Dec 2, 2019: First day in Madagascar

It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, there’s a gentle breeze. Birds are chirping and flitting about. At breakfast, we saw a small orange finch going from perch to perch. 

Our expedition today was prosaic:  we needed a SIM card, local currency, drinking water and mosquito repellent. For the latter, it was a choice between Off (familiar to most North Americans) and Diva, a French brand. Diva has more of the necessary active ingredient, so we bought it. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t as good as we hoped.

The surprise was the Minisou shop in the strip mall. A Minisou shop recently opened up inside the Victoria Walmart. The company has Japanese and Chinese cofounders, and features small personal and household items with a Japanese feel.

The local buses here are Mercedes Benz Sprinters. Passengers get in and out through the back door. I don’t know the fees because our hotel told us we needed to take a taxi. 

We also saw a zebu cart, with two of the local cattle in the yoke. Mostly, wheeled transportation is an array of cars and trucks, with a wider range of brands and ages than I remember from Kenya. 

Another mode of transportation is a hand push car, flatbed style. There’s a car steering wheel at one end and what look like car springs underneath. When there’s a hill to go down driver and pal hop on and steer. I’m not sure how they brake. It’s a fun reward for the hard work of pushing freight up a hill. 

On our expedition, we saw some school children, and noticed there are two styles of school uniforms— one that we’ve all seen before. White shirt and navy skirt for girls and navy pants for boys. We also saw a uniform where the shirt is a thin beige lab coat. It’s often worn over another shirt, and I sometimes had the impression that one size fits all. You grow into it and then hang on to it.

The landscape in this part of Tana is mostly flat, although there’s a it of a valley and subsequent hill to the east. To the north, there’s a single modern tower. We’re a fair distance from downtown Tana. On our other transfer nights through Tana, we’re in the city centre. 

It’s very green here. The hill is trees, and out hotel courtyard has a beautiful garden with lantana, honeysuckle, roses and bananas. There are some palm-type shrubs as well as yucca or aloe. Our next door neighbour is a Jehovah’s Witness hall.