Friday in Morondava, Madagascar

We arrived in Morondava, Madagascar a few days ago from the capital, Tana. A 3 hour ride to Antsirabe through endless agriculture fields worked by hand, a very cool town where we had rooms overlooking the town square, which is not square but a big long oval.  The roads here are very narrow. Not room enough for 2 semi trucks with trailers to pass I don’t think. The next 11 hours were through scrub and high arid country, a good 8 to 9 hours of it on poor roads. Did not pass many vehicles this time of year. Much less population and seemed to be mostly cattle herders here. Not much wildlife – a few birds and lizards. When we dropped out of the highlands to the coastal plain, we stopped for lunch. Local tilapia from the river nearby. Not bad.  Malagasy food is not very spicy – much unlike West Africa foods.

Our hotel in Morondava is right on the beach, and we can watch the fishermen leave in their brightly colored canoes starting at 3 in the morning, and then return all day. Many of the canoes are rigged with sails and an outrigger on one side. The boats just glide through the water.

We went to Bethany yesterday. We had to cross a small shallow river, and went by a motorized canoe. On the way back, we waded half way across the river because it was low tide, to an island in the middle, then the canoe took us the rest of the way. It was not a far crossing, nor dangerous.

Our meeting with the fishing families went well. We went through the usual feeling out of each other. After asking for a freezer and outboard motors, neither of which I happened to have in any of my pockets, we got more comfortable with each other and I started to ask them about their fishing operations, their fish processing and fish selling, the type of smoker they use, prices they get for the fish they sell, how they decide what fish to smoke and what fish to sell fresh, etc., etc. It was a very productive meeting for me. I often – I’ll say always- come into these assignments with a lot of trepidation – am I going to be able to provide any real advice to the peopleth hosting me? – and always I find I can and the trepidation turns into a sort of – high?- maybe? – putting together slides on the computer to talk about. Often I find my brain outpacing the speed of my typing. Sometimes  I’ll just put down the subject ideas in rapid fire so I don’t forget them and come back and fill in the blanks.

The meeting ended in the early afternoon, and it was hot. Real hot. The normally stiff ocean breeze had laid down. The sand was so hot I could not walk on it in bare feet. My supervisor (Zo) and translator (Andry) accompanying me were as hot and worn out as I was when we got back, which gave me a little solace. Zo had proposed at the meeting we go out fishing all day with the men and then have a workshop in the afternoon. I think we all saw that might kill us………

I was so hot when I got back I stripped off my skanky clothes, and put them in the sink to hand wash. It’s relatively dry here so the clothes dry quickly on the veranda. I put the shower on the coldest setting, which of course was not very cold, and it was just enough to take the edge off. I then crashed for a long nap to recover.

Today, we went to a second village where we’ll work next week, just to see it. We drove as far as we could, then hiked maybe a quarter mile down to the beach.  Fishermen passed us with their small gillnets draped over their canoe paddle that they carried on their shoulder.

We watched a couple fishermen skillfully surf their canoes to the beach. Women then helped to get the fish out of the boats. Men fish. Women process and sell the fish. Neither does the other job from what I can tell.  One of the women came over with a mackerel looking fish about 15 inches long, and a couple smaller fish to see if we wanted to buy any. We didn’t, but were able to engage her about the price of fish. From what we could tell, the price of mackerel – which she said is rare now – was about $1.75/lb. Which is a good price to fishermen for whole fish of many species in Alaska. Of course, that’s the dock price, and not what it would cost in a store or further down the supply chain. Great information.

The woman returned to the boat to help offload the boat. A young girl of maybe 3 years old was out playing in the heavy surf. Having the time of her life. Laying down and body surfing and just bopping around like 3 year olds everywhere do. Her mother chastised her several times to come in from the surf, but the girl kept playing as long as she could get away with it.

Beach in Madagascar
Women on beach in Madagascar organizing fish

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