20 September 2007

Malagasy love them some pro wrestling ...

MAROANTSETRA, MADAGASCAR – Dear John, It’s not very PC to say this, but Madagascar makes me totally feel bi-polar sometimes. Earlier this afternoon, I was so discouraged and lonely – it felt like none of my best-laid plans were coming through. Then I went for a walk at twilight (random sidenote: the French call that “la nuit americainne”) and I couldn’t stop smiling. The people here in Maroantsetra are beautiful, friendly and love WWE wrestling. Random combo, I know. Keep reading.
My walk took me not far from my bungalow, just down a dirt road to the local market, which I can still hear buzzing with chatter and motorcycle engines. When I got to the market, I made eye contact with a big woman who was sitting on the ground in front of rows of dead fish (also on the ground). She was frowning. I said “Hello” in Malagasy, “Hope your day is good.” Her eyes lit up – so fast. Then she flashed an enormous, toothy smile and greeted me in return, nodding her head in thanks. From that simple instand on, I was back on a high. I bought a bundle of bananas (10 cents), three blocks of fresh bread (30 cents) and two bottles of water ($1.50) … all for tomorrow’s car trip, assuming I get to go.
On the walk back, I took in the smells of raw fish, charcoal smoke and earthy rice dust with joy. When I got back here to the bungalow at Hotel Ebene, the owner was watching a WWE wrestling DVD from 2005. In the program, a guy with a flattop, wearing jean shorts and bulging bare chest showing, beat a older dude in a skimpy speedo. We all muttered “oohs” and “uhhs” together as they traded body slams on the tiny TV. I was the only one who laughed at flattop man when he paused the match to pump air into the tongues of his Reebok Pump shoes. I hated watching WWE in the US, but here it was hilarious and wonderful, because it was something we all could understand. Love, John

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