Saturday, 22 September 2012

Freakonomics / Things you didn't know about Seychelles

Second hand car dealerships don't exist, either do estate agents. All cars are sold through the newspaper or other forms of paper-based adverts e.g. at the bus stop. Cars generally retain their value if they're fully operational. We'll probably make a profit on our car if and when we sell it, as new taxes are constantly being introduced and there's a limit on imports. As for housing, people never seem to care much about going through somebody else to sell/buy something, so the estate agent is non-existant. Yes, a country without car dealers or estate agents!

In terms of social divide, we're yet to find a noticeably "poorer" and "richer" part of the island. Housing is quite mixed. However, some parts of the island are clearly cheaper to shop at than others. This comes down to the number of tourists in the given locality. A loaclity being defined by the local beach/bay usually. Cote D'or for example is quite expensive especially if you want tourist tat. A pair of Billabong board shorts of questionable authenticity could set you back 300Rs here (£15), compared to 175Rs (£8.50) where we live in Anse Kerlan.

As for local competition, all shops that are within a stone's throw of each other will fix their prices, so it's really up to you which one's you visit. In the end it comes down to personality and friendliness of the shopkeepers as well as what's in stock. Click on the map below to enlarge it for a full breakdown of localities.

I know you're probably in awe of my Photoshop skills (not!). I had to have a map on the blog as Boatswain M loves maps and furthermore he seriously thinks I have a poor sense of direction and weak general geographical/spatial/navigational awareness. He'd be right about all of the above, eventhough I did get 100% in a couple of AS and A2 geography papers, I really don't know my way around the island that well!

Quality products in Jamalaya supermarket

I digress...back to freakonomics. Most people work two jobs here. Even Seychellois teachers/TA's in our school have to work two jobs to make ends meet. One teacher famously finishes work at 2.30pm, then goes on to work at a Casino until 8.30pm every school night, she also works until 4.00am at the weekends. Like Martin Varley said on his blog, the country is very much like 1970's Britain. I remember a few teachers/mentors (Miss Weston and Ms Ellis) mentioning that this is what it was like when they first started teaching; they had to have a weekend job to have enough money to eat/drink/party. Further similarities to 1970's Britain are the single TV channel and single radio station, aptly named Paradise FM.

So how do people survive if wages (even for professionals such as teachers) are low? Well there's a lot of free fruit/veg, everyone either lives near mango, banana, papaya, breadfruit and coconut trees or has a family member that does. We've recently found a passion fruit bush at the back of the house, so that's free passionfruit for us too every day. My other neighbour, Alex the fisherman has so far given Boatswain M and I around 25 fish and not taken a single cent off us yet. Although I think I have given him about 15 bottles of guiness, so I guess we're even! The Anse Kerlan crew are becoming real Seychellois with our local networking; as I was writing this, Boaty M was chatting to our other neighbour Delores (best retro name ever!), who donated a bunch of huge bananas to M and promises to donate a banana tree cutting to him too.

I guess as a Seychellois, if you fancied getting rich quick you could buy a lottery ticket. Although, bizarrely, all winners of the National lottery are printed in the daily newspaper. That's their full name along with their phone number and address/locality!

Imagine how many people would be getting mugged/burgled if this was the UK? On a slightly darker note, all deaths on the island are also fully reported 3 times a day on the radio. It's a national policy to state who has passed away and how they passed away. I'm not sure why this is, but it reminds us all that life is finite and we really do need to live it to the fullest. All we have is the present, the future never exists and the past can never be changed.

On a more trivial note, now that running water is back to 24hrs, I gladly paid my water bill. Water bills cost roughly 80 ruppees a month for a 2-person household. Thats the equivalent of £4 if you do the direct Forex, or £8 if you consider our relative purchasing power. However, even the notion of purchasing power is a tricky topic. I get paid half what I'm paid in London, but I don't have to pay rent. On the other hand, I've had some big outgoings over the past few weeks including things to do with the car (Car Insurance was 1400Rs) and a try dive (800Rs). Internet access is also relatively expensive (950Rs a month), which is ironic given that I'm writing a long blog post with pictures and stuff. I only have 9Gb/month allowance which includes uploads. Compare that allowance to our "Lite package" in the UK which was 40Gb. Thank goodness usage between 11pm - 6am is free. We take this to full advantage. Firstly I go onto EmbedTree and find the newest 20 videos, then drop them into Freemake Video Converter for download from 11pm. I don't know what I'd do without either of these tools. Of course people are using the trusty uTorrent scheduler for all those backup copies of DVDs which they obviously own in the UK.

There's not much else to report right now, other than the kids at school are lovely. I asked them all to bring something ICT-related to decorate the room. Students have made ICT word clouds and posters, others have donated old mice and headphones. One child, "V" decided to bring in a couple of drawings instead and that's started off a trend. Loads of kids are giving me drawings which they've clearly spent hours on!

Suki's art surrounds my classroom. I see her (work) everyday. One of the only things keeping me sane is the prospect of her coming out to join us.

Speaking of school kids, the International circuit always means you're never too far away from parents or students. We end up socialising with a lot of parents. To be honest, most of the parents are super-cool and invite us round to their hotels and houses, so we can't really say no! But the feeling of constantly being watched and being wary of your actions is magnified on an island that is 12km long by 3km wide. Just a trip to the cinema, pizza takeaway, supermarket, petrol station, bakery or pool party and you're guaranteed to see kids, parents and/or governors. Good job everyone is quite relaxed and friendly out here and obviously we're well-behaved so we've got nothing to hide!

On the flip side, a parent/friend of the school also makes beverages. This is one of his fine creations:

It looks like a Capri-Sun. It's actually 40% ABV and goes down like lemonade. At only 40 RS a bag (That's £2!), you could quite easily do some damage to yourself with half a bag. I don't recommend it. Besides, we drink respobsibly out here- generally at a swim up bar at La Reserve. We drink responsibly there mainly because we can't afford more than 3 drinks and the pool is too much fun of course.

To close, here's some bonus pictures from my first diving experience:

 It's what I go to school for. Special pun for bboy Flo.

Today's trivia:
Tea bags out here are weak 
All tinned goods cost 10Rs in MAS supermarket, whether they are beans or soups.
They censor all swearing on English/American films on TV-this could be the reason why kids/adults don't swear much!

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