10 August 2007

"No bikini ... NO BIKINI !!!"

[7/29/07 Dear Christian Groth, When the Sakalava people cleanse the bones of their kings, they do so in the strict privacy of a temple. Being a nosey journalist, I had to try to see the ceremony first-hand. There are many rules for would-be entrants to the temple, the most bizarre of which is that you can’t wear underwear underneath the sarong that’s wrapped around your waist (another requirement). Christian, the translator I had hired for the day, knew I wasn’t following that rule, since I tied the sarong around my shorts after my taxi pulled up to the entrance of the dusty ceremonial grounds. Christian lives about 200 yards from the site of this ceremony, but never attended until this year – and then only because I paid him. He believes the ancestors will curse people for breaking their rules, or fady. So, out of genuine fear for my safety from commando-minded spirits, he tugged on the sleeve of my shirt and pleaded with me not to try to talk my way in to the temple. “You cannot have undarageraments,” he said, his accent thick enough that I didn’t understand. A moment of silence passed. Christian reformulated his thought. “No bikini, NO BIKINI!” he said. “Who’s going to check?” I said. “No bikini!” he repeated. I tried to get in anyway, shorts and all. I failed. Maybe the ancestors here have x-ray vision. Superman kings or something. -- SUTTER]

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