Should I stay or should I go now?
Whatever would be the final decision, it will be hard. Staying or leaving, that is the question. I went back to work quickly to meet colleagues and finish the edition of a radio program. It is very sad to imagine that I would leave all this and the feeling of desertion heavy to carry but we will see a bit further that there is a list of criteria to consider.
After days and days of thinking over the situation, considering consequences of choices and picking a decision, we took a break. We _finally_ succeeded in going further than Ambohimanga (see previous episode). We went to Mantasoa, two and half hours away from Antananarivo. The place is famous for its quietness and fresh air. We were not disappointed as the place was very peaceful, far from roaring cars and the city endless noise. Peaceful lake waters were only disturbed by jumping fishes, getting insects. Wind was caressing water lilies. It was almost the perfect postcard, except for the bush fires fog letting only a solar disk appearing. Even there, the air was not so fresh...
Halas, this potential break was ruined by a tough return to the capital city. Bush fires were important and it was impressive to see the sky whitened and the sun hidden for most of the trip. Quietness was smashed by a very long wait (we changed three times of taxi-brousse and four hours of wait!), promiscuity again (packed into the vehicle), dangerous driving on tracks with craters-sized holes and again, this weird look on me.
Am I too tall, too vazaha, too karana? A little girl stood for while, staring at my partner when we were waiting the taxi-brousse and it was obviously curiosity towards my vazaha partner. But I don’t get intentions of looks on me in Antananarivo. I read sometimes contempt. A Sunday morning, I read it on a man cleaning his car as I was taking a taxi. About the rest of the time, I don’t want to believe it, to dive into paranoia but I’m ending to think that it is something close to it. My partner is notiving more these looks on me than myself. Well, from the aggression, we are of course more careful of our environment. But the looks were there before the event.
Another detail lets me think that there is a real discrimination. When we took the taxi-brousse to go back home, we were amongst the first arrived and we could pick our seats. We wanted the front row seats (to finally have a bit of room!) and we were told that there were reserved. Then, we saw that there were not at all...
A smashed car on the road during the way in appeared again on our minds and finally, it was not so bad to seat on the back rows (maybe...).
I still trust those that I consider like friends but something is really broken with Madagascar. In the street, we are foreigners and we feel it. Of course, we are foreigners but Malagasy people have a word to tag foreigners who are accepted and respected: vahiny. We are not just in the street but vazaha (or karana) walking on the street in Tana.
I’ve already been attacked in Paris. It took me years to go back to some places and I’m still scared of some. But I must admit that I trust more French authorities.
In Antananarivo, you are asked a ‘coffee’. You have then to give few thousand of ariary (or threat to call the Consulat but this strategy is not always a good one according to some advices).
The question was not obvious as I wanted to be strong as a mountain and to face the situation. But just like water, it worked the stone and dug the stone: am I able to adapt to life abroad? The question is adding to my ocean of interrogations.
I trust in myself but fatigue and psychological weakness let some room for doubt.
We cannot and do not want to live like expats. This privileged and wanted status never seduced us as it is too far from local daily life but also as it is not part of our contract.
Leaving with few finances, leaving a precarious situation and depression, we had to go over arrival difficulties and savour _for me_ achievement and concrete outcomes. But daily life is starting to be really too hard.
We are trying to stand back and to use ‘cold’ tools to see more clearly the situation. We are doing pros and cons spreadsheets with list of criteria (ability to find a job, pollution, safety, social networking...).
Back to reality
Mantasoa was a short relieving break but the return to reality and Antananarivo daily violence was brutal, as excepted.
Violence, especially violence of misery, is everywhere. It is kicking you on the face at any time, when you are having a drink in a bar and when you just look outside and see a whole family fighting for subsistence. Pollution and misery are permanent, visual, sound and ethical.
I can hear people telling me to ‘protect’ myself, not to let empathy getting me and to go on places where you cannot see misery but what hypocrisy! No, I’m not a saint, a martyr or something similar to it. No, I will not change the world. I know it but living with it, like this, is a huge challenge.
Fortunately, we were invited by colleagues, now friends. These Malagasy learnt us to play the fanorona (traditional Malagasy game), some Malagasy words (malai which means great), bit about Malagasy History and a bit more about socio-cultural context. Racism is very developed. Rivalry between merinas and people from the Coast is tough and some people put fire to historic buildings into this fight!
The Francophonie Summit is not far now and we can clearly feel it. The city is transforming and the government is taking measures. School will be closed during the Summit and some gossip are saying that days off will be extended to everybody (as during the solar eclipse). Some say that it is for getting less traffic jam for international guests.
Benefits for the population are still a big question tag. French is the official language but for most, the level is not very good and sometimes forgot (on purpose or not). It is used when there is no translation or if you want to be more precise.