Monday, March 23, 2009

Madagascar In My Heart

When I first met today's guest blogger, she signed all her posts, "your devoted blogging hostess." Devoted hostess is a perfect description of Lala and her style. She is glad to have you visit her home. While you are there, she'll make certain your are comfortable, then will bustle about filling your senses, making you smile, and likely teaching you something. Please welcome Lala Ema of My Castle In Spain. ~ Relyn

When Relyn asked me to be a guest blogger and talk about one of my passions, I first thought of my boyfriend who is my adorable muse, then my design work, then flamenco… In the end, the recent political upheaval in my country of origin Madagascar brought back lots of cherished memories of the faraway island which I haven’t visited for a long time. And I felt like sharing the muted passion I have for this island, its people, its customs, its music and its colours.

When I think of Madagascar, I have vivid remembrances of a myriad of colours. I remember quite well landing in Ivato airport near the capital city Antananarivo. The earth was red and here and there, spots of colour made a funny pattern. As the plane was descending, I could see the spots of colours were sheets and clothes drying on the ground.

I was born in France and discovered Madagascar when I was 8. It was my first time in a tropical country and also the very fist time I knew what real poverty is. Children begging in the street were a shock to me and most often my sisters and I were at a loss when in the end, we would have no more coins to give. "You cannot give to everybody" my parents would say.

During these holidays, we usually stayed at my uncle's and aunt’s place in Antananarivo. It was swarming of kids, my cousins being quite numerous (7 or 8, I can't even remember), plus some children who would stay to share the meals, my aunt prepared in a very basic kitchen. My sisters and I quickly got used to eat rice three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, served with dried manioc leaves or corn or meatballs.

We spent the afternoons with my cousins, playing around, going to the zoo, answering endless questions about our life in France but the most brilliant time was the music sessions. There was always someone playing the guitar, other kids beating the rhythm on tins. My sisters and I did our best to sing along. We learnt by heart the songs of the Mahaleo group. I think my sisters will never admit it but I’m sure, like me, their eyes are filled with tears when they listen to this group in particular. Mahaelo writes songs about the endless struggle to get rid of poverty and corruption in Madagascar.

One day in the week, my aunt would take us to the enormous market, the zoma, which since then has been shut down for hygienic reasons. It’s impossible for me to describe the powerful impressions this place made on me….so many colours, the piles of raffia baskets and hats, the fabrics with exotic patterns, the small piles of fruits. The butcher's sector was by far, my less favourite place in the market and I would help my aunt reluctantly when she'd decide to buy a hen.

On the other hand, I was mesmerized by the jewelery workshops usually owned by Indians, where I learnt all the different precious and semi precious which can be found in the island.

Years later, I went back on holiday again to visit another uncle and his wife on the coast in Tamatavo. My aunt lived quite an easy life, she had numerous helpers, a nice house but she dreamt of crossing the ocean to have what she thought would be a better life. She would take me to her favourite place in town, an ice tea parlour with pale green walls. I can still remember the amazing taste of home made pistachio ice cream.

Watching my aunt cook was a real treat for me. She had an outdoor kitchen where fish was brought fresh from the sea. She prepared food on a coal burner. Her meals were just like her, colourful, sensuous, generous and nearly always flavoured with a slight touch of coconut. The smell of coconut always reminds me of Malagasy women as they use coconut oil to smooth their long dark hair.

Besides the walks in the rainforest, the long days on the beach, the impossible task of pounding rice with an enormous wooden mortar, my best souvenir was an entire day spent waiting for a train, in the middle of the forest. The whole quay was converted into a giant picnic. It was such a joy to watch the happy confusion.

After having spent many years in France, my parents decided to go back to Madagascar. They kept their house in France though so that they could come back from time to time. Since the recent takeover (which is now seen as a coup by the African Union), by former mayor of the capital city, Andry Rajoelina, they’re thinking of going back to France and stay there for a while until things stabilize more or less.

As for me, I still hope to make a trip to the red island, next year if possible. My boyfriend and I have been dreaming of it for quite a time now.

For now, I say veloma, veloma Madagasikary...!..(bye bye Madagascar)

Words by Lala of My Castle In Spain. Boababs by Limestone Peaks by National Geographic.


Char said...

what a beautiful description - it sounds so exotic

TheChicGeek said...

Such beautiful pictures and such an exciting life :) Your story was told in such a beautiful fashion too. Awww, now I have something pretty to dream about today.

beth said...

we own a coton de tulear, which I believe in the royal dog of madagascar, right ?

she is our love and one of the best dogs ever !!!

ELK said...

well I enjoyed learning more about this amazing place ~ ELK

paris parfait said...

So interesting to learn more about your childhood time in Madagascar, Lala! Glad your parents are fine. xo

Jessica said...

I loved reading about this far away place! It's inspiring my passion for travel!

Jeanie said...

This is part of the world of which I know little. Thank you for introducing me!

Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing your love of Madagascar, letting us see and feel the details and colors and feelings you experienced there. A perfect guest post.

susanna said...

How interesting, to walk and live and belong in two very different worlds. What struck me was the idea that Lala's aunt dreamed of living across the ocean when it sounds like she already lives in Paradise! And those tree in the photos are incredible!

Anonymous said...

this is an incredibly moving post. what a great idea to have guest bloggers blog about their passions. how perfect.
and thank you for another wonderful comment. you are lovely.

sallymandy said...

This was beautiful and educational. I loved the music clip, though I did sense it was a melancholy song. Thank you for these images and memories. I loved it.

Patti said...

Lala's words and memories made this faraway exotic place come alive for me~ thanks you!


jae said...

I enjoyed this inside look at what must be an amazing place. The images and words make me want to experience it myself.

Miko's Girl said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I loved it! It was like a little desktop trip far away.

SE'LAH... said...

Wow...what a beautiful post. It really does sound exotic.

Derrick said...

A lovely glimpse of an exotic world! Childhood memories are usually sharply focused and larger than life. They help us to relive the wonder.

spread your wings said...

wow it sounds like such an amazing and exotic life. thank you so much for sharing this place with us. that market sounds like it might almost create a sensory overload.
i hope you get to make your dream trip to the red island.

smith kaich jones said...

Oh. How incredible. Outdoor kitchens & rainforests & pistachio ice cream & the music & a red island! What a beautiful picture you painted. I'm feeling a bit jealous! :)


Christina said...

Lala, do you remember you were the first person that made Madagascar come to life for me?? I fell in love with you and the faces you shared on your blog. I recall shouting toward my screen- that person is the color I am!! I was in awe of it's beauty and torn for it's hardships.

You and I will always have this beginning; always a friendship brought by such a beautiful Madagascar.

I love you.

Relyn, you are filling my heart with such beautiful guest bloggers.

dutchbaby said...

The parade of beautiful guest bloggers continues! Thank you, Relyn, I love reading about all these passions. Brilliant!

You paint a beautiful picture of this island that bears some similarities to the island of Java, where I was born. We ate rice thrice daily, went to the passar weekly, and witnessed unimaginable poverty. Thank you for sharing this part of the world with us. The photos you chose are gorgeous.

Jaime said...

Thank you for transporting me to a wonderful new land that begs the senses to pay close attention to the many gifts offered.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Oldies, but Goodies