Transportation: I recently discovered that from my house it takes just as long to walk to the SIT program center as is does to go by taxi-be – about 40min. My host mom showed me the quickest way to walk home the other day, using passageways and stairways between houses that I never would have found by myself. Walking this route makes me feel like a local 🙂
- Le Marché: It is possible to buy just about anything from a vendor on the sidewalk – prepared food, tv antennas, undergarments, car parts, raw meat, jewelery, live poultry… I’ve even seen a man sitting on the sidewalk with a bathroom scale offering to weigh people for a small fee!
- Fresh food: Because most people don’t have refrigerators, food here is really fresh. For example, many people, including my host mom, buy live chickens and slaughter them themselves! My previous host family lived near a house that raised crabs, which they only sold live, so any dead crabs were thrown out in the unofficial garbage dump next to the road leading to my house. Sometimes they weren’t as dead as the crab vendors must have assumed, so we’d find one crawling around in our driveway! Fish are sold completely unprocessed (although dead) too, and on Sunday I learned how to gut one. Useful life skills 🙂 Plus it was pretty much an unofficial dissection – who says I’m not doing Biology during my study abroad semester?!
- Condensed milk: Also because of the lack of refrigeration, sweetened condensed milk (“lait concentre et sucre” in French, or “ronono mandry” in Malagasy) is very popular here. People put it in their coffee or tea, or on their bread, or pretty much anything else (although I haven’t seen it on rice yet!). I have a definite sweet tooth and have always been a fan of condensed milk, so this works for me! I still remember a time when I was on vacation with a friend and her family when I was 10 years old, and between my friend and I we consumed an entire tin of condensed milk in one sitting. No, I didn’t even feel sick afterwards 🙂
- Special relativity: There is a unique kind of special relativity observable in Madagascar. Due to its effects things can fit into spaces which under ordinary conditions they would not fit into. This applies to passengers in vehicles, vehicles on roads, and vazaha (foreigner) length femurs in the “legroom” of a taxi-be. Unlike Einstein’s relativity, however, the slower the speed, the greater its effects.
- Cake for breakfast: As I mentioned in a previous post, rice is the staple food in Madagascar, and it is eaten for almost every meal. Both host families I have stayed with so far didn’t consistently eat rice for breakfast though – instead, we had bread with off-brand Nutella, or cake, or my personal favourite, pain-au-choco (a type of bread like pastry with chocolate chunks in it). Certainly a different approach than I expected. On the other hand, fruit is considered desert!
- For the South Africans reading this: Shoprite (a chain of grocery stores) exists in Madagascar! It came here via South Africa so it still labels almost everything in English, and is popular among the Malagasy.
- Also for the South Africans: I have noticed many SA Rugby shirts here, especially in Tana. The first few times I thought it might just be a random shirt that the person unwittingly got hold of, but by now I’ve seen so many, often still in good condition, that the number is statistically significant. As one of my fellow SIT students pointed out, the Springboks are the only decent rugby team in this region of the world 😛
Unrelated to all that, here are a few photos!