Second Malagasy week

I should officially be introduced to the Centre de presse Malagasy (Malagasy Press Centre) next week. My terrible flu is finally gone. It tired me so much! I’m starting to cope with the weather and altitude. I’ve been less exposed to air pollution this week but we will see how things will go later on.




The meaning of cooperation




Some people from the Cooperation had to abort their mission and it is quite sad for them as they had not even seen their location, sometimes on the other side of the ‘island’ (Madagascar is an island as Australia is). People of this program are unemployed and living on minimum social welfare. We all have almost no savings, really few bucks on our bank accounts and for some of us, feeling vulnerable. However, we all have a great motivation, which can be for some of us, personal objectives.


On the other hand, some look like they are really blossoming and it is beautiful to witness.


Cooperation has a strong meaning for some people. It is working in a sustainable way and giving meaning to their lives. We are helping each other in what could appear as difficulties. In my opinion, this is cooperation.


This is also co-developing. We are offering our workforce and trying to be part of the plan in respecting Malagasy people who are gently accepting us here.




François, my partner, is really enjoying his mission. As Technical Director of Malagasy association Miaro (run by and for Malagasy people), he is currently assessing the situation and exploring surrounding areas to be able to build an action plan. His working areas are water and waste management and farming practices. He will put in place information sessions about these topics in the village. In the field, concrete action: everything he loves!




In practice




However, concrete issues are influencing my choices.


I’m living in Itaosy, few kilometres from the city centre (about 7 kms) and my two missions will be downtown. It could easily take 2 hours every day to go working, except if I can manage to go on low peak hours. I have no problem waking up early. In Paris, I was doing press reviews and woke up around 4am. In Adelaide, Australia, I had big days: waking up at 5am, riding my bicycle, starting cookery studies at 7ish, finishing around 4pm, starting working at the restaurant around 7pm and finishing at 10 or 11pm.


Itaosy-City Centre is the worst and slowest way all around Antananarivo. Otherwise, I will have to pay for two leases and share an accommodation. Some people gave me this advice...


Time in traffic jam is not really bothering me, especially if I’ve got a good book. I was used to spend the same amount of time when I was living in Parisian suburbs. On the other hand, I can hardly catch up with pollution.




There is some electricity cut sometimes. The other night, we were in the dark for two hours. People told us beforehand and we had candles all over the flat.








We visited the IMRA (Malagasy Applied Research Institute), quite close from our accommodation. We went along rice field where duck were grazing and playing. I really enjoyed being in more spacious place, seeing a further horizon. I already felt sad about that in Paris: hardly being able to see more than one meter forward. There were always a wall, concrete, people. The difference in here is that you have road hazards, waste, chicken and potential umbrellas (I’m quite tall, especially for Malagasy people) in addition to the following points.


It was good to escape the ‘busyness’ of the main road.


We visited the Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga museum, few rooms in a house, in the middle of a gorgeous garden. It was a very informative tour about a great figure of Malagasy History. This man had international recognition for his scientific works. He had his A level at 16, became doctor at 22, discovered vitamin C and composed over 40 drugs! He studied then monitored students at the prestigious Ecole de Medecine in Paris, fought during the Second World War and was an honorary member of UNESCO. A great inspiration for Malagasy youth!


The garden was nice even if plants were a bit dried because of winter.








We were in the city centre for shopping after a compulsory meeting for work. When we wanted to catch a bus to go back home, we saw a crowd and heard some noise. When we saw military officers and few people running, we quickly went opposite the crowd. However, we had no other choice than passing in front of the train station. We saw a line of military officers. We did not stay long, trying to get a bus as quick as possible.


This evening, on TV, this situation was mentioned. I was already following up this story about the ‘code of communication’ (for French-speakers, look at online Malagasy press) when I was still in Reunion island. Journalists were protesting and authorities intervened with gazes. Fortunately, it was not too serious. At least for now...








I went to the Alliance Française of Antananarivo where I was happy to find Malagasy books written in French. Before coming to Madagascar, I read a collection of Malagasy short stories written in French and published by Courrier International (brilliant French International news magazine). I think the collection is called ‘Les miniatures’ and it is about Indian Ocean authors. A friend offered me to read the Mauritian collection and I really enjoyed it!


I took ‘Chroniques de Madagascar’, a collection of Malagasy short stories selected by Dominique Ranaivoson, Daniel Defoe’s ‘Madagascar or Robert Drury’s Journal’, Eric Nonn’s ‘Imerina’ and Sylvia Hanitra Andriamampianina’s ‘Miangaly or the island in sorrow’. I’m just starting ‘Chroniques de Madagascar’.


In Reunion Island, I went to the Regional Library of La Réunion and read Denis Vierge’s ‘Vazahabe’, an interesting comic book. I also found books about Malagasy literature. It looks so rich and I cannot wait to read and know more about it!


This visit to the Alliance Française made me think back of Adelaide time, when we were going to libraries over there. We lived in the north of the city. First, in North Adelaide, the library was small but there was a piano. Then, in Prospect, the library was full of treasures, incredible books and films from all over the world but also very local documentaries. We were walking most of the time to go there and we had the great chance to see aborigenes’ films (by and about), local History and flora. Sometimes, we were also going to the City Library. It was just moved few times before and it was brand new, on top of a building, with many different languages documents. It is true that at this time, Adelaide was gathering a lot of different cultures. The very first time we visited it, I was so happy to see a big section of French-speaking books that I almost cried!


It is interesting to see your own reactions about culture (especially your own) when you’re travelling. In Reunion Island, I was not really going to the local library as it was very difficult for me to move and the selection was not really interesting and big.


Anyway, I’m happy to see that this Alliance Française has a lot of documents and that it is well frequented by Malagasy people.




The music of language




I went to the Alliance Française by bus. It was to the first time I took it by myself. Usually, we were going, François, my partner, Prisca, his Malagasy-speaking colleague and I all together and Prisca really helped us out to understand what was going on.


This time, I was completely immerged into the language and I must admit that I had absolutely no clue of what was happening around me. But far to be uncomfortable, it was an interesting experience. I tried to identify ‘known’ or ‘learnt’ words and not able to recognize anything, I’ve let myself diving into a conversation, radio, noises of the road, merchants on the side of the road…I was part of this everything without understanding anything and I was just feeling it.


When I ‘sat down’ (on a wooden bit on the ‘central lane’), a woman talked to me in Malagasy. I supposed that she said something like ‘Are you ok? Do you have enough space?’ or ‘Not too squished?’ and the only thing I could answered back was something ‘I’m ok’ in French.


When you learn a new language, people sounds like they talking very quick and cutting words. But I’m confident. I will keep learning and trying to get it. For now, I’m working on my Assimil language method and asking Prisca and Malagasy people working in the residence to help me out for the pronunciation.


Language is music. I recognize Maori and Portuguese influences, as I don’t get all meanings for now. About Maori, it is quite logical because of South Asia migration towards Madagascar. Melanesian roots are coming from Pacific islands, so New Zealand.


I remember the Auckland museum visit, where we saw a dance and music show; melodies and songs were so sweet and harmonious! Malagasy language is part of the ancient languages, Austronesian languages (Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Australia).

About Portuguese, it is an obvious colonial input. There are also many others influences (African languages such as Bantou for example).

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