Monday, 5th July – 5 A.M. (2nd day on Madagascar, first visit to my homeland with the family)
Bedroom of a rented apartment in the middle of Tananarive, the capital of Madagascar. My wife anxiously wakes me up, saying, what’s with the noise outside? So I get up from the bed, also anxious, open the curtains and behold a most fascinating sight: a crowd, a line of people that keeps going and going, on foot, by bike. They push wagons before them, everything is full of vegetables, full of fruit and various kinds of goods. The bustling and rustling continues to persist for about and hour or so and only then begins to die down. ‘Farmers rushing to the marketplace to sell their goods’, I explain to my wife. Ecstatic and without words she continues to observe the vibrant crowd of people and what’s happening.
Saturday, 10th July
Relatives and friends invite us over, and we struggle to appease them all. They all want us to drop by for lunch or dinner at least once. We try not to decline any offer. Everyday we are somewhere else. They’re rich, they’re poor, and almost no one’s in between. The rich show off their belongings, their luxurious meals; nonetheless, they quickly lose interest in us as soon as they learn that we aren’t rich ourselves. The poor attentively and diligently prepare the food on a modest table, attempt to capture our attention and affection. I’m awed by the amount of positive attention they can bear in their time of need, which is very painful. I’m shocked at how much life has deteriorated in the past 20 years since I left for abroad. A lot of the impoverished ask for our help and cannot fathom how someone with a degree in Europe isn’t rich. Me and my wife wonder how some of them manage to get by. We’ve visited stores and were dumbfounded at how the prices of basic human necessities were nigh identical to the ones in Slovenia. Be it 1l of milk, 1 kg of bread or 1 kg of flour, all practically identical in price. The numbers simply don’t add up.
Thursday, 6th August
We’re traveling by van to the southwest. My wife admires the landscape of the rice fields. As an agricultural engineer, she’s amazed by the high-quality farmland. Thinking out loud, she comments on the amount of work, attention and patience, the endless hours that are put into the rice terraces. On the way we meet people, a lot of people, who walk to the fields and back home, on their way to sell their goods at the market and returning back home. She names Madagascar “the land of people who walk”. She herself highly values hiking. In her eyes it’s the joy of motion, the primary shape of happiness. I simply listen to her enthusiastic thoughts.
On this road towards the southwest, about 500 km from the capital city, we begin to find vast herds of cattle. As a principle we have to stop and let them pass. Along the cattle there are shepherds. My wife and kids are quite excited by the procedure. Slowly but surely the cattle moves right past our windows. There are many herds and there are hundreds of cattle in each and every one of them. I explain to them that livestock is quite traditional in the southwest. The cattle which isn’t either the milk or meat breed is more of a status symbol and holds exchange value. Because of this, leather industry is quite predominant on the island of Madagascar.
Saturday, 15th August
We are travelling towards the eastern shore by van. Almost 600 km separate the capital city of Tananarive from the biggest port in the east, Tamatave. The road rises and falls along the hilly landscape, most of which is desolate of forests, a complete wasteland. No sings of the rainforest that not even 100 years ago covered the area. Practically, the only other vehicles that we meet on the road are large trucks, filled with massive timber logs. ‘Where are they driving from?’ wonders my wife, ‘it’s all barren’. ‘Most likely from inside the island’, I contemplate. ‘I studied the map of Madagascar back in the capital city and in this part along the east coast there was still a big portion of the rainforest’, tells my wife. However, all the way to the shore we don’t see any signs of it. The whole journey we only see barren, deforested hills scream silently. ‘They say that the leading reason for the disappearance of the rainforest is the traditional slash-and-burn farming. There aren’t even any villages here, no farmers’, ponders my wife. I stay silent. After years and years of living abroad, listening to the falsehoods about my native island hurts too much. As if nothing else but poverty and corruption exist on Madagascar, only negative news. I’m heartbroken and sometimes I quite frankly give up hope.