My Mom's been visiting for the past month, first at my site and then traveling on the road from Tulear to Tana. I asked her to write up some of her impressions of the country:
--------We talk to the geckos on the walls – named Sherman all – and have become quite fond of the little frog who resides in the outhouse. Rowan lives in an impenetrable fort of cement and steel. The neighbors call out as we pass by, the children stop to stare, then run away shrieking and giggling. Rowan has taught them a few words of English in the 18 months she’s lived here but the white woman living in their village is still a novelty.
We walk to the small market to buy precious eggs for banana crepes and mofo-gasy (a sort of crumpet made with rice flour) for breakfast. We follow a trail to the school where I assist in sorting and shelving books for the library. After meetings with school officials and the mayor starting about 9 months ago, Rowan’s dream has finally become a reality. There will be about 400 books available to the villagers before she makes the long journey back to the U.S. and finally home.
I’ve been fascinated by the housing here in the village and as we’ve traveled around this vast island. Available materials are put to use – palm fronds and bamboo strips in the north; saplings and twigs in the south; mudded red brick homes in the Highlands.
Outside the cities, the dress is western mixed with traditional topped with colorful scarves or woven hats, bare feet or flip-flops. Sunday is dress-up day – satin and lace, sparkles and bows. Everyone looks like they’re wearing wedding finery.
Small children cry a lot, dogs are staving, oxen over-whipped. Men pull cartloads of bags of rice, gutted hogs, charcoal, poached rosewood. Women elegantly balance loads on their heads – baskets of bread, bricks, wet clothes just washed in the river. Children entertain themselves with bottle caps, a stick and an old tire, trash and stones. There is an acceptance of the way of life here. This is the way it’s always been. For most of these people, the world doesn’t exist outside of Madagascar.