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with baby lemur in ampijora, madagascar

JOURNAL ENTRY 12/22/99:

We arrived here after dark, being dropped off on an abandoned road in the black, unlit night by the taxi-brousse, or bush taxi, which we had climbed aboard earlier that day in Mahajanga (land of healing).

A bush taxi is a decrepid pick–up truck with a few benches built into the back bed, on which we sat, sharing the tight space with 17 local people. There is a rickety, metal and wood roof overhead, and a tarp on top to which all the supplies and our baggage is piled and tied 5´ high.

Supplies include live chickens, spare tires, large bags of rice.

Our ride was about 5 hours of holding on to the makeshift roof, so as not to slide into the lap of the people between whom we were sandwiched, whenever the driver took sharp turns at high speeds. We feel lucky to have survived, considering he did this often. Along the ride, we had nothing to do but hold on, and listen to the locals talk nonstop in highly animated Malagasy language. They took turns with the monologue, both women and men speaking with equal strength and conviction of voice. They laughed hearitly.

Their gazing and staring eyes rarely left Kris and I. They may have been questioning our strangeness. our whiteness. our sunglasses. sunburned pink skin. cameras.

The sun set in the spaces between the wooden slats which held us in, as we bumped down the center of the road. Heads hitting ceiling on rough bumps. Asses slamming back down on hard benches. Smells of close quarters, of smoke, burned rubber and sweaty, unbathed bodies.

Closeness was something we adjusted to eventually, necessarily. A closeness of skin sticking to strangers' skin, which it seems Westerners rarely encounter.

Camping in Resereve Forestiere (a national park) Ampijoroa, Madascar, with baby lemur who was taken in by Gerardo.


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