Mauritius is a small island relatively close to the coast of Madagascar. With a population of rougly 1.2 million people, it is one amongst a cluster of islands known for their gorgeous beaches, and as a result, is a popular tourist destination. But Semester at Sea is not a cruise vacation, and while students always have fun, it is balanced with invaluable learning experiences. On the second day in Port Louis, a small group of students went on a service visit that included stops at the Gayasing Ashram Home and the Cite La Cure Neighborhood.
Before the students were taken to their first service stop, they were given a brief introduction to Mauritius' history though a stop at the sacred tomb of Father Laval. He came to the island as a missionary in 1840, but also taught the people how to care for the sick using established routines that prevent infection and the spread of disease. He also helped the progress of educating the Creole children of the island. Creole are Mauritians of African descent.
Once the group left the tomb, they were taken to the Gayasing Ashram Home, where they were given a tour of the facilities, and had the opportunity to interact with some of the patients and staff members. The home serves elderly men and women, mainly focusing on those who are developmentally disabled. The students saw the lands the home was built on, which are quite extensive, and include separate quarters for the men and women, a clinic, and a dining hall. They met some of the male patients, who were spending the morning outside because it was a warm day, before taking a tour of the female quarters. One of the most interesting parts of the visit for many in the group was when they had a chance to talk to two local university students that were doing internships at the home for physical therapy. They got a chance to ask them about working with the patients and going to school in Mauritius, as well as sharing some of their experiences from their home institutions and SAS.
After leaving the Gayasing Ashram Home, the group went to the Cite La Cure Neighborhood where they spent a few hours with the children in the DLD Teen Hope Project. The project is designed to help young students who otherwise might drop out of school get a quality education. These students are considered at-risk, based on their socio-economic background, family instability and other factors. All of the children spoke French, and a little English and were learning French grammar when the group arrived. After the SAS students were given a short tour of the school, which consisted of two classrooms and an art & crafts room, they sat down with the students to chat. Eventually, the children showed the students how to dance to Sega music, which is the traditional music of the island. The entire group agreed that this was the highlight of their day, even if the beats sounded complicated at times. The children were very open and encouraging, and everyone had a good time whether they were learning or teaching. When it was time to leave, many of the SAS students made promises to keep in touch with the school, before climbing back onto the bus, and taking the 10 minute ride back to the ship.
Be on the look out for a short video of the children and students dancing to Sega, which will be posted soon!
Japan! Kyoto: Getting Lost and Ginkgo Trees - The next morning Meena and I headed to Kyoto. We spent the entire day wandering the city. We wandered into temples, removed our shoes, and meditate...