Thursday, March 13, 2014

Morondava, Madagascar

After our very long day coming back from the Tsingy, we (all of us, including Ludo and Jose) decided to have a shorter day of activities the next day. We were scheduled to take a pirogue (canoe) ride, visit a fishing village, and tour the market in Morandava. But despite the fact that we sat all day, we were just too tired to think about more adventures. In the last few days Lana had been violently ill, we had driven for 9 hours the next day, hiked all over the Tsingy the following day, and we had been stuck in the mud several times on our drive back. We were fine—we had enjoyed it even—but we were ready for something a bit more low key.
So we told Ludo we would rather just see the market in Morandava (we’re always a sucker for a local market), drive around town, and maybe we would walk out to the beach in the afternoon on our own.
The other thing we asked Ludo about was the garment we saw on all our travels in Madagascar, which was essentially a length of colorful fabric many women wrapped around themselves, with our without other clothes. Throughout the trip thus far, the bulk of our souvenirs were fabric—a thin cotton tunic purchased in Urugauy, pieces of batiks from Bali, and the clothes Lana had made in Vietnam. Lana had previously asked Ludo about the fabric, and although he told us what it was called, we can’t remember it now. We knew we were going to need to pick ups something that would serve as a sleep sheet for our travels in Egypt, and the fabrics were so beautiful it seemed like a good way to get a souvenir that would be useful as well as meaningful and memorable.  Since we were heading in to Morondava, we asked Ludo if there was a place we could get some fabric for that purpose.  Ludo took us to a couple of fabric stores lined with bolts of vividly printed fabrics in a variety of weights—some sheer voile, some heavily batiked cottons.  Many of the patterns included some written Malagasy phrases, and we spent much longer than we normally would have in a fabric store, looking for the right combination of weight and design, as well as asking about what the various sayings meant. Ultimately we picked two different fabrics, which Lana thought she could use as sarong wraps, as well as using them for light sheets in Egypt.  Ludo recommended we have them hemmed by a woman that everyone seemed to know about.  We found her sitting on the sidewalk not far from the fabric store, with a hand-cranked sewing machine in front of her.  The red and white fabric she is hemming in the picture above was one of ours. While you can’t see it in the photo, there was a phrase in Malagasy on it that essentially said: the Mother is like the sun; you cannot live without her beauty.  The orange and blue plaid was rice sack material that Ludo had bought at the fabric store to use as a shower curtain at his home; it was next in line for hemming.  Lana asked if she could photograph the seamstress, and she was pleased to oblige, although she requested a copy of the photo be sent to her. 
As you can see, she was a beautiful subject, with her woven straw hat and wide smile.
Our second piece of fabric is the brown and teal piece in the photo above—it was a stiffly starched piece of batik, but really beautiful.
We continued on to the market, and Ludo explained many of the local dried herbs and roots for sale.  The brown bulbs to the left, below are baobab fruit; we were going to buy one for the juice, but got distracted, and missed that opportunity.  It’s one of our few regrets from Madagascar.
The vegetable market was bustling.  The meat market was not as active; it smelled a bit, but was much more pleasant than the markets in Southeast Asia or South America.  There was not a lot of cut meat sitting out, and no poultry at all (which is probably the main difference in smell). The gentleman smiling at the camera made sure to give a few dramatic whacks with his cleaver on some organ meat as we walked by.  We didn’t want to disappoint him, but after being sprayed by bone shards by a female butcher in a market in Hoi An, Vietnam (not to mention the woman using a pair of scissors to gut a basket of small skinned birds), he’d have to do more than that to make us flinch.
Morandava had one street that was paved—the shops, the market and the woman who hemmed our fabric all faced that street. Every other street looked like the the photo below. Made of sandy dirt, filled largely with people walking rather than driving, and children playing.  We wandered around for a while, taking in the town, and drove down by the beach to see the Mozambique Channel, but we didn’t do much else.
After our drive around town (and a stop at the ATM—we learned never to pass up an ATM in Madagascar, as it could be a long way to the next one) Jose drove us back to the Kimony Resort, where we had to say goodbye to him and his Patrol, as he had another job as a driver the next day, when we would be flying out of Morandava. We were sad to say goodbye to him. Lana especially had a soft spot in her heart labeled Jose. As we said goodbye we shook his hand, said “Merci mille fois” and handed him a hefty tip for all his excellent driving, mud digging, and puddle sounding. And we still felt like it wasn’t enough.
As with every leg of our trip in Madagascar (and around the world for that matter), while the things we saw filled with wonder and awe, the Malagasy people we met were just as special and memorable.