The day after Thanksgiving should be devoted to rest and digestion. Too bad I have a term paper to write.
I left Tana in early November after some lonely days working. Flew to Ft. Dauphin–made friends with a South Africans doctor-missionary who gave me a ride to Hotel Mahavoky. Slept–worked all the next day at Libanona, and met with Naina (language professor and ISP advisor), who advised me to leave for Faux Cap the next morning. So I did. Naina took me to the Gare Routiere to help me get a fair price and told the chauffer to look out for me–not that it mattered, because I didn’t leave the taxi brousse once in eleven hours for fear of it leaving without me, and most everybody just let me alone. The taxi brousse was big, crowded, exposed to the elements–and I had a great time watching the world go by until I lost feeling in my legs around Hour 6.
We arrived at Tsiombe around 930pm. I called Naina’s grandmother, who I would be staying with overnight. Left my bag on top of the taxi brousse–they weren’t unloading until the next morning–and walked off to my host’s house. Slept like a baby on a nice mattress (I had gotten a really mysterious text from Ben before I left about some lack of mattresses and was happy enough to find one, however badly it smelled of chickens) and woke to Naina’s grandmother pounding on the door at 530am so I could get my bag, no problem. Two mofogasy and one cup of coffee later, we walked to town to find me a ride to Faux Cap; it was easy, and sort of cheap, and I only waited three hours for the car to leave to drive 30km. Friday is market day in Tsihombe, so I wandered and then sat in the car and watched the lamba parade.
We stopped in a few villages on the way into Faux Cap–at Morafeno, I heard villagers whispering my name and thought that I recognized an old lady from Analafaly. I saw my host dad on the side of the road walking back toward the village and waved–he was wearing the O’s baseball cap, now terribly faded. I asked to be dropped off at the side of the road right in front of Libertaria–and walked in to see Rodrigue and Ben interviewing Fara, the proprietor. I was so happy.
I ate the first real meal I’d had in two weeks and heard all about Ben and Emily’s long taxi brousse voyage (no mattresses). When the boys went out to interview fishermen along the beach, I went swimming. I had little work to do while Ben was still doing interviews, so I took it easy. Faux Cap is beautiful and it is hot; it is easy to rest there. Emily came to visit on Sunday with Audacio; it was great to see her. I went back to my village to give them some photos. They asked where all the other photos were, I had taken so many (and so will be sending a package from Tana). Went to the market with Ben and Rodrigue on Monday–Ben fainted from the heat. Walked 12km for cell phone reception. Interviewed in Analafaly about the sacred forest and ate sacred forest honey (so good). it was a delightful week and I already miss our cozy room and the hammock out on the front porch–our place was right on the main road so you saw everyone on their way to the wells, and it was ever so pleasant to sit in the shade and read.
We finally left the next Friday. Quick breakfast (“fast food,” said Rodrigue) and then into the camion for a bumpy but easy ride to Tsihombe. There we deposited our things at Naina’s grandmothers, went to lunch, and arranged a ride all the way to Ft. Dauphin in a THB delivery truck. This was heaven. We had a great dinner with a short drunk Malagasy interruption (the man knew some English–“pretty, pretty, pretty;” but Rodrigue, in his calm and even English, was such a hilarious comparison that I laughed so hard I spat my drink out; “Do you speak any Malagasy?” he asked), watched some Bob Marley, and slept. The truck left at “5am”–which means closer to 7am factoring in Malagasy time–and Em and I sat in the front seats with lots of leg room and air conditioning (surreal) and even seat belts. Ben couldn’t stand being squished and so rode in the back of the truck on top of crates of empty bottles (I was jealous and tried to climb back there too but was not allowed, being a girl). It was a fine ride home.
We’ve been staying at Hotel Mahavoky all week, working hard during the day and sleeping well at night, scrambling to find cheap eats so we have enough beer money. 2000 ariary = 1 beer, = 1 plate of gasy food in a hotely, = 1 dollar. So scrambling over 100-200-500 ar shouldn’t be a big deal–it’s 10-25 cents–but it means an extra cup of coffee, more mofogasy, and that makes all the difference. It’s been great to be back in Ft. Dauphin, and there’s a great, clean, cheap hotely nearby that makes meals easier. I got sick two days after we got back because the food we were eating was fattier and oilier than the rice and beans we’d had in Faux Cap, and certainly different from the bread and bananas that I ate in Tana for the two weeks prior. I’m still working on getting my body back to full strength, even though I’ve been fine for a few weeks. My energy level is basically back to before–I ran 5 miles this morning and felt great–and I have definately regained my appetite.
The whole group got back yesterday (Thursday) morning. Sophie had returned from Berenty the night before we arrived via THB truck–marvelous to see her and here about her lemur adventures. Kate returned Wednesday, boasting a nasty injury from when she fell into a rice paddy. Michelle and Rachel flew from Tulear Thanksgiving morning, both sick with dysentery and unable to hold much down. Our Thanksgiving dinner was, therefore, sort of anti-climatic. We ordered typical gasy fare from Mahavoky (which means “to make full”)–rice, beans, zebu, even some veggies–but when dinner came, it was vazaha portion of rice and some veggies. Lucky for me, Ben and I had had some zebu brochettes and beers before dinner–was much easier to laugh at the situation that way. In its own way, a very gasy meal, punctuated by lateness, miscommunication, and disease. The healthy kids went out for yogurt afterwards, and beers later, and then all piled into our room at Mahavoky for the night. And today, back to work.
The ISP is due Monday–then pancake breakfast, a flight to Tana and then to Diego, and a pleasant vacation-like week in the north. Past the stress of paper-writing and presentation-preparing, all will go smoothly. Good thing for that–we are all pretty burnt out (and sick, and sleepy) and happy for the next bit of the trip.
Happy to hear everyone had a good thanksgiving. Enjoy those turkey leftovers. And, big congratulations to Mom for selling her house–I can’t wait to see the new one!