Beyond the Middle of Nowhere – Adventure with No End
Part 1 – A boat, A taxi, A Disco – on the Edge of Paradise
A spring day awaiting a ferry from the mainland to an island. This is not a car ferry, it is a people ferry, well not just people but animals, dry goods and more. Things to be taken to the island that are not availabel except for on the mainland of Madagascar (a bigger island).
There are tourist looking to relax after a two-weeks tour on rough Malagasy roads to be on an idyllic island. With Spring rains the tourist boat looks much drier than that of the locals, who are protected by umbrella and tarp; as the tourist, protected by design.
A girl travels with her, family they had been doing their shopping, getting the things that could not be purchased on their island.
The tourist and locals will be mixed sort of. The tourist get on first getting the forward seats. The locals are sat in the back. But no all works out to plan. There is one less tourist for the tourist section and one too many locals for the, local section.
On the edge there will be a mix, a meeting of tourist and local. In this case me and one of the reluctant children; you know, the one trying to stay back but being pressed forward by the other onces so they do not have to sit with the tourist; instead of being with their own family/friends.
There she was sitting by me, not looking too comfortable with the situation. I don’t blame her I would not want to sit next to me eaither. I give her space the ferry goes into gear and we are on our way; for our two-hour plus tour. She looks straight ahead, not making eye contact as I look around for photos to be taken and start shooting, in whatever diretion the view finder takes me.
The young girl breaks her focused forward look and goes to an over the shoulder glance, to see what I might be seeing. I show her, she smiles. I speak to her in English and French, she understands neither. I see she has a necklace with the word Amour, on it, I meantion this is the French word for love. She does not understand me. I do not speak Malagasy. I got to take a picture of her, she leans back as I do, bringing herself into focus.
We have not words for each other. I speak with my actions. I hand her the camera, she takes hold; I lift the camera straps from over my head and place them over hers. She looks a bit quizzical, as if this were the first time with camera. I show her the buttons, a simple but powerful camera.
A 30x telephoto to move things closer and the simple shutter switch to take the pictures. The first picture is a bit of a surprise for her, but hen she takes other, and with each picture a solemn face becomes enegized. I show her how to do a movie, and she does.
Then finishing with a photo fo her sleeping friends/relatives behind. Earlier I had tried to take a similar picture but a lady in the back made it clear she did not want to be in the shot and pulled her hat over head. these are some of the pictures my seat mate took.
It had been about an hour now, as I had let her take pictures and I then continued. Being bit hungry we shared a packet of crisps, then children behind giggled at her. She enjoyed the chips, not taking too many, not taking too few. Now she was more relaxed and smiling, leaning her head forward and taking a nap, as her ship mates do the back.
The boat ride ended, she smiled at me, no words could be exchanged. I colledted my things, but then saw a child’s jacket had beend left behind. I left my bags with my group, the tourists, and search for her, as man after man asks me if I needed taxi, or hotel. No i do not, I just want to reunite jacket with family.
After a few minutes, I see her, she is talking with a young man, her family is around her. I give the jacket to the lady who had covered her head with hat to avoid my lens. She smiled and reached for one of the younger children to reunite jacket with child.
The young man (who my seat mate was talking to) thanked me (in broken English with a French/Malagasy accent) for being so nice to his sister and invited me to have meal at his restaurant, writing his name Jean Luc and the Restaurants name Le cottage and location Abbreviated to P. Nat. I asked him then for his sister’s name, and he told and wrote it for me to, Franceline. I said, i had tried to speak to her in French, to which he responded, our schools are not good for language. ‘And her age?’ I asked and he looked to her and then translated for me she is 16. We said our good-byes and I figured, one afternoon or evening I would pop down to their restaurant and have the meal that was offer, at Piscine Naturelle d’Ambodiatafana.
I re-united with my group and off to the hotel we went, a bit more out of town than I would have liked, as it was or most of the places we had stayed. But, I figured, in between swims and tanning, I could still take a tuk-tuk to visit the village and Jean Luc’s restaurant.
Well like the title of this story, ongoing adventure, where I had pictured the restaurant and where it was in relation to me, were on totally different frames. On an island with dimension of 10km 60 km, I was on the opposite 60km side of the island, from the restaurant I had been invited. I would have to adenture furhter than imagined.
Fair enough, I would check with reception about my transportation options. When I asked, there was but one, a taxi for about $60 US, with a return before 17:00, price was bearable but I did like beeing locked into a time frame. I went on the internet and found I could rent a car for the same price so I told reception not to reserve me the taxi. They looked at me funny and said ok.
When I went to make the booking for the rental car, there was a bit of a problem, the site had redirected me another sight and the car I could rent was not for the airport on this island but on Reunion island a distance of 455m/733km away going overland, not an option betwee islands.
Going back to reception, I found out I could have more time with the driver but I would have to pay $120 for two days and accommodatiion. That beeing the only, way, that is the way I went. I called ahead to the resutanrat to let them know we were coming but the phone number was no longer in use. Ergo I was going there blind. Jean Luc does not know I am coming and I do not know what to expect when I get there.
I was leaving the Vanivola Hotel. The coziness of the sun’s setting, followed Venus over the infinity pool’s water falling into Indian ocean of the night before; for an isolated location on an isolated island. I had no idea what to expect and I was not expected.
My driver Juston lived across the ‘road’ from the hotel, getting into his car, it had had its share of wear and tear. And I viewd Juston as I view most of my drivers, through the rear view mirror.
As we got going he stopped to top up fluids, add air to the tires and other things my family would do as we prepared for a cross country trip, Juston was going for a cross island trip. Going blind not knowing waht time they opened, and they not knowing I was coming; I and the driver, went forth. (Will mostly first and second the road was not good enoough for 4th or even 3rd).
Between pit stops I had bought water, Juston returned the favor by stopping at a local roadside bakery and getting us some carbs for the day’s drive.
Juston was very nice, his language knowledge as limited as mine, with a combination of French and English, I learned (over the nex two-hours 60km/40m drive) his wife was with child and they had a 7 year old son living with the grandparents in Madagascar. He was more than a taxi driver, as he negotiated the various perils of the road, potholes, tuck-tucks, zebu (cows), pedestrians, etc, even chickens; (why chickens would be crossing the road, only they know and everyone else speculates).
Juston woudld stop for me to take pictures of views, or tell me the medicinal value of plants, and even share their aromas.
As we were driving I asked him why on a Saturday people would be dressed so nice? Which he explained that on Saturdays the villages have village meals, everyone brings something and they all share their food togehter. Along with this one fellow dancing in the streets while another was stilted.
With the passing of the house boat and light house, Juston signaled we were near.
On the way Juston had asked a mini-van bus driver for directions, this driver being ahead of us notified Jean Luc and the village of our pending arrival.
The village of Amboiatafana had beend reached at a speed of 30km/20m per hour from the wouth of Ile Ste Marie to its end point. They even had a welcome matt I joked to myself, knowing it was a matt used a movable floor, for relaxing, eating, craft making etc.
As we walked down a path we came across a constuction projec, more housing appeared to be needed. Adn the open air dry laudry room was making use of the warmth of the solar power.
At my destination was nigh, the sign for Piscine Naturelle what I thought would be a short jaunt in tuk-tuk had been a two-hour adventure, as for the adventure, to the adventure, me thinks.
Walking over the ridge I come to a view of the sea, locals with wares to sell and a bridge over not so troubled waters.
Met by Jean Luc the Restaurant Manager of Le Cottage and brother of the girl, Francline, we made our way by the kitchen to the restaurant de ‘Le Cottage’.
Having now seem the beautiful location of where I had been invited to eat, to be served out of traditional wood fired kitchen and a dinning room with in and to a view, but no electricity, only a concreate floor and natural grass matted walls and roof. There was once thing missing; the person who was the catalyst for this all, Franceline.
Jean Luc introduced us to the chef and his aunt and asked me to sit, as I asked Juston to join me. (Normally this is not the case for drivers or tour guides, but I am not good with normal). And he appeared quite chuff with this.
When the raison d’etre, Franceline, arrived, the adventure desired could begin. With what i appeared was some appreahension (my guess is this was the first time she had ever sat at this table as patron). With Juston there to carry a conversation, we had as fresh of a seafood meal as one could have, as I saw my langoustine being caught and brought to the kitchen, as my two table mates engaged in conversation.
When all was said and done with three wonderful seafood meals, with view unsurpassed, and the company of two lovely people the meals price with drink and all was insignificant (literally by price) but not in the context of the day.
From here the adventure could begin and it did. Franceline with my camera, was free to shoot at will and she did. As she looked and captured her world, I captured her doing so and even Juston got into the act and we were doing three-ways. Herewith Photographic Memories Franceline guided into her lens this day, and the photos I took of her doing so.
See Album Titled: Franceline’s Photographic Memories. In the meantime the story continues.
The videos that follow are of me teaching Franceline how to make videos, and then her doing so.
When the shooting stopped and the air cleared Franceline sat down with family at the dinner table and showed them her Picturesque day, on my PC. Here you can see her, seeing herself, showing her photos.
With this my purpose for coming acceptance of an invitation for dinner and day of photography, with Franceline I could call it a day, end and adventure and go home, but this was not to be. It was Saturday night in the village of 600, and that meant Disco night.
I was invited andd Juston too, but Juston said I could go and he would watch all of my things. This story continues. (Franceline with camera shy mother and sister. While children play in the carless ‘street’.)
With the Disco invite, it would mean I would be staying overnight. I was taken to my accommodations. A one room en-suite concrete floor hut on the ocenas edge.
Upon Exiting, the ladies were at the water source asking if I wanted a bath. I was a bit perplexed, thinking they wanted to bathe me, but this was not the caase, they handed me a bucket of water, a dipping cup and followed me with a larger plastic container which they put on the floor of the bathroom.
I was able to wash myself, in my green stand up bathtub, in my semi-luxury room.
Having gotten myself freshened and dressed for the disco, leaving all of my valuables with Juston the Taxi driver and watcher of my things, who opts to stay behind.
I went with Jean Luc’s brother for a tour of the village. Later I was met by Jean Luc where I met the village chief and later Jean Luc and Franceline’s father and mother, brothers and sisters, and extended family.
Jean Luc came to show me his home with bedroom, office sitting room all in one room, with the power provided by a solar powered battery.
Along with this he was proud to show me his language study book which had Malagasy, Engliss and French all in one book. And being proud of the progress he was making in learning English and French. I explained to thim, he was doing much better than me, in that I could only speak English, a little French, and no Malagasy. I was sure his French and Malagasy was better than mine.
All 600 people in the village, lived in such huts, with shared outdoor toiled and shoers.
As we walked to the disco, we walked by the primary school, through class 4. Franceline attends the Secondary School a good distance from the village. Jean Luc expressed disappointment with the language education there, and Franceline’s and others inability to speak French or English.
Once at the disco, (which would run for three hours powered by a generator) we paid our admission got the neon stamp and entered. It was a great time, Francelin’s Mom and sisters, aunts and brothers, were there. Along with friend neighbors, school officials and more. Of no surprise the village is one big family. With I and Franceline’s mother sharing a dance, Malagasy Disco Style.
With the sky studded by stars, it was time to go to bed, think of the day that was experienced and the days ahead. With pleasant thoughts of Franceline’s first day with a camera and mine, having enjoyed a truly unexpected adventure with disco.
Oh and mini disco we had at Jean Luc’s house with Franceline and nephew’s.
Look for Part 2, as the adventure continues….