Showing posts from August, 2010

Short List

I am typing this from Reunion.I am sooooo tired.I am drinking a glass of champagne. Life is very good.


Well, the strikes are expected to continue until at least Wednesday. Am so, so, so, SO extremely happy to be staying in town tonight.

I have a full belly (with good Cuban food!!!), have had a couple of glasses of CHAMPAGNE no less, and am getting ready for bed. I have secured a ride to the airport and am really, really looking forward to getting on the plane from Toamasina to Reunion.

I have to admit, I don't handle the strike situations very well. It may be the one thing in MG that I just can't get used to. I'm tired, I'm ready for a vacation, and I don't want to worry that I won't get to the airport. I don't expect to sleep that much tonight, but at least I had a great night with friends (did I mention South African champagne, thanks to the boy!) and won't have to worry about being blocked in camp.

Will post an update from Reunion...

La Grève

For the non-French, that means, the strike.

This week we had more hooligans striking. It started Friday at lunch. As per usual, we all evacuated to the camp and after lunch things were calm and we could return to work.

Early Saturday morning, they were back. This time there were more and they were more forceful. They broke down the gate of the site. As soon as word got out, we were told to leave the site.

Unfortunately, some of us (like me!!!) were too late.

The strikers had made their way to the camp and were blocking the road between the site and the camp. AND, they were trying to break the fence of the camp.

Just great.

Luckily, there was a Security Manager that I kind of ran into. We hopped in his truck, and he told us the plan, then we hopped in the boy's truck, and drove to the construction camp, located inside the plant behind another security gate.

The construction camp is for all of the construction, contract, and other foreign workers. There is about 4000 people in the camp (as…

Madagascar parties propose names for new PM

Madagascar's political parties have given proposed names for the country's next prime minister to strongman Andry Rajoelina under a deal to break a political deadlock, sources said Saturday. The accord concluded on August 13 calls on its signatories to "work together and pool their efforts in the search for a solution to end the crisis."The Indian Ocean island has been mired in political crisis since Rajoelina's power grab in May 2009. International efforts to put an end to the turmoil have so far been fruitless and the country's already poor economic situation has worsened with a suspension of foreign aid.The accord calls for a constitutional referendum to be held on November 17, parliamentary elections in March next year and a first round of presidential polls on May 4, 2011.Rajoelina is to remain in his post until a new president is elected while a prime minister will be appointed in a manner agreed upon by the signatories of the accord.Initially 99 partie…

Bazaribe burnt down

Bazaribe market, Toamasina was burnt down on the eve of Monday August 23, at around 11 p.m.

The fire started from the northeast part and propagated to the middle part of the market,
where primarily needed products sellers, furniture sellers, and butchers are found. Goods
belonging to 71 sellers were burnt up.

The damage is assessed at 175 million Ariary. Only in a space of a month, Bazaribe is the third market being burnt. Before this latter, The Valpinson market and the Tanambao V market, where hairdressers, silver dealers and bike repairmen were placed, were also burnt down. Sellers from Bazaribe did not hesitate to say that “it was arson”.

When the three security guards were asked about it, they emphasized that they heard a
loud outburst. “The market was set ablaze after that and the flames were already fierce,” reported sellers nearby, and when asked, the Bazaribe security guards also clarified and said that the fire did not start small, but with big flames, thus, the surprise of those …

Random Monday

I finally learned another fabulous fact about the women’s washrooms. The toilet seats are always broken and the floor is always wet because some Malagasy women prefer to stand ON the toilet itself and squat. Our laundry service is broken. I don’t know how a Laundry SERVICE gets broken, but ours is. Not sure if this means I’ll fly home with dirty laundry … wearing dirty laundry. I can’t figure out how to call Belgium from Madagascar. I’ve googled, I’ve asked for help, and nothing is working. Today, after one year and 15 days I got my business cards. Now I can look officially important. I had a really good weekend. Not a great weekend, but a really good weekend. Something tells me next weekend will rock. I’ll put up pictures of the Sunday Canal trip sometime this week. I have started crossing off the days of the calendar with red “X”s. It looks like I’m counting down a prison sentence. Lastly, I think it’s pretty obvious that I have been here six weeks. My patience today, on a scale of

Scale of Seven Seas Moods

If I could quantify my happiness/contentment as an expat, month by month, it would be on a scale of seven (since the number seven can't be simplified. Whenever I think of scales or fractions, I'm reminded of my math teacher, Monsieur Blais).

The moods can be defined as:
0 - I'm so miserable, I'm moving back to Canada
1 - It really sucks here. Like, big time really, really sucks.
2 - What did I get myself into?!
3 - I'm not particulary happy here.
4- This place sure is ... interesting. Do I like it here? (waits for answer) Can someone please tell me what to do?
5- Maybe I like it here. Maybe this is a good thing.
6- It's pretty cool here.
7- Can't imagine my life any different. I am so lucky for this opportunity.

If I put a chart of my moods, on average, month-by-month, they would look something like this (yes, I am an analytical dork):
The first few months...they were pretty good. Everything was SO new and exciting, any negative feelings were easily pushed aside. I wa…

Just a regular day at the office....

Last night, I went for a massage and then out for a fabulous supper (okay, the food wasn’t that great but the company made up for it ;) ). Today, I had a hectic day that barely allowed me time to grab a bite to eat, but it was still pretty good. This afternoon, I was thinking about the weekend. All of this made me feel….well, I felt like…well, I felt like I was living the typical-every-day life. The my boss comes in my office and talks to me. “Nicole, I just wanted to give you the heads up and let you know that there might be some chaos/activity tomorrow at work. To purify the site from the death from a couple of weeks ago, they are bringing in three zebus [cows] and sacrificing them”.Ohhhhhhhhhhh rightttttttttt. I’m living in Madagascar….there is NO typical-every-day life. Forgot about that for a second.(And…is it creepy that I really want to go see this?)


Not much new to report to report here. Things have just been pretty day-to-day for me. Except for the fact that I’m like SOreally looking forward to the next few months!!!

* Warning. The positivity and cheeriness of this post will most likely be incredibly irritating. I’m in a super good mood this week. Don’t worry, I’ll be back next week with my regularly scheduled self-analysis/drama/complaining....*

First off, work is going well. It’s really starting to ramp up and now that we have a full team; I’m getting into a bit more challenging work. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes up next!!!

This weekend I’m taking a group of new expats along the Canal Pangalanes. It’s never the same twice and is always a great day out!

Next weekend I’m going on a whale watching tour. It’s on the same boatthat I went on around this time last year. Let's hope for less vomit this time.

Then it’s off of Canada – Out west for two weeks and then five full days in Montréal!

Six weeks later, me a…

And repeat.

I had another wonderful weekend in Toamasina, as per usual!

It started off with a wonderful supper, cooked by my favorite dog owners.

The trifecta of 3 Cubans, 3 Canadians, and 3 Jamaicans made for great dinner confaversation!
Did you know that brandy is made from grapes and is distilled to a higher proof than wine? I didn't.Nothing like some Canadian political chats to round off the night...
By midnight I was tucked safely in bed dreaming of good weather.

And my dream came true!!! So far (*touch wood*) every Sunday has been beautiful weather! It's winter here right now, and most days during the week it's gloomy and rainy off-and-on. But not Sunday!
The two-and-a-half hour drive was worth it!Seven of us sat on the beach, drank mojitos (mine even came with a worm, and ant, and a big green bug...which didn't stop me from enjoying it....), and sun bathed. We didn't even have to get up off of our beach chairs to order lunch! (The guy taking our orders was pretty cute too!) …

Update of nothing

Since my last post, there haven't been any developments in the whole protest/strike thing. Saturday the Filipinos were asked to stay in the camp, and it's recommended that they stay away from town for the next little while.

And me? Well, I'm less homesick, less freaked out, and had a great weekend.

I think this is officially my lamest post EVER!! Be back tomorrow with some pictures of the weekend!

Until then, here is me hard at work on Saturday. :)

Weird Week

It’s been a weird week.

Some background information, before we begin:

I work with three different groups of people:
Expats, like me, from countries like South Africa, Peru, USA, Canada, United Kingdom, and AustraliaNationals (Malagasy people)People from ountries like Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and the Philippians. The last group lives in another camp, seperate from the other expats. (You can probably figure out why and the reasons don’t need to be discussed on this blog.) I’ll just refer to them as people from Asian workers to make things simpler.

So onto the story. Last Sunday, a Malagasy worker was found dead on site. His body was examined and it was found that he died of natural causes. Sadly, when the deceased’s mother was informed of the death, she died of a (suspected) heart attack.

The town is not happy about this. They don't beleive he died of natural causes.

There is a rumour that a Filipino worker died a few weeks back (there is NOTHING to confirm this) and now the Malagasy emp…

***Super Important Update ***

After over two weeks of probably splashing myself- the lights - in the women's washroom - are back on. I can now see where I pee.

However, I'm now suffering from the "be careful what you wish for" syndrome ... because ... I can see how gross the toilets are. I never thought women suffered from aim issues but ... well, let's just say I've left with the bottom of my shoes being wet. I keep telling myself this is water. I keep hoping that ... it's only water... :S

I thought you'd all like to know .... :P

Local Life Pics

I haven't been posting many pictures of the local living here often. Somehow I end up getting caught up in all that is ... me. Anyway, here are some pictures taken over the past few months.

Oranges, oranges, oranges. They don't taste very good and are full of seeds. Ick.
Every day, sun-up until sun-down, women and children dig, break, and bag rocks to sell in town. I still don't know what is done with them.
This isn't an uncommon sight.
Living quarters for most
A local store. Sells cookies, pop, chocolate bars, and beer, of course. Three Horses Beer.
Soooo cute! Lunch time.
Go Habs! Oddly enough, most of these houses have a satellite with more channels that we have in camp. Going swimming! Resting on the beach ...
Friends forever!
One tired puppy. I both hate and love this picture. I just want to take this guy home ...
Multitasking Mammas!
Off to school. Spiderman is universal, I think.
And we thought Edmonton potholes were bad?!!

I bought myself this fancy shmancycamera to …

If I had a time machine.... write myself a letter a year ago today.... it would go something like this:

Dear Nicole,

It's August 8th, 2009, and you have just arrived in Madagascar and are super scared but are trying to act cool like you're not.
Drop the act, your eyes give it all away. There's no need to be scared! Everything will be fine!

You are about to embark on the craziest year of your life. I know, you didn't think that life could get any crazier than it has been. It does.

I've put together a list of just a few of the things you can expect along with a little advice:

FYI, A bucked filled with water is not not for flushing a toilet when there is no running water like you would think - it's to clean yourself self offafter using the toilet. It's not necessary to throw rocks at geckos when they take up residence on the outside door of your house. They are harmless. Culture Shock is a real thing. You'll have some pretty big highs and lows... just like life of a non-expat... but…

The night where I became a dramatic wuss

Question: What’s covered in sweat, cold, and crying?
Answer: Me – after my first tennis lesson. Okay, not crying, definetly trying not to... (I know, big surprise there).Remember I’m taking tennis lessons in order tokeep me un-cranky? Here’s how it all started. Tuesday night, I had my driver dropped me off a few minutes early to the tennis club. It’s a bit isolated, but I’ve only been there during the day and it’s usually a pretty busy place. So I told him to leave and pick me up in an hour.

While I wait for my tennis instructor to come, I sit down in the outside lounge area. Next to me, there are a group of about 12 local guys. They are drunk. They are annoying. One starts hitting on me. I pretend not to speak French. I’m annoyed and start texting people in order to appear that I’m not paying attention. This is pretty new behaviour to me here. While I’m almost always stared at wherever I go (I’m a white giant in MG), I’m rarely approached.

Five minutes later, Celestin, my tennis instruc…

Foreign Investors: Failing Grade in Spite of Inflow

Even though Madagascar is ostracized by the international community, foreign investors keep coming in! Camille Vital did not expressly say it but it is like that when he received at the Mahazoarivo Palace, yesterday morning, a delegation of the South Korean Company HC Hamchang specialized in energy production. According to the communiqué reporting the meeting, this company wants to invest in Madagascar.

While submitting a copy of his project, the CEO of the Project announced that he will start with the creation of a training center to ensure availability of a competent workforce. After the Saudis of the fabulously rich prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the Indians, the Chinese Wisco, the Libyans and the Pakistani, now it is the South Koreans who come in. in the next coming days and months, more still will come. With the exception of Wisco, to which the Transitional governments have officially allocated the iron deposit of Soalala, this whole wonderful crowd is just in their exploration phase.


I pee in the dark.

Yes, this is "too much information", but for the past two weeks, at work, I pee in the dark.

The women's washroom has toilet stalls that encased in tile from the bottom of the floor to the top of the ceiling. I'm sure they look nice and are all sparkly and white. But I can't see them. It's dark-room-quality black dark in there. Can't see my hand in front of my face.

The lights have been burnt out for two weeks. Last week, I finally made a complaint.

Oh, yes, Mr. Whoever-is-in-charge-of-replacing-lightbulbs is aware of this situation. Unfortunately, the lightbulbs used are very rare in MG. That makes total sense. 'Cause the the women's washroom probably isn't the busiest place in the entire plant. So it would only make sense to have lightbulbs in installed in those toilets that have to be "specially ordered" from another country. When we live on an island. Sure.

The lightbulbs have been specially ordered.

They are expecte…

Monday Smiles

Here are some amazing pictures taken from the resettlement villages of Marovato and Vohitrambato (try saying that five times fast...).

(I would love to take credit for these amazing pictures, however, they are courtesy of Loraine. More info to come about the resettlement villages in another post.)