Next stop: Reunion Island
Trip Start Apr 02, 2014
33Trip End May 07, 2014
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I repacked my bags and had a light breakfast as soon as the "coffee house" opened at 7:30. Then I loaded the car and headed to the airport, stopping to fill the tank before turning it in. The new airport terminal makes it much easier to drop off a rental. Previously, one had to park the car in the rental area, make his way In Through the Out Door to the rental desks in the arrival area, find an attendant who would then walk out, check the car and drive the traveler several hundred yards up to the departure level to drop him off. It was time consuming and clumsy, obviously not planned at the time of airport construction.
Check-in went smoothly, and emigration and the security check went quickly as well. I was able to use the Kenya Airways lounge and have another cup of coffee before boarding my Airbus flight to Reunion only about 30 minutes away. The plane was large and passengers were few, so we all had empty seats around which was a treat.
Upon deplaning the immigration agent looked at my passport and didn’t bother stamping it or checking my proof of ongoing travel. That was encouraging as that’s been time consuming in the past. I thought I might skate through, but it was not to be. A customs agent flagged me down and asked if I had anything to declare. I said I didn’t. He asked, “do you have any food?” No. “Any purchases to declare?” No. “Are you carrying more than 10,000 Euros in cash?” No.
“Please open your bags.” I didn’t ask him why he asked me all the questions if he was going to go through my bags in any event….
He went through my carry-on, checked my laptop, small zip-lock bag of toiletries, tablet, and put his hand down every pocket on the case. Then he had me open my main suitcase and went through everything in minute detail starting with my clothes, opened my main toiletry bag, unfolded my suit carrier, checked my Bible and other books. Again he put his hand down every pocket. Then he went through my small camera bag and checked each item, and each pocket.
Finally, he collected all the envelopes of cash that I spread around here and there to prevent thieves from getting everything if they get anything. He counted it all out in different piles, obviously totaling in his head.
All this was in full view of everybody walking by. There’s nothing like having most everything in your life on display for the world. And if someone robbed me outside the airport, the authorities would take no responsibility for it (not much chance of that, but still). The travel process really isn’t much fun anymore….
After this minor ordeal, I was allowed to leave and found Mr. Prodigue waiting for me just outside. He had been a little worried. First Air Mauritius had changed the flight number, since I had given him the original one, and then I hadn’t shown up for quite a while. He was relieved when I finally appeared. We walked out to his car in the lot and loaded my gear then we started up the mountain side toward their house. We wound from one narrow sinuous street to another seemingly without pattern, rising higher and higher.
After half an hour we arrived at their home which has a plunging view of the coastline, the capital of Saint Denis on the left and the airport off to the right. I greeted Mrs. Prodigue and we caught up on all their news. It has been a very long time since my last visit. She then began setting the table and we sat down for lunch talking all the while. They were brimming over with things they wanted to share; they don’t have many occasions to talk of their faith with others who understand. They are the only two members of the Church on the island and it has been this way for many years.
They told me about the challenges of living as a Christian in a society hostile to Christianity especially non-traditional Christianity. There is opposition and mockery from family members and sometimes neighbors, but they are holding firm. They explained their challenges with the work they do, but also the joy they feel at knowing the purpose for life and that our travails count for something worthwhile.
After lunch, I set up my laptop and showed them a presentation that I make at Foundation Institute about the recent history of the Church, and the transitions from one association to another. They found that interesting. I showed them another PowerPoint presentation that gives an overview of the current state of the Church’s work in French-speaking Africa, which they also found useful. This led to more discussions.
Around 5:00, Mr. Prodigue drove me farther up the mountain to the apartment of their son and daughter-in-law. They had offered to lodge me for the night, and also wanted to ask some questions about the Church, our beliefs, and participation in it. They have an even more impressive view of the sea from their balcony, so we sat out and watched the light fade and the lights of the city twinkle down below, with a clear black line marking the drop off to the ocean. We talked until about 7:00 when the other Prodigues joined us for the delightful French custom of the aperitif. This includes a choice of beverages, most with light alcohol content but also some without; never anything too strong and some hors d’oeuvres.
[This reminds me of a story…. I once guided a group of French Church members to California for our annual festival. They were excited to be in California in part because many were intrigued with American movies they had seen over the years and the “culture” they had absorbed. One evening I took them to a steak house where they could sample a thick American steak. When the waitress asked if they wanted a cocktail, several of them told me “please order us a Martini, in all the American movies they always order a Martini.” I tried to explain that an American Martini was not the same as a French one (in France “Martini” just means the Martini and Rossi vermouth, there’s no gin involved….) but they were so excited at the prospect that they insisted.
When the Martinis arrived in their stemmed glasses, complete with olive on a sword, a dignified French lady, wife of a retired career military officer, took a sip and sputtered in amazement “that’s pure gin!” She told me ruefully, “if you Americans drink things like that on an empty stomach, it’s no wonder you have a violent society!” I explained that most Americans don’t drink Martinis, most aren’t violent, and so on, but she looked very dubious about the whole affair….]
We made our way back down to the house for a dinner of raw vegetable salad, christophine au gratin, and beef, with another glass of Bordeaux. The cheese platter came out once again, and it was again followed by a different ice cream, cookies and flan.
After the delicious dinner we continued talking until I couldn’t keep my eyelids open any longer. I pleaded exhaustion, and everyone kindly made arrangements to wrap up the evening. I’m thankful that if all goes as planned I should be able to come and visit them again in late July or early August, this time accompanied by my better half.
I said goodbye to the younger Prodigues, since I hoped not to wake them in the morning, set my alarm for 4:30 and went straight to bed.