So it’s raining for the first time in a while, and it’s pleasant to sit in a cafe and write to you all.
Things are well here. I have to pinch myself occasionally to remind myself that I ACTUALLY go to school here–Libanona is spectacularly gorgeous. On days when we are not taking field trips around the Ft. Dauphin area, I go sit in a hammock and watch whales jumping around at sea between classes, no joke. On Thursday we took a field trip to a fishing village and a pristine beach (Lokaro)–the car ride there took two hours because the roads are ridiculously bad. It was like an old rollar coaster on sand and mud, driving through rivers and over dunes. The fishermen we talked to told us about their way of life and the “fadys”–taboos–of the village (for example, women cannot look in the mirror while their husbands are at sea, and no arguments are allowed while fishing). The beach we went to was great, and a friend and I swam out to explore an island after lunch and Malagasy class. I saw a forest fire from the shore (below):
But as beautiful as it is here, the poverty is often more remarkable. So much what I had read about Madagascar before the trip praised the biodiversity and the beautiful environment, and very little commented on the economic situation. Madagascar was the 4th poorest country in the world a few years ago, and the recent political crisis has nearly destroyed the tourism industry here. It’s a shocking juxtaposition: pristine coast and crippling poverty, unique protected species and starving kids.