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.


  1. Hey cycle 7..

    Don't dismiss the Gardening idea. Enlarge it. and then, find youre place in it. Community Gardens?

    one or two Vodka tonics to follow.... nightly. for sleep reasons, that is.

    Peace in youre heart that other's suffering is The path in which they take part in , different , yet the same as anyone's. So are there happinesses.

    teach youre children youre lessons, if they are honest ones and ones based on the generational knowledge for the benifit of our children's children, we will find the lessons , we most need to learn and share...
    as always.. peace.

  2. 'Weltschmerz'. I'm so thankful there's a name for this affliction I suffer from at times. World pain........suddenly I don't feel so crazy. Thanks for the illumination, Susanne, not just on this subject, but on everything you share with your fans. I've made my husband read your last two entries and he's now one, too. Best wishes and thank you for making a dent in my Weltschmerz.

  3. Yeah! I have a fan! Thanks for leaving a comment, so nice!

  4. Dear Suzane,
    I want to congratulate you for writing your interesting experiences. I think you are doing the right thing to help these lovely malagache, and hope you will be able to promote it even further.
    Hopefully soon I will be able to come Madagascar and we will join forces:)

    I have an idea that might help in raising online funding, if you want to discuss it further please contact me.
    Good luck in your endeavor :)

  5. Dear Nader, thanks for your reaction, so nice to have some feedback. Of course I am interested in your fund raising ideas. How do I contact you?

  6. Hi
    I would like to know more about Alex's work for a church in the UK which is looking for a smallish project to fund. Please could you email me on
    I'll be in Tana on and off for the next 6 weeks or so.