January 12, 2015
Our tutor Louisa Gamon recently traveled to Mauritius on a short-term Flying Tutor placement, preparing a young girl for 11+ school entrance exams.
When Carfax mentioned a job in Mauritius, the offer of two weeks tutoring on an idyllic island, an image naturally sprung to mind of paradisal white beaches, tall palms and glittering sea. And that’s exactly what it was.
As ever, I was fortunate to be with a very welcoming family. We stayed in a hotel on the Le Morne Brabant peninsula, beneath the mystical presence of a rugged monolith, the peak of which loomed visibly behind us, casting ever-changing shadows as the light moved across it. My room overlooked a quiet part of the beach, with a shallow lagoon before it – unsurprisingly similar to that previously imagined image. Since we arrived at night, it was wonderful to wake on my first morning to the sound of birds, and to step out onto my balcony to be greeted with that view of the water.
Our focus there was the forthcoming 11+ exams and I worked hard to prepare my student in English and Maths, VR and NVR, whenever she wasn’t off snorkelling or collecting shells. The family had a villa in the vicinity of the hotel, right on the beach, and we conducted our lessons outside, at a table with a view of the sea. Occasionally we were interrupted by Bulbul birds or a gecko climbing up a chair; it was all vivid greens, colourful flora and turquoise water. Whenever I felt my student was becoming distracted, or simply if the energy began to wane, we took a break and stepped down onto the sand and put our feet in the water for a while. Then we returned, afresh, to work.
Though I had much time to myself, to spend as anyone else might spend a holiday – reading, swimming, eating, lazying about – I celebrated both Christmas and New Year with the family. I was touched by their hospitality and generosity; dinners were large and late, with endless toasts to good health, and we were treated to performances by local dancers and even a lecture on astronomy one evening. Afterwards we were taken down to the beach, to where a telescope had been positioned, so that we could take turns looking at Jupiter, a rare occasion on which the shadows of two of its moons could be seen. What I enjoyed most, however (which is what I enjoy most about any residential placement), was the chance to bond more fully with my student. Chatting to her at dinner or watching fireworks from a party on the beach, strengthened our daily lesson time rapport. I was able to know her better and to grow to understand her, and with that understanding I saw her confidence blossom, beyond her academics.
Apparently Mark Twain said, ‘…you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.’ I checked the quote and it’s slightly out of context – he was actually referring to the words of a local. I’ll take it though. It certainly was a heavenly place to teach.