Monday, March 17, 2014

Fruits de la Route or Mission Fruits

Sometimes I go on a field trip here. We call this 'a mission', which makes me a missionary. It is always fascinating to visit the country side here. What a world of difference with the capital city, let alone with Europe.

Unwritten rule
When on a mission we receive a per diem to pay for hotel and meals. I've done quite a few missions, for different organizations, but there always seems to be the same unwritten rule among the missionaries: the perdiem is divided in three: one third to pay for the expenses, one third for the pocket, and one third for the Voandalana, or Fruits of the Road.

So we are supposed to bring home road fruits.. And we do! Oranges, pine apples, bananas, baskets full.   More than anyone can eat, so I give it to the staff. But a mission fruit does not have to be a fruit. Anything that is sold on the road: a duck in a basket, a fluffy white rabbit held by its ears, a fat dangling shrimp, a poof filled with straw, a brightly colored statue of the virgin Mary,  a tropical plant in an oil can, some stinky cheese in a stinky plastic bag, honey in an empty dish liquid bottle, name it :-)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Happy in an Unhappy Country?

This week  the latest results on the Millenium Development Goals of the United Nations came out. Only 3% of all households in Madagascar describes itself as ' happy '.  The other  97% find their living conditions (very) difficult. Now I wonder: can one be happy in an unhappy country? 

I'm happy here. I belong to the 0.2% who are very well off. We kind of live like Hollywood stars, with our spacious home and staff, including a private driver.  But as soon as we step outside our yard, we are in the middle of the misery; smelly rubbish dumps, open sewerage, slums, and rows of beggars banging on your car window.  What to do? We do what we can.  Both my husband and I are working to stimulate the development of Madagascar. In my spare time I help street children, disabled elderly, teens in prison and orphans. 

Can't complain
But the rows of blind, legless, armless  or otherwise deformed beggars appear to be  longer each day. Every day here is a reality check;  an opportunity to compare your own expectations and situation to others. And so: I can't complain. I mean that literally. Sometimes I would like to complain (the holes in the road, internet that keep breaking down, I discovered another wrinkle, PMS, ...) but I don't allow myself.

I feel almost obligated to be happy here. Because we have so much, and they so little ...

Poverty is ubiquitous here (everywhere)