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A Chance Encounter in Mauritius

From left, Madison-Lustig from the University Austin Texas, Abdoullah, Stephanie-Iacobelli from the University of Miami, Lord-Mayor Chukowry, Lisa-Schlosberg, and Alli Komrower both from the University of Michigan.

It was pouring rain and I had almost decided to explore Mauritius by myself. I was planning on hiking alone but, I won’t lie, it was a relief and huge comfort to run into my friends Allie, Lisa, and Stephanie. When I saw their gym shoes I knew we were all thinking the same thing.

We set out to find Le Pouce, the local mountain that we were told was a hotspot for hiking. It was down pouring as we disembarked the ship and it felt amazing. We flagged down a cab and took a two-mile ride to the beginning of a walking path we could only hope led us to the mountain.

Abdoullah and his motorbike in the rain.

We arrived and started hiking, but after a while everyone began feeling a bit uneasy. Water was rushing down the trail past us and my shoes were overflowing. We noticed a man approaching us, and even as we sped up, he only seemed to get closer. It turns out he was running to tell us that it was too dangerous to hike any further.

My adventurous side wanted to go on but he said there was no way we would make it on the trail without hurting ourselves. ‚ÄúYou don’t know how unsafe it is to continue this hike in the rain! You must turn around now before it gets worse,‚Äù he said.

The man, Abdoullah, escorted us back down the mountain and told us he was in charge of all sports and recreational activities in Port Louis. Our questions started to pile up and, noticing our piqued interest, he offered to take us to the city council. He then asked if we wanted to meet the mayor of Port Louis, who, he added, was the first female mayor in Mauritius. We freaked.

We took a short bus ride to the city council building while Abdoullah rode alongside on his motorcycle.

Water seeped out of our shoes and left wet footprints as we entered the main meeting room for the city council. Abdoullah, who already changed into a other clothes, made it clear that we would have to put on dry clothing – which we did not have. We knew we could not meet the Lord Mayor, as she is addressed, in such a state.

We entered Abdoullah’s office and were greeted by the other city council members. We exchanged our gratitude and asked so many questions. While we spoke, Abdoullah opened his well-stocked cabinets and showered us with souvenirs: flags, sweatbands, key chains with the native Dodo Bird, and thankfully, dry clothes. We entered the conference room to change into our matching soccer uniforms (We couldn‚Äôt have make this up if we tried).

We emerged in our new dry soccer jerseys, adorned with our new lucky numbers on our backs. We were so grateful. Abdoullah took us straight to Lord Mayor Chukowry’s office.

Inside the Port Louis City Council building.

She could not believe the coincidence that four American girls entered her office right as her normally packed schedule opened up for the day. We left the city council and piled into her car with her driver and headed to lunch. While driving through a rainy Port Louis, Celine Dion sang on the radio and we spoke with Chukowry’s about her favorite music.

When we arrived at the restaurant there were plates of food already waiting for us (she had called ahead) full of calamari and chicken. We began eating and asked the Mayor a ton of questions. We wanted to know what it was like to be the first female mayor (of the country’s capital city no less!). Also, we asked her about the country’s environmental policies, her main concerns for the country’s future, and the primary human rights issues in Mauritius. We were all eager to learn about what interested us the most.

Considering we were only in Mauritius for eight hours, we were thrilled to be taken around by the Mayor. The Lord Mayor walked through the bustling market with us and she patiently showed us her skilled well-honed bargaining skills. With her help, we were given the best prices.

Before Abdoullah, our original contact, left us he repeated the words he had said when we first met him: “We were brought together by the grace of God”.

The mayor decided that she wanted to drop us off on her way home. We piled into her car for the last time and were driven right up to the MV Explorer. We got out of her car sporting our matching soccer jerseys and then took a picture in front of the ship. We could not even begin to imagine how to repay her. All she asked was that we emailed her and kept in touch.

She kissed us goodbye, on both cheeks, and waved us off as we boarded the ship. Immediately people wanted to hear the story behind the woman and our matching jerseys.

Our hike had turned into an adventure that none of us could have imagined. The fact that complete strangers treated us, young students in a foreign land, so kindly is something we will never forget.

Saying goodbye to the Mayor of Port Louis outside the MV Explorer.

This story was written collaboratively by Madison-Lustig, Stephanie-Iacobelli, Lisa-Schlosberg, and Alli Komrower.

Topics
  • Culture
  • Life at Sea

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