Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Final Thoughts from Sue

We are now in our final day in Madagascar, having successfully FLOWN from Toliara to Antananarivo (Tana) yesterday lunchtime.  We had been too exhausted, from our work with the crafts and bookkeeping, to write on Saturday or Sunday and then yesterday was a travelling day (although Simon also worked with the bookkeeping staff yesterday morning before our flight). 

It was a gratifying and emotional end to the classes with women, who have achieved so much in working together, teaching each other and discussing how to make this cottage industry work.  They have many good ideas, and came from very different areas around the Diocese of Toliara with differing craft skills.  It was good to begin to get to know these women more individually than I was able to last year when there was a much bigger group.  We were presented by them with a small wall-hanging of a Malagasy scene and a lamba (traditional cloth) with the words “Malagasy People work hard” on it!  They clapped when I wore it!  Meza, wife of the guard at Santa Lioka, Ankilifaly, gave us each us three strands of beads made from local seeds and nuts.

It will be interesting to see in a year’s time what progress has been made and what products the people are making and selling.  It is expected that the Women’s Centre will be built and dedicated by next summer.  We very much hope to be able to attend it’s opening ceremony. 

This year I feel much more as if I belong here, even though my skin is the wrong colour and I have a poor grasp of the language.  My grasp of Malagasy made some slow but sure progress, and the people are always delighted when we try to use it. 

Simon and I have been very pleased to have organized our own transportation, hotels and itinerary this year (with a small amount of help from Patsy).  I could not have imagined doing this before we came last year. 

One of the places we wanted to see in Tana was Le Village, which is a family-owned business, employing 30 plus Malagasy to make museum-quality replicas of ships.  Our driver had not heard of it before (despite living in Tana) but after asking at the wrong ship-makers got us to the right address.  We spent a wonderful couple of hours watching the people make the tiny pieces and construct the ships, and then looking around the sale-room (or should that be sail-room?!)  We were tempted by many of them including a replica of La Licorne (Tin-Tin’s ship) but it didn’t have sails on it because there aren’t any on it in the book, so settled on La Victorieuse, a 17th century Portuguese pirate ship which was found off the north-east coast of Madagascar near Isle Sainte-Marie.  It should reach us by air and sea in November. 

Choosing a ship

Today we were driven 25 km (15 miles) to the Lemur Park.  The traffic jams in Tana meant this took 1 hour 50 minutes!  Thankfully the return was in slightly better traffic conditions and only took 1 hour 10 minutes.  This is a large park with no cages (apart from the one for new arrivals to check their health and allow them to acclimatize), so the lemurs are free to roam.  We saw several varieties and had a relaxing visit. 

Now we are back at the guest house waiting for our flight to Paris at 1 a.m. tomorrow morning, then onward to Chicago and home.  It will be good to drink tap water without needing to filter it, to be able to brush our teeth without finding filtered or bottled water first, to have a warm shower without running out of hot water, and to eat salad and fruit without first rinsing th
em in a bleach solution!   

And finally, some of today’s lemurs…

Crowned Sifaka and 6 week old baby

Upside-down Coquerel Sifaka

Black and White Ruffed lemurs (mother & father)

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