Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Commercial Interuption

All sorts of somewhat interesting things have happened here in Toliara over the last day or two. So, I've decided to interrupt the 'Lobster Truck Red-Eye' to share a few tidbits. Also, I will be out of internet range for 4-ish days, but will continue my stories afterwards.

Yesterday, after getting waved through a gendarme stop for the first time ever, traffic was a bit jammed up as there was something blocking the road. I could hear lots of voices and commotion and as we (Marc, my Malagasy colleague, and I) crept forward at a snail's pace. Once we got close enough I could see that there were many men, maybe 50, sort of chanting and trotting along. They were all wearing athletic shorts, athletic tops, jelly shoes, and had traditional fabrics tied around their waists. Once we got closer still, I exclaimed "ooh ooh, that is a coffin." And then once we were even closer than that, I exclaimed "ooh ooh, that is a corpse!" The men were in a bit of a procession, with one man in the front and one in the back blowing into enormous conch shells. The other men were either wielding spears and chanting, or acting as paul bearers for the coffin lid or the actual coffin, and chanting. I have no idea why the lid was off the coffin, but it was. Right in the middle of the main road. To my exclamations Marc responded "yes" in a rather nonchalant manner. Just another day in Madagascar.

Today, I visited a doctor, a spice lady and a masseuse. The doctor did blood work yet again and although my calcium levels are now within normal range (they were dangerously low in February), I now have a magnesium deficiency. What?! Likely from Parasite X which I cannot seem to rid myself of. On the bright side, I do not have Hepatitis B or C, but on the gloomier side, may have been exposed to typhoid. My Widal test results indicate that I have been exposed to either Typhoid, some other gram negative bacteria, or malaria. Huh. Well, for the time being I have more antibiotics, another two weeks of 'ovimag' supplements, and the solace in knowing I will be home in 15 days.

The spice lady is kind of frightening and although she yells at me (and everyone else), I sort of love her. She has a dusty shop jam packed with wonderful unbelievably fresh and fragrant spices (curry, masala, peppers, cinnamon, vanilla, etc.). She seems to only have one volume and tone, both of which make me feel like I am in big trouble. While trying to pay, she yelled at me "TWO GIFTS", and pointed in the direction of a large wall of spices. I was a bit puzzled, so in a marginally huffier tone she yelled "TWO GIFTS", again pointing to the spice wall. Ah! It turned out I had purchased enough to warrant receiving two spice packs of my choosing, on the house! After that, she yelled at me to give her back the change that she had just given me. Wide eyed and terrified, I obediently passed back the cash, which was equivalent to about 75 cents (recall a house costs 50 dollars and a coffee costs 5 cents). She continued to yell at me and demanded that I take two more spice packs, which would cost $2 for the 75 cents. I am thrilled to have extra cinnamon, saki piment, and pepper, even if it was forced upon me!

I love nothing more than a good massage. Well, no I love cupcakes and wine more, but you know, a massage is up there. And, since my back is giving me trouble, I decided to go for it and try a Malagasy massage. It was ridiculously inexpensive and wonderful! There were a couple of differences when compared to getting a massage at home, however. First, it is expected that you disrobe out in the open with the masseuse and various other staff around. Second, once your clothing is off, it is socially acceptable for the masseuse and various other staff to give you a good once over and make comments about your nearly-nude body. Third, full breast rubbing is included in a back massage, which feels kind of awkward after your bosoms have been the topic of discussion by the masseuse and various other staff. I am not to sure if the massage was a bit weird or if I am a bit weird since I am kicking myself for not partaking in the Malagasy massage sooner. Just saying.

Ok, our regularly scheduled program shall resume in a few days time. Until then, here are some lemur action shots:

Awesome, right?


  1. Ha! Are your ears burning? I'm at the physical anth meetings and some of us were talking about you last night at the reception. Cheeky girl.
    Glad to hear that your health is somewhat better. We miss you at the conference, but this was a nice early morning story to read before going to this morning's presentations.

  2. Hope you had a good time at the meetings. I was just at Tsaranoro and saw your Maki- they are so fluffy!