22 May 2006
Visiting Another World
Just returned from another of my pleasurable visits to Madagascar, a country that ranks much further down the poverty list to Kenya. It's a strange and beguiling place; Africa is so close, so many people seem African in looks (then again, many seem Polynesian) but it is not like Africa, or anywhere else. Some interesting contrasts to mainland Africa were:
* There appear to be no slums and the average Malagasy owns a house,most of them sturdy if traditional.
* Despite the obvious poverty, crime and especially violent crime, is a paltry fraction of Kenya's level.
* Many people openly state they wish they had been colonized by the British, not the French, when you say you are from Nairobi.
* The matatus are amazingly organized, with pre-booked seats for up-country travel(!), little offices for each company and no touts whatsoever.
* The women are beautiful and polyglot in novel ways, not that Kenyans lack beauty. The Malagasy generally are discreet and quiet - but not in the South.
* The dead are venerated, and regularly dug up and re-buried after a prolonged party. In Madagascar, the dead are more important than the living!
* There are almost no sects and tent churches, everyone attends a mainstream church.