Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 5: October 10, 2011

Didn’t go to Mantadia National Park today with the group, which is sad. It may mean that I don’t get to see diademed sifakas. But it’s one and a half hours each way by bus and includes steep, slippery slopes, and I am sore. I want to keep my feet up, ice my knees, and let my body un-shock itself from yesterday's fall. I had weird leg cramps last night, and I’m still a little freaked out. 

[I was able to go to Mantadia at the end of the trip and saw many diademeds, so it worked out okay. I also saw them at Lemur Island, also toward the end of the trip. I took this photo there.]

Diademed Sifaka at Lemur Island, Madagascar

It’s not shabby spending the day at the lodge. I’m sitting on the porch and it’s a gorgeous mild spring day (in October!), and I’ve got a lovely view. There is a bottlebrush tree right in front of me, and birds keep stopping by. 

Vakona Lodge
The first part is early afternoon with a light rain;
the second is just before dinner.

I may be the only guest at the lodge not out and about and having adventures. I can hear noises of people maintaining the place—cleaning, trimming trees, moving tables in the restaurant.

I could not begin to imagine the lives of the people who work here. Well, maybe I could begin to, but not much past that. The people who work here are well-off, I guess, by Malagasy standards, just by having jobs. Ninety percent of people in Madagascar live on less that $2/day (and many a lot less than that), and I believe that's what $2 would buy in the US, not here.

We have passed so much poverty on our drives. We saw one man clearing a rice paddy patch. He was up to his waist in water, and he was carrying mud out of the main area (maybe 20 feet by 40 feet) and making a wall of it around the perimeter. And he was doing this handful by persistent handful. Gather the mud here, carry it there. Gather the mud here, carry it there. Gather the mud here, carry it there. A million times. Sisyphus had nothing on him!

What a difference an accident of birth makes. I travel, see shows, have a nice home, eat well, and generally have a comfortable standard of living. Yes, I’ve worked hard—but not as hard as the guy in the rice paddy!

I wonder how many gay people there are in Madagascar. Math would suggest that there are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions. How many get to love who they want to love? How do they find each other? How dangerous are their lives?

Yes, I was very lucky to be born when and where I was.

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