Pictures from Mad

I just thought I should share some of the best photos with you. Most of my photos got erased (never trust the technique!) but I still have som earlier photos from the beginning om my wonerful Madtrip.

For those of who wonder what I am up to know, I can tell you that I am on my way to a fair trade convent in Lokeren, Belgium (17h on a bus; at least I have still a fresh memory of how pleasant it can be!) and will then make my way back to Sweden through Germany.


View over Tana (Vy med utsikt)

On our way to Anakao (Me, Arif and Brett)

Fish in Saint Augustin

In Fianarantsoa and a decorated, not yet opened shop

Highlands - typical houses and cultivation

Drinking coconut milk in Sahamalaza

Veloma Madgasikara – Hello Lund

Hi everyone,

I have not written in a long time, but I can assure you that I am fine; as fine as you can be having been ill for two weeks and constantly changing the location of your bed because the roof is really leaking…anyhow, I am not sure whether this is the final letter or not, there might be one with post-comments on my five month stay in Madagascar. Meanwhile, let me give you the latest, which I will email off having just a couple of hours left on Madagascar.

I am not really sure what to write, but I will tell you that I actually had a good Christmas. Some of you were worried, first Christmas without family and no Kartoffelsalat, but it was ok. Bizarre due to the constant heat, the Malagasy dancing and well, I can’t remember the last time I had rice for Christmas. But both our and the mayors Christmas parties turned out really well and everyone was happy. New Years Eve I spent on my own in the house, the other three had left for Toliara and a cabaret and sea food buffet which was not in my taste. I stayed in the house, had music playing from two churches, the Muslim neighbour and three Malagasy parties, so I did certainly not feel alone. I had the generator running and sat up and worked, the last academic effort I remember doing, and went to be straight after 00.00.

My research is completed. Despite the blow that my photos have virtually disappeared, a blow that is harder considering that all social pictures are gone too, I am very happy with the results and I do think that my thesis will be good. I am very tired of writing though, hence no progress has been made in the last few weeks. I decided to actually have some kind of vacation – on a sunny beach, with cheap housing and food and amongst friends; it could not have been better. I managed to take time off, and most you know how hard it is for the German in me to relax. All academic ambitions just disappeared and even the enthusiasm for the report for our host organisation was on a minimum in January. The downside was that the weather was not the greatest. Two cyclones passed along the Channel of Mozambique/West Indian Ocean and for days no bus, no pirogues and no movements occurred in town. We had lunch and dinner inside; we slept again inside the house but had to move around as we discovered that the roof leaked on various places and got on each others nerves. We were so accustomed to having a lot of space but this was new to us. Arif had by this time left us though, he went home to Turkey early January, so we were only three ordinary people in the house. In between the cyclones the Brighton students knock on the door, they are here on a field expedition and live in tents doing biodiversity transects for WWF, and ask for housing. A couple of days later they move in with their entourage of four Malagasy students and hire a cook and a washing lady of their own – suddenly the house is more crowded then ever, but it turned out just fine. We played backgammon and talked about ice cream and pizza all day long. And the constant raining actually cooled the air down and we could you light blankets for once, that was a nice change.

A week after the Brighton’s moved in, I got sick. Shaking fever, joint ache etc and basically just feeling rotten. Everything settled down the day after, but resumed at night…as this is the classic sign for malaria, but without the cold shivering, I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with malaria, amoeba and the flu! That was fun, he prescribed me 16 pills a day for a week. Something did fix me though, as I felt better three days into the cure. Unfortunately being ill coincided with my last days in Saint Augustin, packing with fever was not fun but the German skills came through, and with help I managed to pack everything and a bit more. I have now basically nothing left to wear except my plane outfit and my backpacks are full of books and papers, mainly, and odd souvenirs from Madagascar given to me by friends.

After spending a last of couple days in Toliara, saying good bye to people and eating ice cream at the favourite restaurant, I had the saddest good bye ever at the taxi brousse station going to Tana, saying good bye to everyone that I have been hanging out with for over four months. Luckily, Kristina awaited me in Tana and I had someone to hang out with, it would have been far too lonely otherwise. The last days here I have been basically giving the report to the organisation and doing a last tour around town, but that is it. I am meeting Kristina for dinner in a couple of hours and then we set of for the airport, hopefully meeting Brett there and then we all take of from Ivato Airport, heading towards Paris and our respective final destinations.

It has been a really good stay in Madagascar, and if any one of you ever wants to go, I directly volunteer to tag along! I have many many more reflections in my head, but they all make me sad about leaving, so instead I am looking forward to be freezing in my summer clothes in Sweden and empty the fridge that my mother has filled for me on before hand.

Veloma Madagasikara!

Yes! Alive and breathing!

Hello everybody !!

Yeah, I am still alive and well, no woories about me, I hope. I have just been really busy and have not been able to send something off for a while. But now, with Christmas approaching (they even placed a fake tree in the intercafe, weird, I tell you) I think about all of you who have to celebrate a freezing Christmas (most of you anyway). And decided do let you know that I think of you!

So, I will make this chronologically. The last time I wrote I was on my way to the North. After three days of travellingin a car, with the usual assortment of creepy gyus and uncomfortable seats, we arrived in Maromandia. There we met Coco, a nice bloke, who was going to be in charge of us the next four days. And we got one night respite and then the travelling took on. Coco had made a good programme, we would visit 3 community groups in 3 days, an equation only interruptable by the weather. Which is of course what stopped us: the lack of wind. Because Maromandia and the protected area of Sahamalaza is only accesible by pirogue. Normally, the trip to the first spot takes three hours; us, it took 3 days. No kidding! But we had fun, well, besides being on a boat all day long. We slept in little fisher folk huts, made food over open fire (yeah, being a veggie is a problem, but Coco dealt with it well) and ran into random villagers who offered us fresh coconuts, mangos and amazing views from their compound. Then the German spirit kicked in and we completed the interviews all in one day and got back to town only one day late! Travelled directly on to Tana, met with HQ and took the afternoon bus to Toliara and the next bus to Saint Augustin…I then happily slept many, many nights in a row in my own bed, that is pure luxury! But the trip to the North was certainly fun and we learned a lot about comminuty based management. Long hours in the taxi brousse are no hit though.

So, on the long hours spend on the boat, Kris and I talked about a lot. And you suddenly become aware of stuff. Like how my right leg always is injured. When Turk hit his collarbone I tripped over a line and got a nasty cut on the leg (that only now is healed). I get most mosquito bites on my right leg. I got nasty cuts from shells (walking in the muddy mangrove, you dont see what you step on or in) on my right toes. I have to take better care of my leg. Also, sleeping eaach night in a different hut makes you notice all the stuff that is needed to survive a night. I have compiled a quick list for you, which is only applicable in Saint Augustin though, but mainly the same on the road. Just double the stuff, as I shared space with Kris the whole time.

Good things to store inside your mosquito net when you are sleeping:
• Flashlight. Yes, you will need it to check the inside of your net and get rid of any trapped mosquitoes. And you’ll need it if you want to go out if it is dark.
• Toilet paper. If you need to when it is dark. Requires the use of the flashlight.
• Jacket and skirt. Because it might be cold outside when you need to go out on the aforementioned point.
• Mosquito repellent. You will all have understood by now that I might need to get out at night. And the mosquitoes won’t hesitate to bite you.
• Anti-itching stick for bites. Because you sometimes don’t have the times to put on the repellent in the middle of night when you really have to go to the toilet.
• Book. You might read before you fall asleep (in case there is any light). Or you read in the mornings when the otherws are still asleep.
• Notebook. You might have a brilliant idea before, during or after your beauty sleep.
• Cell phone. I don’t own one, but I have come to appreciate them. Because you need them to play games once electricity is off and the lights are out. And to show you the time in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep and wonder how long you have been awake now.
• Water bottle. You might get thirsty.
• Alcogel…disinfectant gel that kills germs in your hands. Good to have after a nocturnal visit to the toilet.
• Toothbrush and -paste. Somehow the bed always seems to be the cleanest place in the entire room.
• Towel. The bed is the cleanest place!
• Moneybelt and passport. Of course, any thieve would look beneath my pillow, but it somehow feels more secure.
• Alarmclock. You sometimes need to get up in the morning. Somehow I have the habit of always awaken at 6.30 anyway, but you never know.
• Left over stuff that I didn’t take away before going to bed. Can include clothes (clean ones of course), random paperwork, literature, sun screen, vitamins, medicine kit, my hat etc.

You might think that I have a big bed, but no, it is a one place bed. But I don’t have my usual German-sized pillow, only a small one (courtesy to Air France), so this leaves some extra space in bed. And since the mosquito net is firmly tucked in around the sites, nothing falls out. It gets a bit crowded now and then in my bed, but so far I manage to find enough space for myself too.

Ok. Whats was next? My big surfing training! Well, it only consisted of two hours hard training, but I love it. This if going to be the water sport I will learn (have to move close to surf then, but that is worth it). It is really not easy and we had some good laughs, but it is so cool. I did get a couple of bruises, and of course, hurt my right led (bruises from the fins). But I still love it.

Otherwise, live is going on. Research is taking shape and i conducted my last basic interview yesterday!! Moving on to a couple more observations and in depth stuff, but that is it then! Happy happy happy, I tell you. I got a cold (in the heat, dont know how I managed) but life is still fine. Getting restless, but I am German…

Take care!

The latest news from St Augustin…

Hi everyone,

It has been a while since I sent an email, but I have basically been living in St Augustin. Only came into town for resupplying and sending off school work. It really feels a bit like home, staying in the same bed several nights in a row, knowing what you will have for dinner, talking to the cooking lady, the washing lady, other people in the village and finally also starting field work. Not the feasibility study we are doing for our organisation, but collecting material for my thesis. Beside counting fish and learning vernacular names for species, is it not going very well though. I have not found a research assistant yet, I dont even need an assistant, I just need a translator, but there are apparently few people speaking French in the village… I doubt that, I just think that people are too shy. But I will go on the hunt for my assistant when I come back from my mission.

Kris and I are sent off to Mahajanga, that is on the northwest coast. We will leave later today and arrive in Tana late tomorrow, spend the night there (Indian restaurant and chocolate dessert, here I come!!) and then leave early Sunday morning for Mahajanga. According tot the programm which we just received, we will then again on Monday morning for somekind on town which is not even mentioned in the guide book; finally we are totally going of the beaten track! And we have been promised rainforest, so I really look forward to the trip. Excluding the tiresome rides in the taxi brousse that is.

Otherwise, the latest adventures include a local rum village, accessible over a steep moutain slope. Unfortunately did we not find out until we got there – so I had to climb in sandals and a skirt. Not the most comfortable things. Also, on my last pirogue trip I got a sunburn on my behind, since my pants ripped apart and you dont really think about putting sun screen there. Arif made a nice joke about my ass being hot, in every sense od the word. But I am all ok now. Apart from several blisters at my feet and a cut on my leg…these things just happen.

More fun was eating the baobabfruit. It looks like a hairy coconut and has small seeds inside. You first eat the white surroundings, which are a bit lemony, abnd then you bite the seeds apart and eat the nutty meat inside. Really good for snack. Also, lots and lots of litchis. Wont be able to live without them once I am back in Europe. The fruits here are simply just amazing!

But that are all the news so far. Summer is approaching, the sun now rises at 5 am and setting at 18…more daylight, more time to work! And it is getting really hot, so hot that we barely can sleep at night. But I still enjoy myself a lot and dont even want to think about that I passed my half time point last week.


Lemurs and circumcision

So…I am still fine. I have been travelling for almost two weeks and actually had a blast. Back in Toliara we had an intense period of writing and doing review, that is basically all I have done the last three days. My mind is a bit empty, right now, but I really want to share my experiences. I have decided to skip the part of the lemurs, oh, well, I will give you a short summary:

I have held, petted and named a mouse lemur. I named it Sven, because they were looking for male names and wanted one with a Nordic influence and that was the first name I came up with. A mouse lemur is really really tiny and has enormous eyes (and balls, in case anyone wants to know)…I know you have all seen the film Madagascar, it is the type that starts to cry all the times, basically. I think. We also went for long walks in the rain forest and made a couple of interviews. Besides that, we shared camp site with a bunch of American undergraduates and had loud company for a couple of days.

So, the fun part though was the circumcision ceremonies in Manajary. It is called Sambatra and only takes place every seventh year. People travel from all over Mad to be here, either to participate or to celebrate. You can buy T-shirts, lambas and hats with this years motives on. It has really become more and more commercial, but the ceremonies in itself are really still authentic; in the parade only people dressed rightly and belonging to a tranobe were allowed, leaving many of the white people far away from what was going on (more about that below). It would be too hard to go into every single detail, but basically celebrations are a month, culminating in 24h partying the last week. The boys are circumcised during this week; they are all between 0 and 10 years old. They are dressed in red with a red hat, the kings colour. They were a cord around their waist for protection against evil spirits.

The mother and grandmothers dance everyday during the last week around the tranobe (kings house/circumcision house). They start early in the morning and most of them are already drunk then. The men go to the forest and chop down sacred tree, transport them on a boat to the village and then carry them on their shoulder x laps around the tranobe. The next day they craft wooden birds and paint them and tie them to the house.

The most fun part was the young men bringing the holy water to the house, disguised as attackers and actually throwing sticks at the defenders (the fathers and uncles of the circumcised boys). Arif and Brett got caught in the middle and were hit by sharp bamboo sticks, not really a pleasant experience. And these were not the only casualties, other men got injured as well (we women were kept out of the way).

All the above mentioned parts took place basically everyday at one of the ten tranobes in the village. The final was last Friday, when the parade on the beach took place. People gather in their tranobe to walk along the beach to the edge and get the benediction, whatever that might be in English. This walk is done in memory of the ancestors who came from the Arabic land. Since it was a long journey, we had to rest and sat down in the sand every few minutes. All the time singing of courses, cheering for the circumcised boys and celebrating the journey.

I say we, because me and Kate, an Australian girl we met, were permitted to participate. Under certain conditions though: we had to have our hair braided, had to were a non-open lamba (=sarong), needed a hat, a non-black T-shirt that covered out shoulders and were not allowed to wear any shoes. At the last thing I went uh-uh, the beach is basically infected with parasites and glass, but I figured that among all the thousands of people walking along the beach, the parasites would not choose my humble feet. To save time and money, Kate and I bought the same fabric for the lamba and had a local woman make s skirt. We figured it would be strange being in the same green colour, but it turned out to be a lucky thing: Upon arrival at “our” tranobe we met three older women who had the same fabric too – and we just started laughing and ended up holding hands with these women most of the walk. Now that was a fun experience.

Anyhow, we made it to the edge of the beach. There we were all sprinkled by sea water and had to wash our face, neck, hands, legs and feet in the sea too. When everyone was done, sudden cheering erupted and we walked home in a quick pace, singing different songs.
Much of the symbolism is still unclear to me, but I will do some serious research when I get home. There were lots of photographers and film crew around, mostly French people, so there is bound to be some good info available soon.

Sorry, but that is about it for my brain. I will now go an buy a yoghurt, need a treat, and then reveal to Brett that his USB has a virus…


Old updates

750575_tropical_island.jpgI uploaded all the old emails my dear sister wrote during her first 1 1/2 month in Madagascar. You can find them all under the category Madagascar.

All of them are uploaded at there original dates, so if anyone wants to read them from the start that should be easily possible. The first one can be found at the bottom of this page

All future updates from her will be on the category page as well.


Shout out from Mad

Wow, I must say, good job Little Brother! This page is even accessible from a developing country (not sure how long I have internet connection though…).

I cant really think of any funny story right now, just wanted to say that I am part of this too…probably giving comments from my whereabouts, which currently is Toliara, Madagascar. We have all the sun you dont have back in Sweden, trust me, my tan is lovely.

Just returned from an unpermuitted holiday on the east coast; the circumcision festival over there only takes place every seventh year and lets face it, I never miss an opportunity to dance. And malgach boys know how to dance! I will get you the facts later, right now I will just say that I stayed a couple of night in a tent and participated in the cleansing ritual, all traditional style and even attending a Jerry Marcoss concert. He is THE star right now in Mad and will be touring France soon, so keep a watch out there.

Dinner time, we are going for a pizza treat, our third night in a row!

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 !