A while back, after some carefree surfing, I came across a tag on a fellow blogger's recent posts that questioned his/her surroundings at the moment (wotz on ur desk?, what are u wearing? etc.)
Now is a perfect time to respond to this. For, my ceaseless reader, I'm currently bashing away from an office. My third day in Antananorivo (or Tana), the capital of Madagascar (Mada-who-ha? ;)) - the 4th largest island and 4th poorest country on earth. On my desk is my handy bottled water (very necessary!) and a packet of vanilla sticks (grown locally in the many tropical forests in Mada). The sweet, pungent smell of vanillya (as its written in Malagasy - the language spoken by the locals here) is very intoxicating and seems to lift the senses to new highs. The aroma is quite strong though, and seems reside in every corner in this floor.
The building is built on one of the steep hills that seem to surround the city. Its cloudy, and looks likely that it will rain anytime. The country this year has had record rainfalls and a number of cyclones. A trio of little children sit outside the steps and sing melodious songs with the aid of a bongo drum. Poverty is apparant everywhere in this city. Little children often run up to us begging in the little French they know. The divide between the rich and poor class is apparant, but not blatant like some other African countries. It was a bit emotional in the beginning walking past the hoards of poor people around, but (like the crime in SA) you sorta get used to it and carry on with your business.
Its very humid here which reminded me a lot of India. Its very green, the people love keeping themselves active - whether its little kids playing soccer and rugby in muddy swamps, or older men concentrating on some board or card game on the street corner. The food here is a major plus. Yesterday, I had the best fish (poisson) dish I've ever had (and I've had lotz, believe me). Anything and everything is cheap here (compared to SA) and we've not even really taken to the streets yet where bargaining is possible.
The French connection is very apparant here through the language, the types of cars around (Citroens, Peugeot 504s), and the types of foreigners frequenting the area. The people here are of a Monglioid descent with characteristics of Indonesian and Negroids. Apparantly Indonesians settled here hundreds of years ago. The people are very friendly, and put a lot of effort to please us tourists.
I've not had a chance to make a trip to the game-parks were the famous Lemurs and Foosas reside. These two animals are indigious to Madagascar and can be found in the wild only in this part of the world. The view from my room was breath-taking with the lake in my short focus with the hills and palace of the kings in the background (a UNESCO world heritage site).
Back to that tag... Its been around an hour now, and the little children are still going strong (they've been singing every morning for all the days I've been here). The clouds have disappeared and its bright and sunny. The vanilla sticks are still doing their job. My bottle is almost empty. My Malagasy colleagues are talking amongst themselves, each of them wear a pleasant smile on their faces.
We're catching the flight back to Jhb later this afternoon. I'm hoping I get a chance to come back to this tropical paradise. Perhaps, next time I'll get to spend more time exploring the jungles of this fascinating country. A couple of days ago, I was totally ignorant of this place (wasn't even sure whether it was Mozambique or Madagascar that constituted that island); now I'm just that little more experienced. Perhaps I should have seeked advice from the Lemur character in the Pixar animated 2005 movie Madagascar - "Its MadaGASCAR not WHO-HA, you Pansy..!"
I heard there's a cyclone brewing between that leg of water on the Straits of Mozambique. Great! Thats right into the flightpath on our way back. More adventure awaits...