“Europe is simultaneously near and far away”
Elias Aguigah arrived safely in Saint-Denis – after an eventful journey.
Sep 28, 2019
Saying that my semester abroad in La Réunion got off to a bumpy start would be an understatement. I should have double checked my ticket. Instead, I drove to the wrong airport in Berlin – which meant when I got to the correct airport it was too late to check my luggage. Fortunately, I just made the flight. My main luggage had to be shipped by regular mail. It is supposed to arrive in two weeks. In the meantime, I made my way toward the southernmost region of Europe.
Not only was I without luggage at first, but getting started at the university was quite chaotic. This was compounded by the general sense of insecurity that most people feel in a completely new location. With its dirty, once white houses, Saint-Denis looks like a typical, slightly rundown southern European city.
Thanks to flights, ships, imports, and exports, the geographical distance from Europe theoretically no longer plays a major role today, but it is noticeable in many small things. The prices in supermarkets reflect that much has to be imported – except for the food items that are exported to continental Europe. So, here I can buy an avocado relatively cheaply and without a guilty conscience. And it tastes better than the one on the plate of some Berlin influencer. Serve this avocado on a classical French baguette – and voilà: La Réunion! France on a tropical island.
Europe is simultaneously near and far away here, and that is confusing. Despite knowing better, I have certain images of here and there, Europe and elsewhere, in my mind: Europe is the mainland, Europe is white, Europe is freedom of movement, Europe is luxury. Some of these things are applicable in Saint-Denis, others are not. I was prepared to gain a new perspective on Europe, but at first I was overwhelmed by the simultaneity of “inside” and “outside.”
That’s it for today on my chaotic first impressions of the island. There is still so much for me to discover – people, nature, university, sports, and, and, and…