway just east of Madagascar. Well-to-do folks from South Africa and India know all about it. More on Mauritius in a minute; but first a little rap about imported oil. On the way here what shocked us was the huge number of oil tankers we passed each day. We're not that far from the Persian Gulf, and as a result we became acutely aware of the scale of reliance many countries have on oil from this region (including our own). Back in the 1970s during our first so-called energy crisis, we imported less than 50% of our oil. Since the early seventies, in spite of off shore drilling and discoveries in Alaska, our domestic production of oil continues to fall. The latest figures from our own government sources put our oil imports at an alarming 70%. To make matter worst, much of that oil comes from places around the world that are not known for their deeds of loving kindness (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq come to mind). The TRUE costs we all pay for oil are only partially reflected in the price at the pump; but apparently an addict rarely questions the morals of their dealer.

OK, back to that tropical vacation getaway. Mauritius offered some wonderful experiences. At each port we always enjoy exploring the local market. Mauritius was no exception.
We’re not talking Whole Foods here people, although you can find lots of fresh organic produce, and so much more. Like those bizarre fruits you have never seen or eaten before, funny little creatures in cages (do they eat those or are they pets?), roots and shoot, and plenty of plastic loot.

Being an island, the fish were of special interest, and we sampled a few. We always enjoy the wonderfully crazy people with whom you bargain feverishly over purchase prices to save yourself the equivalent of 50 cents. You have to enter the dreaded "dance of the potential consumer battle zone," where you stake your ground with great determination and act indignant when they try to charge you $2 for something you would pay $5 for. Finally, after a series of mutually insulting proposed prices, you arrive at an agreed upon amount, whereby they immediately become your new best friend and invite you for a cup of tea. To those of us from the land of fixed prices, it can annoying having to "bargin" for everything from a taxi ride to a bunch of bananas --- but when you get into it, realize that this is a cultural experience, and enjoy the ride, it can be yet another of life's delights.

We also enjoyed some time exploring the coral reefs around the island. Ryder especially enjoyed the glass bottom boat ride.

Now we are about to head out for 6 more days at sea before reaching India. My colleagues who have been there say, "get ready," and then add "and there is no way to prepare for what you are going to experience." We have a little twinge in our stomachs because as strange as that sounds, after reading about India, we know exactly what they mean.

Posted by rohwedde at April 5, 2007 8:57 AM