Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Throwing Panties?

When I first visited Madagascar 10 years ago, for a week of
View from our window
vacation while living in Zimbabwe, I was struck by two things: it's beauty...and it's poverty. Never had I seen so many poorly dressed, malnourished or laboring children as here. Today it does not seem that much has changed. Just below our apartment is a small 'slum'-kind of settlement: mud houses with metal sheet roofs held in place by old car tires, without electricity or running water. There are always at least twelve children of all ages cheerfully playing football with a ball made of rubbish. The children have no shoes and the little ones are butt naked, their moms unable to afford diapers. It does not seem to bother them, but it bothers me. When I first noticed it I was tempted to open my window and throw out some of our daughter's panties. She has so many...they have so little. After twelve years of working and living in developing countries I am still not used to this. And I never will. Of course I know that occasional handouts are not the solution.  
People will start thinking that all Vaza, slang for white folks, in Tana are potential panty-throwers...
I also know I can't is help everyone. Why is Madagascar so poor? This question does not have a simple answer. I found a link that explains some of the contributing factors quite well.

What can I do to help? I don't know yet. Development has to come from within. We as expats can only support (technically, financially, morally) processes that are initiated by the people from Madagascar. Unfortunately, many NGOs and projects have withdrawn since the 2009 crisis. I want to help but have not yet found my way around. Once I have, I'll be sure to let you know. Meanwhile I will have to control my panty-distributing urges...not easy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lemurs in Sight...

I like to move it move it...
We've seen our first lemurs in Madagascar! There is a Lemur Park not far from the city, for those who can not travel many miles to go to one of the national parks. I was a little afraid to find some half-tame lemurs in dirty cages but nope...they actually live freely on 4 acres of land, surrounded by a river that serves as a natural border. Lemurs don't like water. They live up in beautiful bamboo trees or dwell on the ground.We have seen the famous black and white-tailed Maki, and the white and brown dancers that hop on two legs. So funny! You immediately hear the 'I like to move it, move it' tune in your head when you watch them.The guide was telling how this movie has favored Madagascar tourism, but then someone had to spoil it all by causing all these political troubles.

Do we really have to wait until 2012 when Madagascar 3 will be released?

I hope not. Except from a few complaining restaurant owners, a burnt-out supermarket, and the exciting evacuation stories of a few Americans, we don't notice much from the political trouble of last year. On a political level however, Madagascar obviously needs a government representative of its people. But life moves on, and so do we (like to move it move it...).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Not Bad...

Never mind the in-flight magazine dating from December 2009, the minimal entertainment options and the 5-hour delay on the way out; we flew from Europe to Tana in business class with Air Madagascar for the same price as an economy-class ticket with Air France! That meant we could skip the 2-hour wait to check in at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport; we were invited to the American Airlines lounge in Paris, and had champagne with smoked duck breast on board. Of course we slept like roses, almost horizontally, and we were the first ones to exit the plane. And that meant no queue at immigration, and our 3 suitcases (we were allowed 40 kilo each)   first on the baggage belt. Out and about in less than 15 minutes.
Hence I say: Air Mad? Not bad (at all)! 
At Admiral's Lounge at CDG

Monday, July 5, 2010

Air Mad

Today I had to go to the agency of Air Madagascar here in down-town Tana. That felt like being thrown years back, since we buy all our tickets online now.

It was, as expected, full of people and slightly chaotic, and I felt a little lost. Amidst the chaos there was a little red beacon of hope: the good old-fashioned Take a Number Machine. I drew number 39, the screen was at 03. I was eagerly following its progress and it seemed to work; though very slowly, like one or two numbers per half hour.

Then other people came in, after me, waited a few minutes and their number came up right away! Humm? Well, it could be that these guys actually had taken a number way before I came in, but I was a little suspicious. Did they actually present their number to the ladies behind the counters? Yes they did.  
So how did they know at what time to come back??
There was no time indication or so. Had someone called them? I was puzzled, especially when it happened again and again, and they all had the right number...

Finally our driver clarified the mystery for me: you take a number and wait, but hey...this is Africa. If you don't want too wait long, you can buy a number for 2000 Ar (80 cents) from the Air Mada doorman, who sneaks out one ticket in every five or so, and sells them on! Ha ha, how entrepreneurial!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dutch in Madagascar!

Is there a better way to get to know your fellow countrymen in a strange country than through football?

I have found three so far, two of whom are in this picture...Wim who works for UNICEF, and Francois, manager of the Carlton hotel in Tana. There are even two Brazilians in Tana, but they left right after the match (wonder why..gna gna)


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Big W.

Okay, I can't say that we have not been warned. And we should have known when watching the world cup football in South Africa...it is winter here! Watching the football players on the bench covered under blankets, and seeing the South American football coaches dancing around in their sleeping bags should have been a forewarning sign. But my goodness, we were not prepared for THIS kind of humid, windy cold. Tana is built on seven hills, and located at 1400 meters altitude. Our apartment is on a hill and the wind blows right through it. It is winter in Madagascar with a big W, despite the pretty blue skies. I can only imagine how the many poor people who don't even have proper clothes are surviving July and August.