Sunday, 23 February 2014

Little pleasures

Towards the end of our first week in Andava, I thought I’d take the time and reflect on the little pleasures of living here. 

Waking up early and having some quiet time before breakfast: given the constant heat, it is impossible to sleep long. Most of us are usually awake an hour before breakfast (some, for example, our dear Indonesian roommate are even earlier!). The time until 8 passes with getting ready, taking a morning swim on our “private beach” ;-) (the little bay below our huts), reading on the veranda, or just staring at the Mozambique channel and asking ourselves the hypothetical question: ‘How the hell did we get so lucky to be staring at this view every day?!’. There is usually some morning breeze and the temperature at this time is just perfect! (By 8.30, however, we are all feeling quite warm, and by 10 it’s impossible to walk a few meters without loosing half of your body weight in the form of sweat...)
Buying food from Papoussi before official meals: there is a 13 year old girl, Papoussi, in the village, who comes twice every day. Her visits are strategically timed for the moments before lunch and dinner, when we are all starving and would give anything to eat something nice... Her grandmother bakes little donuts with chocolate inside (boko-boko) or samosas with spicy fish inside and they are simply DELICIOUS (and a life-saver, every single time!). She has a notebook for accounting and is a charming business woman with an irresistible smile. By now we have all opened an account with her: we gave her 5000 Ariary each (1.5 Eur) and she just marks how much we consume each time. Everything costs 200 Ariary. (I really hope she doesn’t take Sundays off, because I’m already starving and it’s only 10.30...)

Making our hut tidy: this is probably the most nerdy pleasure I have (and I think Im correct to assume that I share this with my newly acquired Indonesian friend). We sweep the floor about 3-4 times a day to get rid of the sand (blown in by the wind, brought in by booties, flipflops, visitors), to expulse the corpse of various insects who died in the hut overnight and to give us a homely feeling in general. Our hut is slightly different from the others, we have proper ceramic tiles on the floor, so sweeping is a really rewarding exercise! (In exchange we have no mosquito nets over the windows, which is not very convenient, but we’ve been quite creative to address this situation). Thanks to our frentic cleaning practices the hut is usually cosy and the other volunteers like to chill at our place.

Taking a cold shower: each of our huts has a little, very basic bathroom integrated in it. We have running water, however, its salty and cold. When I read about this back home I was slightly concerned, but it turns out this is one of the most refreshing things ever! Taking a cold shower to wash off the sweat, the sand, the numerous layers of sun lotion and mosquito repellent of the day is the perfect ritual just before going to bed (or upon awakening).

Looking at the sky at night: This should probably be at the top of the list. Electricity in our site goes off at 21.00, and there is none in the village so once the night falls we are looking up to the brightest sky we’ve ever seen with the highest amount of shooting stars we’ve ever seen. Its absolutely beautiful and we even see the Milky way! We had the first weekly party last night, and after hours of dancing (at 11.30...) we came back to our huts together and just sat in the sand and started at the sky for almost another hour.

Extracurricular activities: We have each Sunday off, to do whatever we’d like to. There are plenty of options and only 5 Sundays left, so the pressure is high. Today afternoon we will go sailing with the pirogues (the wooden boats the fishermen use, I mentioned them earlier) to a nearby sand dune not far from the coast, to do some snorkelling and sail back home in the sunset. Could be worse... ;-) We might also learn to make samosas from the women’s association, visit the mangroves, visit the sea-cucumber “plantation” (?), walk to the baobab forest or learn to drive a zebu cart.

Solidarity among volunteers: our group is really great! We have three 18-19 year olds (DK, USA, FR) and 6 people between 27-30 (4x UK, IDN and myself). We’ve been getting along well already, but a new level of solidarity was demonstrated last night, during and after the party. Everyone is looking out for the others and we were like one big family when we were supporting the youngest youngster in the aftermath of his first encounter with alcohol. I’m not entirely sure that the 30°C average temperature is the ideal environment for a hangover, but in terms of the people surrounding him he couldn’t wish for anything better than us (no matter how un-modest this might sound, I actually think it’s the truth). We have several “chicken-moms”, several “relaxed dads” and two peers of the same age, so wisdom is flowing in from a whole range of people. (By the way, the chicken-moms are also active on sun-lotion, remaining hydrated, applying mosquito repellent, taking the anti-malaria pills etc etc.).

I’ve quickly done an unrepresentative survey among the others about the little pleasures. Here are the additional points that were mentioned:
  • Remoteness
  • Wearing flip-flops all the time
  • No cars
  • Not missing emails + Facebook, not knowing about the news of whats going on in the world
  • Integrating with locals instead of being tourists/ Learning about the local culture

1 comment:

  1. please, please do not come home without any sort of paddling, be it a kayak, a canoe or anything that floats!