I took a trip to Ambohibe with my friend Claude Amie yesterday. It is 18km away from Vavatenina down a really bad road. I didn’t expect much, but it is a really nice little village. I commented to Claude that for a town it’s size, it should have a road. He explained to me that in 1987 the government gave the Mayor a lot of money to build a road, and she built a big house instead. Now she is in jail, the house is unused and the town barely has a road.
It was a really nice trip. Claude is from the deep countryside (35 km from Ambohibe) and went there for middle school. He showed me around, the school is nicer than the one in Vavaten, and there is a nice soccer field down by the river; and introduced me to his friends.
While we were there, they were celebrating Women’s Rights Day. The Mayor made a speech and a group of girls sang and danced. Then a group of older women sang and danced to. I told Claude it made me really happy to see a cultural event like that; I ahad been dismayed at the lack of culture in Vavaten. He explained to me that there are lots of such events in the countryside. Dances, songs, celebrations (the day before they killed a cow in the town square), story telling acted out with masks, all these things happen here, but not in Vavaten. People don’t do them in the city because they think it is uncivilized. They hide their culture in the boonies so that the foreigners like me don’t judge them.
This idea made me really sad. Hide your culture? We are not the same, and you don’t have to be ashamed of that, but they are. I now remember a few times that very Catholic people in town, the same ones who told me never to go to a tomb-turning ceremony, disappeared for a day or two into the forest or country. Mostly near holidays. They all just told me they went to see family, but now I suspect there were alterior motives for their trips.
The upside is that now I know where to find such experiences, and Claude knows I am looking for them so he will keep me informed.
9 Mars, 2009