How do you summarize what happens in a month? There is a line from the film Frances Ha where Frances, an aspiring dancer whose closest friend moves to Japan, says to her best friend, Sophie, “It’s just that if something funny happens on the way to the deli, you’ll only tell one person about it and that’ll be Patch and I’ll never hear about it.” I love this line for its honesty, and that it illuminates how many small things worth telling someone are often said only once. For the sake of this post, “On my way to the deli…”
Birds fly fearlessly through our open doors and windows to eat the crumbs left on the countertops and floor that hordes of well-organized ants haven’t already carried away. There is also a family of small yellow lizards I often see hidden amongst the chocolate-squares-cereal boxes. If you let your eyes unfocus and your mind drift into a daydreamy state, the pile of breakfast fare in the corner begins to look like Tokyo, all the more natural to see if you’ve been reading anything by Haruki Murakami for 2 weeks.
The mail persons on Réunion come by bike, scooter, motorcycle, van, and air, and by air I mean flight. They float around the city, dropping packages attached to small blue, white, and red parachutes. I have this recurring flying dream where I’ll be sprinting, often through the halls of Ridgedale mall in Wayzata, Minnesota, and jump into the air and glide for a while. I can only do it for a few seconds before coming down hard on my elbows and kneecaps. The people who deliver mail here don’t have that problem.
Our mail arrives more or less between 9:00 and 9:30 by a postman on a dijon-colored motorcycle who is undoubtedly getting to know me by name because I’m almost always there when he comes. Our Internet is unstable which has forced me to stabilize myself on the railing of my landlord’s terrace, right near the router. Before leaving my apartment to camp in front of Jacque’s, sometimes leaning off our second-story balcony and waving my laptop around will get a signal.
The best place to be at night is the beach. Seven of us went there two nights ago around 10pm with delicious island rum and played mafia atop a large, Indian blanket. If you’re not familiar with the game mafia, I’ll explain it quickly:
There is one narrator, the mafia, a doctor, an investigator, and the townspeople. The narrator hands out cards privately designating to everyone their role. After everyone (the town) sleeps (closes their eyes), the narrator asks the mafia to wake (open their eyes) and point at whom they would like to kill. After the mafia goes to sleep, the doctor wakes and soundlessly indicates to the narrator whom amongst the town they would like to save. After they sleep, it is then the investigator who wakes and chooses someone to investigate. The narrator indicates to the investigator if the person the investigator pointed to is mafia or not. The narrator tells everyone to open their eyes informs the town who died, that is, if the doctor didn’t save them. The town then proceeds to discuss amongst themselves who they believe is mafia and subsequently hang them with a majority vote. If all the mafia are still alive, the narrator tells everyone to go to sleep and the process repeats itself.
Long story short, it’s a game of deception where the mafia’s goal is to kill off everyone in the town and the town tries to root out the mafia and hang them. Alex’s body was found at the glacier (ice cream shop) after hours lying in a pool of strawberry and chocolate. While Henry was narrating, everyone died by bombing. Others were found buried up to their necks in sand, ghost crabs having picked at their eyeballs and nestled in their sockets. So many tragedies, but more often than not, the townspeople triumphed. We stayed till midnight playing categories, my favorite being characters from Harry Potter. Even alone, the beach is still nice. I wandered there last night and sat watching whitecaps elongate, shrink, and collapse from view. The ocean and sky were melded together seamlessly the color of a faded black-grey-more-black-than-grey crewneck.
This morning I opened up the first of what will be many Dakatines, half-thinking Eisenhower was going to pop out of the can to mess my hair while I ate it with teeth that hadn’t yet fallen out. Lo and behold Dakatine is delicious and saves one an hour of making artisinal stoneground peanut butter.
I live within walking distance of Les Trois Bassins, three waterfall basins each with their own advantages. The bottommost is hardest to reach and therefore less populated. There are enormous tree roots hugging the side of the cliff that are fun to climb up and jump from. The middle basin is the most beautiful. See for yourself.
Finally, the uppermost basin has a really amazing cliff jumping spot. Also within walking distance are a handful of fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, snack bars that serve cheap, delicious Créole food, and amazing boulangeries with fresh bread that you can sprint home with.
One month in, so far so good. Lots of not teaching (apparently we’re contracted for 30 weeks and, due to unbearably hot summers [by French standards], only work during 20 of them), running, reading, passing out in the sand next to large HELP! signs with empty bottles of rum in-hand. My hair is now long enough to secure myself from falling while gathering coconuts high up in the palm trees and I’ve become adept at starting matchless fires to flail-dance sinewy, tanned, bare-handed-fish-catching limbs around naked.