Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No problem

Ack. I keep trying to get a post up but I either don't have decent (or any) internet or am so exhausted by the time I get back to my hotel that I simply cannot string together a series of syllables.

Anyhow, the Malagasy don't ever really say "no." Rather, they have a series of "yes's" that often mean no, if you know what to look for (which I do not). And regardless of whether or not there is a problem, they tend to always say that there is "no problem."

The following are a few adventures of late, all of which are no problem:

1) Made it through gem stone country. Back in 2005 there was one town that supported the semi-precious stone mining. There a

B) I just jumped up because a GIANT cockroach ran past my foot. I was going to take a picture of it, but then I saw the GIANT spider beside the GIANT cockroach. I quickly decided I could not live with the GIANT spider (cockroaches are no problem) but it quickly disappeared into my pile of luggage. Oy, no problem.

1) cont... There are now a series of gem towns. All of which are equally scary and filled with dudes with fully automatic weapons. It is legal in gem country for employers to execute employees they suspect may be smuggling. We got stopped a number of times by the gendarmes but only had to pay off one, which is pretty good in my books. No problem!

2) We were out doing some shopping today. One of the things I needed was a large vessel to store water in. Jacky was kind enough to help me look and purchase such a vessel. We drove past a small market stall with a large suitably sized container. The "problem" was that there is a large "flammable dangerous goods" sticker on it. Jacky asked if that was what I wanted. I laughed and said "yes, except for the flammable/dangerous part." Jacky then said ok and got out of the car to look around. I had to wait in the car because apparently if I were there, the price would double. A few minutes later, the flammable/dangerous container is being loaded onto the car. I said "but Jacky it says flammable/dangerous. Should I really be storing my water in it?" He said "Oh yes, its no problem."

3) I just got back from an amazing dinner of "Big Grill Shrimp" which can be found at a restaurant here in Toliara. It is a massive portion of big grilled shrimp which are fresh and tender and sweet and served with a side of pesto butter. Amazing! At the end of the meal we received a special complimentary delivery... It was a fortified wine (we think) served in a baby bottle (WITH a nipple) and shot glasses. A baby bottle (WITH a nipple) filled with unknown alcohol and shot glasses. Bizarre, but definitely no problem.

Night all :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yet another day in Tana

Tana is a city of 2 million plus people and a zillion vehicles, yet there are no stop lights. At some of the busier intersections there are officials directing traffic. Earlier today two such officials instructed 1) our driver and 2) a man on a scooter to cross the complicated 5-way round about intersection simultaneously. So, we were then involved in an MVA.

I never did learn the man on the scooter's name, but I will refer to him as MVA from here on out. MVA ended up perpendicular to the front of our SUV and the impact knocked him and then his scooter to the road. Our vehicle impacted with his upper body, and his opposite hip impacted with the road. The scooter slid under the SUV, but just barely. MVA was able to get up, but was in a lot of pain. The police wrote a receipt (which of course was stamped) for the MVA's scooter and we all piled in to go to the hospital. It is a 15-ish minute drive across town with super bumpy impossible roads, completely congested traffic, thousands of scooters/people/dogs/chickens/gendarme's with AK-47s, and of course, no stop lights.

We got to the hospital and waited. MVA was examined and X-rayed. Luckily there was no internal damage, including broken bones. He was given a prescription for topical anesthetic and some sort of pain killer.

Next, we all rode over to the Tsimbazaza Zoo (15 minutes away) to pick up another vehicle and then all the way back to the scene of the accident (30 min away) to pick up MVA's scooter. We were planning to help load the scooter into vehicle number 2, but it was a bit too sketchy an area for us (vazah) to be getting out of the car. We were right near the mouth of one of Tana's two tunnels, which are notoriously dangerous for both Malagasy and Vazah alike. MVA and his scooter made it into vehicle number 2, where we parted ways.

Through a translator, MVA apologised to us (vazah) rather profusely and thanked us repeatedly for our time, which made me feel horrible. Foreigners are placed on such a pedestal in Madagascar that everyone involved was most worried about us being inconvenienced. The man was plowed over by a 6000lb vehicle, yet was sorry to of taken our time.

On another note.... WE GOT VISAS!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Room number 7

What a day. We set out merrily to get our research visas. I was equipped with water, snacks, toilet paper, handi wipes, a Malagasy University/Zoo official (Rokiman)and a big 'ol Canadian smile.

On the way there, as we are zooming throughout the insane congested traffic, we see a man between two lanes of traffic. He is so hideously deformed by scoliosis/polio/and other debilitating bone disease, that he is actually a quadraped. It was completely shocking. He was begging for money without an inch to spare from cars zooming past.

We get to the "Ministry" (I have no idea what Ministry) and they tell us to go to the next building. The Malagasy don't do anything fast, so this takes a while. Once we get to the next building, it is locked. We go around the building and after a long-winded conversation, they tell us to go to room number 7. So we go and we wait at room number 7. We get inside and Roki talks and talks and talks (the Malagasy do nothing quickly) to the lady behind the desk in room number 7. In addition to the stacks of papers I already have, we need to produce many many documents (all stamped, of course) to apply for the visas, including 7 identical passport-style photographs, and a criminal record check. The photos I can get, the criminal record check, I cannot. In both Canada and the US, you must be finger printed and present to get a criminal check. The embassies or consulates cannot do it. The funny thing is that I brought a criminal record check with me when I came to Madagascar in 2005, but because they didn't ask for it, I didn't bring one again.

The lady from door number 7 tells us that if we can't get the record checks while we are here in Madagascar, then we will have to fly home to get them. She sends us away. Roki talks and talks and talks to a lady in another part of the Ministry, who keeps threatening to send us back to room number 7.

We leave, armed at least, with a list of all the impossible documents we must produce. On the ride back, with all the crazy traffic and clouds of pollution, I saw two small children (a boy about 5 and a girl about 3) raking though a pile of garbage. The boy was using a stick to sift through the rubbish and they were both picking out morsels and eating them. This was not a behind a restaurant or grocery store style of rubbish, but rather, stinky rotten putrid diseased garbage. It was their lunch.

We then stopped by the Zoo and got an impromptu tour of perhaps the saddest zoo on earth. I won't elaborate, but it is not a pleasant place to if you are a captive animal.

Last, we had a wonderful dinner of Indian food. Go figure.

I am exhausted. Night all...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another day in Tana

Sunday is a good day in Tana. Nothing is open, except for a few restaurants and food stalls, and there are very few people out-and-about. Even the street children (which are terribly sad to see), who can be ridiculously persist and and follow you for blocks asking for money, take the day off and barely blink when the vazah (foreigner) walk by.

Having nothing to do, Meghan, Denise and I walked up to the Queens Palace. It is about a two mile walk up the side of a giant hill. Once we got up there the gates to the palace were closed (given it is Sunday) but a Malagasy man (dubbed "Texas" by a former American boss who couldn't pronounce his Malagasy name) offered to take us on a tour about the palace. I am always hesitant to go anywhere with strange men, but the were three of us and he seemed harmless enough. Our tour was lovely and included amazing views of the city, an introduction into cock fighting roosters, and all sorts of tidbits about Madagascar's history. It was actually a much better experience than we would have gotten if the palace was open. He did try to swindle us out of a bunch of money at the end, but happily accepted our much reduced offer.

When we were walking back, we got asked if we wanted to be in a television commercial. This guy (with a large camera) came up to us all out of breath and said that they were shooting a commercial in the park across the street and needed a vazah to play a small role but hadn't been able to fine any. Although intrigued, we were worried about the time and the possibility of being caught out after dark way across town from our hotel. Alas, our Malagasy celebrity will have to wait.

I was going to post a few pic, but they are refusing to load. I'll try again tomorrow. Night :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I've slept quite a lot and am feeling much more adjusted. Tana in 10hrs in the future of SD, but getting used to the time difference is remarkably easy when you are tired enough. Meghan arrived, and Denise (LG's student from UVic) is also here in Tana. Its great to have peeps! Last night we shared one of my coveted bottles of duty-free South African wine. It was supposed to be a treat for the field, but meh, When in Rome...

Tana is mostly the same- huge and congested and has terrible pollution, which makes the inside of your nose all black and makes your mouth taste like gasoline. There is a new American Embassy which might actually be the largest building in Madagascar. Its humongous and looks rather silly. I have no idea why a super-sized Embassy is needed, but in case you were wondering, its here. Also, there is a small lake in Tana (Lake Anosy) that you have to drive past quite often. In the center of the lake is the "Black Angel" which is a large angel statue that is painted black. It was a gift to Madagascar from the French and is a war memorial to the French soldiers that died in WWI. Anyhow, the Black Angel is now a Gold Angel! My driver said the the "president" (former DJ, turned coup leader, and self-appointed president) had it painted 'yellow' as a sign of freedom from the french and future prosperity.

We are going to walk up to the Queen's Palace today. It was actually destroyed by arson in 1995 and has yet to be rebuilt, but is neat to see and offers fantastic views of the city. I desperately want to take my camera, but know that it is a bad idea to have anything valuable out-and-about in Tana. Its is Sunday however and even thieves are more relaxed here on Sunday.

Happy Sunday all!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Crocs have invaded Madagascar

Note sure how to transition from regular blogging to posting journal entries, but I'll give it a go...

August 18, 2010. 7:52pm San Diego International Airport.
I am through security and the first person to arrive at the gate. I am sobbing. Tears are streaming down my cheeks and I have a completely soaked the nasty Kleenex which is griped in my hand. I can barely see my computer screen. I am 100% heartbroken to leave Ron. I knew this would be hard, but honestly, this is much worse than even I expected.

Plus, I f*cked up my flights. I booked on Travelocity and knew that I would have to transfer from EWR to JFK. Sounds like no big deal, right? I didn’t think it would be, as my itinerary says “transfer via AirTrain.” Well, it is a big deal when you have 220lbs of checked luggage along with as much carry-on as I can stuff into my two bursting bags. Normally at the airport of departure, I would be able to get boarding passes and check my luggage all the way to my final destination. Now, not only to I have to lug all of my bags from EWR to JFK in a taxi (I simply can’t haul all my luggage on the AirTrain), but I have to pay the baggage fees twice! Rookie mistake, I suppose. I had a serious melt down at the Continental counter when I realized. Well, that and 75 other serious meltdowns today.

8:25pm. Finally clued in that I was at the wrong gate. Flight leaves in 1hr. Must be careful not to “pull a Marni*”, like missing my flight while thinking the plane must be delayed, and how odd that I am the only one at the gate. I have all my really important things with me (Gary, my passport, computer, credit cards, phone, medications and $4000 cash) and must not lose anything or get lost. MUST NOT PULL A MARNI.

*Pulling a Marni refers to my tendency to sometimes act without thinking my actions through. Examples include taking Ron and I to the Medan Airport 24-hrs before our flight departed and 24-hrs after our visas expired (those cancel each other, right?), taking HAM to US Customs and Border Protection for an import inspection with duct tape over the VINs (I had parking tickets!), or waltzing over the San Yasidro border crossing with the intention of waltzing directly back over with my shiny new visa (It took 10hrs during which bribed, budged, nearly got beaten up by an old lady, and was almost kidnapped under a bridge).

Aug 19, 2010. 8:46am SD time, 11:46am Eastern time. Airbourne from JFK.
Survived the night flight. Barely. Slept a little. Cried a lot. Got to EWR and made a poor decision that I would like to call “sketchy cab.”

I was dazed and looking for the carousal for my luggage. I thought I found the correct carousal and figured I’d better find a cart, or rather, 2 carts for my 4 jumbo bags and 3 medium bags. A normal-ish looking older gentleman asked me if I was needed a taxi. At first I said no. The nice lady (Trish) that helped me at the Continental counter in SD said to look for a porter in a red vest and ask them for the best way to get myself and ALL my bags to JFK. So, I was gawking around for a red-vester, but had already found baggage claim without spotting a single person in a red vest. So, I turned around and told the helpful man that I was in fact looking for transport. I told him that I had a zillion pounds of luggage and we agreed on $90 for the 60min ride to JFK. He was immensely helpful and got carts and helped me will all my bags. Thank goodness. Then we went out to the car. Instead of going to where all the other taxis were, we took an elevator up and then walked up to a regular (non-cab-ish) looking car. He asked another man to help get my bags into the car, at which time I pointed out that this car “did not look like a cab.” Both of the men replied, no it’s a car service. The assured me that I could get a receipt and gave me a business card. They also pointed out the official looking number in the window. Something just didn’t seem right at this point, so what did I do? Got in and buckled up.

Clearly, I was not killed and raped, as I would not likely be chatting about the incident if I had. I was rather worried that I would be killed and raped though. The nice gentleman “Xavier” or happydaddyone@yahoo.com told me how risky it is to solicit passengers as he had me. Apparently the minimum fine is $500, so Xavier said he had to keep his soliciting on the DL. No shit. He also told me that I was getting such a screaming deal because he was not technically licensed to transport, well, people. That being said, he was actually a fairly good tour guide and pointed out some bridges, Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Atlantic, etc. One we got to JFK, he said that I must pay him in the car and that he would not be able to talk to me once I was out of the car. We pulled up and he asked the “airporter” dudes to help me with my bags. They got into a screaming match about whether or not they would remove bags from his car, but eventually they did.

Yeesh. My decision making skills need a kick in the arse.

Getting my bags checked in with South African Airways was less than pleasant… Apparently the checked luggage limit is 4 pieces. I had 5. Apparently they don’t accept over-weight items. I had one whopping 72lb bag. They told me “no.” I told them “no.” They hummed and hawed. I hummed and hawed. They asked for $550. I gave them $550. They told me not to try to check 5 bags again. I asked why not?
Anyhow, in all of this, I am still placing the vast majority of my nearly being killed and raped AND being $1040 poorer on Travelocity. I even called a couple of weeks ago to ask which airline fees I would have to pay for my extra baggage- would it be with the carrier I checked in with in SD or would it be the carrier of my final destination? They said Continental, since they had an agreement with South African Airways. You better believe I am going to draft one heck of a nasty gram for Travelocity.

In between all of that, I sobbed quite a bit more and talked to Ron a number of times. I complained about JFK- there was no Starbucks and no WiFi. Granted there was Pete’s and Boingo, but that’s not how I roll.

Also, Meghan is not on this flight. She left a frantic message just as I was boarding. She was connecting from DC and her flight got in late. There was 40 minutes before “our” flight left, but TSA rules stipulate that you must have 60min of time between scheduled flights or you will not be permitted to board. So her Dulles-JFK flight was getting sent back to Dulles for rescheduling. Oy.

Aug 20, 2010. 10:56am local time. On flight from Joburg to Tana.
I was just served a “light snack” on my South African Airways flight. Light snacks on North American flights may include a teenie tiny bag of pretzels or peanuts, or I once got a ½ donut on a Frontier flight. My SA light snack choices were beef, chicken, or veggie. I chose veggie and got the following: two spinach crepes, pasta salad, white chocolate pudding, whole wheat crackers, cheese, a chocolate bar, a bag of peanuts and a box of orange juice.

I have now been traveling for 32hrs and remarkably am feeling not too bad. I slept quite a bit on the earlier flight. I opted not to have any of the lovely South African wine and I think I am fairing much better for it. My biggest complaint is that I am f*cking freezing and have been for about 20hrs. For some reason, SA air cabins are kept at the same temperature as meet lockers.

There is a passenger behind me whom I would like to call “loud Chinese a&%hole”, who is a loud Chinese a&%hole. Go figure.

Am not feeling as completely bleak as I was earlier. The sobbing has stopped, which I am sure my fellow air travelers appreciate. When I border the plane at JFK, I was of course sobbing, and handed the lady working at the gate my ticket, passport, and one drenched snot rag. She took it with a look of shock and horror.

I thought that I had a 3hr layover in Joburg, but I actually had to haul ass to get to my flight. What a bummer, because the shopping in that airport is fantastic. I was going to buy some yoga-style pants and another hoodie, since I am f*cking freezing, but had no time. I did however take advantage of the 2 bottle limit of duty free SA wine (one Shiraz and one Syrah). I will enjoy those from the bush!

August 20, 2010. 4:33pm local time. Antananarivo, Madagascar. Hotel Sakamana.
Arrived without much drama. I just had a shower which was so wonderful after 38hrs of travel. Most interesting tidbit thus far- Crocs have invaded Madagascar. For shiz.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the fattest f*&%ing dog

Since I was talking bodily functions yesterday, I thought I'd share this strange-but-true story which happened a few year ago at our extended family's house. For the sake of privacy, I will refer to the family members as Uncle X and Aunt Y, but the dog can have his real name, Reece. For the record the family is kind and generous, and much loved.

Ron and I took a drive to visit Uncle X and Aunt Y. It was a significant drive, so we planned to stay the night. This was our first visit to their house, so we had not yet met their dog, Reece. When we pulled up and got out of the car, I instantly started laughing. It was Halloween and I thought they had their dog dressed up in some sort of crazy-fat-dog costume. Alas, Reece was just really really really fat. I would say Reece had a medium frame, like a cocker spaniel, but had fluffy hair like a husky. The Vet said that Reece needed to loose at least 50 lbs right away, so this will give you an idea of how fat he was. Ron leaned over and whispered "that is the fattest f*&%ing dog", which became incredibly funny to me. In fact, I couldn't fall asleep that night because I was continually giggling about the "fattest f*&%ing dog."

Anyhow, Reece was actually a rather sad beast because he had significantly reduced mobility due to his enormous size. One of the rather unfortunate side effects of his weight was that he couldn't hunch over to relieve his bowels. Uhum, so there seemed to be an ever appearing small amount of liquidy feces on his rear end, which inevitably made contact with the carpet, the furniture, your legs, etc. Aunt Y was aware of this and diligent to clean up after Reece. She wore one of those fuzzy pink house coat/dress things with a zipper up the front and followed Reece around with a dish rag and a bottle of windex. In between clean-ups, she would swing the sh*t rag over her shoulder and keep it there. So we are all sitting in the living room chatting, and she keeps the soiled towel on her shoulder.

OMG, right?

The next morning, Aunt Y was nice enough to make breakfast for everyone. My appetite was a tad off and the plate in front of me containing 2 lbs of microwaved bacon was almost enough to put me over the edge (the 2 lbs were straight out of the package, all clumped together, and piled on top of each other, so the ends smelled of burned bacon, while the middle was completely slimy and raw). After breakfast, Reece got the leftover bacon, which was at least a pound. Ron and I stayed at the table, and Ron offered me some more coffee, which I accepted. He got up, washed my cup and got me another cup.

I was nearly done my second cup of coffee when Aunt Y came back in the kitchen looking for something. What do you think she was looking for? The sh*t towel. Where had she left the sh*t towel? In the sink. What had Ron just washed my coffee cup with? Dog sh*t. Dog sh*t from the fattest f*&%ing dog.

See? I told you the testicle coffee wasn't so bad.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I have a dilemma of a personal nature, which I have started to think about quite a bit, especially at night. Those of you that have lived in a tent will understand. For those of you that haven't, well, sorry.

The issue is this: should I pee in my tent at night?

Why would I want to do such a god awful thing? First, I have to get up several times in the night to wee. At home its not a problem, because we have a toilet and there aren't scorpions or giant spiders roaming around the bedroom, so the whole ordeal takes 45 seconds and I fall right back to sleep. Second, getting out of the tent is a big ordeal. It involves finding my headlamp, putting on shoes, undoing the tent zipper (which is secured with my burglar-proof safety pin), and trekking out to nowhere to pee beside a bush and inadvertently all over my feet. Last, arachnids have a reflective layer on all 8 of their eyes, so when you are out at night you can see that your world is literally crawling with them. Big ones, with their glowing sets of devil eyes. I know they are there anyhow, but find it a bit disconcerting to face at midnight, and 3am, and 5am. So, then I am all awake and have the heebie-jebbies, and before long, it is time to go all over again.

So, why not pee in my tent? Well, it just seems like something that a grown woman should not do. Plus there is the issue of what to pee into. I once cut the lid off a 1 liter water bottle and tried that, but I was terrified that I would knock it over in the night, and in fact, nearly did. And then I had to take the morning walk of shame with my bright yellow pee jug. So, its pretty gross and could spill and you look like a total creep in the morning. I suppose I could get some sort of specialized pee container with a lid, but that still doesn't solve the grossness or the walk of shame. A special whiz container sounds horrible, but is it less horrible than having to leave the "comfort" of my tent three-ish times a night for some 250-odd nights?

I just don't know where I should go.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


HOLY SH*T! Sprinkles is opening at my Whole Foods!!! I am going to gain 300lbs and love every bite. They have quite a few locations now, but I've only ever been to the Newport Beach and Beverly Hills (the original) locations. I get double chocolate, unless they have coco loco, which is dark chocolate cake with spicy Mayan chocolate butter cream icing. mmm...

Ron hates going to Sprinkles, but given that I love it so much, he puts up with the Sprinkles snobbery. His hate stems from the Sprinkles code of conduct, which includes the following:

1. You must not photograph the cupcakes. AT. ALL. And for that matter, there are no photos in or around the shop. The windows are etched glass such that you could never even sneak a pic of the wee cakes. I even feel guilty snapping a pic once we are gone.

2. Even though there is generally a line-up down the block, you must NEVER block the door open or even take too long in closing the door. If you do, the entire staff stops dead until the door is completely closed (and the offender is completely embarrassed). Apparently, an open door affects the freshness of the cupcake. Who knew.

3. Boxes are for two cupcakes. Not one, but two. Last time we were in LA, I wanted to take one cupcake home to SD to have after dinner. I even had a special cooler all rigged up so that my little treasure wouldn't get over heated. I didn't want my single cake in the paper bag they sometimes give, because then the icing touches the sides of the bag and the cupcake isn't as pretty. So, I asked for one coco loco in a box. I was on my best Sprinkles behavior and figured I had a good shot at getting my $5 cupcake in a box. The girl taking my order gave me a "seriously?" look and then leaned over the counter to put her hand on my arm. She chuckled a little and said, "on honey, we don't do that." Yipes. I thought I was gonna get booted! Luckily I was quick thinking enough to order two coco locos in a box. Phew.

Can't believe I am getting a Sprinkles 1.6 miles from home!!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Back when we were in college (as my Merky friends would say), Ron and I had a rat called "Wimpy." She was a white and tan dumbo with brown eyes. She was a bit portly and had dermatitis, but was a very pleasant rat. When we adopted her from the shelter we stuck her in the cage of the rat next to her (this was a VERY bad idea) to see if she was friendly. We also had Amy (the best rat ever, who LOVED me and slept on me for 2 years) and Coco (who seemed a bit lonesome because Amy was always with me), and wanted a new rat who could be bf's with Coco. Anyhow, Wimpy and the other shelter rat immediately went at it and blood was flying. I stuck my hand in and separated them (yet another brilliant idea). Since Wimpy was so nice and tame and friendly, we presumed that other rat was a real jerk, and that Wimpy was just a wimp, hence the name. Poor thing, her SPCA papers just said "not wanted anymore."

So Wimpy came home and we set up an introduction between Wimpy and Coco. Neutral territory, supervised, lots of treats and escape routes. In two seconds flat, Wimpy went for Coco's jugular, which immediately began spurting blood. I had to hold the wound with firm pressure for like 15 minutes. Poor Coco. Wimpy was not a wimp at all, but a great big rat bully. So now, we had a rat that loved people, a rat that needed a rat friend, and a rat that HATED rats. Go figure.

Anyhow, we worked it out... I rigged up a complicated series of ferret cages and a schedule of which rat got to be free-roaming at what time (except for Amy, who had special privileges). When Coco was roaming, she would sit on the other side of the bars from Wimpy (who would bite her toes). When Wimpy was free roaming, she would pee on Coco through the bars and then go about her apartment inspecting business.

One day when I came home Wimpy was all curled up in a piece of a sweatshirt that she loved, dead. Now I had been working at both the Animal Care Unit and the Zooarchaeology Lab at UVic, and had taken to putting carcases in my freezer, as one does. In my mind, I could put the my beloved critter in the freezer, come to terms with their passing, and then take the deceased some where nice when I was good and ready.

Ron hated my habit of keeping dead pets or roadkill (for the Zooarchaeology Lab), but he is an immensely patient man, and put up with dead rodents beside his popsicles. One day a month or so after Wimpy's passing I said, "Honey, I think its time we take Wimpy to the forest." So I took Wimpy out of the freezer and we went out to the forest behind our apartment. I took her out of the ziplock freezer bag, wrapped her up tight in her little sweatshirt, said a few kind words, and threw her as far as I possibly could, aiming for a massive patch of blackberry bushes. But, instead of landing somewhere peaceful and out-of-sight, Wimpy and her little shirt got lodged on the branch of a large tree right on the edge of the forest. Just dangling there about 10 feet up. My frozen dead rat, and her little shirt swaying from side to side.

Ron had a look on his face of complete horror. I'm sure he figured he was about to climb that tree to retrieve my frozen dead rat, while I was in hysterics. But he didn't and I wasn't. We had a good laugh and still laugh about the day Wimpy got stuck in a tree.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

DivX Party

We went to Ron's work party today, which was at the zoo. We also took a nap, went to the beach, did some shopping, ate dinner and settled in to watch some tv. A few minutes ago Ron exclaimed, "Hey, you weren't even socially awkward today!"

Yay for me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lemur Land

Lots have been asking about my my Madagascar plans. The following is a rough itinerary, which is bound to change, but will give you an idea of where I'll be.

August 18, fly out of San Diego.

August 20, arrive in Antananarivo (Tana). Yes, I arrive two days later, and no, I am not spending the night anywhere during that time. Oy.

August 23-24, Supplies and visa extensions in Tana.

August 25, Tana to Fianarantsoa. Stay one night in Fiana.

August 26, Finanarantsoa to Ranohira (Isalo). Stay 2 nights in Ranohira. Go to Isalo National Park (for fun!).

August 28, Ranohira to Toliara. Stay 3 nights in Toliara.

August 29-30, supplies and permits in Toliara.

August 31, to Beza for supplies. Stay 2 nights at Beza. Be sure to visit with 300 (pictured above).

September 2, to Tsimanampetsotsa National Park (TNP).

October 11, TNP to Toliara. Bronwyn arrives on Oct 12. Stay 3 nights in Toliara.

October 14, Toliara to TNP.

December 8, TNP to Toliara/Anakao/wherever (mini-vacation before Bronwyn leaves).

December 12, Bronwyn leaves.

December 13, Toliara to TNP.

February 20-27, TNP to Toliara/wherever for supplies, internet and vacation.

April 22, TNP to Beza. Store equipment and supplies. Stay one night.

April 23, Beza to Toliara. Stay one night.

April 24, Toliara to Fianarantsoa. Stay one night.

April 25, Fianarantsoa to Tana. Get final permits.

April 27, fly out of Tana.

April 28, HOME.

Being in Toliara means I can pick up mail and in Toliara/Tana means I will have internet. Being at TNP means I will have lemurs, but no running water, toilet (not even a pit one), internet, electricity (although I have a small "retro-cool" generator), or fresh food.

I am going to keep a journal while I am away, as I generally do, and will continue to blog when I have internet access. I am sure this news will be terribly exciting for my fan base of 4, which for the record, does NOT include Kitty.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Ron and I have come to the conclusion that we are officially too odd for any other partners. We are ruined (pronounced "rooned") for anyone but each other.

We have a culture of sorts, which includes "secret" handshake/dance with the following lyrics:

Kaw Kaw
Raelians Rule

We create elaborate stories for all things LaFleur, such as Fridge LaFleur (who loves $100 bills, but hates mustard) or the artist formerly known as Sam LaFleur (who had a wildly successful button business that catered to gay men's underpants accessories).

I guess this is what happens when you've been together long enough... We love the same things (fish tacos, sharks, dinner in bed), hate the same things (snow, ear wax, pumping gas), and laugh at the same things, which generally make no sense (see Fridge LaFleur and the artist formerly known as Sam LaFleur). He doesn't protest my love of the dead (literally), or inability to wear pants at night (not in a weird way), my inherent selfishness, or incessant need for water. And in turn I don't scoff at his need to excessively worry, the fact that his ears are WAY too small for his body, or his unusual claim to hate his left foot (WTF?).

Its true, we are ruined.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nasty Gram

I had a doctors appointment this afternoon, after which I came home, but had to turn around and go right back out again as it was time to pick up Ron. In the few minutes I was home our new neighbor put a nasty gram on HAM.

Check this sh*t out:

A) Neither Ron nor I have ever touch CHICKEN (what we have dubbed this other Jeep) with HAM.

B) What a passive aggressive note! Don't worry, I have already submitted to passiveaggressivenotes.com.

C) I really think the use of "accountability" is grammatically incorrect. However, the penmanship is lovely.

D) We've uttered quite a few cuss words and are going to sleep on this passive aggressive note before responding. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 2, 2010

16 days

Its now 16 days until I leave and I *think* I may be getting used to the idea. I feel a bit like a groom with cold feet... I've been working up to this trip for so long, and I love my lemurs, and I love chasing them around, and I love the forest, and I want to do my research, but the idea of being away for 8+ months (I am really getting off "easy". Some people do way way longer, like 2 years) scares the crap out of me.

That being said, things are starting to fall into place. I got my passport back from the Malagasy consulate today, with a shiny new research visa (thank you, Teague). I managed packed 50lbs of batteries into a tiny suitcase and 15lbs on to my behind. I have more medications than I will probably ever need in my life, and I am amassing quite a collection of audio books. Plus, I really am getting sick of REI, which is a sure sign that it is nearly time to go.

Not quite yet though. This weekend there is a huge sandcastle contest Imperial Beach and Ron's work is having a party at the Zoo. The following week is Ron's (get this) 40th birthday and I get a jazzy new porcelain crown on my upper M2.

Oh, while Ron was in Vegas getting puffy, I read "Look me on the eye" by John Elder Robinson. Its really good! Its a memoir of a dysfunctional upbringing written by a man with Asperger's. I enjoyed it so much that last night I ran (well, drove really) out and bought "Running with scissors" which is Robinson's brother's memoir.