Alert and prepared

The trip to Madagascar seemed endless: 7 hours to Paris and then nearly 11 hours to Tana. I slept a bit but mostly killed the time watching one movie after another, including such old ones as Barry Lyndon, with its beautiful musical score, the Birds, One flew over the cuckoo’s nest and a few newer ones that I have already forgotten (‘niemandalletjes’ we call those in Dutch).

This time I traveled with a facemask, the kind that would keep me from inhaling infected droplets from coughers and sneezers around me. There was such a gentleman, one row and three seats away from me. He was one of these people that, once starting to sneeze, couldn’t stop.  I felt for him because people cast him annoyed glances. I simply pressed my mask a little more tightly on my face. But these masks are not very comfortable and they fog up my glasses, so I didn’t keep it on all the time.

And now, after this interminable trip over the entire continent of Africa, I have arrived in Madagascar with a sore throat. So much for the mask, or was it the sneezing woman in front of me when I tried to follow the opaque and chaotic entry formalities at the airport. I didn’t keep my mask on; afraid I would be whisked away by the white coats that were everywhere. Madagascar is clearly prepared for the arrival of Ebola: everyone had to fill in a special health form indicating where we sat in the plane, whether we had had any fever recently, which countries we had visited, and where we would be staying. That way, I suppose, they can trace people if Ebola or SARS slipped in among us.

As we poured into the arrivals hall each person’s temperature was taken with a small gadget that looked like a gun. They pointed it at our temples, producing an instant reading.  I passed. The next stop was an examination of our health form and only then came the police formalities of visas and stamps – one has to clear the health hurdles before being admitted.  Madagascar is of course a little easier to defend as the borders are clear: ports or airports, none of this porous border business of West Africa.

I arrived at the hotel after midnight, tired beyond tired, and tumbled into a restless sleep.  The next morning I discovered where I was. The hotel is beautiful, with lots of tropical wood (floors, furniture, sculptures) and looks out over what are essentially marshes that have been transformed into a water front. It radiates peace and tranquility, attracting birds that sing lustily and hide in the marshes. For a while I watched people in the distance, partially immersed in water, cultivating something. Others were harvesting something from wild bushes on the dry ground. I had so many questions which still remain unanswered.

I visited the MSH office briefly, got my marching orders for the weekend and inspected the room where we will have a workshop next week. I think Madagascar is the only place where I have held a workshop in a functioning restaurant. It is not without challenges. We will be in a restaurant again next week. The hotel manager didn’t seem fazed to move bulky furniture and hang up curtains to shield us from the restaurant’s clientele. I am a little more relaxed about such things than I was in the past. Que sera, sera!

Back at the hotel at took care of such basics as a simcard, money, water, honey and limes. I will give my throat the same treatment as in Burkina. Hopefully this time it will not evolve into laryngitis, bronchitis and pneumonia. I was very rested before I undertook the trip and my immune system should be stronger than last time. Fingers crossed.

1 Response to “Alert and prepared”

  1. 1 sietske van den broek September 13, 2014 at 3:28 am

    fingers crossed indeed. and succes in your restaurant. not only the noise of the people who are eating there but also the smell of the dishes!

    Sietske Bon van den Broek Stommeerweg 131 1431 EV Aalsmeer tel: 00 31 (0) 297-32 12 03 mob: 00 31 (0) 6 25 05 88 70

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