The Men in My MG Life - Part One

As anyone whose ever been in a taxi with me knows - I love to ask the taxi drivers LOTS of questions...

Where were you born? Where did you learn English? What did you do back home? Do you have family here? Doo you have family back home? How many kids do you have? What did you take in school back home? What does your wife do? And on…and on..

I’ve always found it fascinating speaking to a person who has a their PhD in like…Physics or something, but then flees his country, comes to Canada, and drives a taxi.

The Taxi Inquisitions have continued here - but instead with the drivers that drive me to/from work every day. They live SUCH different lives than me….and I love talking to them. I find when I don't see one for a fewe days, I almost miss them.

At first, some of the drivers were a bit surprised that I actually wanted to talk to them at first – but they soon found out I’m just incredibly curious, nice, and just trying to get to know them and make the most out of this experience. (Although sometimes when I feel like having quiet and they are blabbing on… I’m a bit annoyed at myself for starting our conversation relationships). I’m trying to get pictures of them…but well…we aren’t “there” just quite yet. Until then, here's a a little bit about the men in my Madagascar life:

Damien

One of my favorite – but oh so confusing. A simple, “Pick me up at 18h30 on Friday”, doesn’t always get through to him. Why? I don’t know. Its Madagascar…things are just…well weird.

As confusing as he can be/get – he has a wonderful heart. For MG standards, he’s pretty old…maybe 55 or 60 (average mortality age for men here is 55). He has three kids - the two oldest are in University in the capital (about 7 hours drive) and the other one is finishing what would be high school. You can tell he has lived a long, hard life and is…tired….but always has a smile when I see him.

Another thing - he giggles so much!!! I don’t always understand why… but man does he ever giggle. One evening we were driving and I asked him about his wife’s birthday, which he had celebrated the night before. He told me how they spent the day, etc. And then we drove in silence for about five minutes..until he bursts out giggling, “My wife turned 49!! She is SO OLD!!" I tell him that he shouldn't say that...and he especially shouldn't tell her that! He just continues to giggle. He then gets brave enough to ask me if I’m married (I wear a wedding band here) and when I tell him no, he continues to tell me that I will FOR CERTAIN meet a husband, move here, and fly my family over to visit me. I tell him that’s not likely, I’m not interested in that here. But he is certain of it. “Don’t you see that everyone stares at you here?”, he continues, “You are the most beautiful expatriate here!”. Um… okay. Ahem. I thank him and awkwardly change the subject.

Fabrice

Ugh. This guy is so, so, so religious. Now, there is NOTHING wrong with that – but I think this guy takes it to the extreme. He talks to me how he prefers to only hang out with other church going people. HE BLASTS his church music to and from work. He often encourages (or pressures) me to go to church with him and his family (which…actually would be a cool experience, and I think I’m going to go one weekend with Roxanne).

He also tells me that he will pray for me on Tuesdays because he knows those are the days when I’m most sad/homesick. He continues to tell me that the reason I’m sad (apart from not going to church) is because I am a beautiful, tall, and spoiled Canadian. Now - If a taxi driver said this to me in Canada – I would be offended and think he was being RUDE! But here…well he doesn’t mean it offensively at all…and…he’s kinda right?

Oh - he also tells me that I shouldn’t do yoga because it makes it easy for evil spirits to come into my body and that I will eventually need an exorcism. (See?? Everything is weird here.)

Theiry

I truly enjoy Theiry’s company. We speak French and we laugh and we ask each other questions about what our respective lives are like. We talk about what we each eat for breakfast or what the weather is like and he helps to teach me more Malagasy. He is always dependable and so super nice and we always listen to Boyz II Men or Mariah Carey. And he has possibly the nicest smile I’ve seen in all of Tamatave – which is a pretty big compliment – because there are a lot of beautiful smiles here.

Danny

I Do Not Trust This Guy. He… just has this… way about him. He is so friendly, but a bit too forward and brave for a Malagasy person. I don’t know much about him. He tells me he has no family and he grew up in the bush. He’s also a HUGE flirt. But when we were at the staff party, he wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Who knows why. But I think he’s bad news so I don’t talk to him much.

**Update: We don't get the chance to talk that often....but I may have gotten off on the wrong foot with him. He doesn't seem so bad after all. Especially after he was super-driver taking me to the hospital one day.

Jose

DJ and driver Extraordinaire! This guy has like… thousands of songs in his truck, and he’s always pumping the tunes!

He lives in the capital of MG but takes month long assignments whenever he can and LOVES this job because:

a) he loves cars and driving but would never be able to afford one

b) His wive drives him crazy and they can't fight when he's not around. He has two kids under two years old, and he says that him and his wife would not stay together if it wasn't for the kids. Part of the reason him and his wfie don't get along, he explians, is because they are from different cities. "I'm from Tamatave, so I love dogs, but because my wife is from Tana, she hates dogs. We are just too different to get along.". Wow. I didn't even know what to say to that one...

Mamy

He is a bit new to me. He expects typical Anglophone expat behavior and is often surprised when I ask him personal questions. He has sort of figured out that I’m trying to get to know him and vise versa. But he is a bit intimiated of me. When I ask him a question, he wants to give the correct answer and not whatever he is thinking. I'm sure I'll win him over eventually...

Jonathan

Total chiatchy!! He wears a baseball cap and baggy jeans. When he comes to pick me up, he isn’t friendly with the security guards like the other drives are and he is a total show off. He drives the "big boss" to work, and he thinks that he is pretty hot stuff. He's not a driver that I really miss if I don't see him often...

How much do they make?

The drivers make a good salary here - about $200,000 MGA per month ($114 CDN). Its not labor intensive and most evenings they are home by 19h30. On top of the “good” salary, they get medical benefits, payment for up to four children to go to school, and daily meals. They also make some pretty good tips (for MG standards). If its after hours, its recommended that you give them a tip. Depending on what they’ve done or how long I’ve kept them after hours, I’ll give between $5000 - $20,000 MGA ($2.50 to $11.50 CDN).


(Speaking of tipping – I thought I should tip my housekeeper. I have been here for over a month and haven’t left anything yet.. So, I laid out $3500 MGA on my bed nicely. I get a phone call from some manager asking me if I was aware that I left money on my pillow. I said, yes. I am aware of that. He said, And why did you leave that money? I said, For the housekeepers. Is there a problem?

No, no problem, he says. And apologizes for taking my time and hangs up???????I come back and my room is half cleaned, the bed isn’t made, I don’t have new towels, and the money is laying right where I left it. I don’t know what went on – but I guess I’m not supposed to tip housekeeping… Good to know, I guess.)

So, why is this post titled "Part One"? I have a second group of men to introduce you to: the crazy-old-man-expats that make my life here so much more enjoyable - but I'll have to save their introduction for another day. Be forwarned that post will contain vulgarity and almost definetly some nudity (as I'm sure you've already seen two of their behinds on the boat trip day!)

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