Friday, August 21, 2009
I couldn’t decide what to do for lunch today, so I took a driver and met Rox today at lunch at her office. We went for a walk to check out the “country club” that has a pool, restaurant, and tennis courts.
Now, this is not what we as Canadians would define as country club - it’s doubtful that this place would make it as a ghetto youth rec center in Edmonton. But, in Tamatave, it’s a pretty swank place.
We ran into another expat we know, who was dining with a national worker, and I decided to be brave enough to invite ourselves to lunch. Lunch was zebu (local cow) skewers and French fries. It was pretty good! it’s no Alberta beef – but it was pretty good!
Once again, I was lucky to have fabulous conversations at lunch (once everyone stopped bitching how disorganized the project is).
My dining companions were a Malagasy, a Canadian (who lives in Montreal but originally from Morocco), Rox, and myself. We don’t talk about politics or really anything of any real substance – but having a conversation with people that have had such different experiences is so incredibly cool. The Moroccan/Quebec guy bought us all lunch (which isn’t really buying us lunch since we all submit expense claims for our meals)…. And then we were off to walk to her office and meet my driver.
We are walking along, and I had to walk past a group of boys about… 18-25 years old. They were all wearing workman-type overalls and were waiting to be picked up. They were STARING at me in silence…(the normal observed unicorn treatment) so I decided if they are going to stare THAT HARD – I’m at least going to say something.
I said “Hello” (in Malagasy), and then they perked up, smiled, and said (in unison), “Hello Back”.
Then I said, “What’s new?”
I so, so, so (SO) wish I could have captured their reaction on camera…...
They were SO surprised and burst into the BIGGEST SMILES I have ever seen, and they all answered in unison, “No new news”. All we really did was a simple greetings exchange but both of parties (me and the Malagasy boys) were SO excited! It was like a celebrity siting for the both of us or something…. It was the coolest/cutest thing.
So I get back ot my office, pretty excited that some locals are finally talking to me instead of cowering, and as I pass a national accountant in the hall, he greets me with a HUGE smile and said, “Hello!” (in Malagasy). This is a HUGE thing. Nationals are taught to be scared of their superiors and to speak when spoken to. Everyone calls me “Madame Nicole” and if I ask for anything, they stop what they are doing and jump to go do it. In this country, it is important that they still think of me as their superior – but not to this extent, I don’t think!! Most of the accountants are so incredibly intimidated of me. I don’t want to be their buddy…but it would nice if they could say hello to me without being scared. So the fact that this one guy was brave enough to not only greet me, but greet me in his native language, is really, really cool! And it only took me two weeks…??!?
More news is that I’m going for a massage after work today. I had a choice of three “reputable” (defined in Malagasy terms) places. One is in a mud hut and you have to bring your own towel and the other is closed until mid-September. This place sounded…..legit…so I’m going to try it out. A 60 minute massage costs $25,000 Airiary (about $14.30 CDN)… the mudhut place costs $12000 Ar… so I’m splurging. I don’t spend a lot of money here (which is good because until September….i don’t have a lot of money…)
I was telling my driver about my massage and he asked me what was wrong with me – was I in pain. I told him my back hurts. He said, where? I told him my lower back and he said, oh, that is quite common with age (mortality rate here is about 50-55, so I’m over middle aged here). And then said, you should have someone special, and then they can help you rub it and that will save you money. I think he then remembered who he’s talking to because then his eyes bugged out, he covered his mouth, and then apologized for saying that, and giggled (everyone giggles here. Children, women, men…it’s a giggly kind of place). I told him it was ok, I wasn’t offended and that it was quite funny.
So….that’s my day…. it was a pretty good one. With more to come, I’m sure. Its weird how even though I’m working 10 hours (or more) a day, just coming to work and going for lunch I experience such foreign things!
Something else I find interesting….. . I don’t start to really perk up at work until about 16h30 local time – which is ah30 Edmonton time. I thought I had moved past the jetlag – but since I don’t actually start thinking properly until what would be working hours in Edmonton…. I think I have a long ways to go.
Stay tuned for my massage experience…. I hope it ends happily, but that there is no…ahem…happy ending. :O