>The experience of flying to Reunion Island was, alas, a combination of my three most hated things: Air France, Paris and quiche.
Air France did things such as take my tooth paste away from me. Paris did things such as rain on me, shrug its shoulders at me whilst grunting like a Pink Panther character, and almost make me miss my second flight amid said grunting. The quiche did things such as leave me unsatisfied and even possibly help induce a case of unwanted mile-high plops.
Now that's out the way I can shut my complaining Uncle Vernon mouth and rejoice to be in paradise. At around 8am Reunion time, a couple of hundred airborne passengers awake from a sweaty crotched, crick-necked sleep to experience our pilot haphazardly fling our plane down on a tiny strip jutting out into the Indian Ocean.
Climbing down the plane steps, Reunion has clearly pulled out all the stops. It's like one of those ridiculous Hollywood tropical islands, like Spooky Island from Scooby Doo, when you arrive to postcard palm trees, people flinging flower necklaces around your neck (this of course didn't actually happen) and with 'Pass the Duchee on the Left hand Side' playing as the soundtrack.
Get my luggage, stand in one long queue of disastrously constipated and often flatulent passengers, do big wee, big poo, race out into Arrivals like spooked pack-horse, find 'Frank' (Frank is a woman with a Juicy Couture handbag), get driven by Frank to Le Port, am told a story of how my predecessor fell victim to a knife attack early in his stay, and am dumped in my lovely new home; some sort of Murray-Edwards-esque war bunker, a true cockroach of a building and robust as a robot's boobs. I spend the next hour decorating my room as zealously as a Miss World contestant after a one hour grab-all-you-can in Paperchase.
A first few impressions of Reunion Island. The population is extremely ethnically diverse, with a 'creole' people stemming respectively from China, Madagascar, Metropolitan France, and many other places. The island happily, and regularly, juxtaposes breathtaking mountainous landscapes and boundless seascapes with huge shopping complexes and countless McDonald's restaurants. A bus won't stop at a bus stop unless you literally dance explosively by the side of the road to demonstrate your interest. When inside the bus, it won't stop to let you off at a bus stop unless you clap loudly above your head. Many French people are hiding here, having clearly put off solving problems back home. Final first impression: public toilets are unexpectedly impressive, with separate wet wipes provided to wipe down the seat before use as well as the toilet paper.
I'm living with girls which makes a change from... living with boys. They still let me burp and talk about poo in front of them though, so all is fine. I showed them a bogey today too in McDonald's and no one seemed to mind too much. One is called Antje, an Austrian ferociously proud of her uncommon name, and the other is Gemma, a Spaniard who hates matadors and who has, although I'm not sure exactly what this says about her matador-hatred, a huge ring through her nose, like the bull in The Owl And The Pussy Cat. Thankfully she loves Shakira almost as much as I do.
The best way to get around The Island is to hitchhike. This is not a dangerous affair here, and explains the lack of buses. Why pay for transport when a free lift is but a cheeky thumb away? Here everyone stops to pick you up, and most of the time they will take you to exactly where you want to go. Reunion is home to a marked car obsession, with a new car seen as a powerful symbol of wealth and status. Everyone has a car, and some people get in their cars merely to drive without a destination, to 'promenade' themselves. It's quite fun pretending to be someone different every time you get into a car. Next time, we are going to be famous European actors filming the next Quentin Tarrantino locally. The drivers like to play this game too. Today we were chauffeured by a successful French footballer called 'Christophe'. It was his generous amount of belly that gave the game away.
A head-nodding, post-sip-of-tea-exhaling-in-manner-of-builder start to the year, despite my camera being lost in the excited stampede when 'Ra Ra Rasputin' was played at the local discotheque. Plans for next week: buy car, buy dangling fragrance stick for car, and give in to the persistent beckonings-in of the English boxing club next door. Little by little.