Saturday, April 23, 2011

Karma -Chameleon!

Travel in Madagascar, the country of lemurs and chameleons, and you will end up singing "I like to move it, move it", or "Karma Chameleon" more than you'd choose to. Once the tunes are in your head, it's very hard to get rid of it them. As we're driving back from a weekend trip to Vakona Forest Lodge (which is, by the way, lovely!) with our friends Olivier and Amena, we stopped at the Peyieras Exotic park.

It is a small park with chameleons, butterflies and crocs. Seeing those beautifully colored chameleons actually made me think about Boy George, where he sings loving would be easy if the colors were like my dream, red, gold and green, red, gold en green. Chameleons really are red, gold and green! Some of them at least.

Did you know that there are 50 different species of chameleon in Madagascar? Truly amazing with their grumpy faces, their curly tails and their 360 degree rolling eyeballs.

Karma Karma Karma Chameleon - Red Gold and Green...

But now I have to share a secret truth with you - something I have learned from my daughter Soleine's lessons at the American School. I hope I'm not bursting your bubble here but: chameleons can not change their color to blend into their surroundings. 

They don't just change any color, they will not just switch to polka dots, or stars and stripes. Actually, most chameleons change between brown and gray. 

Here's some chameleon facts:

- Each species has its own color range
- Chameleons change because of  light or temperature
- They also change based on mood - when they're angry for example
- Their color changes by opening and closing cells named melanophores.

Is he changing in to stripes of Antoine's t-shirt? 

Most chameleons are grey or brown

Okay this all may be true, but I still like to believe otherwise. Check this picture! This little one just turned purple to match my shirt!

This little one matches my purple t-shirt

Monday, April 11, 2011


Maybe it's a first sign of a mid-life crisis, or just an expat-dip. Or for those who believe in numerology, could it be  because I just started a new seven year-cycle of living abroad (the third actually!). Or is it because it's my seventh country? I don't know but I find living in Tana not easy at all.
For the first time in my life I'm having sleepless nights.

I'm feeling sorry for our night guard all the time, who has to stay awake all night (not that he does) and eat plain rice most of the days. We give him meat once per week, but I still feel bad. I feel horrible for the retarded mother with two children who spends entires days sleeping on a piece of grass in our street. 

Pothole filler asking for money
I also feel pain for the school children walking bearfoot to school. I cringe at the old, teethless ladies knocking my car window with their skinny old hands, begging for a little money. My heart bleeds for the thousands of street vendors who try to make a daily living selling car seat covers. I turn away from the children going through the container garbage bins, and the guy who fills the potholes up with stones, and asks money for it. Everyone ignores him. Like the bloke in his wheelchair at the traffic lights, and the man with the bleeding stumps at the super market exit. 

Urbain poverty is everywhere here in Tana. Everywhere. And I'm finding it more and more difficult to cope with. I think I am suffering from Weltschmertz. Yes, now that I know it has a name, I can actually write about it. Weltschmerz, or world pain is defined as psychological pain caused by sadness as a result of inappropriateness and cruelty in the world. I can tell you, there is lots of that here in Tana. It can cause depression, resignation, escapism, even suicide! Wow, well I don't think my case is that bad....

Now that we have defined it, there must also be remedies for it. I googled a little and came across the following tips:

  • gardening (then my gardener would be unemployed)
  • cooking (excuse me - which western housewife came up with that one?)
  • stand up and fight (I like that one, but I'm not Che Guevara)
  • lock yourself up in bedroom and watch the entire Season Three of Boston Legal (This one is mine -it helps, but not for long..)
  • do something good. Anything.

Other tips, anyone?

Alex in his Sunday Suit
I decided to do the last. With my efforts to help Alex and his center for street children I feel I am making a tiny, little, teensy-weensy, micro contribution to alleviate poverty for some children in Tana. Alex is a young man, 25, who grew up on the streets in Tana. He founded the center seven years ago. It provides lunch and schooling for nearly 300 street kids and other very poor children.Without the center, many of those kids would end up begging on the Route de Hydrocarbures, one of the main streets in the city.

I have created a new blog dedicated to raising ideas and money for Alex and his center. He deserves our help.

Lately Alex has been having sleepless nights. It is increasingly difficult to find money to pay for teachers salaries and rice for the children. 
If anyone deserves to feel a little Weltschmerz it's him.