Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Cultural discoveries

Our little team of five, plus the malgache guide started driving down south early this morning. We shed a distant glance at the queen’s palace from Lac Anosy and turned left to Route Nationale 7, the only road that connects the capital to the South. The first half of this road is what means Madagascar to me- at least until now. Dozens of shades of green and the pictures of the clouds reflected back from the rice-fields, bright blue sky, traditional red clay houses, some colonial buildings and sunshine.

We stopped for lunch at the “malgache Vichy” a thermal town called Antsirabe with a beautiful hotel from 1897 reminding visitors of a very different past. The road until this point is is very narrow , but surprisingly good quality, despite all the traffic going through it. Afterwards however, the road turns into a “collander” with cavities every few meters and the last 50 kms to get to Fianarantsoa take well over 1.5 hours. This last part of the drive was under Belgian-like weather conditions, so the bumpy ride and the grey weather made everyone a bit grumpy by the evening.

I’ve tried to talk to our guide during the long hours of the car-ride, but so far he is more focused on driving than sharing detailed analyses about the economic or political situation of his country. Without his input, Im only guessing how things have been developing over the past 4 years.

One interesting thing I’ve found out, however, was that he is one of eleven children. He himself had only three, and is telling his sons not to have more than one child. Overall, this is not a general trend in the country, but it seems that the middle/higher classes are drastically reducing their reproduction rate.

His character also makes me think about the culture: he sort of “steered things” in a way (several times by now) that resulted in us paying a bit more here and there. It is clearly a way to make sure we support the local economy, and I can accept that (and we are talking about small amounts), however, the way its done is not completely transparent and leaves me with the impression that even this guy might see us as walking euro-bills, (as opposed to volunteers coming to contribute to his country’s wellbeing). Well, let’s see, I am sure that overall he means well and is a reliable driver, which is clearly the top priority.

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