What Next?


Contemplation

I just turned 30, completed the first year of my part time Masters, have a “good” job, am happily married and … just can’t make up my mind on what to do next. And this inability to make up my mind, while my biological clock is ticking, just drives me nuts.

Any sane person would think I’m plain crazy, and maybe I am. Or maybe this is just the product of a life driven by goals after goals. When the goal is not clear anymore, nothing makes sense. School was for good grades to get into a good university, university was to get a good job, and now what is a good job for? “To be comfortable and content for the rest of my life” would be a sensible answer. I guess… Maybe it is “the rest of my life” part that is particularly scary. And the funny thing is, for once, the source of the pressure is not from family or society, but from myself. An unconscious pressure coming from deep down to do… something more with my life…

Having a stable job is a trap in itself. You work hard to achieve it and when you do, it traps you into thinking you cannot survive without the comforts that salary provides you. Will I be able to afford going for my spa days or spending on average Rs500 each time I step into Intermart (which is almost everyday) or indulging in my yearly overseas trips without that salary? Probably not. But it’s not like these are life necessities. Being financially independent is nice, sure. But the price to pay is corporate slavery. One of my colleagues retired this week after 21 years at the company. I looked at her with envy. To retire early is such a sweet, sweet dream. But to do what?

I think I should have a taken a full gap year to devote to discovering myself. To travel. To think and dream and take my time. Of course, I could not afford that, I did not have the money to travel. Or the patience to sit still for a minute. Well, that was then and this is now. I am 30.

And the options are as follows:

  1. have babies (still have to work to feed them),
  2. write a book (if it sells, quit my job),
  3. attempt CFA (least favourite option),
  4. go abroad for further studies (and more importantly a last free ramble in a new country) (if i win the lottery),
  5. find a genius new business idea (if it works, quit my job),
  6. devote my life to charity (still have to work to feed myself),
  7. try to improve my cooking and housekeeping skills (yawn),
  8. travel the world (if i win the lottery).

I sincerely do not know how our parents did it. They say it’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion comes together. The other day I watched a documentary on Daft Punk, how two ordinary guys transformed music from nothing. I want that kind of passion. I doubt whether that’s possible in a finance job. Fulfillment will not come from a 9 to 5 job, that’s as plain as day.

And I hate to settle, so I will keep looking.

Farewell my Beloved Port Louis

My last week in Port Louis has finally arrived. I have had absolutely no time to prepare myself for this, but they say this is the way change should occur, without too much time to dwell on it.

I have been commuting to Port Louis every week day for almost five years. I must admit, I loved it more than I hated it. Forty minutes of extended sleep / chill-out time in an air-conditioned (most of the time, if you are lucky) bus listening to your favourite tunes, watching as the ocean gradually appears on the horizon while you effortlessly glide from Plaines Wilhems (higher planes) to the capital (coastal and harbour city) on the motorway, our morning view on this delicious commute. The great thing is, if you know you are running late because of traffic, you don’t need to worry because 75% of the Port Louis workforce (most probably including your manager), will surely be late as well. So, you lie back and enjoy another few minutes of precious tranquility before entering the bustling city.

Now Port Louis is something else. You love it or you hate it. I love it. It’s the place in Mauritius where everything happens. The skyline (if you can call it a skyline) is made up of the jewels of corporate Mauritius: Mauritius Commercial Bank, Rogers, State Bank of Mauritius, Air Mauritius (even if the company has recently sold Paille en Queue Court), Mauritius Telecom… Then you have old colonial buildings that make up the Supreme Court and some other important government buildings. Most of the city was built during the French / English Rule and many old paved streets were meant for horse carriages. These streets have not changed much since and nowadays swearing motorists, busy professionals, and valiant women in heels brave the uneven paved stones to grab a quick lunch, pay some due bills, buy some confi (pickled fruit), or incidentally, get their shoes fixed at the corner Cordonerie (shoe repair shop).

One of the things that I will always love about Port Louis is the wide choice of lunch time food. You can get everything, and I mean it absolutely everything, and during my five years working in Port Louis, I have labouriously endeavoured to try it all! Briani – there are several kinds and I have tasted the two most famous ones – Calife of course, and my personal favourite – Nafi. Boulettes – too many to chose from, but I love Jim’s Boulettes, Singer, Medine Mews and Lynn’s. Chinese food – the list is endless but I recommend Aline and First (also great for Dim Sum). Great places for salads, paninis and baguettes: Entre Deux, Life, 27, Caviar, Cafe L’Exquis, Gourmandises D’Anne and Cafe du Vieux Conseil. And the Hare Krsna place in Fon Sing building is great for vegetarian food and all kinds of cakes. I also loved trekking to Bazar Port Louis for a quick alouda or to buy fruit. All in all, lunch time is never ever dull in Port Louis.

When you work in the same building for almost 5 years and you see the same people everyday, you tend to get attached to them. The parking guy who rushes to help me park when I drive in every morning, because he knows I’m a hopeless case. The security guy at the ground floor reception who never misses to respond to even my grumpiest good mornings. The tea ladies and messengers with contagious good moods and who share great philosophies on life. Your 300 or so colleagues with whom you gradually get acquainted to while waiting (or complaning about) the lifts. Helpful colleagues who end up becoming such a big part of your life. The jokes you share that make you laugh your head off, commiserating or celebrating together. Welcoming new faces, saying goodbyes… And now, after five years (violins please), the time has come for me to say goodbye…

I know it’s no big deal, to change jobs. Some people do it every year, some every six months. But I get attached to things and people, and even if I am looking forward to my new adventure in Ebene (which will save me at least one hour of commute time daily = more sleep 😀 ), I will miss my old job and colleagues, my old routine, and my beloved Port Louis.

So this week, I will make sure to enjoy every single minute of what I will soon leave behind, especially the breathtaking view at my workstation…

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A Child’s Wonderful World

Remember when you were a child and how easily things amazed you?

The hues of blue in between the leafy branches of the tree in your backyard which reminded you of the seaside. Wobbly jelly castles that you could hold in the palm of your hand. The comfortable scent of your grandma’s sari, especially when you buried your face in it to cry. Crying your heart out just to make yourself heard. Making flowers with spiro graphs. A magic slate that erased everything when you shook it.

Colouring pencils. Asking yourself what the hell the white pencil was for. Water colour and water colour palettes! Pouring water into miniature whisky bottles to be used with a sponge to erase your slate when you were at school. New slates and asking your uncle to help you draw permanent lines with a nail and a ruler so you could learn to write on a straight line. Lunch boxes. Colourful juice bottles. The teacher explaining division by using apples, or multiples by using match stick bunches. Getting a star on your maths test. The nice flowery hand writing of your school teacher. Being able to buy three confi (mango) slices with one rupee.

Queuing up to have a go at the slides, swinging away and imagining you could fly, feeling your head spinning and spinning on the merry go round, happily forming part of the screaming, running children in the school playground. Falling down and grazing your knee and being taken to the nurse.

Walking to the municipal library and spending hours looking for just the right selection of books with just the right mixture of catchy and intriguing covers and watching the stern looking librarian date stamp the first page of each.  And when you really really loved a book, tearing away the tiniest portion of a back page so you could keep a piece of it with you forever. In that tin biscuit box where you kept those shiny marbles and other secret stuff which you’d like to keep forever.

Cousins, when we were best friends. Cartoons that made you travel to mysterious places. Characters with whom you still relate to at 27. Beautiful places that you dream about at night. Worlds and scenarios which you invented to amuse yourself. And that treasure hunt in your garden, with a map just like the one in Treasure Island. Stealing bilimbis that have been carefully laid out in the sun for pickling, eating too green mangos or litchis and falling sick afterwards. Being threatened by rotin bazar (some kind of bendy stick) when you were naughty.

Long December holidays, when your cartoons started early and you rushed to the corner La Boutik Sinoi ( Corner shop held by a Chinese) to buy a list of your favourite snacks to savour during the shows. Never failing to marvel at the wonders beneath the glass panes of the table in La Boutik: all colours of Gato La Gom (some sort of marshmallow), Losti, Gato Piaw, shiny Zanimo or shell shaped chocolates, bonbon lapin, Gato Dile, the list goes on and on. And the cartoons at the time were not the mindless trash aired nowadays, they were really thrilling, mostly japanese style animes translated in French, with well crafted plots and real values: Les Mondes Engloutis (this one I only vaguely remember), Ulysses 31 (the Odysseus, but set in the Universe), Les Mysterieuses Cites D’Or (A spanish boy called Esteban looking for Eldorado), Taotao Le Panda (A cute panda and his friends in the forest), Nils Holgerson (A boy cursed into a minaiture tomte who flies on the back of a flock of of wild geese), Les Moomins, Au Pays de Candy, Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer (this is how we knew and loved the classics), and my personal favourite, Anne et la Maison Aux Pignons Verts (Anne of Green Gables). Man, we learnt so much from these great stories.

Try as you may, not being able to write a perfect letter “e”, having to practise over and over again so your handwriting got prettier and prettier. Believing everything you read was possible, hating school. Having your teacher tell your parents how talkative you were at school, or how timid, depending on their mood. Standing in line to go back into class after the afternoon breaks, getting free cheese and disgusting tasting milk which the teacher distributed from a ladle which he plunged into a big steel milk container. Potato and sack racing sports day. Learning all about the Dutch, French and English colonising the island during EVS (Environmental Studies).

Being somehow given a money box for every birthday so you could learn the value of money, and spending all of it on Panini and Sailor Moon stickers. Collecting all kinds of shiny barettes of all sizes and shapes and colours, and also all kinds of pencil cases, fancy erasers and pencil sharpeners. Piggy tails, pony tails, french braids, anybody remember the very popular laker brinzel? (which literally means eggplant braids, which are piggy tails pulled up a bit like Princess Lea style, but with braids, uh does this make sense?)

And most of all, being in such a hurry to grow up and become an adult so you can stop going to school, earn money and no longer have to listen to your parents…