Attention all family members and close friends who currently suffer from any worry or concern regarding the blog author’s geographic location and working environments. The following blog post may increase those feelings and should be read with caution. In addition, the blog author is not responsible for any increased anxiety, worry, or feelings of concern. Most importantly, the blog author continues to be as prudent as possible and security is her top priority.
For those who have decided to continue reading (which I’m guessing is everyone), here’s what’s goin’ on. After a sleepless night last night, I decided that this weekend’s events bothered me enough to write about here.
But first - a few points required for some background info:
# 1. More than half of the expats here have worked in far more dangerous places, like the Congo or Panama. They ALL think that working in Madagascar is like a spa vacation compared to the places they have previously lived/worked in. While that’s all great and dandy to hear – it’s MY first experience living outside of Canada. Madagascar may be the Disneyland of the Expat world…but it’s the first time that I’ve been exposed to issues that can arise from living in a third world country….and…it can be a bit nerve wracking.
# 2. The project is divided into two different types of expats. About 70% of the project is made up of rotational expats, who:
- Maintain their country residency (Like, I’m still living in Canada)
- Vacation for 2-3 weeks every 6-8 weeks - depending on their contract. (I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to work six weeks and then vacation three)
- Live in the camp
- Work every Saturday (except for company party Saturdays!!)
- Cannot have guests/family come and stay with them inside the camp
The remaining expats are residential, and they:
- Give up their country residency
- Vacation for 5-8 weeks in TOTAL throughout the year
- Are provided with an extremely luxurious house – usually on the beach – for the entire time they are residents
- Are not required to work every Saturday (but do sometimes anyway because it’s so busy)
- Will be provided an extra allowance for their family to come and live with them while they are employed with the project
Okay - on with the story……
Yesterday I wrote about my fun filled weekend. But…that it wasn’t totally perfect. Why not? Here goes….early morning on Saturday, we were told that all expats must attend an emergency meeting. There had been an incident on Friday night.
A residential expat was attacked in his home. His two security guards were jumped by 4-10 men (it remains unclear at this time) who then broke into his house. The security guards and the expat were tied up and the house was ransacked for anything of value. The men then made an attempt to steal the expat’s vehicle that was parked outside his house. However, there were some security features in the vehicle that they couldn’t figure out how to start it. They then went back into the house, untied the expat, dragged him outside, made him start the car, and then dragged him back inside only to tie him up once again. For some reason, the expat started to struggle, and he was then beaten. Once the men left, he was able to untie himself and call the police. One of his security guards was either involved in the crime or was kidnapped – at this point it remains unknown.
The police came, the expat spent the day in the clinic, and he was well enough to return back to work yesterday. Physically – he is fine. Mentally - he is shaken. At one point the tape that was used to cover his mouth also covered his nose and he couldn’t breathe. Yeesh…
Want some good news? He is okay. He wasn’t killed.
More good news? I live in camp. It is quite possibly the safest place in ALL of Madagascar. If I haven’t already written about the camp, it’s made up of about 80 houses. Each house is divided into four units. We have a restaurant/mess hall, bar, pool, entertainment room, commissary, movie rental place, etc.
Basically – you would never have to leave the camp if you didn’t want to. The perimeter of the camp is fenced in with 9 foot tall chain link fence with an additional 3 feet of barbed wire and there are guards every 200 meters. At the entry/exit there are a minimum of two guards on duty at all times. To enter the camp, you must have a security badge and a vehicle pass. Vehicles exiting camp are searched before they are allowed to leave. Sound like minimum security prison in Edmonton? But – it’s all in efforts to keep the expats as safe as possible.
The bad news? (I know, apart from the violent attack???) The political issues in this country are uprising again. There had been talks in place to settle the government issues but those went out the window last week. Protesting has started in the capital which means more bad news for Tamatave. Also, as the project starts to be ready for commission, more and more money flows through the country. More wealth = more crime.
The meeting on Saturday morning was to inform all expats about what had happened and to give us a heads up that in the upcoming weeks and months there will be a lot of changes to security. As of Saturday morning, the project has hired an international company that deals with security issues in other third world developing countries. The project has also hired six ex-gurkas that will work with local security. Interesting….. to say the least…
But…through all of this… I continue to feel that I’m okay. This hasn’t changed my mind about coming here. I’m not panicked or fearful, I’m just… I don’t know. Feeling unsettled, I guess.. I’m sure I’ll do a few days of self analysis and get back to you what it is that I’m feeling exactly.
In the mean time, I try to go about my day as normally as possible. Which is ALL I can do. I have a lot of good moments and A LOT of laughs. I’m still just as okay as I was a week ago and just as okay as I was a month ago. I just am faced with different issues. These issues were ALWAYS here – but were hidden by the beauty of the country and the uniqueness of this experience. And… maybe this is ignorant… but I hope it stays that way. Hidden. This is something that I don’t need to experience of take pictures of.
I was extremely hesitant to post anything about this – because I worry when I make other people worry – and I don’t want to be worrying about people worrying about me. (I do love to worry though..) Anyway – I know you will all be concerned. I’m concerned. But this weekend’s incident doesn’t change any of the things that matter: I’m safe, I’m always as careful as possible, and… I’m happy.