Jun 28, 2011

Your guide to the Mutual Aid Mauritius

When it comes to Mauritius and finances, one of the organizations to absolutely know about is the Mutual Aid Association Ltd. The Mutual Aid is a civil service that was set up in 1983 to provide loan facilities to those who need money for various purposes. It has rapidly grown in popularity thanks to its great rates when it comes to loans (which is not that surprising when one considers that all the banks in Mauritius exist purely to make money off your unsuspecting soul).

The Mutual Aid Association is also great when it comes to pension schemes since all the insurance companies in Mauritius exist solely to coerce you into signing contracts that basically turn you into their slaves. In fact, a lot of people have also taken to signing up for the Mutual Aid Retirement Saving Funds and it has probably become their most popular service (this is just an assumption; I'm not sure if there are any official figures).

This is understandable when you take into account its figures. According to the Mutual Aid's Table of Benefits, you will obtain around Rs 1.2 million if you contribute Rs 1,000 per month over a period of 30 years. This means that you will contribute Rs 360,000 for a lump sum of Rs 1.2 million. Even after taking inflation and the fact that you will be paying for the government's inability to lead the country into consideration, this is a pretty neat return and an extremely attractive package.

Contributions can also be increased and decreased at any time without the hassle you would have to do through with a Mauritius insurance company. This is very helpful for those people whose financial situation will change like a rollercoaster over the course of these years, i.e. basically everybody who does not personally know someone in politics. Moreover, considering that it's a civil organization, it's probably going to be there after those 30 years.

Mutual Aid in Mauritius
"Damn insurance bled me to death."

There also have various other services which you can check out on the official Mutual Aid website. The only problem is that the website is seriously ugly and seems to have been put up quickly by a 10 year old (and not even a genius). It nevertheless has all the information you need, and you can also download application forms from the website. This is good news as contacting them by phone is often a pain since this is a civil organization and nobody's ever at their goddamn seat.

Jun 19, 2011

The meteo in Mauritius is a hassle

Note: this is a follow-up to my recent The meteo in Mauritius post. Read it!

The weather conditions in Mauritius remain a hot topic, which is always a trend at this time of the year and should be for the next 500 years. And by 500 years, I obviously mean forever.

The good news is that it actually rained this past week. As usual, the Mauritian population was however told that the situation is still a hassle and that Mauritians should be extremely careful with their water consumption. Note that this applies only to normal people and is not effective with hotels, hostels, friends of politicians, and crooks. Whoever can point out the difference between the latter two wins a cookie, but you'll need to buy it yourself.

The fact that water is such a big issue has of course resulted in tons of debates on the topic with everybody chipping in with his own advice. The Central Water Authority is as usual inept at dealing with the situation. As an example, no less than 267% of the rain that fell during the week was instantly lost. I just made that number up, but you get the idea.

At this rate, the only thing that could help Mauritius out is a freaking flood, but I'm figuring even that would be useless given the professionalism of the Central Water Authority wastemen. Cyclones moreover seem to have completely forgotten about Mauritius, which is bad news for those who welcome the holidays they entail (99% of the Mauritian population).

If you want to keep updated on the meteo in Mauritius, the Meteo Maurice blog is a great place to check out. They are regularly updated with news about the weather in Mauritius and other more general topics that still relate to the Mauritian climate.

See the button below? Use it!

Jun 16, 2011

The death and revival of football in Mauritius

Just kidding folks, Mauritian football is actually pretty much dead. And by dead, I mean it has had its soul ripped out and put away in a very secure location that pretty much everybody involved then forgot about. Subsequent efforts to find it, which involved incredible feats such as sitting down and doing absolutely nothing or even standing and still doing absolutely nothing, ultimately failed. The death of football in Mauritius eventually joined the famed ranks of #deathoffootball on Twitter alongside Manchester City and Carlton Cole's career.

Mauritius football is dead

Deal with it

However, the great news is that I can use this wasteful post to list the best places you should check out for insightful football coverage. You can use these to catch up on great football articles by both professional writers and those who do it for a hobby. If you want quick news and updates, you can check out the usual suspects such as BBC Sports, Skysports, and Mirror Football (my personal favorite).

Phil McNulty
Phil McNulty is BBC Sport's chief football writer. He does not post daily, but his articles are always excellent and the guy has quite a following among football fans. He exclusively covers English football (mainly the Premier League most of the time) and seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Liverpool. In fact, it has been shown Liverpool's shocking form in the 2009/2010 season was a direct result of McNulty tipping them to the title. Good times!

Website: BBC Sport Phil McNulty

Jonathan Stevenson
Jonathan Stevenson is another BBC Sports writer who's extremely popular for his BBC Live commentaries where he's mainly known as Stevo. He's probably the best live text commentator you could find as long as you pay no attention to his predictions. He does not write as often as McNulty (understandable due to his livetext duties), but writes on more topics, including European football.

Website: BBC Jonathan Stevenson

Henry Winter
Henry Winter works for The Telegraph and is considered one of the best football writers around.

Martin Samuel
Martin Samuel is best known for his witty articles that have been acclaimed by both sports fans and non-sports fans. It is worth noting that he does not exclusively write about football. If you have any interest in journalism, he's one of the few guys you should absolutely check out as his command of the English language and his ability to draw readers in are out of this world.

Website: Martin Samuel

Zonal Marking
Zonal Marking is the only non-professional of the list but don't let that fool you; the guy is revered in the footballing communities for his excellent analysis of matches. He focuses on tactical analysis but will occasionally churn out other articles such as his recent European Team of the Season 2010/2011. As you can see from the latter, he seems to have a hard-on for a few players (Actor of the Season 2010/2011 winner Dani Alves and van der Sar spring to mind), but is still well worth following if you dream about tactics or are obsessed with the Football Manager games.

Website: Zonal Marking

Don't forget to point this article out to your football fanatic friends. They'll be sure to love you for it!

Jun 9, 2011

Fast food in Mauritius

Note: this is a follow-up to my Mauritius recipes post. While reading the first article is not necessary to read this new one, you are highly encouraged to do so. Everybody's doing it, and you'll feel left out if you don't.

Fast food in Mauritius comes in many forms, but I'm going to stick for super fast food in our case. This includes the usual suspects Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, and pizza shops such as Pizza Hut, except I'm not going to cover pizza shops because there are too many of them. I am aware that other snacks that sell noodles, fried rices, and any other food that's prepared in around 10 minutes (or 30 minutes at peak hours) are also technically fast food, but that's something I'll leave for another post, if ever I'm inspired again on the subject.

When it comes to quick fast food, the two major brands are available in Mauritius:
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
  • McDonalds (...McDonalds - I was going to stick to Donalds as a shorter term, but I don't want to be issued by Walt Disney, as I hear they are really anal about trademarks)
KFC has been around for very long. In fact, at one point, they used to be the only fast food Mauritians knew about, which is not hard to do when you're the only outlet available. The food was good too. I still remember plunging into those buckets and dreaming about KFC every time I knew I would be able to feast on their burgers and wings (they had a very limited selection at the time).

Then, somebody at the KFC head office must have gone "Screw this! They'll buy our food even if it's crap!". And KFC went ahead and turned crap. Like, really, really crap.

McDonalds, on the other hand, is fairly new, and there are so far only two shops available. The original one is in Port Louis, and is very ideally located near the Caudan Waterfront underground passageway. The second one only recently opened in Phoenix amidst huge controversy, which everybody has now stopped giving a damn about (a common Mauritian trend).

The thing about fast food in Mauritius is that it is the complete opposite of what you would find in Europe and the US.

This means that:
  1. KFC is crap.
  2. McDonalds is great.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

Kentucky Fried Chicken
He smiles like a rapist.

The annoying thing with the KFC shops in Mauritius is that some of the food is really disgusting. The side items like the chicken strippers and wings are fine, but the burgers and fries are seriously horrible. In spite of this, the shops are always packed with people, but I personally know many who would fall sick after just one bite of a KFC burger and consequently stopped eating KFC altogether. For the record, I'm part of the latter category.

A Mauritius KFC burger
I only look tasty.

The other issue with KFC is that, in addition to the natural disgusting taste of their core menu, their food often gets undercooked or stale as soon as they get busy (which generally occurs from 11.30 in the morning to one hour before they close).


Fast food in Mauritius
Fries or no fries.

Funnily enough, the McDonalds in Mauritius have great food, which is the complete opposite of what you'd find in, for example, England. Their fries actually taste like fries, and the food advertised and the food you can buy are actually the same. Their shops are always incredibly busy like the KFCs though, so watch out for queues.

The one issue I have with the McDonalds in Mauritius is that they often mess up on orders. Unless you don't mind being literally screwed, you should always check your food before your leave the shop as they often forget to include items you paid for and will often act like it's your fault if you complain about it later. This is yet another reason why you should always hold on to your receipt and learn to love it.

As usual, don't forget to use the SHARE button below to link this article on Twitter and Facebook. It's been proven that doing so makes you really cool.

Jun 6, 2011

Your Mauritius guide to Mauritian recipes

One of the things tourists most look forward to when traveling to Mauritius is of course to taste the infamous Mauritian recipes, which are said to be extremely delicious and unique. With so many different cultures available in Mauritius, it is obvious that this is also visible in the styles of recipes available and tourists won't be disappointed (unless they really enjoy being nitpicky). With unique Mauritius recipes that include Indian food such as the chicken tikka masala, Chinese recipes such as roast duck, to name only a couple, there's a wide variety of styles available and something for every possible taste.

Given that the Mauritian population is composed from people from various other countries, it makes sense that the recipes are not entirely original. Many extremely popular dishes are lifted straight away from other countries, but do have some variations thrown in. They are thus not entirely the same as the original recipes, but someone who's already tasted a biryani in India will probably want to pass up on the Mauritian biryani and instead opt for something else. There are however a couple of dishes that can pass off as entirely Mauritian, but even these will most of the time be inspired from other dishes. In fact, the only Mauritian recipe that can claim to be entirely original is the one that consists of getting completely hammered as from 6pm on weekends and then acting like a complete lunatic.

These Mauritius recipes (the real ones, not the drinking one), while inherent to a particular culture, are extremely popular with the whole Mauritian population. It is indeed not rare to see a Chinese restaurant full of Mauritians from various backgrounds. This is not very surprising too considering that Chinese food is generally considered among the best in the island, let alone the whole world. The only thing that actually matters is of course the quality of the food, and this can be easily known by the number of people queuing for a seat (or in the case of fast food, by the number of people queuing up at the till).

When it comes to super fast food, there are of course the usual suspects that are readily available on the street such as the infamous dholl puris or faratas. In these cases, beware of the popularity concept. In many cases, a longer food can unfortunately often translate to crappier food. Besides, after ingesting food that has been slowly but inevitably consuming the delicious exhaust fumes of vehicles since the early hours of the morning, it should be even more surprising if successfully eating this does not make you end up in the crapper. Another thing to watch out for is your cholesterol level; with so much fat available in these, it's no wonder half the Mauritius population can't even be bothered to take the lift from the ground floor to the second floor (true story).

As anybody of sound mind would expect, all the hotels in Mauritius make a big deal about their "unique ability to provide Mauritian cuisine". Considering the fact that they are in Mauritius, this should not be such a surprise. I don't think someone flying over to Mauritius from Italy will be intent on confirming whether Mauritians can actually cook thin and crispy pizza. Which is moreover ironic given that the head chefs in Mauritius cannot actually be Mauritian. It can pretty much be said that all these Mauritius hotels have pretty much similar Mauritian recipes since food can usually be separated into mainly three categories, namely crap food, good food, and great food.

Hint: stick to the last category.

In fact, it should be said that the majority of Mauritius hotels do have great food. There are definitely slight differences, but it's not like you will notice anyway. Unless you've been sent to report on Mauritian recipes so you can go back and sell Mauritian food in a 5 star hotel in Copenhagen (which moreover has absolutely nothing to do with Mauritius). You may think this is the craziest thing you ever read, but it seems some people actually think such a thing could happen. We like to call them the Y2K people of Mauritius recipes.

As far as Mauritian recipes websites are concerned, there are no real official websites. There are tons of websites that offer recipes, complete with full ingredients and pictures, that do a terrific job of taking you through the whole cooking, eating, and digesting process. There are also some that claim to provide all the Mauritius recipes you could ever wish for but that are woefully hard to navigate. I have additionally seen a website that claims that "Mauritian cuisine is the best cuisine from Mauritius island". This was a huge relief as I was beginning to think that the best cuisine in Mauritius island was Vietnamese food.

In any case, one thing to watch out for during your quest for the most incredible Mauritian recipes is bugs, lizards, cockroaches, and other insects in your food. This is a problem that's been occurring rather frequently lately, and you should be careful, regardless of the so-called quality of the restaurant. Rest assured though as your obstacles will not be limited to dead insects. If you are lucky enough, you may find hair in your recipe. In any case, don't forget to take pictures and to send them to Le Defi Quotidien.

The hazards of Mauritian recipes
I'm actually pretty tasty.

Jun 1, 2011

The meteo and climate in Mauritius

If you're looking for further information about the meteo in Mauritius, your best (and only) bet is to check out the official Mauritius Meteorological Services website. This will probably be mainly of use to travelers who intend to come to Mauritius and people who are bored at work, as the majority of the local population probably does not really give a damn about the meteo due to its predictability most of the time.

The main Mauritius Meteorological Station and head office is located in Vacoas and is responsible for providing the weather forecast for Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Agalega. However, the website seems to be mainly focused on Mauritius. There is some information about the meteo in Rodrigues and Agalega, but most of the content is only about the climate in Mauritius.

It however provides a wealth of information such as:
  • the current weather
  • whether any tropical cyclones are about to hit Mauritius (hint: looking less and less likely, unfortunately for those who always welcome the unavoidable holidays once the Mauritius cyclones gear up)
  • sunrise and sunset information (useful for fishermen who probably have no access to the Internet)
There's also some really specific information regarding the meteo in Mauritius but this will probably be of interest only to people who are really into meteorological stuff. The meteo in Mauritius website is pretty standard in its layout, but it is very easy to use. Most importantly, it is updated daily with all the relevant information and it's hard to complain about it when it gets the job done.

The 3 day forecast is essential for those planning to go trekking. Obviously, this 3 day forecast is not fully reliable, but you can just apply some common sense when interpreting it. The 3 day forecast is broken down by region, so make sure to use the navigation tabs to browse to your desired section.

There is a FAQ section that should also be checked out by those traveling to Mauritius soon and who still need clarifications about the meteo in Mauritius. This FAQ section offers great information about the climate in Mauritius. This information ranges from definitions of important climate terms such as Sea breeze and Land breeze to more practical advice such as what to do during a thunderstorm (real thunderstorms, not the Hollywood ones).

I have found a couple of other websites offering temperatures and the usual information about the climate in Mauritius, but I wouldn't trust these. They don't seem to be updated anymore and my motto is that if you can get something from the official source, why trust something else.

The problem with LinkedIn

I used to admire LinkedIn. It served a purpose, had a solid business model and meant recruiters could easily find me and contact me. LinkedI...