Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Le Rabbateur

The Trivet Maker 
It amazes me each day how many professions one can find in Madagascar. Many of them no longer exist in our society (or don't exist yet!), such as the milkman, the knife sharpener, the glass bottle collector, the garbage sorter, the basket weaver, the sausage maker, the firewood seller, the sock darner, the wash woman, the green-leaf grinder, the herbalist, the wool spinner, the rope twister, the car washer, the DVD copier, the ID-card laminator, the baby hat knitter, the exhaust pipe welder, the chair upholsterer, the MP3 song downloader, the trivet maker...

Shall I go on?

I am making this list up as I'm writing, but there is actually an excellent photobook entitled: Madagascar, Le grand livre des petits metiers, by Laurence Vanpaeschen.

The old fashioned knife sharpener

Special skills
I really did not realize there were so many ways to make (a very modest) living. Then there is the 'rabbateur'. Something I had never heard off before coming to Madagascar. A rabbateur is an animal spotter. He is like a guide but with a specialty to spot rare animals like lemurs and chameleons. The rabbateur has the eye, he can make the animal sounds to lure them, he can climb in trees or run upon hills. In short, he too has some pretty special skills.

Lemur on the phone
Not long ago we visited the Ranomafana national park in Madagascar. Our rabbateur was able to spot many animals, including rare birds, hidden spiders and a camouflaged chameleon not bigger than my pinky. But what amazed me most was that this and most rabbateurs in Madagascar are using new technologies; they actually have animal sounds on their mobiles. Our rabbateur proudly told us he had ten different lemur cries on his Nokia! Luckily he was out of battery when we were there!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fete du Pain

Today was a special day for me and for the center for steetchildren I volunteer at. We were invited to participate at la Fete du Pain, a big event near the Tana train station, organized by LMM - Les Moulins de Madagascar - a large flour mill in Antsirabe. The objective of the day was to promote flour, and bread, and cakes, and rolls, and baguettes, and croissants, and..... Well you get the picture, right?

Bread versus Rice?
You may wonder why such basic products like flour and bread need any special promotion in Madagacar?

General rehearsal, Wednesday 4.35 PM
Well, that is because Madagascar is traditionally a rice-consuming nation. It's rice, rice and rice again here. Three times per day preferably.

LMM reopened his mill in Antisrabe a few months ago, and to celebrate this event they organized a day with baking demonstrations, speeches, workshops for bakers, and the like.

Hand-embroidered bread bags
As I am friends with Mark and Karen Reed, he is the administrateur general de LMM,sometime in June we were brainstorming about this day.  I then proposed that the streetchildren of the Akanifitahiani center could make hand-embroidered sacs a baguette. as a nice give-away for the invitees. They liked the idea, and more even, they asked the children to come and sing some songs, and Alex to make a speech to promote the center.

The Real Deal...this morning Thursday 11.55 AM
Petit Pain au Chocolat
So there I am breaking my head over finding a song in French that has anything to do with bread. Then Michel helps my out...Joe Dassin's famous Petit Pain Au Chocolat! Yes, got it. We rehearse and rehearse. And finally went for general rehearsal on stage yesterday.

The big day
Today was the big day. The LMM bus picked up the kids at 11 AM, we dressed them in their LMM caps and t-shirts and went on stage. They sang like nightingales!

And as far as their preference for rice or bread is concerned...these pictures speak for themselves!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Boers TV

I am sure I already told you that it can get fricking cold here in Tana. Don't ask me why but this week King Winter decided he wanted to stay on for a little while, giving us all the chils and shivers. I am talking 11 to 15 degrees Celcius. For some reason I am always 'underdressed', as if I refuse to believe that it can get really cool in a tropical country. I never seem to learn..

Our very own boers TV
In the evenings we sit and watch our fire place. Which reminds me of a great expression the Afrikaner Boers in South Africa use: they call the fire the 'boers TV', or farmers TV. Watching the fire in the bush is like watching TV. Cute.

Smoke from the tellie?
So we were quietly watching our boers TV last night, until smoke started to appear from our 'television'. (I reckon that 80% of fire places in Tana are not properly built and 'leak' smoke). That was the end of the boers TV and we switched back to Canal Satellite, to watch Ajax and Lyon draw blank in the Amsterdam Arena. Nice to have teenage son at home...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Carrot with a Disability?

I have started a consultancy assignment for  UNICEF. A very interesting job, to conduct an assessment of UNICEF's partners' capacities in order to develop an overall capacity strengthening plan for partners and UNICEF staff. How I will manage to capture all the different levels of competence - organizational, technical and cross cutting, of over 400 different partners divided over 6 sectors (health, education, protection, nutrition, HIV AIDS etc) into one plan is still a big question to me, but that will be for later concern.

Range of target groups
UNICEF has quite a large program in Madagascar, with many different target groups. I name a few: teachers, students, primary school students, parents of students, infants, children up to 59 months, youth, mothers, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, sex workers, MSM (Men having Sex with Men), local authorities, doctors and health personnel, girls at risk of abuse, boys at risk of abuse, persons with a handicap, etc. All together this can cover almost the whole population of Madagascar, except perhaps the odd male rice farmer, tough I am sure he's targeted in some of the nutrition projects.

Handicapped? Or disabled?
What strikes me most with working with the UN is the jargon. For example I wrote: person with a handicap. Can we still say that? Or should it be 'disabled person', or 'person with disability', or 'differently-abled person', or invalid? Terminology changes over time, and for the best. Saying: 'a disabled person' actually implies that the entire person is disabled, which is nonsense. I kind of like the 'differently abled' word, though it almost implies something positive...

Carrots with a disability
Anyway, I thought of all this when our gardener pulled at a bunch of carrots that Soleine planted in her little garden some months ago. They came all kind of handicapped. With half a leg, or shriveled up bottoms. I have no idea why, can anyone tell me? Have they been in the soil for too long? Is it because the seeds were thrown in haphazardly, like they do here in Mada?

And the final question: should we call a carrot with a handicap, or with a disability? Or differently-abled carrots? Ha ha! What say you?