25 August 2007

Julio-So, I didn't cop out. I tried to learn the salsa in a local club called Riki's, where one of the surviving members of the disbanded Buena Vista Social Club, Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera, plays a quick set every Wednesday night. Usually late, always unexected, he might show up, he might not. I've caught him a couple of times (me and my friend Amy have become his official "groupies") but last night he jammed for three hours and I totally forgot about learning salsa, grabbed my camera, and just tried to capture the energy in the room. At some point, everyone forgot they were in a restaurant, put the chairs aside, and just danced. I didn't want to use my flash, I felt it would somehow alter the mood, but now I'm really glad I didn't. These abstractions capture it completely and I'm blown away to realize that if someone asked me to describe the salsa for them, i probably couldn't. but i would show them these. su amiga gringa, Jessie

Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera jams and yes, he's just as cool in person...

Just when you think you've heard it all...

Money does strange things to people, something that was nailed home today in the form of a 200-pound woman named Maria. I was reading on the sidewalk, waiting for a friend, when she lumbered toward me in her wheelchair and showed me a prescription for medicine she needed but couldn't afford to fill. I'm used to the beggars making up stories to get sympathy, someone's brother is dying, another needs milk for her baby. But Maria had a wild card.

She lifted up her skirt and pointed to her legs and I felt my stomach turn.

She has six months, the masses on her legs nothing compared to the tumor growing inside her. Pieces of her black skin color had already been eaten away. We talked for a while, I told her she shared the same name with my mother. I was kneeling down beside her so we could talk at eye level and before she wheeled away she kissed the top of my head and told me not to forget her. I told her I wouldn't, pretty sure the exchange would stay with me for a while. Then she wheeled off and I watched her plead for food from a nearby cafe.They gave her coffee and a few muffins and just as i thought i was taking in this serene moment of humanity, a few seconds later I heard cardboard hit the cement. I looked up as Maria had finished her drink and threw the cup to the sidewalk, lumbering onto her next stop, and I saw the looks on the faces of people who walked by and saw her.

I laughed out loud.

Money does strange things to people, which is probably why my parents made sure I never put much faith into it. Pieces of paper that grant luxuries to some, even if they don't deserve or want them, it also how we face the cards we're dealt, the very state of health we are allowed and in most cases, where we sit in society ... literally ... and sometimes that seat has two wheels. Some of the the people who stopped to throw a few pieces of change at her couldn't even look Maria in the face and I could tell she gave up caring a long time ago. She threw the cup, and to some people on the street that day she probably came off as a thankless begger, but that's not what I saw.

To me, it was Maria telling society to take its system and go to hell.

How many quetzals can you put on a human head ??

Talia, Yet another surreal moment. So, we were going over the verb "costar" today and it means "to cost." Alenka was explaining to me how the word is impersonal, that something can cost something, but that an actual person cannot cost something (a lesson i found pretty ironic coming from a country with one of the highest human traffiking rates in the world) so I teased Alenka and pointed out that according to all the gringos walking through the streets of Antigua with their adopted brown babies, a price can be put on a human head. I was totally joking and then Alenka casually said:

"Well, when my son Christian was a baby..."

Yeah, turns out someone actually tried to by her son, Christian, from her when he was a baby and she was walking through some city just south of here in Chiapas, Mexico. Her husband was a fair-skinned German and Christian came out blond and blue-eyed, which down here is kind of rare. She said turned down the offer, as if someone had tried to sell her a purse or a piece of jewelry that wasn't really her taste.I was laughing so hard at how nonchanlantly she brought it up that I asked if she might reconsider the offer now that Christian is 24 and kind of a punk. She just kind of looked at me, smiled and nodded. I couldn't help laughing out loud. here we were, in a cafe, drinking tea,and calmly discussing the actually buying and selling of a human being.

thinking of you chica, Jessie

M'Boutha Muppets in Madagascar

[8/19/07 Dear Joe, I went up to Tana’s (relatively) ritzy northern suburbs last night to see a percussion and reggae band called M’Boutha. The music was pretty good, and it is nice to realize that people here like something besides Shania Twain and Kelly Clarkson, but my favorite part was watching the main drummer, whose shaggy hair and tripped-out swaying reminded me of a cross between Janice and the French Chef from the Muppets. And, in the face, he looked like Jimmy Hendrix … and, in a very understated way, he was wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt. I love a good character. Sometimes, to cope with people I find annoying or don’t understand, I turn them into cartoons in my head. That way, they are entertaining – fun, original pieces of life – not irritating. But there was no need to caricature this drummer. Hair flopping in his face, cigarette dangling from his lower lip, eyes wandering aimlessly. He should really go solo. –John]

Malagasy Discotheque

[8/18/07 LE BUS, TANA – Dear Molly, Africa is a place of contrasts – of high highs and crushing lows. For Tana’s wealthy class (read: ex-pats), you find highs at Le Bus, an all-night discotheque. You can be openly gay there, and no one blinks. That totally amazes me, since elsewhere, homosexuality is completely taboo. But it still makes me uncomfortable to think that this life of excess can exist so close beside dire poverty. But then again, what difference does that juxtaposition make really? In the West, we live to excess all the time. It’s just easier for many people, because they never have to, or don’t want to, see how the other side lives. Here, unless you want to sit inside your razor-wire compound all day and all night, no one has that luxury. – John]

24 August 2007

History under cardboard boxes

[8/18/07 Dear Mom, Dad and Ben, There is not a lot of emphasis placed on cultural history here. So I was pleased to find a temporary one-room museum – pitched like a tent on the sidewalk -- that told the story of Madagascar’s kings and queens, before the French occupation.

The square building was painted to look like a castle, but its pitched roof was made of flattened cardboard boxes and the walls were planks of wood, painted on the outside to look like stone. Inside were pictures of royalty, dressed to look rather European, and with the lighting in their portraits displayed as such that they almost looked Caucasian. I wonder if that was intentional – if they lighter skin color has always been favorable, or a symbol of power here.

My favorite royal Malagasy is the one with the longest name (54 letters … no suggestions from spellcheck): Andrianampoinimerinandriantsimitoviaminandriampanjaka. My least favorite is Queen Ranavalona I, who made her subjects, accused of wrongdoing, eat a poisonous shrub to determine their guilt or innocence. She also flung people off a cliff behind her palace. Really nice lady. Her palace burned down in 1995 and they are rebuilding it now. Hopefully you won’t see supposed witches flying off the cliffs once the scaffolding is peeled away and the building is fully functional again. Love, John]

22 August 2007

Sweetest snarl of the week goes to ...

[8/18/07 Dear Clanton, Man, I don’t know how you photographers do it … shoving foot-long lenses in peoples’ faces all the time. I’m envious of the self-assuredness it takes. I’m a wimp. Today, I was walking back from the post office when I saw a little girl teetering along a ledge beside the road, holding her sister’s hand for support. I wanted to take a picture, so I ran up from behind them and asked if that would be OK. They said sure, thankfully (many people here don’t, or ask for money). But it was too late. I had wrecked their moment. The little girl snarled at me inquisitively, hands on hips. Her sister flashed a perfect Crest Kids smile. I said, It’s OK, it’s OK, just keep walking like you were -- but that was asking too much, I guess. “Ignore the crazy white oppressor with a camera pointed in my face? Man, I’m only 3!”

I remember, on our trips to Tar Creek, you told me I should to worry less about intruding on people. You’re right. I’m trying. Because, within an ethical framework, the results are usually worth it. Tracy’s parents loved our story about her. – John]

Ah, the sweet smell of diesel in the morning

[8/17/07 Dear Jesse, After walking around Antananarivo the other day, I came home and wiped my nose on a tissue. The white paper turned charcoal gray, stained by the soot that floats around the air here and cakes the nostrils of the city’s 2 million inhabitants.

I met today with the spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Madagascar, Sylvain Rafiadana-Ntsoa, and he told me that air pollution is a low priority here. Other health issues, like malaria and dihedral diseases, kill far more people. There isn’t enough money to do it all, he said.

Still, Africa is the urbanizing more quickly than any other continent. And the World Health Organization estimates that air pollution kills 800,000 people every year. Developing countries bear a bigger proportion of the pollution than their richer counterparts.

In Madagascar’s capital, it is difficult to breathe walking down the street, and exercising in such conditions is next to impossible. The bikers and runners hit the streets at about 5 a.m., to avoid the smog that hits at the 6 o’clock rush hour. Guidebooks warn tourists they will have a headache for the first two weeks they are in Tana. I can attest to that so far. It feels like you’re standing near a gas pump almost all the time. And this isn’t close to one of Africa’s most-polluted cities – much less China’s.

Automobiles create much of the pollution. Trucks and buses leave furry black tails behind on the road – thick, wet and sticky, like cancerous cotton candy. The streets are narrow, winding and crowded, and the cars are mostly from the 1960s and 70s, without emissions regulators or clean-burning fuel.

Before I left The Oklahoman, I did a project on Oklahoma City’s air quality woes. Those issues, while still important, seem minor in compared to the pollution here. And for the Malagasy, it’s not an issue at all. There's not enough money to make it one. -- John]

That's me, the national dancing tree

[8/17/07 UNIV. OF ANTANANARIVO -- Dear John, At the petanque match, I sat on the concrete stadium stairs next to the mascot for the Island Games, Ravi. That’s short for Ravenala, the name of a famous Malagasy palm with leaves that fan out on a single plane.

This mascot’s real name is Manitra. (He is one of 10). He’s 23 year old, and he says being the mascot is a good job. He dances for crowds and takes photos with tourists, mostly. He likes dancing, but the costume is restrictive, he said. You can see scratch marks on the shoulders of his red vest from the head bouncing back and forth while he dances. And the suit is hot. But whatever, he said, he gets to be on TV (although his friends make fun of him and you can’t really tell who he is). So here’s to dancing that’s uninhibited by television cameras or restrictive tree-character costumes. Love, John]

21 August 2007

Plinko + Kerplunk = Petanque

[8/17/07 UNIV. OF ANTANANARIVO Dear John, Eyes gazing intensely over a rectangular gravel court, the petanque player crouches in the center of red mini-hula-hoop – sized for someone like Cindy Loo Hoo or Nicole Ritchie. Metal ball in hand, palm facing down, she swings her arm back and then steadily forward. Release. The ball sails through the air – sometimes flying as high as the tops of nearby flag poles – and lands near a back of others with a “petanque.” Television cameras follow the ball through the sky. When it lands, a patter of clapping comes from the stadium seating.

Welcome to the bizarre and obsessive world of petanque (pronounced pay-tunk) at the Island Games in Madagascar. This country is full of petanque-heads, and, after watching the game for a few hours, I still have no idea why. It’s bocci ball, dude, except the balls are two shades of metal – shiny and not-so-shiny – instead of different colors. This belongs at a BBQ, not the regional Olympics.

The point of the game is simple: is to toss your teams balls close to a small green ball, which is the target, or the “jack.” But these people, and their backers on petanque.org, take that task to uber-serious degrees. Here is a suggested warm-up exercise from petanque.org (they're way to professional for .com):

“Warm Up. Roll 2 boules (that’s “balls” in French) around the palm of your hand. Rotate shoulders, throw a few gentle shots. Don’t start cold and a 10m shot!”

10 meter shots. Phew.

I made a few friends at the petanque tournament. The first was a young woman (don’t know her name) who plays petanque for the University of Antananarivo’s team. Yes, really, they have a team. I met her a her boyfriend while I was wandering around the university, looking for the petanque match. The problem with my approach: I had forgotten the name of the game. The night before, I had taken to jokingly calling it Plinko (from The Price is Right ... who is the new host, by the way?) and Kerplunk (from 1980s living coffee tables).

Our conversation, in French mind you:

“Do you know where the Island Games are?” I asked.
“Oh, of course. Which game?” she said.
“Ummm, I don’t know the name exactly … there are tiny balls… I think it’s called tuk-tuk?”

She died laughing.

“OK, we’re going there,” she said.
Apparently tuk-tuk is the word for cracker here. All the way to the courts they were speaking in Malagasy and laughing. “Jibba jabba jibba jabba… tuk tuk … HAHAHAHA!” I’m always here to entertain …

Love, John
PS: petanque.com also has postcards. Some a really hilarious.]

20 August 2007

Volcan de Fuego: Part Deux

[8-20-07] Mom - Volcan de Fuego erupted again today and it was amazing. I was out on my deck studying and my tutor, Alenka, just sort of gasped and stared. She yelled for Thelma, the maid who has worked for this family for four years. I watched the young girl's face and realized that Thelma lives in a pueblo on the other side of the volcan. Most of the native Maya who work in Antigua walk into the city every day from villages built in the mountains and near the volcanoes because they can't afford to live here. Nobody said anything for a while, we just sat back and watched Mother Nature rip. Love, Jessie

18 August 2007

A shout out from Vegas ...

[8-17-07] Dear Jarrod,

It's amazing what you can find in the middle of a desert. I was in Las Vegas at a professional convention and some friends and I ventured to the exhibit in some of our downtime. The only "predator-based aquarium" on the continent, includes more than 2,000 animals - including sea turtles, piranha, moon jellyfish and, of course, sharks - in 1.6 million gallons of seawater. I'm not a huge fan of animals. I like giraffe, and that's pretty much it. But being in the exhibit, you can't help but appreciate the beauty of these animals and marvel at Mother Nature. It's a wonder something so beautiful can hurt so badly. I just couldn't take my eyes off of these moon jellyfish. A sting from these will likely only irritate you, but stings from other jellyfish can prove fatal to humans and other animals. I knew all of this, but as I sat watching them pulse through the tank, all I wanted to do was touch one.

---Love, Talia

I fit in for about a second...

[8-17-07] Daudi- I've never felt more white in my entire life (except for that one time I found myself in a ghetto portion of D.C. covering an Al Sharpton speech, but that's another story for another time) I've been in Guatemala for almost a month now and I've developed a comfortable groove. I get up, I walk around with my tutor, I go to the park, I go to the gym, I have a couple friends to hang out with and stumble home with, but just when I think I'm starting to blend in, something like this happens. I was walking with a group of people and one moment I was a Guatemalan crossing the street and the next second I was a gringa taking pictures.

These women were so visually interesting I couldn't help it, but I almost wished they hadn't turned around. They didn't speak spanish, only a mayan dialect, so i might as well been talking to my toothbrush when I tried to explain I was journalist from the states. they knew the only english words they needed.

"Piso, give us a dollar...an american dollar...GIVE US A DOLLAR!!!!!!!"

In the villages surrounding Guatemala City, the kids and women have been trained to ask for money when a white person wants to take their picture. It's much easier taking photos in Antigua, which has been largely westernized and considers itself "modern" and people understand "soy periodista" and don't try to bribe you everytime you're interested in taking a photograph of them. It kind of threw me to see this sweet looking woman with her baby demand money the second my camera came out. I just walked off as they screamed after me. I felt kind of sick, like yesterday when that guy hissed in my ear (one of those things in Latin America that's actually worse if you know what it means).

I don't really like to look at this picture now.

It's been extremely cool and real crossing the cultural divide, but there's moments I would give anything just to be back in the states kickin' with my friends and not dealing with a place where I don't look or sound like anybody else.Forget telling them you're from "Idaho," they barely know "Florida" and it's a two hour flight from here. I end up having to say "Miami" because it's the only reference point they know.

i'll be with the monks this weekend...

[8-17-07] A blind girl told me a story a long time ago that I didn’t even get until now. When she was a teenager her parents sent her to a special camp to teach kids like her how to navigate the world. No instructions, no help, she was plopped in a small apartment with food, clothing, and a bed. She said she walked streets alone, with a cane, and had to learn what the sound of a car coming close was, or how it felt to hit the edge of a curb. When the camp ended she was covered in bruises, she showed me a scar on her left knee.

I called it child abuse. She called it "baptism by fire."

What I didn’t understand about her story, is that every bruise, every cut had taught her something she couldn’t have learned any other way and given the choice of doing it again, Francesca said there was no choice. It was something she had to do.I’ve been thinking about Francesca a lot lately. Probably, because I live in Central America in a home with people who do not speak a word of English. Every day I wake up and spend four hours with an instructor who leads me through the streets of Guatemala conversing only in a language I’m just beginning to grasp. Everyday we sit in a small café that feels like a prison sometimes (probably something to do with the bars on the windows) and every day Alenka prods me on as I write sentences an American fifth grader would be called "special" for writing.

Every day, I feel like an idiot.

I remember telling someone once that if you’re not doing at least one thing that scares the crap out of you every day, you’re wasting your time. It sounded prophetic at the time. I was pretty proud of myself. I now realize that if I could go back in time and face myself in the past, I’d probably slap myself for being so oblivious to what my words actually meant. For the past two years writing for a living, people actually gave me money for putting words down on paper. I was obsessed with communicating with others, understanding them and where they were coming from.

And now, everyday, I feel like an idiot.

I wade through my "baptism by fire" feeling, for the most part, like a bumbling moron. Every once in a while, I think of Francesca and I wonder who I’ll be at the end of all this. I think of the person I was before and the life and the family and the friends I left behind to come do this.

And I find myself scared to death.

But then I take a walk, or take a picture that makes me realize I love this place and all of its simplicities, or I’ll stop and notice that Alenka only speaks Spanish to me now because I understand pretty much everything she’s saying, or I’ll run into a friend and realize that in the short time I’ve been here, I’ve somehow already made a life for myself.

It’s a small, quiet life, filled with nothing but time to sit around and figure things out.

15 August 2007

Thelma, the 17-year-old maid who works in the house I'm living in stopped me the other day in the kitchen to tell me she loved the color of my eyes. I came back to the house today and told Thelma I met someone that put my eyes to shame. This woman was on the edge of central park, which is the center of Antigua, begging for change. I was rushing to meet someone when my eyes met hers and i was floored. They were this haunting blue. They struck me after being lost in a sea of brown every day. I walked around the block just to get enough courage to ask her if I could take her photograph. She was so small and delicate i was afraid her hands would break when I took them in mine.

She had this light inside her, like she knew a secret the rest of us didn't. I looked at her and wondered how hundreds of people could pass by her every day and not want to know her story.

She let me sit with her and I couldn't help but feel honored. - Jessie

Open if you dare...

[8-14-07] Marty- Yeah, i feel you on the whole "writing in espanol is ridiculously hard." good luck finding the the upside down question mark on your keyboard or searching on "Google en Espanol." i'm trying to do what you said and enjoy everything, but i find myself just trying to hold on.between the language barrier and the logistics of living in a third world country. there's a whole lot that i didn't even consider, such as:

A) water must never be consumed under any circumstances unless it is purchased in bottle form, which explains why everybody is walking around with cans of Fanta, a soda that looks so toxic i'm surprised the people drinking it do not spontaneously combust once it hits their intestinal tract.

B) everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, comes in baggie form. ketchup, mayonnaise, juice, you go to the grocery store and you're literally in an aisle staring at a bag o' mustard.

C) toilet paper, a product i had previously thought should be used and then flushed down the actual toilet, is to be discarded next to the toilet. i swear, i'm going to get back to the states and i'm going to go to the bathroom and be looking around for the wastebin. "Flush it? Why on EARTH would you flush it " i'll ask with this wide-eyed look in my eyes.

okay, and now for everything that goes without saying. i love you guys, i think of you often, and yes, i'm negotiating with a small guatemalan man named "Juan" for a burro i shall name "Sanchez" ... he wants 20 quetzales, but i've bargained him down to three watermelons and usage of mi bicicleta on wednesdays.

i'll let you guys know how it goes. - Jessie

I'm pretty sure I'm going to get kicked out of the house...

[8-14-07] John - I'm pretty sure I'm going to get kicked out of the house ... and not in a cool "Real World: The San Franscisco edition" type of way, but in a more dramatic, my Guatemalan family standing on the front porch and waving as I walk away type of way ... okay, i have to type extra fast. i have class in 10 minutes and there's a lot to get down.

and the saga continues, day three with me living with the other students.

first we have Keith, the old guy i have described extensively in the Post-a-Card below this one, and today we have a new character, a middle-aged swiss woman named "Theresa" or "Tessa" depending on who you ask and whether or not she's speaking swiss deutch at the time. she has this really short cropped pixie cut and she nods her head so vigorously it appears she know what's going on, but then you ask her something in espanol and she has absolutely no clue.last night, i looked around the table and just completely cracked up.

Deli, the mom of the house, just looked at me. her son, Christian, said "ella es luna" which, and i'm not sure about this one, may literally translate to "she is crazy." but seriously John, you have to understand that I was looking around the table trying to grasp for the words to describe the following scenerio. seated at the table were the following characters:

A) Keith, aka "Old Man River," coughing into a hanky he has pulled from his Member's Only jacket and still trying to speak even as bits of food FLY out of his mouth.

B) Theresa, aka, "the head-bobbin Swede," who looks like she's either picking up on the spanish or having a serious seizure ... i'm still not sure which.

i'm watching the conversation unfold, kieth plowing through spanish, talking really fast so no one notices his mistakes, interrupting anyone else who tries to speak, and then there's tessa just nodding her head. the thought of a romance blossoming between the two popped into my head and i swear, i tried to hold it in, but failed. i just cracked up, laughed out loud even though the entire conversation stopped and every one at the table just stared at me. keith, bits of food still hanging. teresa, head bobbin stopped, looked pretty damn scared. and the mom just kind of staring at me like i was "luna."

i said i needed to study and left.

To take a photo would have been impolite...

Day Two con mi familia...

[8-12-07] John - this morning at breakfast was a little better. i met the dad of the household and i think i may have an ally. he's this kind old man who was so sweet to me just because i tried this weird picante sauce he makes and carries around in a clear glass jar with him ... yeah, totally not creepy AT ALL. anyways, we shared this moment where we both looked over at keith, the 80-year-old who is the other student living en mi casa, and the room was silent. all you could hear was keith smacking away (read previous Post-a-Cards for futher detail on the introduction of "Keith" in my travels) ....

i swear, the noises that his bodily functions make are so loud, it's enough to make you wonder if there's a bunch of mice inside of him running on those little wheels making sure everything is still working after all these years. it's at that exact moment me and the dad just shared this look and there was a silent agreement.

if the smacking got any more louder, we were going to take keith out and shoot him.

so later on, over eggs and tortillas, the dad is describing how this weekend at a wedding they literally chased these chickens down and ripped off their heads before eating them and i look over at "Tessa" (the swiss chick who came to live in the house this week to study espanol) and she is completely white. i fumble through spanish and tell the father quickly that "Tessa" is a vegetarian and he has just described the massive slaughter of a bunch of live animals. he laughs and assures "Tessa" that they ate the animals live after they captured them ... it's then i realized that i may have met the love of my life.

he just happens to be a balding retiree kickin' it in central america.

more to come i'm sure. take care. jessie

Not even going to try to fit this on an actual postcard...

Day one a mi casa...

[8-11-07] John- you're truly the only person who will understand just how ridiculously funny this is. so, i moved in with my family tonight and they tell me dinner is ready and that "the other student will be down shortly." so i'm in this dining room looking at a bowl of what appears to be ramen noodles, bits of tomato, and seasoning.

in walks in the other student.

keith looks about 80 years old, with bright white hair, and i swear to god, wearing a member's only jacket. the guy sits down and starts eating, shoveling the food in his mouth, only to pause so he can cough into what appears to be a hanky he has pulled from the pocket of his jacket. he's from germany, works for a non profit, wants to bone up on his spanish. he's been in classes for three weeks. when i ask him where's he from and what he does for a living in espanol, he looks at me like i'm speaking dutch and says "what?"

i think of telling keith to just give it up, that if he doesn't know spanish by now he's pretty much never gonna get it. but i just looked at him and started convulsing in laughter at how funny the situation was. i almost started crying, after everything that's happened so far, but i decided it was more funny than anything else. i mean, i quit my job to come to central america, where i spend four hours a day wandering the city with a woman in her late 40s who really likes to take me shopping and call it "school" just because she points out the pretty shirts in espanol "ahhhh, mira. esta camisa bonita ..."

but wait, there's more.

i will now dine on a regular basis with an 80 year old who appears to have a serious case of whooping cough. he started laughing too, by the way. i think we've both lost it. so, i miss you, i'm thinking of you too, and i love the stories you're doing. peace. Jessie

14 August 2007

Homes razed to "make Antananarivo more attractive"

[8/13/07 TANA Dear Estus, I went to the Alliance Francaise today to find a French tutor. What I found outside was more interesting. There is a little wood-plank neighborhood just in their front lawn. Some kids saw me walking by and I asked them if they wanted me to take their picture. Much to my surprise, they did, and so did everyone else at the place. I showed them the photos, on the back of my camera, and the jumped up and down, loving it. They are living in about the poorest situation I can think of – this river of sewage flows between them and the street. But they seemed totally cool with everything. I’m sure that’s a naïve, sunny-side perspective, but maybe I need to stop feeling so guilty about having money, and just try to have a good time with people, and help out where I can. Did read something when I got home that kind of burst my bubble: Reuters reports that 137 illegal (they don’t own the land) homes like these, just across the street actually, were bulldozed by the government to “make Antananarivo more attractive for the Indian Ocean games,” which are going on this week. Elyse Razafimahefa was the city council member quoted in the article. If people are still outside tomorrow, I will ask them about it and report back. Good luck with the Spanish at OCCC. --- John]