Wishing you a very belated Happy New Year! I hope the first few weeks of 2011 have been full of happiness and productivity…. are you sticking to those resolutions?! Any secret midnight scoffing of sweets to confess?! I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front recently as I’m only just back from a family holiday in Mauritius over Christmas and the New Year. After three weeks of swimming, eating, drinking the local beer, lounging like a beached whale and blissful idleness, I’m raring to get back to my busy routine. Though the jet lag is certainly proving a challenge to my attempts. I was up, bright as a button this morning at 4.55am, my tummy grumbling for breakfast. Humble porridge and bog-standard tea have officially replaced the amazing range of local tropical fruits and juices. And trying to speak in comprehensible sentences has been interesting – yesterday, whilst hosting a fashion show in Wexford, I told 250 people as the model strutted down the catwalk, that “this flatters many shapes dress”, and trying once more with “dress shapes many figures flatters” before having to admit defeat and move on. I think they knew what I meant!
As many of you will know, the island of Mauritius has been talked about extensively in the media this week in relation to the unbearably tragic murder of the young newlywed Michaela McAreavey, the innocent victim of an attempted burglary gone horribly wrong. She was found by her husband John in their hotel room at the Legends Hotel, only a forty minute drive from where we were staying at Le Saint Geran Hotel on the North-East coast. My thoughts and prayers go out to both their families and friends today as Michaela is buried in a beautiful final goodbye. There’s not much more I can say that hasn’t already been expressed in the heartfelt outpouring of grief and sympathy from the Irish public, as this unbelievable story deeply saddened and shocked the nation. But I would like to say a few words about Mauritius and the atmosphere there as the news broke at the beginning of last week.
We’ve been going to Mauritius on our annual family holiday every year since 1995 and have spent well over a year in the combined time on the island, getting to know the people, its culture and way of life. We’ve all developed a strong emotional attachment with Mauritius as we’ve spent some of the happiest times of our lives as a family there. In fact, what has drawn us back there every year, along with the stunning natural beauty of course, is the people of Mauritius. Within their colourful, diverse culture, people from Hindu, Creole, Chinese, Muslim and European backgrounds peacefully co-exist. They’re warm and endearing, always willing to help. Crime exists in every country, but the rate in Mauritius is particularly low; we’ve always felt completely safe there with no bad experiences, and I still maintain that it’s one of the safest tourist spots in the world, particularly if you compare it to other popular destinations such as South Africa or the Caribbean. I spoke in length to the manager of our hotel who confirmed that this was the first time ever that a tourist had been murdered in a hotel in Mauritius. It’s hard to describe the sense of absolute shock which enveloped the island when the news broke across local papers and through word of mouth. Knowing that we’re from Ireland, many of the staff at our hotel expressed how desperately sorry they were to the people of Ireland for such a tragedy in their country. The locals were absolutely furious that these men had committed such a crime on their peaceful island, not to mention the adverse affect that it would have on potential holidaymakers. The entire atmosphere changed there throughout last week, with a marked feeling of dismay and anger. I had never met John McAreavy but wished I had as we felt utterly useless being so close to where he was but unable to help out or show support. It just didn’t seem appropriate to interfere. I have very much felt a strange dichotomy of loyalties over the past week, both trying to show a solidarity in grief with Ireland and a loyalty to Mauritius, the island I love so much. The majority of hard-working, honest and kind people there are weathering the dire consequences of the evil actions of a few men. Along with textiles and sugar, tourism is a major industry and it saddens me to think that its good reputation may be destroyed by media and public hysteria, especially knowing firsthand how deeply saddened and affected Mauritius is by Michaela’s death.
Like many of you, she has consumed my thoughts daily as national newspapers print pictures of the beautiful 27 year-old. I admittedly have been a blubbering mess on a number of occasions and cannot even begin to imagine the heartache that her loving family is going through. My heart absolutely goes out to them. But none of this will ever bring back their wife, daughter, sister and friend. I guess the point of what I’m trying to say is, before you condemn Mauritius and its people, to remember that they’re suffering as much as the people here in Ireland are. I’ve been able to soak up both sides of the situation, in both hemispheres….
Right! Thanks if you managed to read my ramblings up until now, but its a poignant subject I felt I needed to speak about.
I’ll be back soon with lighter and happier topics!
Lots of love,