10 August 2007

They're just "so African"

[8/01/07 Nosy Be, Madagascar – Dear Heath, After a night landing at the airport here, we zipped down a curvy road in Walter’s Toyota truck, the windows down so we could smell the ylang-ylang plantations that give Nosy Be the nickname, “The Perfumed Island.” I’m really not a big fan of strong smells, and the car ride was making me nauseous. I quickly became more nauseous at Walter’s commentary on the drive. Walter is Canadian, and is kind of a like a cartoon character: his mustache bobs up and down when he talks, he answers every question “No No No” or “Yes Yes Yes” or “Oui Oui Oui,” even though he doesn’t speak French. And he wears a fanny pack and large glasses that slide down his nose. I found him quite entertaining until he started talking about the locals, who he feels have blocked a hotel/golf course construction project of his because they are lazy. “It’s not my way, I’m Canadian,” he said, “but if you give the people here – the Sakalava – a choice, they would sit on their asses on the porch all day. They’re just so African, you know? I have a Sakalava girlfriend, so it’s OK … But they’re just so lazy.” I was completely disgusted. It makes me wonder how we can notice/celebrate differences in people without sliding into vulgar, blatant racism.
Hope camp is going well for you. – John]

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