I am sorry if this letter is not as cheerful as the previous ones, but I just realised that my walking boots are missing. And without them, it is really hard doing any trips or going into any national parks and this really limits my experiences and travels hereâ€¦so I am not in the best mood right now. Anyway, the last week has been exciting. In many ways. After two and a half days of shopping (everything ranging from generator and fuel over plastics to stove and lots of food and water) we finally left for St Augustin last Saturday. We squeezed everything into a Landrover, including also the carpenter and the boards for the beds. Jean, the driver, did a good job in securing everything to the roof and inside the car; still, Arif and Brett had to take the taxi brousse and transport our mattresses.
I hadnâ€™t seen the house for a month and remembering the first impression I was not so keen on living there. But much had been improved. There were wooden doors and windows to start with and the wasp nets had been scraped of the walls and roof. Also, the house had been painted outside and the walls inside the upper rooms (were we decided on living) had received a white coat as well. Everything looked much friendlier. And once the carpenter had finished the beds and the mattresses had arrived we started to settle in. We put mosquito net in front of the windows and some of the doors, we started to unpack and fetch water from the well. Kristina and I shave the back room and the boys the one just adjacent to us. There is no door in between our rooms and we have to walk through the boys rooms every time we get out. This arrangement was good for everyone and it is nice having everyone quite close. Arif out his Turkish flag up, so we even have some decoration.
At 4 pm Jocelyne and the other people from SAGE left end we were on our own. Darkness approached and we realised we wouldnâ€™t be able to cook for ourselves tonight. So we went into the village centre â€“ not really a centre, more of a 10×10 m spot were people gather â€“ and found a lady who sold grilled fish and rice. That was a good enough dinner and we went home in the dark with the stars and moon guiding us. We had a memorable moment of all four of us peeing under a tree, before entering the house. This suddenly had turned into a haunted house or something similar. There were cockroaches everywhere and we actually went on a killing spree; well, I had the others do it since killing animals not really is my thing. Suddenly, Brett says â€œratsâ€ and we all panic a bit and start to gather all the food we have in our backpacks. I eat the lat of my good chocolate, brought all the way from Sweden, cause there is no way a rat will have that. After a second we realised that we had misunderstood Brett, he hadnâ€™t said â€œratâ€ but â€œbatâ€. That wasnâ€™t really any funnier; I now had no chocolate left and had lots of bats flying around my head. Stupid bats too, they apparently couldnâ€™t sense us with there radar. So, we all went to bed really quickly but it was a true nightmare when we blew the candles out. The mosquito net moved every time the bats flew into it and Kristina told us that bats could have rabies and they really make a lot of noiseâ€¦needless to say, none of us got any sleep that night. We all stayed up in our beds and talked about the best ways of getting rid of the bats. And of course, we did realise in the morning that we did have rats too, our tomatoes where all half eaten. So the first night was quite eventful and definitely not the bets I ever had. The nest day we pretty much spent on fixing the house, putting more mosquito nets up, securing the food (plastic containers and bear traps (putting it in baskets and tying them to the roof on the bottom floor)) and putting poison around the house. The fun thing was that we managed to cook our first own meal on the charcoal stove (yeah, we had some big discussions of us for environmentalist using charcoal, but that is the only possible way if you want any food). Ok, the meal wasnâ€™t the best one, the pasta turned out likeâ€¦all starchy but still edible and the tomato sauce was more of a soupâ€¦but as darkness approached we were satisfied with having eaten something. This night we didnâ€™t have any cockroaches and only two bats and one rat. That has to be considered some kind of successâ€¦we are now down to 0 rats, bats and cockroaches â€“ really crossing my fingers that is stays like that. Weâ€™ll see how the house looks like once we return to it on Monday. And the malgach word of the week has been kinakina â€“ bat. (My malgach is picking up a bit, slowly slowly, I canâ€™t construct any sentences yet but my vocabulary is coming along.)
Otherwise, the week was good. We went on two day trips, the first one to a natural swimming pool with the clearest colours I have ever seen and the second one to Sarodrano, the neighbouring village, and visited the underground caves there. We were guided by the mayor, who is really keen on us making a good eco tourism study, which of course puts a huge bias to our objectivenessâ€¦but we have made plans of talking to other people in the village to and of course go on other day trips alone (if I now can make it without my beloved walking boots).
We also organised a cooking lady, Madame Fahnza. Might sound a bit posh to all of you, but we decided that we rather spend daylight time on working than cooking. She cooks lunch and dinner for us and is not the best I ever have, but her tomato sauce is really good. But she is no good for my vegetables; they all turn out overcooked and oilyâ€¦we pay her an equivalent of 20 Euros a month, so it is not really any money for us. Also, we have a washing lady, Madame Julienne. She did a full load of dirty stuff for 2 Euros, so we asked her to come back every Tuesday. And we feel a bit better about contributing to the local economy. Because people on the village are really really poor. You can see that in the market, some people have things to sell other donâ€™t and most stuff you can buy is meagre fish and some peanut cookies. But it seems all to work out for the people and they seem to take good care of each other. It is a bit too soon to tell, but the solidarity in the community seems remarkably. One thing that is very disturbing is that all the children always approach us when we are out or they are just on our front porch and say â€œcadeau, cadeauâ€. In different varieties, â€œcadeau lâ€™argentâ€, â€œcadeau le styloâ€, â€œcadeau bonbonâ€ and the worst â€œcadeau la cigaretteâ€. We are not giving people anything and it is really annoying but there is nothing you can do.
Anyhow, we are back in Toliara over the weekend, taking care of assignments and getting supplies. The idea was that Kristina and I would go to a national park nearby, but without boots I am not setting my feet in any moisty place full with creatures creeping on the ground. So we might just go up north a bit to a place called Ifaty. The boys will return to St Augustin tomorrow. According to Brett a big swell is coming and he needs to be close to his surfboards then.
But in summary, I must say that the week has been good, despite the totally freaking start it had.