Sunday, December 4


As our time here in madagascar is coming quickly to a close, we have been spending the last of our days on the west coast in a beautiful little beach town called morondava. White sand beaches, clear blue water, giant baobabs, lush greenery, rainbow lizards, fruit galore… life could not be better. So much has happened in the course of the past month of our independent study projects, don’t know where to begin.  A few “highlights” :
-an old man tried to sell us lemurs on the beach
-witnessed a woman literally shitting on the street (sorry don’t know how else to put it- and this was not a good highlight obviously)
-hung out with jaojoby at his pub in tana (famous Malagasy musician)
-oasis the rasta bar… attempting the Malagasy rhythm – tapiki dancing
-racing in pousse-pousses (human taxis) to the restaurant the pousse-pousse –thank you m. bernard!!
-rats eating my soap bars
-maty rats (dead)
-surprise cockroaches !!! and snake-like bugs.
-sophia became a lawyer… and a wife
-jade found a botanist cure for cancer; starting an ‘export-import’ “business” with her Malagasy bf
-contracted a parasite… it was bound to happen
-really improved my Malagasy bartering skills
-have not yet surpassed maddie in the bongolava rice eating competition, but usually come in as a close 3rd or 4th.
-helped kill and gut some chickens
-have successfully stayed awake through 3 consecutive hours of Malagasy church most Sundays of homestays
-dancing with the gasy… probably my favorite highlight
-homemade rums (easily mistaken with toka gasy.. the illegal but widely consumed alcohol that is sometimes made with formaldehyde.. can make you blind and even kill you... often fermented in such places as hollowed pieces of logs)
-becoming locals at our pink hotely!! they really know how to make a kickass bol renverse
-mofoball extremes
-getting momentarily caught in a brush fire while on the taxibrousse back to tana…
-laughing so hard with jade that we actually fell to the floor


our 'view' at our first hotel in tamatave before going to foulpointe... this is what 2 dollars a night will get you!!!
mmmm fresh coconuts
replacement for turkey and mashed potatoes

tamatave/foulpointe adventure

A few of us designated a week to writing our research papers and decided it would be a good idea to change scenery… we decided to go to tamatave and then further to foulpointe, a beachy destination on the east coast.  It took roughly 8 hours to get to tamatave, and another 2 hours after that to get to foulpointe… all by taxi brousse.  Taxi brousses are essentially vans used for traveling throughout Madagascar – sounds perfectly normal and innocent, but oh my goodness it is not.  First of all, they pack more people into the vans than what seems humanly possible… talk about serious violation of personal space.  We’ve all had Malagasy smelly old men drool on us, fall asleep on us, try to hit on us while squished way too close together… it’s a pretty hilarious set up and makes for some funny stories. Sometimes chickens are involved, other times fish or cats… anything goes. Apart from the space component of the taxi brousses, the actual driving is very scary in my opinion… probably one of the most dangerous things we’ve done here. The roads are extremely windy, very often unpaved in many areas, and normally only allow room for one car width.  No speed limits, no traffic laws or rules of any kind are involved, so huge trucks (usually full of either beer or omby) whip around bends way too fast and it makes for some sticky situations.  Not to mention driving at night … not my favorite thing in the world!
Our week in foulpointe is defined by: beach, seafood, fruit, and research paper.  People selling coconuts would walk up to you on the beach and chop it up right there for you… so refreshing. Also, mangos are in season right now and let me tell you ive never eaten anything so delicious.  Litchis, as well… they are sooooo tasty. In lieu of a thanksgiving feast, we had a local fisherman catch us camarons (giant shrimp), a big fish, and lobster to grill for us (with of course rice and veggies)... which we ate on the beach.  took a pirogue out to snorkel near the coral reef... the pirogues are hollowed out trees.

Saturday, November 19


Soooo, maddie and i met this guy herimamy one night while we were eating in a hotely in our neighborhood. in exchange for an interview, he had us come to the graduate class he teaches on public administration to give a presentation about american culture in front of 216 students: everything from pop culture to sharing our ideas of what we consider to be good governance, three branches of government, etc.  he specifically asked us in advance to touch on the subject of traffic laws............ because madagascar doesn't have them.  he was under the impression that americans were sent to jail if they didnt use crosswalks to cross the street, which he thought was "too strict" of a law.  even when we told him that the penalty for jaywalking (if caught) is only a fine, he was in disbelief.  well yes, obviously he wouldn't be able to understand the concept of traffic laws because, as i said, madagascar has NONE. or if they do, no one enforces them.  i've literally almost been killed on several occasions just from walking around here, and ive witnessed some really terrible accidents as well (some of which involved omby). 

we also discussed american ideas of 'common courtesy'... like how it is impolite to use cell phones or even have cell phones visible in certain circumstances and how being late is rude.  Here, cell phones are acceptable whenever - in any situation it is not considered rude to pick up a call or text, etc.  this was weird for us at first, because we would be meeting government officials, professors, and other individuals who would be in the middle of giving us a lecture and then would pick up their phone to talk to someone for sometimes several minutes on end in front of all of us.

the weirdest was when we met the prince of the boeny region in western madagascar... it was a serious affair.. i mean like our hair had to be taken out of braids and pony tails, we had to have a certain type of lamba (sarong type things) to cover our shoulders and legs, we couldnt sit on the floor with the soles of our feet facing outward, etc.  it was also forbidden for people of a certain ethnic group called the merina to enter into the prince's sacred 'area'.  annnnnnyways, while we were sitting in this little sunlight hut with the prince and members of his royal clan, i was shocked when one of the clan dudes picked up his phone while we were having our q&a with the prince and just sat there still and talked. none of the malagasy even took the slightest notice of it - but for us americans, we were (or at least i was) extremely distracted by it.  my description is definitely not giving the situation much justice, but yeah it was just a weird situation.

we also talked about tardiness in the presentation because the malagasy really do not pay attention to it.  it's part of the "moramora" lifestyle - the slow, laid back pace of life here.  for scheduled interview times, for instance, it's almost certain that the malagasy will not show up on time.  i've waited for every one of my interviewees - sometimes for up to 2 hours. i kind of love it though, it's so much less stressful that way. 

the presentation was definitely interesting........ great experience and i got closer to getting over my stage fright!!!!!! (the microphones certainly helped with that...)


lecture hall

mofo gasy

this is breakfast every morning at our favorite local mofogasy shack. mofo gasy means just "malagasy bread" and it's those little round guys right there.  SO good... it's bread made out of rice.

box of mofo

Wednesday, November 9

the time i ate some heart on the side of the road...

Upon starting our independent research projects, we had been advised by roro that is rather easy to unintentionally exclude oneself from malagasy culture by only staying in vazaha areas and only eating at vazaha restaurants... and that it is important to make a conscious effort to surround yourself with the people and the culture.  So, scared that we were being too 'foreign', ivana and i decided it would be a good idea to get brochettes for dinner one night......................................

brochettes are delicioussss.  every day in mahajanga when ben and i would walk home from school (and occasionally soph would indulge as well), we would stop on the street near our neighborhood to have brochettes from our favorite lady.  the scene looks like this: a tiny bench with a little "charcoal hotplate" (in the words of ben) in front of us with a malagasy person cooking little pieces of meat on a stick.  they give you also a cold, watery, pickled salad of carrots, tomatoes, etc. (which we technically aren't really supposed to eat bc of contamination) and loads of sakai (hot sauce).  each stick is usually 100 ariary - 'ariary zato' - or in us dollars probably around 5 cents. 

but the thing about brochettes is that it is safer for some reason to eat them in mahajanga than it is to eat them in tana.  but this man that has a little stand right near where we are staying in tana has been asking us every day to come eat his brochettes because they are "clean and really really good"........... so, why not? "let's do it malagasy style", is my new motto. 

so ivana and i enter into the tiny little enclosed hut on the side of the busy, dirty, dark, dankkkky tana alleyway.  the hut had three tables in a space that should have only allowed for one, and was lit by a dangling bulb hanging from makeshift wooden rafters.  "pretty legit", was my first impression, as compared to many other gasy eateries i've seen thus far in my time here.  the man starts describing what options he had, and stupidly i interject: "deux de chaque type" (two of each type)... obviously feeling adventurous at the time.  so a few moments later, we are presented with a beautiful display of brochettes.. there was shrimp, zebu, and some other things........ i thought i heard the man say "coeur" (heart), but i brushed it off, thinking it was an impossible possibility. 

we started eating the brochettes with full confidence.. until i bit down on the weirdly tasting, chewy meat that was so obviously not shrimp or zebu beef.  definitely heart.  but heart of what???? there were five types of brochette, and so the heart was the third one i tried.  the fourth was definitely soemthign i don't want to even know what it was... then we were given a metal plate of grilled chicken that looked appetizing until we figured out it was the anus of the animal.

this is what the brochettes look like

it wasn't a terrible experience at all, just really interesting. soooo, i guess you could say we're doing it malagasy style for sure.

Tuesday, November 8


the fam minus my host mom on the morning that we left mahajanga

our crazy boat man

so cool