|Friday, March 25, 2010
Nosy Be, Madagascar
Since we are in pirate territory again, we had another muster drill yesterday We are quite confident pirates aren’t after cruise ships. There was one reported, but it was really not true. What would pirates do with a shipload of old people? And I think there would be enough spunk in these “old people” to give those pirates a run for their money.
Today’s excursion was to Nosy Be, but that was just the first stop-over to pick up a small motor boat that held about 8 passengers each for a 45-minute ride to Nosy Komba to see the lemurs, native only to Madagascar. Madagascar is called the “Green Island”, but it is not true to its name because of deforestation and not protecting the environment. We arrived on a sandy beach where we were greeted by many children chanting, singing and clapping for donations, and vendors with armloads of beads for sale following us around. These children had painted decorations on their faces, as did some adults. It is common for mothers to have five children on this very poor island where the median age is 45, and life expectancy is short. I have no idea how families can provide for all of these children; there were so many everywhere you looked. We walked through the village where large tablecloths were hung on wash lines and laid out on the ground wherever we walked. Wood carvings from huge masks to very small animals were outside many huts along with vanilla beans, home made rum, and endless beads. .Along the way, children followed us singing, chanting and clapping with a basket in front of them for donations, their volume getting louder as we approached.
We walked through the forest to a location where we found lemurs. Boys were feeding them bits of bananas to keep them in the area. Once we got there, the lemurs fearlessly perched on our shoulders as the boys continued to lure them with bananas. There were some chameleons also nearby. We continued along a path around the island where we saw the Ylang-yland tree which is cultivated for the perfume industry. Coffee, sugar cane and spices are also grown here. Native men rely on fishing for income, while women produce needlework items for sale to tourists. There are no other resources on the island, other than lumber, making this island extremely poor.
We ended our tour at a school where there were primary grades and a fifth grade classroom. Children get free education until the 8th grade, but children go to school who live near one; and there are only a few; higher education is rare. Our guide acknowledged the importance of education, but the economy can not provide for it. The classroom were sparsely furnished with meager supplies. Donations were warmly accepted by the two teachers that were working under less than ideal conditions. It was 85° and I can‘t imagine teaching in that heat. But the students were attending to their lessons and seemed happy.
We are always provided with about ½ liter bottles of water on each tour and most of the time it is not chilled. Our water today was a frozen 1 L bottle that melted as we walked and cooled us as we put it on the back of our necks or other pressure points. That was really some good planning to keep us hydrated. And Valerie was always at hand with a spray bottle.