"Can mice climb stairs?"

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Beheloke, Photo by Marc Ocskay, Dropforlife, Sept 2019

It has been a while since I last sat down to put the best stories and anecdotes from my Madagascar travels on paper. It’s not like I’m running out of shareable moments, oh no no no, every visit they continue to enrich my relationship to the country. With pleasure, I offer you some highlights of my most recent trip in November 2019 together with Maria. Enjoy:

Tsaradia (what else?)
How about I start with a story about Tsaradia (formerly Air Madagascar). They never cease to amuse me. After surviving a flight from the capital to Tulear with a non-functioning aircon, sticking to our seats due to sweat, finding solace only in the one ice cube we received with our warm cokes, my favorite airline awaited me with yet another surprise.

This is a story about how to get a reimbursement by Tsaradia. Once upon a time in the past (I’ve surely reported about that incident), Tsaradia decided to only fly a full day later, meaning I had to spend an extra night at a hotel. Knowing I would probably never hear from them I still filed a complaint and demanded reimbursement. To my surprise, my Malagasy number (used by Adrian at that time), received a call telling me I can pick up my reimbursement at the Tsaradia office in Tulear. Let us pause for a moment to appreciate this small miracle.

Following their invite, I did indeed visit the Tulear office. And because it was so much fun, I visited 5 times:

1st visit: Hi, I’m Andrina, picking up the promised reimbursement. Reply employee: Ah yes yes, I know about your case, the boss needs to take care of it, I’ll talk to her, please come back tomorrow.

2nd visit: Hi, I’m back for the reimbursement. Reply: Ah yes yes, I have not yet talked to the boss, I’ll let you know when I have.

Never heard from her again.

3rd visit: Hi, just wanted to ask about the status of my reimbursement? Reply Boss: Yes, here you go (and gave me an envelope). Assuming it was the money I left and walked to the nemaco office. There I opened the envelope to find a piece of paper stating I can come by the Tsaradia office to pick up the reimbursement. Seriously?!?

4th visit: Hi, I’m coming to pick up the reimbursement as written in the letter. Reply employee: Yes, the boss needs to look at this, she’s not here.

5th visit: HI, I WILL NOT LEAVE THIS OFFICE WITHOUT THE PROMISED REIMBURSEMENT. Boss (grinding her teeth): This is technically difficult as I still need to discuss with headquarters in Tana as they decide when, where and how to give it to you…mimimimimi…..(sees my angry face) and gives me the money. There we go, that wasn’t too hard 🙂

Malagasy specialty
Whenever you get the chance to visit Tulear, try avoiding the cookies from the spices store across from the Tsaradia office (perhaps just a region to avoid altogether). During one of my few visits with the airline, Maria was buying spices and saw the cookies (like big sablés) in a jar and was kind enough to buy one for each of us for breakfast (thank you Maria). Once at work, I took a first bite. Hm, a bit dry, probably not the freshest – were my first thoughts. I took a second bite — and my eyes filled with horror watching a decent sized worm crawling towards me coming from the cookies’ center. Maria then wisely decided to skip breakfast and we ridded ourselves of the cookies.

How to catch a cockroach
Coming home from work one night a lovely fat cockroach greeted me sitting on the floor in the middle of my room. There’s worse, but nonetheless, I prefer to have the room to myself, so I set out to capture that cockroach. While I armed myself with a drinking glass, sneaky cockroach ran under the bed. Thanks to the cockroach I had a work-out session shooing him from one side under the bed to the other and trying to catch that speedy thing. After several attempts and with full thrust I got him under the glass (and was extremely surprised it did not shatter to pieces. The glass. Not the cockroach.). Sliding the instruction for the remote-control underneath, I proudly walked up to the reception, glass with frantically struggling cockroach in hand, and asked for assistance to get rid of it (earning amused smiles and some ashamed apologies).

Field accommodation inspection
Maria had the pleasure to accompany me to the field for two nights. In Beheloke this means sleeping in the ‘holiday-hut’ of a French-Malagasy couple. It is a simple place to stay and perhaps needs a bit of getting used to when there for the first time. I will never forget how, armed with our flashlights, Maria and I inspected each room of the hut in detail to determine:
• Where is the least scary place to sleep;
• How many spiders (dead and alive) are hanging from the ceiling that can potentially drop onto us during the night;
• How easily can the mice and the cockroaches reach the room;
• Does the mattress look bearable to lie on;
• How many other strange hard to identify nests are hanging on the walls?

It was a tough choice. Once the least scary room was selected, we cocooned ourselves into our silk sleeping bags, covering as much as we could, including hoodies for hair and face protection. We lay next to each other sharing and laughing at our fears for the night. Mine: waking up with dead spiders all over me. Maria’s: mice and cockroaches finding their way into our room and biting her (imagining bite chunks the size of a crater). It was an exotic sleepover party to remember.

The challenge of entering an email address
I like Malagasy names (especially since having been told that mine means ‘noble’). Just once in a while when you encounter an email address that looks something like this


…or like this…


…it can become quite an exercise to enter it without typos.

The end. For now. Flying back there as we speak, more stories to follow soon.

Source: nexus ch

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