End of Day 4 – Le Port et une coucher du soleil

A Go Pro camera would have been nice today. I took Nathalie’s mountain bike for a ride through the ravine that they had shown me this morning. There are mango trees all around in a park near the end of the descent, and as you make your way among the fallen, green and yellow mangoes, there are dirt jumps that people have created to go off of.

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The little one was nice to warm up on. Not necessarily ready, however, mentally or physically on Nathalie’s  unstable VTT (vélo tout terrain, bike all-terrain), I decided to go off the larger one, perhaps two-feet tall. The front fork has shocks making it fit for more forgiving landings on uneven surfaces. The disadvantage however is that you waste more energy pedaling. As I approached the jump, fear regulated my speed. I was pedaling faster than a run but slower than a sprint. I flew off the jump, hitting my ass hard on the seat as I came down, forcing the seat post to collapse. Ha! I thought. Somehow I didn’t fall and still have the ability to have a child, apparently just above natural selection’s cutoff point.

In Réunion they actually have painted bike lanes, which came as a large surprise to me. The upside, however, is that their bike lanes sometimes shrink to nothing, and they also run parallel on the sides of their highways. After descending from la ravine, I took the bike lane running parallel to l’Océan Indien and biked to the next city, Le Port, meaning what it looks like in English. It’s named after the one of the island’s big harbors, maybe it’s largest. I’m not sure. Le Port is also the island’s industrialized area where they manufacture Danone yaourt (Danon yogurt). It turns out that Le Port is also home to the island’s most impoverished.

There is poverty in the US, without a doubt, but I have never before seen it in the form of shacks with tin roofs. The farther I biked away from the highway, the more impoverished the area became. My comment last night about segregation not being a thing here isn’t true, apparently. I was told later by Nathalie that immigrants from Madagascar, Les Malgaches, do not often succeed à La Réunion.  The same was the case for the Sudanese population living in Fargo, ND. I was told by a Sudanese priest in the area, Jacob, a while back that the parents of Sudanese students are unable to help their children with their homework nor learn English. The result is that Sudanese children then grow up less educated and subsequently qualify for jobs lowest on the economic ladder. The cycle repeats itself. I imagine the same is for most, if not all, immigrant situations.

***

I stand out on the island, somehow. I’m not sure exactly why that is because there are plenty of Asian immigrants as well. The clothes I’m wearing aren’t imprinted with a flying eagle emblazoned by an American flag. As I made my way through Le Port, I got quite a few looks from people, some curious, others challenging. I turned around after that happened at the nearest roundabout and made my way back to La Possession where I found my way to the beach.

The beach is composed of rocks rounded by the waves. There is a tunnel that goes under the main highway, a tube that gets so dark in the middle passing through that you can’t see anything directly in front of you, but you’re still able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As such, you feel as if you’re floating towards the light.

I stood there at the shore’s edge, touching the ocean for the first time, letting the waves crash upon the rocks and climb up my legs, again and again. It’s so easy to lose yourself in something natural and changing. Everything became quiet, and I took note of the salt drying on my shins. I looked out across the ocean and began to think about one’s perception of distance.

As far as I could see there was nothing but open water. Less than 100 miles surely was all I was seeing. Looking north there would be nothing for thousands of miles until Les Seychelles. Nine hours in the future, my friends back home would be seeing the same sunset that I was watching. What happened over the past three days can be equated to the same game that everyone plays when you’re younger. Someone fetches a cardboard box, everyone climbs inside, and when you get out,  you’ve traveled through time to another world.

I entered a plane. Closed my eyes, and before I knew it, I was walking around Iceland where the language sounds made-up, and my experience of Iceland was extraordinary while people were going about their daily lives, everything ordinary for them. I was ecstatic to be riding the bus to Reykjavik, to drink a coffee in a coffee shop called Kaffitar, to be skateboarding around the city and taking pictures of buildings completely banal to people who live there.

There was a shovel near the sauna next to the hot tub at the A-10 Deluxe Bed and Breakfast. I noticed that the metal part of the shovel that connects to the wooden shaft is made up of two pieces bolted together. When I think of a shovel in the United States, there is only one piece of metal that attaches to the shaft. The mugs for hot liquids were maybe 3/4 the size of those in the United States.

When I went to France, the light switches are square-shaped. Additionally, I have never seen a lamp in France where you switch it off near the lightbulb. There is always a tiny, finger-sized switch somewhere along the cord that plugs into a wall plug with two, perfectly circular holes.

In Réunion, after cutting my foot, I was given a sheet of bandaids the size of 10 regular-sized US bandaids sewn together. You take a scissors and cut the size bandaid that you need. It saves on packaging. Nathalie doesn’t use an electric tea kettle, not because electricity is too expensive or because she’s more partial to stove kettles, but because it wastes less energy. Composting and recycling are mandatory on Réunion. People who work from the city check your compost and recycling to make sure that you’re doing it properly.

Tiny differences. Tiny differences between places that make you feel so happy and excited it barely makes sense. But at the same time it does, too.

Last year in Minneapolis was a great year for many reasons, I met a lot of exceptional people, ate delicious food, explored Minneapolis. I’m more than happy to be here, however. What an eye-opening experience so far.

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