not sure what all is worth sharing from my trip. it was all very 'off the beaten path' and people were always surprised to find out that i was on my own. the time on the river wasn't all that stimulating and the heat was downright brutal. but i was ready for a break from climbing hills on the bike (as well as giving my hindend a break from the 4-5 hours on a bike seat each day). i was reminded that my most satisfying outtings with others have involved sharing the work equally and a mindset very near to not wanting to be anywhere else, doing anything else, with anyone other than those whom one is with. and these criteria were not in place for this particular river trip. meaning...the malagasy guide whom i hired (and as a general rule i strongly dislike having to hire a guide for any type of outdoor pursuit, feeling savvy and experienced enough at this point to be able to take responsibility for my own good time and well-being) pretty much catered to me each meal and my guess is that he would have much rather been anywhere else, doing anything else, with anyone else (ie esp. his wife and children, which is easy enough to understand). shortly before rolling into town here my route took me through the 'avenue of the baobobs'...definately 'on-the-map', so to speak. very freakish/unique/impressive trees found in few other places.
other than that, i guess i've decided that what is in stark contrast here vs. the life that i'm used to back home is the lack of diversity...diversity in the diet and foods that are available (i was expecting abundant tropical fruits all along my route which was far from the case. and little to no vegetables); diversity in the economy (i told my river guide that, just as an example, if there were 20 different lines of work here in madagascar, there are at least 100 in the US); and diversity amongst the people. though there are 18 different 'tribes' here with distinctions amongst one another, they are still all malagasy. i guess what comes to mind here is the deeply ingrained custom to call attention to a white person (or any non-malagasy for that matter) by shouting enthusiastically (esp. the children) "salut vazaha!" (a combination of french and malagasy that translates to 'salutations stranger'), which i have been told and believe is in no way meant in a derogatory manner but which, for me, is hard to be ok with and feels a bit dehumanizing...which i think applies anytime you are giving someone a label based on some physical attribute or difference that they have from you. my way of handling it is completely contingent on my mood, the person doing the salut-ing, and my perception of what their intention is. at times, i give no reply so as to not reward unwanted behaviour. there are other times when i reply with the equivalent of 'hey there malagasy', hoping that it might occur to them that it isn't altogether pleasant to be referred to by what you are vs. who you are. and then there are times when i explain that said once and not yelled, all well and good. but shouted repeatedly is not appreciated. and try to explain that if they were to visit the US (which is a longshot multiplied over and over for most), they would not be treated the same with US nationals yelling 'salutations malagasy!' or worse, "salutations dark person!". but realize that this is because we are so used to seeing people of all sorts and backgrounds and they simply are not. and indeed, the diversity that we enjoy as a country must surely be our greatest asset. for as science has shown, the more alike a population or species becomes, the fewer damaging events it takes to achieve their demise. so...Godbless diversity!
so classic! "mama" first, "dada" second, then this.