In Toliara!


I am now in Toliara, a city of medium size on the west coast of Mad. We got
here last week Friday in one of the horrible bus trips that make you
appreciate life. We hired an entire minibus (matatu style) and packed it
early in the morning with all our stuff. Everyone got a seat of his/her own
and we set of at around 9 am. We appreciated to arrive in T at 1 am the
following morning; the road between Tana and T is THE road in Mad. Our
driver was called Mika, a nice guy. The old car was falling apart at some
places, the windows didn’t close and my seat was loose, but there was, of
course, a brand new CD Player and Mika played the latest hits all the time
on a very loud volume…I now know local singer Jerry Marcos songs by heart.
It took us three hours to Antsirabe, where we stopped to pick up a French
girl we meet at the hostel in Tana. She had prepared a pique nique and after
some more hours of driving we stopped and had tabboulleh orientale and
cheese sandwich; the last one is really a treat here, there is just not much
cheese around. Even the Dutch guy I meet the first week in town had smuggled
in Dutch cheese (and yes, smuggled, since it is illegal to transport any
kind of food into Mad. They are not very thoroughly in their controls
though; I got all my chocolate in.) We then continued on. Mad is surely one
of the most beautiful countries I have seen, in the same league as northern
Bohuslaen (Sweden), Vancouver or Simiens Mountains (Ethiopia). Rice fields
everywhere, which make the country green and some zebus too. Not many people
around outside of the towns, but lots of them in the water streams, washing
clothes or fishing. Mad is quite known for the erosion due to deforestation
and they say that 80 per cent of the island is affected. And that might be
true, because I saw lots of these almost flesh like wounds in the highlands.
Quite depressing.

Mika drove fast, and at 6 pm the sun set and it became dark. The most
beautiful sky emerged, lots and lots of stars. After dinner, eaten at a
small hotely just after passing Fianran…yeah, another big town, we heard
that the rest of the road was considered a bit unsafe; people called dahlal
(zebu poachers) had robbed a car like ours just a week ago. We decided to
wait for some our taxe brousse and form a caravan…Mika didn’t really lika
this idea, and just speeded up and passed the whole caravan. And that was
how it continued, at high speed in the dark…seeing the road previously I
knew that Mika made sharp turns and barely escaped the cliffs sometimes…but
he continued on and we five, quite terrified by now, stayed awake the whole
night. The boys had brought some rum and eventually passed out…at 1 am we
were still a long way away from Toliara and somehow the road seemed more
unsafe for every hours…but nothing happened. We arrived safely in Toliara
around 6 am and checked into the first best hotel and slept.

The next day we met with our organisation, SAGE. They told us that we had to
attend meetings in Anakao beginning Monday…so we stayed only in Toliara for
the weekend and got a bit of local culture…the boys had to much rum arrange,
we didn’t find any pain au chocolate and I had the usual pommes frites avec
de legume sauté. Monday we left early, first by car and then by boat and
went to Anakao. Brett was in heaven, Anakao is known for its good surf and
there was no end to his smile. We set our feet on sandy beaches of the
village and immediately got lunch at Madame Coco’s. Nothing grows in Anakao,
so we had brought our own vegetables…the others had sea food to accompany
it. Apparently it was delicious and cheap to. We got introduced to the
participants at the meeting and sat there for like 15 minutes before we
excused us. Everything was held in Malagasy and we just longed for our first
dip in the Indian Ocean. And it was great, a bit to warm for me, but lovely
greenblue water.

The night following this was the worst so far; I got food poisoned and was
still sick and I don’t know what, but I can tell you that there is nothing
glorious about vomiting in the whitest sand you’ve ever seen und a beautiful
starlit sky. Monsieur le doctor fixed me though, no clue what I got but I am
all enthusiastic about everything. I mainly stayed in bed though, to weak to
anything else. We didn’t have to attend any meeting, I guess we were brought
along to be shown to everyone else, and I took long walks on the beach. One
morning I found a baby shark head on the beach (touched it, it felt like car
seat leather) and Kristina said she had seen a half hammerhead shark as tall
as she was…but don’t worry I don’t swim out far.

I realise I make the stay here sound quite dangerous, but that is not really
the case. You miss out on all the mellow moments I have and all the time I
spend just waiting for people to show up at meetings and stuff. And so far I
haven’t seen anything more dangerous than a mosquito to bite me.

Anyhow, we got back from Anakao Thursday and stopped by Saint Augustin and
visited the house that SAGE bought and that will be my home. I doubt that it
is going to be my home, because we are talking renovation all over the
place. There weren’t even any doors and windows in place when we visited and
no proper floors, so it looks more like a skeleton than a living house. You
who have lived with me know that my priority is not in living standards
really, but this might be too much for me. There were wasp nests everywhere
and spiders and no water and no electricity and not even a Malagasy toilet…I
knew there wouldn’t be any furniture, so I was prepared for that but this is
just…I don’t really know. Kristina feels the same way, Brett will happily
live in that house for five months and I don’t know about Arif, but we’ll
see how it turns out in the end. We have decided not to move in until most
things are ready, which might take several more weeks; SAGE said that we
would have outer doors and window frames by Monday, but I am not so sure
about that. In the worst case, we will stay in on of the bungalows in the
village, which must be arrangable. Haven’t seen much of the village itself
yet, just dozens of children begging for cadeau, cadeau and some pirogues
(fisher boats).

Anyhow, back in Toliara know and enjoying civilisation. Kristina has Muse
(my favourite band) on her laptop so I am all happy, I even named the gecko
in our room after the band…we have a nice room at Al Shame with ocean view
and indoor toilet and big double beds each and it is so cheap. Only thing is
that the mattress is so thin that you can feel the bed boards, but that is
fine. Meeting planed for tomorrow and we’ll see about Sunday and about the
coming week and how things turn out. We went window shopping for a
generator, candles, blankets and plastic (!) stuff today to buy for the new
house and will probably have top deal with that on Monday again…I bought
myself a malagasy hat, in green raffia, looks good and it was cheap and my
“happy three weeks Mad” treat. I also bought a broom, and Arif joked right
away that I looked like a witch in my new hat and my home made broom. But at
least now I have something to kick out the cockroaches in my room…


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