Saturday, September 13, 2014

Easter Vacation Part 1

Many months ago, I went on a trip to the West coast of Madagascar for Easter vacation. For some reason, I have been putting off the blog post about that trip, probably because the trip was so long and it felt overwhelming to write about the whole thing. But now that my PC service is over and I am putting off writing about the last few weeks of my service, it seems like a good time to write about my Easter vacation.
On April 16th, I left Tanambe and traveled to Tana. Unfortunately it is very difficult to travel from Tanambe without going to Tana first. I arrived at the station after sitting through tons of traffic in Tana and then sat in even more traffic in Tana on the way to the station to Antsirabe. The station that goes to Antsirabe and other sites south of Tana is notorious for being a place that no one wants to go to. I had been to this station before with a fellow PCV, but this was my first time attempting to battle this station on my own. For comparison, at the station that goes to the Lake Alaotra area, everyone is very calm and it is not at all overwhelming. But at Fasan’Karana, the station that I was at on this particular day, the guys grab at you and try to take your bags so that you will buy a ticket with them. On top of that, the station is quite large and on this day, it was very muddy. It is a very sketchy place where you have to be very cautious and keep a close eye on your stuff.
It took two hours for the taxi brousse to fill up and during that time I got ripped off on the taxi brousse price, which I was not happy about. What made it worse is that I had asked a lady who was already on the brousse to confirm the price and she lied to me about the price. Being ripped off and having to wait so long definitely put me in a cranky mood.
It took us four hours to travel 160 kilometers to Antisrabe, but I was so happy to finally arrive and meet up with Summer, a German volunteer who was also working in Tanambe and who I would be traveling with. Summer picked me up with Bee, the guy we thought was going to be our tour guide for the trip. That’s another story that will come later.
I quickly learned that due to some circumstances that were out of our hands, our trip had been pushed back a day and instead of leaving the next morning, we would be leaving in two days. The only consolation was that Bee offered to take us on a tour of Antsirabe the following day.
The next morning, we visited a shop that makes jewelry, utensils, and other art out of zebu (cow) horns. It was very interesting to see the process that they go through with the horns to make them soft and to be able to shape them. We also visited a shop where Malagasy candy is made. The ingredients were simple and we got to watch as they mixed in the flavor of our choice, which happened to be peanut. After watching them make the candy, we got to choose a few bags of candy to take home with us. Next, we stopped by a miniature shop, where they make mini bikes, taxi-brousses, motorcycles, and cars. The guy who runs the shop showed us how they use milk cans, expired IV lines, electrical wiring, fishing wire, and telephone line wires to create the different components. He has been doing this for 20 years and showed us his notebook with his ideas drawn out.  It was quite impressive. Our next stop was at an embroidery shop. There were many women sitting on small stools in a very quiet room, making tablecloths, napkins, and clothing. Some of the items take as little as a week to make while others take up to three months. We also visited a wood sculptor and a painter. The paintings were beautiful and I bought a few to take home with me. Although they were priced at 15,000 AR each, I bargained for them and walked away with three paintings for 18,000 AR, which means they ended up being 6,000 AR each. I was pretty impressed with my bargaining skills!
Summer and I treated ourselves to a pizza and ice cream lunch and then went on an adventure to find one of Summer’s friends who lives in Antsirabe. That night, we had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with some PCVs who were in Antsirabe.
It was a very interesting day exploring Antsirabe and seeing how things that are commonly sold in the artisan markets here are made. It definitely gave me more meaning and appreciation for the crafts since I had seen the process and the work that goes into it.

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