Future world or back in time?

Trip Start Aug 28, 2006
Trip End Aug 31, 2007

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

My last day in Madagascar...it's raining and I leave this afternoon for jo-burg for a night, then off to tanzania!  This has been a great 10 days, which is definitely not enough time for such a huge island.  But I managed to see alot due to hiring a guide, john, and a driver, george.  They took me on a whirlwind trip to the south, passing through the highlands with visits to towns and national parks, ending up at the steaming coast in the southwest.  I flew back to Tana last night, leaving them with a two day drive to get home(merci, vous ettes les plus jauntils mecs en madagascar!) 
I started  my trip staying at a beautiful old restored bungalow in Tana and ended by staying in the ghetto.  What a big change from India.  First, there is no honking and hardly any cars. There are rickshaws in many towns that are powered by guys running, which makes the place pretty quiet, but I felt to guilty to use one when I could walk just as easy. And there are actually alot of women in the streets which you don't really see in Rajasthan.  And more than that they dress very western (think miami) in the city, I have been so used to being in places, since november, where showing a shoulder is a bit much,  so it all looks a bit risquee to me, when it is probably normal.  The look of the people is interesting too.  Early settlers here were from Indonesia, so there is an asian/african mix, with a little european and arab thrown in...it sort of feels like how people would look if all the races got mixed into one.  Malagasy is the language spoken with dialects varying between tribes and regions.  In the highlands, where I spent most of my time, you see people in more traditional dress; men with a tri-cornered hat and a blanket wrapped over their shoulders and most likely a wooden stick for herding their zebu (cattle), the ladies have some kind of dress with a sarong on top, and their hair in two braids pinned up heidi style and a little basket for a hat and more than likely they are carrying something really heavy on their head; alot of sticks for the fire, dirt, leaves for the zebu, or a basket of turkeys.  People are a little shy, but quick to smile if you do it first. But kids are happy to yell out "salut vasa!" (hello foreigner!)  They also have very nice two story mud houses next to beautiful terraced rice fields.
The landscape is beautiful!  Saw lots of lemurs in the jungle park of Ranomofana, and in the park in Isalo...chameleons, snakes,butterflies too.  But mostly I saw zebu, at markets, being herded down the road, being chased by a young herder in the hills.
I think more than anything, the poverty is starting to get to me.  It is something I have been wading through for alot on this trip. Sometimes it seems okay, people seem to be managing somehow with a smile on their face... but the other day it hit me hard, maybe there is something a little otherwordly about this place that made the situation seem worse... I have never been in line to get on the airplane with a beggar on either side,  police asking for money from the driver at every checkpoint,  the president using the army to guard his private yoghurt company, old craggy french guys with pretty young malagasy girls.... 
But with the negativity aside, you find those problems in alot of countries...  I will leave this place wanting to come back.
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