Life on an island is not quite what it’s made out to be. The picture of a life where islanders can live off of fishing, drinking coconut water, and binging on tropical fruits is not exactly legitimate. We islanders need to work, and we often hate Mondays just like everyone else on the planet.
I have been an island girl living on Mauritius for my entire life. One thing I know is that island life is full of contradictions and can have its rocky side. Take Le Morne on Mauritius, for example… it is gorgeous and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. But beyond the magnificent scenery, it also has a tragic history. On this mountain, slaves once used it to commit suicide. So the beautiful beach with hundreds of kite surfers ornamenting the sky and the waterfall within the ocean are both adjacent to the little cross symbolizing a cemetery in honour of those who died here. Beauty and trauma.
In an effort to debunk some of the misconceptions about rock living as I know it, here are my 5 prickly truths about island life:
1. Your home will be close to a graveyard… better get used to living amongst ghosts.
One of the things that you cannot escape on our island is living near a cemetery. Almost everyone on Mauritius does. Whether you live by the beach, in a village, in town, or in the city, you will never be very far from the deceased. An island is not for the weak at heart. The Mauritian wealth is made up of myths, ghost stories, and superstitions. The myths are related to slaves and indentured labourers who died tragically on the island. Even in 2018, policemen claim to see a ghost who haunts their work station. However unpleasant or scary this may seem, such myths are important. The reason is that they act as protection to safeguard our nature and antique colonial places. The most beautiful palaces, churches, and plots of land are all said to be haunted, so no one goes there to leave their trash. No better security system than ghosts, right?
2. Dating is a constant balancing act.
Yes ladies, your odds are rather limited on an island. In my experience, it seems like Cupid tends to miss his target when aiming at small dots from the sky. All the love flows towards the larger masses of land. If you are a fan of Tinder, you’ll quickly become a famous face on it if your relationships keep on falling into disaster. You’ll likely bump into your exes and they’ll be saying, “Ah, you again…” You’ll also want to keep the more wild tendencies to yourself… nymphomaniac urges on an island are a don’t. At least Tinder does tend to be richer than the actual resources of men on your rock, for you get to meet those who are coming here on holiday as well. Even still, you’ll inevitably deal with seasons of drought. But hey, it’s the tropics and you are used to droughts. It’s just another aspect of island life that forces you to get creative to stay hydrated.
3. If you’re an unmarried woman, prepare to never hear the end of it.
Mauritius is a traditional, multi-cultural island. The majority of islanders are originally from the eastern region of the world, including myself. The orthodox thinking inherent in that part of the world is not going out of fashion here. In fact, it stays deeply rooted in narrow minds. Time here ticks quicker for women than it does for men. Nowadays, I feel like I am walking with a red alarm blinking over my head. As soon as I’m spotted, I’m horrified by the expressions that I get. You’d think I’m going to die within a day or that I’m carrying come kind of a virus. I get comments about my age, my aging hormones, and about how quickly I should marry to have a child. Living on a rock is definitely not a safe haven, far from haunts and taunts – it can sometimes be the opposite. Though I will say that in my experience, it just gets funny over time. Either you laugh at those people, or you laugh at yourself for your inability to find someone proper. I need a merman to come to my rock. I’ll marry him as soon as he transforms. Though he’ll definitely have to lose the tail.
4. Bikinis are not necessarily acceptable attire for all island girls.
Among the stereotypes that exist about those who live on islands, there is one that I wish would become a reality: the casual, always-in-beachwear stereotype. I would love to go to work every day wearing a cute cotton dress with flip-flops, though that wouldn’t be acceptable here. Just because you live on an island, it doesn’t mean it’s one never-ending holiday. When you’re settled here, life gets hectic. Even though we only have two seasons – winter and summer – we’re still influenced by globalization. Islanders here dress for all seasons, including spring and fall. That’s what Zara and many other stores have to offer and we follow their rules. Comes summer, many beautifully tanned women flaunt their colourful pareos, underneath which are pretty neon bikinis. Though for me, being a woman on a rock doesn’t mean I have a lot of bikinis. When you are from a traditional Muslim family, you probably don’t own any, probably not even a burkini. I don’t want to wear a burkini, but I do want a bikini to show off my curves, feel pretty in my skin, and show off my hidden tattoos. But that said, to do so, I sadly might have to book a ticket to another rock to fulfill my dreams.
5. The sea is not accessible for all.
Not all island women are mermaids. Not everyone can go snorkeling or surf. If there are women on Mauritius who know how to swim, there are a lot more who still wear shirts and jeans into the water who do not know how to swim at all. Being in a patriarchal society, many women on this rock were not encouraged to embrace the sea as a child. The sea was associated with danger and danger is for tigers, not tigresses. That said, some males are real cats themselves and are filled with dread at the very sight of water. Though my point is, the myth that women on rocks are all graceful mermaids should drown. Just because we’re surrounded by water does not mean swimming is inherently a part of our lifestyle.
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Sometimes, the truth hurts.
But thankfully on island, we have a lot of homemade remedies to alleviate tantrums. A piña colada will usually do the trick. Who’s with me?
What are some prickly truths and common misconceptions about the island you call home?
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