We were able to see a partial solar eclipse in Madagascar. There was a lot of information about it. Apparently, the last one surprised and scared a part of the population which did not know about it. The day before, my colleague and I got an official press release about having the day off from 10am and until the end of the phenomenon. This decision was quite controversial in here, for some people, compared to the monsoon period when normal schedule is applied. On the morning of the eclipse, I went on a pharmacy down home and there was a long queue. Information about danger of burning eyes and blindness was heard apparently. The weather was a bit cloudy and even lightly rainy but even if it was a bit forecasted, we were able to see this meeting of the Sun and the Moon. Traditionally, it was forbidden to watch the eclipse as it was like an astral copulation.
It was beautiful and I must admit I was like a little girl!
I found this moment so weird. The eclipse was not total but enough to notice something was different. It was like putting a giant filter in front of the Sun. I was expecting to hear dogs barking and other animals going crazy, I was spying birds, cats and others but nothing happened.
Except shadows projected and sunlight rays with weird angles, there was no extraordinary phenomenon as my imagination was expecting.
I quickly ate JoharyRavaloson’s ‘Géotropiques’ and even if I was not a big fan of Reunionnese surfing milieu in the first place, I really enjoyed the heart of the book. I really recommend it!
Alain Mabanckou’s ‘Mémoires d’un porc-épic’ was quite funny.
I took MichèleRakotoson’s ‘Juillet au pays’ and Patricia Reznikof’s ‘Mon teckel à roulettes est un philosophe’ (I picked it because of its title _My rolling teckel is a philosopher_).
I’ve witnessed a strange scene coming back from work next to the Lake Anosy. Next to the roundabout, there was a movement around few people. It could have been a fight or something else. A sirens screaming EmmoSécurity car went tumbling down and got one or two persons into. Idle onlookers quickly gathered around the scene. I did not stopped at all, turning my head some times to watch a bit but I docilely follow the Ambassade de France’s safety instructions: shunning gatherings.
Few minutes later, the car was passing next to me to go to the hospital.
We moved the Centre de Presse Malagasy premises onto the University of Antananarivo. It was a long and tiring day with three trips with a truck. We had movers and extras to help out but we contributed as well.
It is funny to come back to Uni. I’ve left it a while ago and the atmosphere is quite nice to re-discover it. Campus is very nice, wide and on a hill. There are fashion victims and I feel ugly next to these young beautiful girls.
Taxi-be, the return
I’m getting again the taxi-be to go onto the campus, up on the Ambohitsaina hill.
But I’m happily surprised to get it now on an intermediate station. Taxis-be have terminuses but also kinds of relay stations in the middle of the line or so where almost empty vehicles are getting new passengers. So with a huge relief, I have not to run and try to put the beanpole I am into the pocket version of the taxi-be. There are still tiny but I have the great luxury to almost choose my seat!
And at last but not least, the University is the terminus of two lines so again, I can get a decent seat.
Taxi-be is a complex system that you need to know. It is a bit like the market: everything is stimulating at the same time. You speak another language, convert prices from francs malgaches to ariary and try to remember where you put which note and how much you’ve got on you.
Paying your trip into the taxi-be sounds like a complete mystical experience to non-Malagasy speaking newbies. A single trip costs 400 ariary. But I recently discovered that you could pay only 300 ariary if you’re doing a short trip (two or three stops from I’ve understood).
You’re not paying just when you entered into the taxi-be. The receiver is saying a lot of things that I don’t understand but deduct (or invent in my head): ‘Thank you to pay, please’, ‘Do you have some change?’, ‘Who I have some change to give back on 5000 ariary?’ I watched a lot in order to understand what is happening. I understood that onto a taxi-be which is filling in, people are paying from front to back rows. Getting the change back looks also like a secret society procedure the first time. Sometimes, your neighbour is giving you his notes if she or he sees that you’ve got a big note so you can pay for both.
There is still confidence as notes are going from one passenger’s hand to another up on shoulders and heads without anyone trying to keep a note for herself or himself.
Knowing is responsibility
Even if individualism is sneaking into this traditionally community focused society, I think we can still say that public-spiritedness exists. Even if some people are not careful, staying in the middle of narrow paths, expectorating almost on you, few people are paying attention to their environment and human beings crossing it.
We still respect the other, when it is possible. I’m saying when it is possible because between growing capitalism and postcolonial youth issues feeling a bit lost, we could lose good habits.
And this is probably the key factor, the main problem: habits. Taking time, standing back and analysing its own habits and especially their impact onto the environment (close, human and Nature) is not obvious and common.
And yet, it is terrible to think about how things could be if everyone would take this time and try to change their habits: less hygiene (for oneself and others, like these people wearing a mask when they have a flu in order to prevent contamination for others), economic, safety and other issues.
Only thinking about food safety as it is the last studies I did (cookery): how many cooking utensils are licked or double-dipped, hands not washed, plates and cutlery not enough washed and phlegm not stopped in their crazy race? So many risks that could be avoided…
Yes, I’m having lunches in greasy spoons and I know there are a lot (almost only maybe?) of bad practices. But I would like to think that with a bit of training, dramas could be avoided (because you can get serious health issues in here).
I know too well what kind of label people would stick on: ‘utopian’, ‘dreamer’. But I truly think that caring about the other can change things and as the proverb says: ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow‘. So, even if maternity is not an urgent need for me, I’m trying to act and live for the future of children, a minima for them to know the world as we knew it and at best, in a better condition. It is going through environment, the less damaged as possible but also ideas.
At least, it is one of my aspiration.
I’m sometimes revolted by those who had the chance to have a good education, being able to understand consequences of their actions (or carelessness), keeping shamelessly their habits, their comfort, cramped into their laziness. This is contempt to the other in my opinion.
Meeting with Zamba, instrument maker and valiha player
François bought a valiha, a kind of traditional Malagasy kind of cylindrical lyre, with beautiful crystal-clear tunes. I must confess: I always dreamt of playing harp. I found this instrument so majestic, mimicking water movements and fluidity. But valiha is something. This medium size instrument is easy to carry which is good for the traveller I am.
But it was way more than just a purchase of valiha as we took the time to discuss with its maker, Zamba. Instrument maker, musician, we met a man who decided to change his life. Working in wood exploitation, he stood back from his activity and decided to stop ‘killing his country’ to play music, to stop exporting rare Malagasy woods in order to shape instruments and minds.Zamba is renowned in Madagascar by its peers, by foreigners who learn to play valiha, in Reunion Island and elsewhere. He had been interviewed by France O (French TV overseas territories focused) the day before we met.
We had the chance to discuss with him and to start our apprenticeship in valiha playing with him. We talked about this wandering Malagasy youth, like others (his Japanese students were reporting the same situation), into cultural standardization, only believing in American culture. He sadly confided that some young Malagasy did not even know what a valiha is.
We are just doing scales for now and hoping to learn traditional pieces.
We heard a trio of street children playing traditional music going out of the InstitutFrançais de Madagascar and it was so beautiful. We could not stay long as static vazahas are as discreet as shiny signs into the night but the few we heard was stunning.
We asked Zamba where to listen to traditional Malagasy music in Antananarivo and he replied that this music was left aside for fusion and others.
The Institut Français de Madagascar
We went to the InstitutFrançais de Madagascar and it is a big place. The library has a large selection and completes the Alliance Françaised’Antananarivo. I was so happy to read the last Fluide Glacial (a French satirical comic magazine), me reader of comics and lover of sharp, acidic humour like Charlie Hebdo.
The Alliance Française of Antananarivo French Song Contest (second episode)
We saw a tiny bit of the semi-finals of the contest. As during previous selections, we heard incredible voices (soul-like, lot of puff ones) and discovered a Malagasy Johnny Hallyday (a French deep-voice rocker/crooner like singer). You couldn’t tell if you were closing your eyes!
I’ve also met the Director who thought I was a competitor. Even if I was tempted at one point (my music for curious people), I thought to myself that if by any miracle I was winning the contest, it would not be fair at all as the first price is a week in Paris.