After a little confusion surrounding our PCR results, all was sorted and we were formally released from quarantine to be allowed to go to our house. The rules have now changed so that you can quarantine in private accommodation but this was too late to affect us. If you’re a tourist, you don’t need to quarantine at all. I don’t know, either. Most of this is old news already, as cases are falling here, the vaccination programme has run smoothly (myself now included) and bars, cinemas etc are due to open next week. No matter, we’re out now and into our charming house.
For various reasons that very close friends and family will know about, we’ve spent successive periods of time in different states of limbo, uncertain of outcomes and waiting on progress. To be able to unpack our bags and start the familiar process of home-making in a house that is both ours and home for a confirmed amount of time is a very novel and therapeutic experience. Anyone with a toddler will know that they are particularly helpful during such a process and even more so after a week in a two-room apartment. To make things even more homely, thanks to an on-island contact that a colleague had, our shipping left Ireland after we did but arrived at our house at the same time so we’re able to truly settle in.
The houses here vary a great deal, from tourist apartments blocks to VERY fancy private mansions through to traditional Seychellois wooden homes. Part of me was hoping to be assigned a rustic, traditional house for a more authentic island experience, but the practical part of me is glad that we’ve ended up with a charming 1970s-style bungalow with a garden and air conditioning. I was amazed to find that, no matter what the rest of the decor was like (and, like all remote islands, furnishing can be basic in some places) solid granite work surfaces seemed to be standard here. Then I remembered that most of the islands are granite and it’s fairly readily available. Our house is now more of a home, we’ve figured out how to make the ceiling fans (absent from our quarantine apartment) rotate at a speed just shy of helicopter take-off and we’re well and truly settling in, coping with the heat by sitting in our self-contained gale.
The house brings with it some of those little nuances that I do want to record as I feel that they’re the kinds of things that are perfectly normal to so many here and so could easily be forgotten as mundane further down the line. For example, our house has no address. Not even on the lease. Quite a few streets have no names and no numbers are consequently put on the houses. This, as you can imagine, has caused a few problems when having to list your address on paperwork or if people ask where you live. It’s especially frustrating when you’re completely new to the area and don’t know the roads/landmarks/best ways to describe places. I don’t understand why there is no address, I don’t know how it has been allowed to continue like this and I do wish it had one. It’s not like a small area or tiny hamlet: there are over 77.000 people on this island. We’re in a popular area: 4,300 people live in this district alone. Not having a street name is something very easily remedied in a Planning Office and it’s not usually something people object to. In fact, it can be quite nice to name them after local heroes or people of note. I had thought that perhaps there’s another solution often used, like the ingenious What3Words. No. You just have no address. I can’t yet describe our location as we’ve not learnt the road system well enough so I remain quite useless. All that being said, it does make a memorable addition to the experience and I know I’ll look back on this fondly.
Other ‘household’ things that differ from the way we grew up in Western Europe include:
- Getting quite used to discovering that the thing rustling around or charging out from the door you’ve just opened is a sweet little gecko type lizard. I know they’re all over the world, but I like them and I like their presence in the house.
- There’s no bin collections here, so you have to run them to a local giant bin. They do follow the beer-bottle returns policy much loved by mainland Europe, where you get money back for returning the glass bottles. I love the system; never understood why the UK didn’t do it. Win win.
- There’s a gas canister under the kitchen sink for the oven as there’s no mains gas (fair enough). The only downside of this can be that, if you don’t buy a spare, you discover you’ve run out of gas to cook with by…running out of gas while cooking.
- We’ve had to hang mosquito nets over the bed. The Seychellois tell us they’re not really bothered by the mosquitoes after so long here, but we’re fresh meat and being taken full advantage of. There’s thankfully no malaria here but there is dengue fever. It’s still rare and not often fatal but there’s no real treatment so you have the unenviable medical options of ‘sit it out for a week’ or ‘sit it out for maybe longer than a week’.
- We have burglar bars on the windows. Crime against the person is very rare in the Seychelles and we feel very safe here, but the previously mentioned heroine situation does, apparently, lead to an issue with petty theft. This provokes the reaction of burglar bars. I’m not sure anyone aspires to live somewhere where bars on the windows are a social norm as, rightly or wrongly, it implies necessity and therefore insecurity. There is a stigma attached to it, too, I feel, but they’re quite discreet and, in many ways, reassuring as we’re needing to keep all of the windows open all the time and it’s nice to be able to forget about having to close up every single one all of the time.
I recognise that some of these differences aren’t that complimentary. To counter that: today I walked out of the back door, reached over and took a coconut off the tree (a coco rouge: the orange type), cracked it open and drank a whole bowl of the water it contained with the little one alongside me joyfully yelling “crack” while trying to mimic the local teens seen opening them for a drink the other day. Not a memory I’d have made ‘back home’.
There are fewer coconuts outside our house now. My wife had an encounter with a complete stranger who suddenly appeared holding a beer, a giant stick and a machete then proceeded to yell at her. In other circumstances, this might have been the start of a concerning crime report but, as it transpired, he was yelling that he was “just taking what God gave us”. This kind gentleman took some of the coconuts off the trees out the back, cut a few open to give to H and J and left after a brief chat, like some kind of off-season drunk tropical Santa.
Continuing the thread of beautiful memories being made here, our nearest beach is the lengthy Beau Vallon Beach, just 5 minutes’ walk from our house. With some time on our hands, we took a sweltering walk down there, had a swim and sat out on the beach (in the shade, obviously). It dawned on us that, in our haste to get to the cool-ish waters, we’d forgotten to bring a snack so I wandered down the beach, found a nice man with a machete (there seems to be a theme developing here, I might have to get one), bought some lovely papaya and passion fruit and wandered back. In my three decades (and a bit) on this planet I don’t think I’ve ever had a fresh passion fruit. As it turned out, I barely got a look in on this one: J horsed into it! By the time we got back to the house, we had 2 social callers back to back (one a very kind neighbour who happens to also be a colleague). Everyone we’ve encountered has been so helpful, friendly and welcoming and, after 9 months in strict Irish isolation, socialising is showing itself as a skill I think we need to relearn. It is, however, this kind of small-island communal joviality that serves to remind us why we took on this move and why island life can be so bonding.