Another wonderful weekend has passed by in the blink of an eye. On Saturday I joined the ELI team on our first official (“self” aka. Kelvin) planned excursion to the South part of the island. First stop: La Vanille Crocodile Park. This park is one of the major touristy sites on the island. After a delicious lunch of lentils, cucumber salad and fresh dinner rolls prepared by Brian et.co we were off. 220 rupees later, an entrance fee much to our surprise cheaper on weekends, we were in the park and immediately surrounded by lush greenery: banana trees, pam trees, giant bamboos to name a few. We saw monkeys, crocodiles, alligators and visited the insectarium The park is home to the largest captive group of Aldabra tortoises in the world. The tortoise pavilion was amazing. Visitors have the opportunity to walk up, touch and take photographs with the giant tortoises. Some highlights include Lincoln feeding banana leaves to a hungry tortoise, and getting a little too close for comfort and Lindsay’s hilarious facial expressions and noises when touching the tortoise’s head
After the crocodile park we visited Grand Bassin, also known as Ganga Talao lake. It is a crater lake surrounded by mountains and considered the most sacred Hindu place on the island. It is said that the water inside the crater communicates with the waters of the holy Ganges of India. The entire atmosphere was peaceful and spiritual. However, as we meandered up the hill to see Mangal Mahadev – Shiva statute, the highest known statue in Mauritius, we were quickly distracted by the monkeys climbing freely on the trees and electrical lines by the road. Kelvin fed one the banana we had. Last stop: Alexandra Falls, located in Black River Gorges National Park. This was my favorite part place, so far, of Mauritius. Situated on the Plaines champagnes the falls are surrounded by lush greenery and canyons. The outlook point allowed for a panoramic view of the South part of Mauritius. It was breathtaking and definitely a great spot to sit and meditate. However, I was quickly introduced to the art that is guava picking… and immediately had no time for om-ing Before I could even say om… Lincoln and Brian were up in the trees grabbing guavas left, right and centre. With some friendly scolding from Lauren, Lincoln managed to fill a bag and not eat ALL the guavas.
On the way back to Triolet, I was dropped off at the Dr. James Burty David Recreational Centre at Pointe aux Sables to participate in a Respite Care Programme for children with special needs. The respite care program was launched April last year and allows different groups of children with special needs and their families to stay at the recreational centre one weekend every month. This weekend students, parents and teachers from L’Aventure, both a school and vocational collage for children with special needs were at the centre. I was invited by Viraj to help lead the swimming class that was happening on Sunday. I arrived right at dinner time and was treated to some of the best Indian food that I have had EVER. After dinner, I quickly dropped my stuff off in my room and hurried over to the hall where a performing arts night was starting. Some of the students had prepared different dances, songs and musical performances for the evening. I was blown away by the talent and put learning Indian dance and Sega on my to-do list. The party didn’t end until around 10:30pm and when all the students were put to their rooms, Viraj and I sat down with the teachers, coordinators of the program to discuss our swimming lesson for tomorrow. We decided tentatively that two 30 minute sessions of 10 students each would be appropriate, and that we would give a brief talk about water safety and work on some basic techniques. I was really excited to start teaching and to get back in the pool! It’s been over a month since I’ve been in a swimming pool.
I woke up the next morning (around 6AM) to the sounds of children running and laughing outside my door. After a quick delicious breakfast and then a walk to the market, I was back at the centre and had time to sit down with Rooma, a recent graduate from the University of Mauritius’ occupational therapy program. We discussed the importance of occupational therapy in working with children with special needs and as I’ve been seeing all around me, the importance of having trained, dedicated individuals like Rooma in schools and day care centres for children with special needs. Time flew by, after a quick game of musical chairs, soccer and board games the students were ready to jump in the pool. One student was so excited that though she had forgotten her swimsuit, she was fully prepared to go swimming in her dress. Rooma and I struck a compromise with her… she agreed to go with a t-shirt and pants. I gave a quick talk on water safety, and after everyone took their shower before entering the pool, we sat down by the ledge and practiced proper kicking techniques. THE WATER WAS FREEZING, and as are most pools in Mauritius, the pool at the centre was outdoors and unheated.
Back home, I’m used to one-on-one lessons, and immediately saw the difference between individualized lessons and group lessons. Group lessons are much harder. The students were great and everyone listened well, although they were all eager to get into the frigidly cold water. We learned about pointing our toes and not bending our knees when kicking. Everyone was eager to learn and I was able to give mini-tutorials to each student, which I found effective. We quickly made a whirlpool, where everyone holds hands in the pool and you run in a circle really fast then pop your head under the water… and then hopped out and took nice warm showers. After spending the afternoon at the centre I grabbed a bus back to Port Louis and before I knew it, I was home in Trou aux briches.
Another great weekend. As for my plans for the rest of the week, I have meetings scheduled at the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) and may start teaching at one of the centres near our office.