Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Plateau:

Our training site was a small village about 3 hours away from the capital called Alarobia. My home-stay was not particularly pleasant, so I will not dwell on it, but I do want to tell you some generalities about what it is like.
The plateau is a beautiful place. Rolling rocky hills stretch into the distance dotted by small villages, often partitioned into rice paddies or other crops. Water comes from rivers, or shared wells that only run for a few hours in the evening. We arrived in winter, which means it was cloudy with a misty rain most of the time. It got down into the 40’s at night and stayed in the 60’s during the day. When the clouds cleared it got colder at night and hotter during the day. This is the coldest time of the year, in the coldest region in the country, due to the elevation.
Small farming villages dot the hillsides. Mostly they farm rice, but most of the countries vegetables come from here too. There are also wide patches of forest that are plentiful in birds, and lizards and can support some small rodents (like hedgehogs).
On the plateau, people don’t go out at night. It is strange, but when night falls they go into their houses and close the door. It is not that they are afraid of the dark, it doesn’t bother them inside; but there could be rabid dogs, or witches. That’s right, witches. They are called ‘mpamposavy’ and are widely believed in even by educated Malagasy. You never know where they are going to be, but if they see you there will be trouble, so they just stay inside all night. Night is the time when mpamposavy are most powerful.
Since the toilets in the rural areas of Madagascar are out-houses (kabone), you might ask ‘what if you have to go to the bathroom at night?’. Good question, you go in a bucket, called a po. At my families house in Alarobia, the kabone was inside the locked fence that surrounded their yard, 20 feet from the front door, but still we all used po. You never know what a mpamposavy is capable of.
The plateau also holds the nations capital and is considered to be the center of the country. Most things that are supposedly nationwide spread from the capital outwards and still don’t make it to many of the rural areas. It is considered the place for opportunity, where there are jobs and money. The one university is there in the capital. It is also very polluted. When I go to Tana, my nose gets stuffed from the airborne pollutants, mainly from all the cars. This is inconvenient, but also means that I don’t have to smell the garbage that lines the streets.

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