It is now 3 weeks since I wrote my last looooonnnnggg email newsletter from Madagascar. And 6 weeks since leaving Oz. That doesn’t necessarily mean these newsletters come every 3 weeks though 🙂 And they won’t all necessarily be so long, either – I will try to keep this one short (relatively speaking…).
It has been good to hear of news back home… Having heard of a birth (congratulations Paul & Natalie), an engagement (congratulations Brian & Fiona) a marriage (congratulations Glen & Nicola) &, sadly, the passing of Bev, I know that time most certainly passed since I was last at Waitara. Thanks for the many emails… I don’t mind the odd email or two coming my way. Email access is not as hard as it was at first – now that I’ve figured out ways & means :-)… Especially now that I’m putting a bit more time into developing the ADRA Madagascar webpage – it kinda means I’ve got to spend a bit of time on the net. The webpage is still very much under construction, however if you would like a bit of an idea of the work of ADRA Madagascar take a look at (site now inactive). And your constructive criticisms / feedback are welcomed & would be appreciated (please)!
I spent last weekend (two weekends ago now) in Tamatave, and that is something worth telling you about. Nov 1 (a Thurs) was a holiday here, and ADRA staff work only a half day Friday normally. (The working week is still 40 hours, but quite different to Oz. We start 7:30am, and finish at 6pm, and take a 2 hour lunch break – except finishing at 1:30 on Fridays. But that’s all by the way.) So the boss was kind enough to give everyone an extra long weekend by giving us last Friday morning off. So I gratefully took the opportunity of visiting Colin & Kim Radford (Lynley Woolley’s brother & sis-in-law). I left (from Tana) on the Wednesday evening, travelled all night by “taxi brousse” and arrived 9 hours later at 3am. No, Tamatave is not 900km away, only 360km. But that’s the quality of the road for you. Sleep was very difficult – being jammed right in the centre of the van’s 15 passengers. But when we arrived, I was able to stretch out across a full seat and sleep till a more reasonable hour (6am) when Kim was to pick me up. After a brief early morning tour of Madagascar’s main port city (and 2nd largest city) – which, like most of Madagascar, is quite well alive at such early hours – Kim took me back to her & Colin’s house – which is the top level of a beautiful (by Malagasy standards) two story house. Near the beach, too! For breakfast they treated me to a cereal called Weet-a-bix. I almost thought I was in heaven. The taste was almost as good as Weetbix – although the price is so prohibitive it would cost about $7 per day for me to eat the equivalent of my normal 12 Weetbix :-<> Anyway, I won’t go into quite as much detail as to the rest of the weekend – but as you can tell my first visit to the coast of Madagascar was quite pleasurable – and my hosts treated me to as much as their busy schedules could fit. (Colin told me that over the last week he has been working 18-22 hour days! – maybe catching up on lost time from my visit…)
So the rest of last weekend was spent relaxing on the beach, being enthralled by the sights & sounds of markets, craft vendors, restaurants (including one by the beach, which we visited on the eve of the full moon! … spectacular!), Tamatave night-life (which you don’t really want to know about… there are reportedly 11,000 prostitutes in a town of about 200,000)…. A highlight was visiting the lemur park just out of town. There were a number of varieties of lemurs, as well as the rare and endangered aye-aye. This incredible creature comes out only after dark – however just for us they came out while there was still a bit of daylight so I was able to get a couple of good photos (I hope – since they are not developed yet…). The lemurs are truly amazing creatures. A large number were allowed to run free – and some were tame enough to allow us to touch them. Words don’t do justice to the playing, jumping, screaching mating calls and so on that I enjoyed so much for that one afternoon. It really makes me look forward to heaven.
The other memorable highlight was going to church on Sabbath. On the way we stopped by a malaria-stricken boy so that Colin could pray for him. Then we picked up about 50 kids which have been following Colin & Kim to church each week (from non-SDA families). The numbers grow each week, so now they hire a church member’s small bus to cram the kids in. The ride to church is something I won’t easily forget – 50 kids singing praise songs (in Malagasy, French and English) at the top of their lungs – must have been quite a spectacle to those we passed.
Speaking of Malagasy singing, the previous Sabbath was a regional rally day leading up to an evangelistic series (which we’re right in the middle of now) in this region of Tana. There are 100 SDA churches in Tana – and the 11 churches in this region needed to hire a university hall to fit the 1500 people who came to the rally. Anyway, the “Voice of Prophecy” choir graced us with several songs during an afternoon concert… it made putting up with hearing everything in Malagasy all worthwhile! 🙂
Well, since the webpage doesn’t exactly tell you what I’m doing at ADRA, I’ll give you a little more info. Apart from actually developing the webpage, and helping with various computer needs, I’ve been helping out the infrastructure team of the food security project. Not that my input is altogether essential – since I struggle with the language barriers and the locals have all the engineering skills needed for the technologies that are appropriate. For me the most rewarding experiences are field visits. One day last week I went with a couple of Malagasy staff to Anosibe An’ala, only 68km but 3 hours drive away. The small township is actually the hometown of Madagascar’s Prime Minister. The terrible road to the town doesn’t worry him. He flies in by helicopter. His house stands out in contrast to the rest of the town, although he’s done the town a few favours such as putting in a concrete road (I guess to keep the dust from getting into his house) – and a monument or two (I shouldn’t be so cynical :-))… From the town we had to walk another 6km into the bush. I really enjoyed that walk – through scenic mountainous terrain. The object of our 4 hour (8 hour return) journey was a small dam for a village up in the mountains – for irrigation of their rice paddies. At first, seeing a concrete structure after walking through bush for over an hour seemed a little out of place. But the dam is only small (about 6m wide) and except for the cement and the little bit of steel used, all materials were local. So I guess it fits into “sustainable development”… only time will tell.
At present I am in Tana again. On Friday night I started getting a bad sore throat… but it was OK to go to church on Sabbath. But when I arrived I found out they were expecting me to take the SS lesson! I told them I had a sore throat (and I hadn’t prepared), but eventually I gave in and… well, my voice held up for the lesson… But needless to say I now have not much of a voice left! So the little French I know isn’t doing me much good right now! But I’m feeling well, and am once again at work in the office here in Tana – taking a short break to send this email… which is almost as long as my last email, so I must stop
Oh, except to say that yesterday I went to see the remains of the arsen-destroyed queen’s palace – which is on the highest of Tana’s 12 “sacred” hills. The palace and the few bits of furniture that were salvaged from the fire (which destroyed it 6 years ago) were interesting, but the views of Tana and surrounds were quite breathtaking! I took quite a few photos. But you’ll have to wait – since I haven’t developed any yet… OK, that’s all for now…