J & K målerifirman – lite billigare, lite sämre

Hjälpte idag Jorge att tapetsera och måla om sin lägenhet. Efter att vi pratat om det under en väldig lång tid. Det hela var väldigt trevligt, och jag kan lätt tänka mig göra något sådant oftare. Har alltid haft drömmen att syssla med ‘skapande’ arbete, som att jobba som byggare. Vem vet, kanske en vacker dag.

Tills dess kan man kontakta mig eller Jorge om man är intresserad av vår ‘expertis’. Vi har en alternativ slogan också: – som svartarbete, fast vitt.

Så det så.

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Är vi inte snygga? Till och med med olikfärgade arbetskepsar!

Projektet ‘öka antalet danska studenter’ är igång

Som det ofta gör så händer det saker i livet. Jag har nyligen fått klartecken att det projekt angående närvaron av danska studenter på Campus, som jag varit involverad de senaste tiden, kommer att bli av. Detta innebär en relativ hektisk period framför mig nu, men också en väldig lärorik.

Projektet går i korthet ut på att göra Campus och Lunds Universitet mera synligt i Danmark, framförallt för unga danskar. I dagsläget är situationen sådan att den kan förbättras, och ett ökat antal personer som läser över gränserna tror jag hade främjat integrationen. I praktiken kommer arbetet att innebära att jag fördjupar mig i den danska samhällstrukturen, och i hur det är att vara gymnasielev på andra sidan sundet.

Det är planerat omkring 570 arbetstimmar i projektet, som sträcker sig ända till september. Just detta ska bli intressant att uppleva, hur det blir att driva projekt som är intensivt ibland och väldigt lungt vid andra tidpunkter. Ska nog bli en bra erfarenhet.

Jag har dock fortfarande inte fått reda på huvudfrågan, ifall integration är bra eller inte, men jag förutsätter att den är bra i detta fall. Man verkar ofta eftersträva integration, så jag hoppas detta bygger på erfarenheten att det leder till det bättre. Skulle någon ha synpunkter på detta tar jag dock gärna emot tips. På allvar.

En början…

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Efter några månaders lång diskussion om detta är nu sidan deppert.se igång! Med detta kommer familjen Deppert att göra nya framsteg i mänsklighetens tecken och skapa underverk!

Sidan är dock fortfarande under uppbyggnad, så allt funkar inte riktigt som det är tänkt än. Men det kommer så småningom.

Trevligt att du hittat hit och läst detta!

Insects and fishing

I have come to realise that this has become some kind of weekly ritual, sending you all an email. Well, we’ll just have to see how long I can find stuff to write about. I have been away 8 weeks now, 1/3 of my stay, and I am bound to run out of material at some point…but not quite yet.

Like, for instance, last week I had the sensational feeling of having a gecko running on my arm…trust me, that was so unexpected that I screamed like a girl (and that is not like me)(unless I see a spider), waved my arm, got Kristina fired up who thought I would be eaten alive by a cockroach or worse and even made Brett and Arif come in and wonder what was going on. And geckos are usually lovely little creatures, but maybe not when they cling to you underarm like a wet…something. Then again, later that day I had a bad cockroach experience (cockroach flying into my pizza and then heading for me and landing in my hair) and that kind of took the edge of the gecko…

Anyhow, I survived another week in the house. We are now basically bat and rat free, just have occasional cockroach invasions. Wednesday night we had 30-40 cockroaches in Kris and my room, I am not kidding you, and even the peaceful animal lover in me went on a killing spree. We bombed the house and probably some parts of our own lungs, but that was just horrible.

But enough of creeping insect: I have done my first participative observation for my master thesis. As it is all going to be about fish and fisher folk, I went fishing with the mayor’s sons Thursday morning. We left when the first strokes of sun hit the sea, which was quite idyllic, in a dugout canoe on the totally quite sea. The fisher folk fleet was 40 pirogues strong and we all went for sardines and some kind of bigger fish (lamantsa in Malagasy). It took us about an hour to sail to the spot, anchor up, get the gear ready etc. Theses people are amazing sailors; they could steer these little wooden boats so perfectly without much help. The two boys, who didn’t speak any French and of course no English either, then handed me a line and two hooks and a handful of small shrimp (by small I mean the size they are in Sweden) and well…looked at me and started to laugh. I guess I must have looked really silly. The vegetarian in me revolted for a bit, but then I thought I might as well do some good while I sit on their boat for free…I am probably the worst shrimp peeler/stick it on the hook ever and probably not even good at fishing. The boys, I am ashamed that I forgot their names, had a good laugh, as had all the other who were in hearing distance (=all)…and did take pity in me eventually and helped me out. I must have worked, because I did catch one sardine!! With a little help, I admit, but still. We must have been out for about six hours or so, but in the end we only had seven fish altogether and no lamantsa; one of the other boats got lucky so I could at least see one. Apparently, the fish is really scarce and they are no big sardines anymore, and that is really destructive for the whole fish stock and the biodiversity. Good for my thesis, bad for the environment and the people. On the way home we raced each other and our boat was winning until we hit a sandbank…we got really splashed by the warm seawater but this was really fun!

Anyhow, we are on our way to Tana. We got notice last week that our boss in Tana wanted to see us and there was not much else to do. We are going by car again, this time we’ll be 7 people and five seats including the driver, but it will hopefully be a lot of fun. We will stop overnight on the way and that is going to be great, having some real new input. I am not that keen on seeing Tana again, my lungs didn’t really like that polluted air, but it will be nice to go on a small ride for a while. I am not wary of the area here yet, I don’t feel like I have don’t much here yet, but you always welcome the any change. It is like what Arif said about food: If you see food, you eat, because you don’t know when you’ll have some the next time. That goes for basically every kind of entertainment. We’ll just see what the big city will look like this time. And hopefully will the voyage not be too stressful, just getting to know a couple of days in advacne that we are off to Tana was stressful enough for some time.

I hope that you are all fine back home an thanks for your mails, they really cheer me up !

From riches to rags

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 here…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 hadn’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 wouldn’t be able to cook for ourselves tonight. So we went into the village centre – not really a centre, more of a 10×10 m spot were people gather – 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 “rats” 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 hadn’t said “rat” but “bat”. That wasn’t really any funnier; I now had no chocolate left and had lots of bats flying around my head. Stupid bats too, they apparently couldn’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 noise…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 wasn’t the best one, the pasta turned out like…all starchy but still edible and the tomato sauce was more of a soup…but as darkness approached we were satisfied with having eaten something. This night we didn’t have any cockroaches and only two bats and one rat. That has to be considered some kind of success…we are now down to 0 rats, bats and cockroaches – really crossing my fingers that is stays like that. We’ll see how the house looks like once we return to it on Monday. And the malgach word of the week has been kinakina – bat. (My malgach is picking up a bit, slowly slowly, I can’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 objectiveness…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 oily…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 don’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 “cadeau, cadeau”. In different varieties, “cadeau l’argent”, “cadeau le stylo”, “cadeau bonbon” and the worst “cadeau la cigarette”. 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.

Swimming in an aquarium

The last couple of days have been awesome. Brett convinced us, after having been away for another couple of days, that we all should go on the yacht for two nights. He promised us surf, snorkeling and lots of fun. And we actually did reschedule everything and went on the yacht. We met the guys he has been talking about, Grant and Gus and Stephan and Martina, and spent our first night on the boat. We ate the most amazing pesto, done by Gus (argentinian background, but I dont think that it had any influence on the pesto), under a clear sky and really enjoyed ourselves. The guys played poker until late into the night, I just enjoyed having lots of company and the music variety they had on board.

However, things became a bit more cloudy and way more wavy the next day. We sailed down to Sarodrano (like 1 hour south) but there was no surf at all. Kris and I still went out for some snorkeling, and I think that Brett phrased it good when he said: “it feels like swimming in an aquarium”. All the brightcolored fishes you always see on tv or in the magazines: I have seen them live. It was really such a cool experience. The rest of the day and night vanished in a blur though, the wind speed was up in 26 knots and we all lay flat in our beds in order not to become sea sick. So, it didnt really turn out as great as Brett promised, but we really enjoyed it.

In the evening we went to “La Maison”. It is the expat hang out and of course the world cup was on. It is so fun seeing all the guys gathered in front of the tv watching Samoa play against the USA (I do wonder how Samoa can have enough people to gather a good team and participate in the world cup? Along with Fidji ang Georgia, that is another mystery) and cheering and drinking beer and really forgetting that we are in Mad…and it is so strange having comments in French, it is always Monsieur this and la ballon that. I cant really say that it i,mproves my French much, but it is fun. Gus used to play back in Argentina and really got us all into the rules and everything, so now even Kristina enjoys the games. And as England are the ruling winners of the last world cup, she has good chances of seeing her team win.

Anyhow, this is the last mail for a couple of days. We are moving out to St Augustin tomorrow. We spent the morning on buying a generator, that is harder than you think it is, and the afternoon is devoted to plastic items and matrasses! I am really looking forward to move into our house and become more stabile for a while. Sure, I have stayed in the same hotel the last three weeks, but actually being able to unpack stuff, that is what I am looking forward to.

We need to get back into town soon to resupply and to do school work, but I have no idea when we will come back here the next time. So if you dont here anything for a while; that just means that everything is ok!

Cheers,

Ulrike

Toliara: Elections and cinema

Salama,

We finally found out what we are supposed to do here! For a long time, all
we knew was that we should work within the field of ecotourism but had no
clue exactly what that meant. We took wild guesses and they included
everything from biological inventory, marketing and physical work of marking
out trails. Yesterday we finally had the meeting with Jocelyne, the woman in
charge down here. The meeting got postponed several times, as seems almost
to be a custom here, which highly annoys the German in me, and took place in
the afternoon. We all were very tired and it took us several turns in French
an English to understand our tasks here.

But they are exactly what I am trained to do and what I will be working with
in the future: They need a feasibility study for the planned eco tourism and
the accompanied eco village. The study will be based on a socio-cultural
study, which already had been carried out, and a biological inventory which
is being done right now. Further on, we were asked to look specifically into
the role SAGE (the organisation), the community and other involved partners
should play and to make plans for sustainability, including the financial
sustainability. It is a good thing that we actually have different
background (economy, social science and ecology), we will complete each
other in a perfect way. We haven’t discussed the actual target amongst us
yet, but I think we will focus on the community itself and develop any plan
based on their actual needs. SAGE gave us pretty free hand and I suggested
talking to other NGOs and stakeholders working in the area to form more
harmony, and they thought it was a good idea. There is a reason behind this,
as far I have heard and have told you, SAGE is criticised for doing
everything in a rush and not coordinate with other organisations.

So Francine, the secretary at SAGE, is currently setting up meetings with
the other partners and we are stuck reading lots of material in French (we
have come to love the internet based translation programs). Brett is absent
again, he went to live on the yacht for an unknown period, but we guess he
will be back sometime. He has no clue of the tasks yet, but we will need him
to do some work or we other will just have too much to do. But no worries
yet, translating is fun. And meeting people, interview them and getting hold
of additional information is just time consuming and not very hard.

But Kristina, Arif and I agree that this is a good task, way better than
marking any trails and stuff. We actually get to do real qualified work and
I don’t feel used anymore (like you always do when you do full time work
because you happen to be handy; not to be confused with the pro bono stuff I
do, that is simply fun).

Otherwise, live is moving on. The elections are due tomorrow but I haven’t
noticed anything even weakly relating to the violence described by my
organisation or random people and hotel owners. One (German) restaurant
owner said that the elections had nothing to do with the violence, but that
it was all about poverty – people being so poor that they rob and steal in
order to survive. He also said that this was nothing compared to earlier
events. So we are all taking it pretty easy. And continue to stay in at
night, at least for a couple of more days.

The election campaigning is carried out in a very non-European way. They
hand out sticker and posters but no flyers, but instead have cars circle
around town, playing political music and airing live speeches. I guess that
this is a must when you want to campaign among a great percentage of
illiterate people. The music, of which I don’t understand a word, seems to
get everyone going and everybody always dances as soon as a car with
speakers comes close. This is strange, because to a foreigner like me, you
don’t know whether they support the actual message or are simply in it for
the dancing. Otherwise, you don’t see much from the campaigning…the cars
annoy you, but they are no harm. I spoke to Jocelyne and Kristina and I will
accompany her to the elections tomorrow and see her cast her vote. I working
as an election observer the in the last election in Sweden and it really is
interesting how the process and procedures differ between the countries.

Last weekend we went to the movies. Not because there was anything on, there
are only shows on Saturday and Sunday and you can choose between two films.
But we desperately needed some change in our lives and therefore went to see
the films. An entrance is only 0,08 eurocent, so it is not really expensive
anyways. On Saturday we saw some old movie with Harrison Ford and a very
young Samuel L. Jackson, on Sunday we saw Resurrection with Christopher
Lambert. No new films, but they definitely where some distraction. They
were, of course, dubbed into French and it was a good thing that they were
thriller and you could follow the plot easily anyway. My French is certainly
not that good that I can follow a fat French dialogue (yet that is, I am
still optimistic). But the best thing about going was to experience the
Malagasy people in the cinema. It was mainly teenagers, sitting together in
groups, and some adult couples. I guess that some social groups cannot
afford going or lack the French knowledge to benefit from this
westernization. Everyone in the audience was constantly talking, both
discussing the film but also about other subjects. That was not really a
surprise, but as people started to make mobile phone calls it got a bit
funny. Further on, there were motorcycles and bicycles stored in front at
the cinema, belonging to various people in the audience. This is due to the
fact that people don’t buy locks here; you often have motorcycles in
restaurants as well. Keeping them near you prevents them from being stolen,
I guess. The weirdest thing though was a girl in the row in front of me
yesterday: She actually cut her nails! She got light enough from her friends
mobile phone, but that must surely be the most bizarre place to cut your
fingernails in. The audience also had a strange taste of laughing in al the
wrong places. Every time any on made a funny face, out of disgust for
example, the audience laughed. And when they showed on of the murdered guys,
naked sitting on a toilet and without head, the laughed to (ok, it looks
quite funny, but this is a thriller!). The best laugh I heard was when the
bad guy ran out of bullets and therefore was unarmed…and just can’t help
getting carried away and laugh yourself. And when the bad guy finally was
shot and died, everyone in the audience got up and left. Even though there
were not really any interesting parts left, you do still stick around and
watch any conclusion…but no, that is apparently not worth watching.

We finished off the Sunday evening with a luxury dinner at Gelateria Italia.
We invited the two speakers from the seminar along, they stay in the same
hotel as we, and had a really good time. I ordered pizza and actually didn’t
get nauseous as I do in Sweden, which was good. I then discovered my new
passion: Coconut ice cream. The taste was just indescribable delicious,
trust me, this is the one thing that I will miss the most when going back
home. The ice cream just melts in your mouth and is much fresher than I
think it is in Sweden. An with one scoop only costing 1000 ariary (that’s
about 40 eurocent) I can see myself getting into the habit of buying at
least one ice cream a day!

Take care,
Ulrike

Madagascar is not Africa

To give you all a clue about what it is like to be here, I have compiled a
list:

Why Madagascar is not Africa – Essential Differences to the African Context
as I have experienced it before

This is not my first time in Africa, and yes, you shouldn’t think that the
whole continent is the same. Still, I experienced more similarities between
the Arabic influenced refugee camps in Algeria and the places I visited in
Uganda than I do here. Malagasy people don’t consider themselves to be part
of Africa, maybe that is because the island is not connected with the
mainland or maybe it is due to lack of input from other African sources.
Anyhow, I have made a little list of the differences…feel free to give me
any feedback and draw your own conclusions.

1. There are traffic rules. There is no traffic chaos to speak of, not even
in Tana. Further on, there are traffic police in every other corner. Surely
keeps unemployment rates down, but also makes traffic way safer than I
usually experience it.

2. There is toilet paper on every toilet I’ve been to so far. And not just
toilet paper, it is soft too. Ok, it finishes as quickly as every other
African toilet paper, but I a still surprised to find paper on public
toilets too.

3. The buss traffic is organised. There a buss lines and buss stops in Tana
and you cannot jump onto a taxi-be whenever you want. The busses are still a
crowded as they are in other places; the passenger limit of 15 people is
never respected.

4. People wear motor cycle helmets! And the seat belts work. People rarely
use them, but they still work. Even in the backseat.

5. Street children and street hawkers don’t stick to assigned quarters. This
can lead to you being followed all the way from the store to your hotel, and
the person just don’t understand that you wont give him/her any money or buy
something. I once got into the situation of buying post cards…and the
salespersons just wouldn’t understand that 55 post cards are way enough for
me and that I don’t need anymore.

6. It is expensive. A room costs around 8 euros and internet is around 0.5
euros/minute.

7. It is cold. I have really been freezing the first week in Tana and the
nights here are almost just as cool. The days are as hot as you imagine them
to be, and it is getting spring and summer soon so the heat is coming, but
the nights are not African standard to me.

8. I haven’t seen any single person wearing a Leo DiCaprio T-shirt.

9. There is no Mirinda!

Of course, there are a lot of similarities too. Such as people always
playing old fashioned western songs (like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and
other singers), the food is good too (very spicy, which I like) and the
clothes style is about the same as in eastern Africa. Women are fabulous
balancers and carry whole wooden boxes on the head, people are generally
really friendly and help you out and I somehow get the feeling of being home
(not that I am sure in what context though).

Anyhow, let me know if you recognise anything or if I have missed something.

Toliara, between chaos and the toilet

So this is how it feels to be sick…at least I have stomach problems with
style: treating myself luxury dinners every night and this morning even a
brownie. It all looks the same when it comes out anyway. You could easily
think that I wasn’t in a low income country the way I am currently living
and I am not ashamed to say that I like it. But it feels weird when I buy
dinner for 10000 ariary (like 4 euros) and then don’t give any money to the
street children approaching me. The white bias is strong, but you somehow
adjust to it. Weird.

Anyhow, the last week has been good, besides me getting sick that is. We are
still in Toliara, our house is not yet finished. Or well, the carpenters
have left so I am not sure what we are waiting for. But there has been no
opportunity to move either; we were invited to a WWF conference lasting
Tuesday until Saturday (although we skipped Friday as it was Kristina’s
birthday and we wanted to d some fun stuff and Saturday got cancelled due to
the political unstable situation) and met lots of people working in the
area, both vazaha and locals. Mark Fenn, head of WWF in Mad, had invited to
experts on community conservation from the US and we basically had
workshopes on simple management – the stuff I had been studying the last
year. So we all struggled to keep awake and Brett went AWOL (absent without
leave) on Wednesday and wasn’t seen until yesterday (he went surfing, met a
couple of guys who owned a big yacht with hot showers and satellite tv and
stayed there). The conference itself was probably of little use to the
locals too, as the experts had a way to much academic approach to the
conservation issues.

But I made a couple of new friends and have got some input on my thesis and
got free lunch three days, so I am not really complaining. I also found out
stuff about SAGE, the organisation I am working with. Apparently they are
not as good as they seem, doing the community conservation in a makilaki way
(=just rush through it and don’t bother about proper follow up) and realised
that there is basically no donor harmonisation or NGO cohesion going on at
all…for you who have no clue what this means, is basically implies that you
have lots of donors doing the same projects in the same area and not taking
part in each other evaluations or try to spread out the projects in order
not to do the same thing twice and that SAGE does it own thing and doesn’t
look for partners or checks out what other organisations are doing in the
area. One of my academic assignments is to write an organisational analysis
about SAGE and that seems quite simple right now.

There will be elections in Toliara next Sunday and the whole city is
crawling with military. They even sent extra gang force reinforcement from
Tana down here. I haven’t noticed anything, but sometimes there are curfews
after 19 and we don’t leave our hotel when it is dark at all (no dancing
tonight then). To me it all sounds harsher than it is and I am not easily
scared. We got an offer from Brett and the yacht owners to move there until
the elections are over, but our organisation said no, so we are pretty much
stuck here (and just think of it, 10 days on a boat with hot showers, I
would have loved it). But I don’t want anyone of you to be afraid. Any
unrest in the city is due to the elections and the fact that the opposition
candidate actually is a good person this time. Toliara is one of the poorest
regions in Madagascar and the president in known for not caring about the
province at all. All violence in the city has been directed to the ethnic
group that the president belongs to (Imerina) and we just have to wait and
see how it goes. Kristina and I got caught in a police control yesterday,
since we couldn’t show our passports and visas, which were ironically enough
at the police station for visa extension…apparently the police has special
order to check foreigners to and make sure we are not illegally in the
country. The trip to the prefecture de police (which had the usual wanted
posters on the wall, including one for a “up to five million USD award” for
Usama bin Laden) resulted in us actually getting our visas done on the spot
and all the policemen where really nice. Once you had made them understand
that our passports where at the police station. But I don’t feel insecure or
anything, so as I have said before, don’t worry about me. It is surely for
more unsafe in New York or so.

Kristina and I went to a botanical garden called Aboretum yesterday and
looked at trees and plants. I have seen some huge varieties of Aloe Vera and
small baobab trees and a tree called elephant foot…the natural richness is
huge here and I saw plants good against stomach cancer (mixed with honey and
whisky at least), skin scars, blood flows, eye problems, yellow fever,
malaria and you name it. There were some plants which were poisonous as
well, one called “dream of the mother in law” which leads to heart failure
within five minutes…and I have seen the Vicks Vaporub tree, I don’t know if
any of you uses that ointment when you are sick. Seeing all the medicinal
plants made me really appreciate the protected areas in Madagascar; most of
the plants are endemic to this area and human kind has most probably already
extincted some. I also saw the vanilla orchid, that one was really cool. It
climbs along the tree trunk of other trees, grows really fast and doesn’t
really look like much.

So far I have not seen any cool animals, besides some endemic sunbirds and
butterflies as big as the palm of my hand. But we will go to the national
parks nearby when we have time and the roads are a bit safer.

So…there is not much more to tell right now. I hope that my stomach will get
better soon and that the work with my organisation finally can begin…until
then I am looking forward an ice cream tonight or so, we’ll just see what
happens.

Cheers,
Ulrike