Letters From Madagascar: Antananarivo
– From Hannah –
First, a quick update on Kevin: he made it to South Africa, was treated quickly and competently, and is now back in the US and at his University, attending classes. All is, given what happened, as good as could be imagined.
*This is the best video I (Lu) could find of Hannah’s first days in Madagascar Please enjoy the old school computer voice and note that this website does not believe that Locusts in Madagascar is a sign of the coming apocalypse.
From the beginning…
The minute I left customs at the Tana people, I entered a mob of people, some holding signs with names, others offering to push your bags in carts to your car. After I found the SIT driver, two men grabbed my cart and ran it over to the car. Then they promptly proceeded to ask for money. Classic Madagascar.
The drive from the airport, which is a 30 minute drive outside of the capital city, was my first taste of Madagascar. We drove through a market, with one-room, open-air huts made of wood and tin. Vegetables, fruit, hunks of meat covered in flies, and tattered second-hand clothing lay on mats in front of the huts. Men pulled massive carts piled high with various goods. Humanity swarmed.
“The minute I left customs at the Tana people, I entered a mob of people”
Beyond the market, men canoed through rice paddies and women waded up to their knees, pulling weeds out. Zebu, the one-humped Madagascar cattle, strolled down the side of the highway. Women and children washed their laundry by hand in sludge-filled ponds between the highway and rice paddies. One man bicycled down the road, yellow jugs piled on top of each other in a ten-foot tall stack on the back of his bike.
Then there was Tana. Along either side of the street lay mazes of one-room, rickety wooden huts with tin roofs, crammed in next to each other and stacked on top of each other. Trash filled the streets and gutters and sat in piles on the side of the road. People yelled and cars honked and motorcycles roared and dogs barked. The air was thick with smog. The streets wind round and round, and we followed the roads up one of the ridges, where we finally stopped at a hotel.
I have since learned that the hotel probably passes for a four star luxury suite. In America, it would be a motel. Maybe. At best. But, it was a place to rest after a long voyage, and I spent the afternoon relaxing and repacking my bags. Then, Victoria, the one other student there, came running into our room, and pulled me into the bathroom. Outside, the sky, which had previously been blue, was gray. I couldn’t figure out why she was so excited about cloudy weather. Then, I saw that the “clouds” were swarming and seething. Locusts covered every surface, exploding like smoke from roofs and gardens and dive-bombing the ground. In case it wasn’t clear, there was a PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS. Millions upon millions of large, 3-inch long locusts descended upon the city for an hour.
” In case it wasn’t clear, there was a PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS”
The next day, as I walked through the streets, children with bags of live locusts walked up to us and offered me locusts (which they held by pinching their wings together). Every time, I jumped away, and the children would laugh. (Oh, how much things have changed—now, when children offer me bugs, I don’t flinch a bit.)
We spent a couple days in Tana, giving everyone a chance to arrive, and have at least a night’s sleep under their belt to combat jet lag. The group took a tour of the high city and visited the Queen’s Palace. We also also went to Tsimbizaza Park, where we saw an overview of the plants and animals of the various regions of Madagascar. The most interesting thing I saw was not a lemur, but a human-powered Ferris wheel. The man would climb to the top and swing forward, pulling the wheel around. He would ride it back to the ground, and then climb back up while the wheel continued to spin. I’m sure it wasn’t safe, but hey, Madagascsar.
I’d write more, but it’s honestly a complete and total daze beyond the plagues of locusts. It was such an otherworldly experience to see, for the first time, extreme poverty. I was numbed by everything I saw, and I couldn’t believe I would ever adjust to it.
Until Next time,
Sending warm fuzzies your direction.
*come back next Monday for more Letters From Madagascar*