Archive for July, 2010

Mauritius for training…#1

One attraction of the new job was the possibility of undertaking training in Mauritius, a two hour flight from Seychelles, and so it came to be. Myself and my jobshare partner were shipped off to learn the procurement and purchasing packages for the FCO and meet our fellow colleagues of the BHC in Mauritius.  Mauritius is surprisingly, I think, home to a million people and has a reputation for being more built up than our fair islands. Indeed, the capital Port Louis was an hour’s drive from the airport, somewhat novel for this islander.

it's bigger than it looks!

Arriving at our hotel and I was disappointed that I only managed 2.5 rolls across the bed (not yet equalling the other one’s record of 3.5 at the Grosvenor in Chester) but still more than enough space to lounge about in and watch my massive flat screen cable TV, woo hoo. We met up with another girl from the Madagascar office and had dinner together before retiring back to my room and watching two below average films – Under the Tuscan Sun and Griffin and Phoenix – there’s a reason you probably haven’t heard of them!

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Handover ceremony of RNLI lifeboat to Seychelles

In my second week at the British High Commission, the main focus of activity was the arrival of a Lifeboat donated by the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to the Seychelles Coastguard. I got to exercise my press skills, writing the press release and speech for the handover ceremony and more thrillingly, got an invite to the handover itself – how’s that for dediciation (and a desire to do anything different) that myself and the other one found ourselves up early on a saturday morning to bear witness to this event. For Queen and Country and all that.

As we strode through a type of Guard of Honour formation and the band struck up as we entered the marquee,  I have to say I was a little embarassed- like being the second cousin of the bride’s great uncle – what the hell were we doing there in the company of the Seychelles Home and Foreign Affair’s Ministers, the Commander of the Coastguard, Navy and other military and Embassy representatives? Worse, I had to restrain myself from tucking into the fish samosas that were piled up temptingly on the buffet table. The High Commissioner gave the speech with a few expected details and embellishments (though it was my words that made it onto the news hurrah!) and the assorted dignitaries got aboard the lifeboat and we instead had a tour round the Topaz, the jewel in the crown of the coastguard’s fleet, that has been central to the clampdown on pirates. After the VIP’s return, the other one and I ask for a tour of the lifeboat from the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) engineer who looked after it while it was in service (before it was bought by the FCO) and it was amazing to see how every inch of space is utilised- and in its 10+ years it saved the lives of over 130 people.  One thing I love about being here and also my time working in Government, you have opportunities to see and meet people that you might never usually  get – like seeing Colin Powell speak at the Millenium Dome, attending meetings at No.10 and marching through Hyde (in Manchester) with the Bengali community culminating in a heap of speeches in Bengali that neither I or the Minister could understand. Ho hum.

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Seychelles blind dates

No, not got sick of the other one yet (though he does push it sometimes!) and neither have I had my head turned at belly dancing, he he, but networking has suddenly become order of the day. It started with a random bumping into- and swapping of numbers- that after some thwarted attempts at planning resulted in a beach meet with A and his family. A couple of hours were spent on the beach trading stories and watching their kids hurtle about pretending to be superheroes and building sand empires. They were lovely and it was fun to be in the company of what I imagine a 2.3. family to be like – complete with dog – though the early friendship ws nearly finished as soon as it started as the dog, left to his own devices while they were in the sea, scarpered out of our view and spotted next wandering on the main road. Well trained, he did come back when shouted at, which I did, and thankfully not when a car was coming as that could have been messy.

Next was meeting ‘R’ for an informal Social Seychelles ‘Run for Fun’ run in order to see if a 10km run could soon be attempted.  ‘R’ had been in Seychelles all of one week and had the good fortune to have to trail behind with me, huffing and puffing, while the other one did one and ran off. R chatted while I hopefully made the right grunting noises before collapsing in  heap on the beach, happily revived by a bottle of two of Seybrew – its all about getting the right balance in life I say.

Finally, courtesy of my mum’s ex next door neighbour,  I met his godson (via the United States and Germany) on a medical elective at the Victoria Hospital. We met at the News Cafe, swapped stories of Seychelles’ experiences (yup that did include cars) and managed to talk politely about the World Cup, him being a German fan and all.

For Seychelles, that was an exciting week!

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Shake your booty maker

So I went to the belly dancing where there was a modest turnout. I enjoyed shaking my bits and the company of women. Something to be said for females having fun and though it would be dangerous to burn one’s bra in this context – risking personal injury for those with a more ample bosom ( I imagine…) – I fancy the youth today don’t know as much about the ‘F’ word these days as they should; the struggle ain’t over yet! Perhaps the group could become some radical feminist movement ‘ Bellies Towards Equality or ‘BeTy’. Go BeTy go.

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Ta- rahs!

A couple of colleagues are leaving the end of this school year and so we have a surprise do for one of them to attend. It’s an Arabian theme which the other one and I were going to ignore but then our neighbour J comes round having made the effort, so we feel guilted into doing the same… the other one grabs a tea towel for his head and I randomly stick on a pair of tights and a stained silk top (ever classy) that makes me look less Arabian and more an escapee from a mime school in the ‘playschool’ tradition. Still we made the effort eh? The party girl is I think surprised when we jump out of her kitchen and yell ‘ we didn’t do it’ and has a fun night dancing  and opening the gifts that together we’ve given her and even I get up for a bit of a boogie amongst the balloons (but avoiding dancing in the middle of the party circle). The one blot on the landscape was the rude boot who I didn’t have a ready answer for and I spent the rest of the evening rehearsing witty put downs in my head which would have been mostly richly deserved. It annoys me sometimes that when faced by rudeness I opt for the polite response (often as I’m in the midst of being gobsmacked) and while not advocating mouthing off I think a sartorial sideswipe that the intended subject would most likely have trouble deciphering can be good for the soul and stop me obsessing over the 101 ways to wipe the smug smile off her sourpuss face.

Our other goodbye, a dinner at ours for H and her husband and son demanded nothing other than nice chats and laughter and possibly large glasses of water as I’d put far too much chili in the salad that I’d copied from Abs when he was here . We also managed to bagsy a BBQ and handblender from the many things that they’ll be selling as they’re leaving and so I look forward to grilled fish on the beach Floyd style – the other can do the cooking and I’ll do the drinking.

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On the job

Finding out where to make tea is the first most important thing I think I learn on my first day at the British High Commission. The second is how to log in to my beggaring computer. I manage it eventually and it feels odd being on a dot in the middle of the indian ocean and yet connected to the UK Civil Service (once again) like I’ve never been away, though this time its an fco.gov.uk email ending, darling. I also fend off questions about visas that I cannot even begin to answer (its not really what I’m there for) and realise that such questions may now be the stuff of dinner table conversations as I’ve already had informal approaches from people I know. My advice? Read the website that’s what I do.

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Belly dancing

Someone joined Social Seychelles promoting their belly dancing club and I thought, why not? My bits shake more unintentionally as I get older anyway, so may as well give an excuse for my belly and breasts to hang out… besides its far better than competing with pre teens with their hardboiled bodies. I try to recruit others to the cause and it seems to cause the most interest in an event on Social Seychelles yet albeit I did let everyone of my female friends know about it – let’s see what happens!

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Later that evening…

I feel joy as not one but two goals go in against Germany. We then crash and burn not even the prospect of London Dairy ice cream can lift my spirits.

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Sponsored walk

always at the back

I also had the foresight to swap to water sometime in the evening, seeing as though we were up at 8am to do a sponsored walk- I wasn’t about to repeat my mistake of the week before. Our friend ‘N’ has been raising money for the hospital in Guatemala where she spent a year’s sabbatical and we were helping out by taking part in the walk.

A few hours sleep and we were up and out and in school where we then had to wait about 40 minutes ( I could have been in bed longer!) before we started. We walked from the school, up to Bel Air and then through Le Niol and down the road linking Beau Vallon to Victoria. We managed to lose some of them and confusingly met them later on with them in front of us – eh? Apparently, we should have taken a short cut to avoid walking on the blind corners, so we risked life and limb while the others made like they were on a sunday stroll.

Feeling brave the other one and I decided to run the last kilometre (was probably about 6km in total) and it nearly killed me. I collapsed in the staff room and eagerly looked forward to the lunch that one of the participants had kindly committed to bringing. It was Spaghetti Bolognaise and Coronation Chicken sandwiches. I tried not to look to glum as I tucked into plain spaghetti and cheese. Still, it’s all for the cause.

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Hello boys!

try spending 4 months on that babyIt was one of the newbies birthday’s and so we went off to the Boathouse in Beau Vallon to partake of its Creole Buffet, all very civilised and so it was until we got chatting to the table next to us, which god love’em was full of Americans. We found out, the island is full of em’ because the largest ever fleet has just landed in Mahe. All two thousand of them. Awesome.

We’re polite and chat and find ourselves invited back to the hotel room, sorry villa, where they’re staying. The other one is not so keen and we’re out on it but we finish paying and see that two of the newbies have already done one and left with them and the other couple with baby are also going. So why the hell not, I say, it’s probably the only opportunity we’ll get to step inside a posh hotel.

We mosy along and feel a little bogus as we ask the directions to our ‘friends’ bungalow, ‘ahh the Americans you mean’ is the maid’s reply. Er yes, that’ll be them, rumbled. We knock on the door indicated and there’s no reply. We’re not sure and go to leave but no, the door is opened by one of our ‘friends’ from the restaurant and we’re in. In the room with the bar and what seems a lot of men.

We’re led out into the garden where there are even more men and its a gorgeous view – out to sea that is… : ) Asked what I’d like to drink, I think it only right and fitting to have JD and Coke and that’s what I get.

I’m not a military gal and remember getting soundly told off by my Dad when on Remembrance Sunday I wore a white instead of red poppy, but the times that I have ever spent in the company of the armed forces (rare and random always) they’ve been unerringly polite and thoughtful and this was no exception. Bless, they’d spent four months on the ship and were just happy to have company other than themselves (the way I was wittering on I’m not sure there was that much quality control going on). I flitted about chatting and they were really interested in Seychelles and in us and I was amazed at how most of them were about my age (mid 30s-40) and nearly all coming to the end of their service and from what I could tell then set for life (though quite a sacrifice to make I’d say). I can’t pretend that I understand the need to fight for Queen and/ or country and the culture that can sometimes breed but what they’ve seen, what they do and what they live with, I can’t even begin to imagine.

Did I mention they were all officers? And some of them fighter pilots? A Top Gun wet dream, though perhaps not so camp (though I had my suspicions about a couple of them). They weren’t quite the Cruise/Kilmer standard but one was the apple of my eye for a couple of hours. Ahhh, one of those moments in relationship life when I appreciated the advantages of being single – until the other one spoilt it all by dragging me home. Still, he got to smoke a big fat cigar or two – with the pilots. I love life, you really couldn’t make it up – including their call signs – but I think that they’re best unrevealed. To be honest I’m not wholly convinced they weren’t pulling my leg, though that might involve irony. Perhaps the bigger irony was that the USA vs Ghana game was on – I had the foresight at least not to reveal I was supporting Ghana.

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