Mauritius

International Women's Day

We shouldn’t need an International Women’s day.

We shouldn’t need to set a reminder, telling us that March 8th each year is the day when we recognise the achievement of women. We should be recognising those achievements and contributions every day of the year. And yet, we don’t.

Why is that?

We can’t blame ignorance. We can’t say we didn’t know how much women have achieved, because we do.

We can’t blame the media. We can’t claim they aren’t doing enough to highlight the role of women in the modern world. That shouldn’t need to be highlighted.

And we can’t blame society, because every society simply reflects the values and opinions of its members.

The reality is that we don’t adequately value the achievements of women because we simply choose not to. That isn’t to say tremendous improvements haven’t been made. Women have access to more opportunities today than ever before. And yet we still need to do so much more. The glass ceiling is still as much an issue today as it ever has been.

And so, on International Women’s day 2018, we once agin take the briefest of moments to consider the achievements of women all over the world. But, in doing so, let us recognise the real women in our society. Not the celebrities, whose fame is glorified every day. Instead, let us consider the actions of the everyday women, who do so much to contribute to our communities.

Women like Soobawti who, at 70 years of age, is still working from sunrise to sunset, to provide for her family.  When I first met her, she was carrying an seemingly impossible load of grass on her head, which she told me she had cut that morning for the family goats. She doesn’t do this for the recognition or the rewards.

And yet, it is exactly women like Soobawti who we should be rewarding, who we should be recognising, until the day finally comes when we no longer need a special day to do just that.

The Spirit of Determination

Guillaume Thierry is one of the most determined people I have ever met.

The first time I saw him was on television, as I watched him represent Mauritius at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He was competing in the decathlon, and I can vividly remember cheering him on for the pole vault event.

It was only some time later, after I met him in person, that I found out what a challenge that pole vault event had really been. “That wasn’t my pole,” he explained. “Somehow my pole was sent to a different stadium, so I had to borrow a pole at the last minute.”

As can be imagined, in an event as technical as the pole vault, simply picking up another pole and using it to project yourself five metres above the ground is not the easiest thing to do. But that is the mark of Guillaume’s determination. When faced with a challenge, he just got on with it.

I have found this determination running throughout Mauritius. When faced with a challenge, people will simply get on with it. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail – but, regardless of the result, their determination remains as focused as it ever was.

Smile

Despite being widowed for over 10 years, Beeponee wanted me to know she wasn’t lonely. Her son lives close by and she has other children and grand children. In this respect, she says has more than many.

Still, life isn't easy. After a lifetime of working, she still has to work to support herself, growing vegetables in her small garden to sell by the side of the street.

But the thing which struck me most, as I listened to her story, was her amazing smile.

I saw it from all the way down the street. It was a smile of pure defiance, a smile that declared to the world, no matter what, this is a woman who intends to live a full life. It is a smile I will never forget.

PEM

I am so inspired by artists, especially those who have carved out their own, unique style. PEM is just such an artist, and carving his style is literally what he has been doing for decades.

One of the most renowned sculptures in Mauritius, his distinctive carved wooden statues have an almost mystical quality about them. I was intrigued where he found the wood for his beautiful statues.

“I don’t find the wood”, he informed me thoughtfully, “the wood finds me.”

Such an artist is truly special.

Patrick

Patrick knows the ocean.

When I met him, walking the beach of Gris Gris, on the southernmost tip of Mauritius. He was looking out to sea, with the steely-eyes of someone who understands the power of the ocean waves. His windswept hair and weather-beaten skin testament to a life spent outdoors.

"A gale is coming" he told me, as I took this photograph, "sometimes the ocean tells us to stay away."

And with that he was gone, leaving the ocean as he found it. The wind and the waves had decided there would be no fishing that day.

Far too many of us underestimate the power of the ocean. We take it for granted that human's have the power over the world around us. But Patrick, along with other fishermen all over the world, know the truth. Nature is the true master of our oceans, and sometimes we are nothing more than unwelcome guests.

Unspoken

The fishermen work, their words unspoken.
Each one knows their role, each one knows the role of the other.
They work in harmony, practiced, like a well oiled machine.

There is no engine on their boat, no power beyond the wind in their sail.
Their knowledge of the ocean is their power. Navigating the waves to seek their reward.
They work in silence, and yet everything is understood.

Pride

With the wind in her hair, she looks out over the ocean which surrounds her island.

Her eyes are old, but they are still bright. They have seen so many changes over the years; some good, some bad. Her body is weaker than as it once was, but her smile is as strong as it has ever been. She doesn't fear the future, her spirit for life keeps her seeking out each new dawn.

Because she is a woman of Mauritius, and when she stands, she stands tall with pride.

Calm

There is a certain sense of calm which follows a storm. More than just the relief the worst has past, it feels like a time to rebuild, to renew, and make good again. But where do we start, when all around us the winds have brought nothing but chaos and destruction?

Perhaps we could begin by opening our eyes. What we will see depends on how we chose to look.

If we see only disorder and disruption, we will surely miss the opportunity which comes with it. We need to look harder, and see the wider picture. If we do, we can find order, and even beauty, in the debris left behind.

The world around us is a beautiful place, where even a lonely branch, blown from the trees and swept up onto a deserted beach, can become a work of art.

This is the art of the natural world, something we take for granted far too often, as we go about our busy lives.

From time to time we need a shock to the system, nature needs to remind us that our planet is simply a blank canvas. We can fill it with beauty or  we can fill it with decay. The choice is ours.

The Storm

A great storm is coming. Maybe not today. maybe now tomorrow, but it is surely coming, if we do not change our ways.

I am always amazed at Mother Nature’s ability to put us in our place whenever she feels we need. No matter how much we congratulate ourselves on how advanced we are as a species, how much we delude ourselves into thinking we have conquered the physical world, nature has the ability to bring us right down to earth, to remind who is really in charge of this planet.

And we really do need bringing back to earth.

In our constant rush towards (so-called) advancement, we seem to have completely forgotten that our actions do not stand in isolation. Everything we do has a direct impact on the world around us.

Every time we use a plastic straw, when we could just as easily manage without, we have an impact on our planet. Every time we drill yet another hole in the ground in search of more and more fossil fuels, we have an impact on our planet. Every time we destroy another forest to make room for more and more roads, we have an impact on our planet.

We have had more impact our planet over the past 150 years than we have in the tens of thousands of years before, and if we are not careful we run the very really risk of impacting so greatly on the planet, it may never recover.

But it is not to late for us to change.

It isn’t too late for us to pause, to take a deep breath, and simply decide to follow a different path. Instead of destroying, we could build. Instead of cutting down trees, we could plant them. Instead of plastic, we could use sustainable materials which won’t poison our planet. We could achieve any of these things, if only only choose to do so.

Stepping Out

It is easy to stay in the comfort zone of our lives, but sometimes real reward is best achieved by stepping out into the unknown.

Consider this fisherman. Unlike all the other fishermen, who were grouped on the rocks which line the shore, he was standing alone, way out to sea when I first noticed him. The tide was low and so the water within the lagoon was only around waist hight, but still I wondered what he was doing so far from the shore.

Walking out to join him, the depth of the water varied from place to place. Sometimes it was shallow and then suddenly deep. It was hard to tell where to step, the water obscuring the path ahead. Finally reaching him, I asked him why he choose to come so far from the comfort of the beach.

"Because the fish are here" he answered.

Such a simple truth, and yet still requiring the question to be asked in order to be understood.

In life it is too easy to just remain in our comfort zone, hoping the rewards we seek will simply come to us. But as this fisherman teaches us, sometimes we need to step out into the unknown to seek those rewards out for ourselves.