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…


Leaving Tana, heading for Toliara

This will be my last mail for a while. We met our organisation (SAGE) last Tuesday and they told us they wanted us in Toliara/St Augustin as soon as possible. So we are leaving tomorrow; hired a taxi-brousse (minivan style/matatu) and will hopefulyl get all our luggage in…Bretts bag with the surfboards is huge…like 2,5 x 1 x 0,50 meters…and weighs 70 kg. We’ll see how it goes.

We will then be travelling the whole day and hopefully do some stops on teh way. Probably going to pick up a french gilr in Antsirabe, who we met at the hotel and take her along for a weekend in Toliara. The weekend will be fine and on Monday we will meet Jocelyn; the coordinator for SAGE in Toliara. She will then take us out to our house, yes folks, we will have an entire house for ourselves. Two storey building. The catch? No water, no electricity, no furniture. So this is really going to be a challenge. Not just living in a house in an isolated village (google ST Augustin and you will probably stumble across a flight photo of a couple of houses on a beach and some sheds around…thats it!) but also be dependent upon daylight and have limited electricity (looking into buying a generator, matresses and a gas cooker…means I learn new french words every day!). As for the water, the ocean will have to do. And we will surely hire someone, we have the white bias after all, to cook for us and do our laundry. A little comfort for us and some local investment.

Anyhow, the organisation has still not specified what they want us to do. For academic purposes we have to write an Memorandum of Understanding, which is really hard if you dont know what you are expected to do…but they gave us a good first impression and tons of stuff in french to read…we will be just fine. I just think of all the fresh pineapple I will have every morning…and mango season is approaching!!

Leaving in the house will also strictly limit my internetaccess…I would have to go to Toliara, ca 3 hours away I think, and they have frequent power cuts and slow access. So dont worry if you dont here from me in a while, that just means I am ok!

Otherwie…I am still not able to givez you any concrete impressions from Mad. It is totally different from the other places I have been too. I am doing a list at home and I guess I will send it to you to give you a better feeling om my stay here. So far I can tell you that I had a big no-no ice cream today…totally against what you should have, but I still feel fine! Goes for some other fruits and yoghut as well, but I have decided to stay away from the strawberries, that does seem like a too big of a risk. The diary prducts I will cut when I am in Toliara, the power cuts are not exactly good. Will probably swith my diet towards chocolate then! :)

Take care now!

One week has passed…and I am fine!

thought I’d give you a short update. I am not going to do this regularly but when there is an option for it…and Tana offers that right now.

I have now been in Mad for a week+ and I still enjoy it. Sure, I am quite tired of all the noise and all the cars and the pollution but it is still a nice place. My colleagues came Fri, Sat and Sun, so we finally talked about our agenda and will see the organisation tomorrow. It will be good to finally know exactly what I will do the next four month.

Kristina and I went for a daytrip yesterday, to Ambohimanga (or Ambooimang as the malagasy say)…a castle, still intact, with a cliff where they used to throw slaves down…semmed to be a popular sport here, there are more cliffs like that…the best thing was that is was really quiet. We weren’t even apporached by a guide or anything. Had lunch a local hotely, small dark place where you immediealty expect to get diarrhoea, but we are still fine. I had soupe chinoise (soup with egg noodles) and is was tasty and really hot, which was good.

Today we went on running errands, taking photos and stuff for the visa exntension (all off you who thought that I was done with that stuff are wrong….Kristinas guide books says it is done overnight…that is also wrong. The latest is that we have to do it in Toliara…) and buying som stuff for Brett, who’s luggage was lost on the way here from San Diego. So no surfboards here yet…but he is all eager to leave immediealty for the beach. Or well, he was, until an hour ago when he realised he hadnt slept for two days and just practically went to sleep standing.

Otherwise, I spent many lonely nights in my room before my colleagues arrived. I actually studied a lot, and also read three books and slept a lot…seemed like a holiday to me and that was nice. I didnt mind being alone, it is quite nice for a change actually. And the weather is cold anyway, so it is not like I would have went outside anyway. I heard that Toliara is really warm and I long for that..surely going to miss the coldness, but this is not really ‘Africa’ to me. :)

We are thinking of hiring a car and go down to Toliara ourselves, car inclunding driver of course, cause we wouldnt find our way our of Tana and not even close to Toliara. When Bretts surfboards arrive he will lead the luggage-league with 70 kg…I am right in the last place with only 18 kg + 12 kg + 5,5 kg…it is more than I ever had before, but I willleave most of the stuff anyway and buy stuff here. There are not really any cool plastic things to buy, most of you know my love for simple plastics, but a lot of souvenirs made out of raffia or old cans…I will surely fill my weight max on the way home.

So, that is all from me. Doenst seem like I have much to write abput yet, mostly want to say that I am alright. Take care!

A Tana maintenant!


ok, the keyboards here are veeeery tricky, so dont expect a perfect email…I am slowly setting in at Tana right now, things fall into place and I have leanred some malagasy which simplifies life. After two nights at the Manoir Rouge in Ivato I ,oved to Hotel Isoraka in Tana.

The croc farm was very touristic. And I walked there, made many friends on my way because a walking vahaza woman is not often seen. Learned that the sun touches a lot, although is is really cold here, trust me; i freeze at night and walk in long sleeves at day, the sun still gave me an unsyncronised tan…well well

Moved to Tana yestedray, shared a taxi with a guy fro, France and found the hotel. Called a friends friend who just got back to town from Holland and he was fantastic. first we had expensice lunch, he moked me for missing out on the zebu (better thabn goat apperently) and the local rum as well. then he took ,e for a spin in his co,pqny perk cqr, that was great. he currently zork as an engineer on a heavy fuel power plant financed by the dutch and the malagasy state…it was i,presseive; especially as it was the business side of development aid…then we went to la rova, old castle, burned down, bla bla, open yesterday only for the local olympique gqmes…lousy english guide ,y french actually worked far better. we then thought of staying until it got dark and watch the fire works, but grew tired and decided to leave. and made one mistake whiwh cost us the night- took a wrong turn got stuck in a s,all alley because everybody wanted to see the fireworks and well…had to stay. bought so, cracky kethcup chips and water; chris went for the broschetta (grillspett; schaschlik or just barbecued meet on a stick) and beer. had a lovely ti,e with 1 hour of fireworks…talked to a lot of people, held up a lot of children so that they could see and actually grew really tired of fireworks…

today; i tried to prolong ,y visa. even harder than in ger,any; trust me. i had to have certificate the la honneur; saying that i am a nice girl, written ,otivation adressed to the minister itself and this and that and 6 photos and ahhhhh…but i called the organisation i a, going to work at and got so,e great help. all i need tomorrow is to see the mayor; go to the ger,an embassy and back to the ,inistry before 10 oclock..great…

there is lots ,ore to say; like i think i ,ust have flown over your head MansVictor but it is getting dark and i need to head home. anyway, i am currently 1 h before sweden/germany, same time as turkey and kenya, 8 hours before shilo i guess qnd ten before vqncouver…

thanks alot also for all the mails, they made me happy!

In Madikasikara

I did arrive safely yesterday in Mad. I am in Ivato right now, the airport
town. Havnt seen much, had breakfast with croissant chocolate (I am going to
become fat!) and slept in a nice room without isolation and which reminded
me off the alps…

I will write more when I am in Tana (tomorrow or so) cause this costs me
more than a fortune. I am off to theonly torist attraction here: croc farm.

Take care all!