So my friend Beata has been subjecting me to weekly workouts. Now, I've always been mildly terrified of the gym, and in particular of the girls that go to the gym. They're all so hardcore! But it really isn't as bad with a friend. She makes me do cradio (running, rowing, stairmaster, crunches, and all that lovely stuff) on tuesdays, and I make her swim on thursdays. I also swing dance on wednesdays, and sometimes on fridays. So far, I've been really really hungry (I feel as though I'm eating twice as much as before!), and either feeling really lethargically happy or high strung. Tonight, I haven't done my workout, so watch out tomorow! I don't even know if I'll be able to fall asleep. It's funny because before we started I was freaking out about how much time working out would take out of my weeks-- and I suppose it does, but I'm not going crazy. I'm actually feeling way more relaxed about midterms this year than I did last year--which sort of stresses me out: I get the feeling that I'm being lulled into a false sense of security. Ahh, you know you're a Bond when being relaxed about something stresses you out. We'll see how all of this goes.
All I have to say is: it rains too much in Montreal.
Oh man, I finally decided to brave and go discover this grocery store called PA. I usually walk about three blocks (LONG BLOCKS!) to the Provigo, which is basically one of those huge ubiquitous grocery stores. But today, I wanted something different. So I start walking and-- lo and behold!-- a mere block and a half away from my apartment is an "epicier" called PA, full of lovely, fresh, cheap(ish) produce. I'm so excited! I feel bad now though, because I was counting on visiting the Jean-Talon Market on Sunday (the farmers give you crazy deals like 20 bananas for 3$... but then you're stuck with 20 bananas), and going to Provigo on Monday for their 10% student discount. Uh. Well, at least I have food now. I was looking at a weekend of beans and tuna fish :-). I was panicked about the Sate of Things yesterday (midterm in... 5 days, classes I missed in D.C. to catch up, must do Evolution reading...) but I've decided it's just way too soon to become burnt out. I don't care. I'll go grocery shopping and not feel guilty about not studying.
D.C., Sweet D.C.
Last Thursday --it's rather last minute, I know-- I purchased a plane ticket to visit Washington D.C. for the weekend. I arrived here on Saturday afternoon, and I'm leaving tonight. Never mind the fact that I'm missing four classes and a lab...It's the first time I've been back to the United States since I left for Canada last August. I had forgotten how beautiful the Nation's Capitol is. Really. I grew up in the suburbs, but, drawn by a certain National Museum of Art, I went back to see the monuments regularly. Coming back, I find myself a tourist in my own city: snapping pictures at the traditional Georgetown neighborhoods (The Exorcist, anyone?), the large marble monuments, the vast expanes of greenery... I wish I could bottle everything and take it back to Montreal for whenever I feel homesick. Late September is the best moment to visit Washington (April, too): the weather is finally cooling down, so the humidity feels like some soft blanket that hugs you wherever you go (rather than, say, the thick jelly of August), the slanting rays make everything look like some impressionist painting... Mmm. D.C. Sweet D.C.!
I usually don't post about current events or my political views but this time I'll make an exception: http://movies.crooksandliars.com/Meet-the-Press-Broussard.mov The more I seem to learn about this disaster, the more disallusioned I get about the state that America is in. What happened?
Traveling across Madagascar is like traveling across at least 5 different countries-- the landscapes change so quickly, and each region is highly distinctive.
I'm sorry there are so many pictures; I've resized them and I hope that they won't take ages to load. If anyone wants the (very big) full size version, just ask.
A traditional alleyway in Antanarivo, Madagascar. From the road these look like very narrow passages, but with a little exploration, one can discover entire neighborhoods.
A little way out of Tana, the villages grow smaller. Rice fields are everywhere (it's currently winter, so the rice fields aren't a brilliantly green as they are during summer). The houses are traditional to this region too-- they have balconies and almost European build.
Slash and burn is heavily used. Over the last 30 years, 80 % of the countries forests have disappeared. Everywhere we would go, we could see smoke somewhere in the distance. As a biologist, I can't even express how sad this made me, but one must forget that to the farmers, a field is worth far more than a forest. No measures were taken to accommodate and feed the growing population, so the farmers do what they can...
Ramonafama national park. It was cold. It rained. No lemurs in sight (despite a pretty intense 3 hour trek through the rain forest!). It was very beautiful though, and it's one of the countries biggest conserved forests. The roads to get there were horrific however (they were worse than the picture looks):
Little by little, the landscapes changed... and began reminding us a little of Idaho!
Once we passed "la Porte du Sud" (the Southern Gate), it became noticeably dryer.
Above is a picture of "la Fenetre du Soleil" (the window of the sun). It's undescribably beautiful... as the sun sets, it sends an orange tinge over all of the sedimentary rocky formations of the plateau. This region of Madagascar is much dryer. It's the zebu region, on which people depend on to make a living. Every year, they start huge fires in the prairies so as to allow younger, softer grass to grow for the zebu.
We also visited "le Canyon des Maquis" (the lemur canyon)-- it was like a whole other world inside! Much cooler and waterfalls everywhere. We spotted lots of lemurs, too (but they merit getting their own post!).
Legend goes that the Kings of Madagascar used to shower here. One day, as the King and his procession arrived, they saw a lemur showering in the pool. Immediately, the King proclaimed that he would not bathe with the animals, and chose a new spot to shower. Personally, I wouldn't mind having my shower look like THAT.
The water was warmed by the sun before it collected in the secluded pool. P-a-r-a-d-i-s-e.
TULEAR REGIONAs we approached the sea, we began to see more and more boababs. We thought they were flowering, but it turns out those white blobs were birds.
Our final destination: Ifaty beach.
The people in Ifaty are mostly fishermen. Until a few years ago, they would fish by breaking corrals to scare the fish. Recently (and to my great relief), the government has protected the corrals, and many of the fisherman have now become tour guides.
PS: Don't forget to post on my guestmap! It's in the sidebar on the left. Thank you Beata, Sarah, Amanda, Magali, and Beaver for posting!
Children of Madagascar
Well it seems as though installing our internet is going to take longer than expected, so I'm stealing the neighbor's for the time being (sh...). Here are some pictures of children in Madagascar. As soon as they see a camera, they rush over to get their picture taken. They love too peer at the digital camera to see the picture afterwards.
I have so many pictures of Malagasy children. Half the population in Madagascar is 17 years or younger, and when you travel through the country, you can tell! There are children everywhere, and children having children... So many suffer from malnutrition (notably, a lack of iodine in the plateaux), which is incredible considering that litteraly anything will grow in Madagascar's fertile soil. They mothers don't know any better; all they eat is manioc and rice, accompanied with a bit of zebu from time to time. This was a picture taken right out of Antanarivo, the capital. You can see women washing their bright-coloured clothing in streams and rivers everyday, but sunday in particular (correct me if I'm wrong here)We had the honour of being invited to visit a traditional Malagasy house. There were so many children in there that they were in the process of building a second one to fit everyone in the family. This village survived by selling cisale crafts to toursits (they also cultivated rice and manioc, of course). Cisale is the tread the you find in palm tree leaves. They weaved it into solid ropes for zebu, baskets... I met two girls there: one was 14 and nursing her firstborn, the other was 17 and pregant with her second. Children are expected to take care of their siblings (one of the girls had two of them strapped on her back at the same time!). I would see children that could not be older than five tottering around with newborns. The girl on the left (Chelena) is 12 years old, the one of the right (Marie) is 11. Children always look alot younger than expected; it's a vestige of malnutrition.These girls came from Fianarantsoa; they had a pretty pat deal. They'd approach tourists, ask for a picture, then give out their addresses (pre-written on pieces of french paper!) and ask that the picture be sent to them. It's all a scam of course: they establish a correspondance and proceed to ask for money (or so I was told). Still, they also had post cards to sell us-- I prefer resourcefulness over begging any day!
PS: Thank you Steve and family for posting on my guestmap! It's so terribly barren at the moment :)
Last night was the first I went out since I've been back. This is mostly due to the fact that:-I had 8 hours of jetlag
-I was sick (predictably)-Our luggage was lost and took 3 days to arrive (my cell phone included)
-I moved in on September 1st
-I began classes on September 1st
-I just didn't feel like it
I didn't feel like going out last night either-- but I decided that it was getting a little creepy, so I accepted to go to a housewarming party, where I didn't know a single person, as my room mate's safety net.
It was so strange. It was such a typical university student night: people were standing around the table with chips and beer, eating and chatting away, some were outside on the balcony staring at the Montreal skyline, and the rest were sprawled on the couch and floor passing a shisha around and talking about vague Philosophical Ideas. At that moment, it hit me like a bulldozer.
The lifestyle we students lead (especially in Montreal, where everything is so cheap) is downright ridiculous, What kind of person owns an apartment (and a nice one at that) at 19? With a fridge? Couch? What kind of person thinks that it's normal?? Before I went to Madagascar, I thought it was normal. Now I just can't seem to take it; we're so lucky and most of us don't even know it. For some reason, I'm finding the poverty in Madagascar so much more striking here than I did there. I know it's selfish, but I hope that I will eventually go back to thinking that it's normal (well, until I go back to Madagascar anyway...). It was so much easier to walk into someone's apartment without feeling depressed!
Posts on Madagascar should be going up soon. The computer and pictures were lost with the luggage! Oh, and the reason Mada's internet is so slow is because they're not connected to South Africa via fiberoptics. It was a program that was offered a few years ago, under the last (corrupt) president's rule, and for some unknown reason was refused. But there's hope: now that there is a new president, the tunnel might be made after all.