We woke early and hopped into a taxi brousse. The driver played a tape with a mix of Malagasy and French songs, before the likes of Whitney Houston and Elton John took over. We stopped overnight in Andasibe and squeezed in a night walk in the rainforest where we saw some amazing lemurs. Eventually, we arrived in Mahanoro in time for dinner The next day and headed to the local restaurant ‘J’adore’. After a bite to eat, we joined in with some karaoke and had some good dance offs with locals. One of my favourite moments so far was when Dr. Alain took the mic to blast out a French song. He told us that we we good dancers but I think he was just being polite.
The place we are staying in is called Tropicana. The sign at the entrance has a fantastic spelling mistake which describes it as a ‘Bungalove’ rather than a bungalow.
The next day, after a classic Malagasy breakfast (baguettes that disintegrate when you touch them), we left to meet the head of medicine for Mahanoro. Dr. Alain presented our plans in an attempt to win him over. With so many introductions on this trip, we have learnt that meetings seem to follow the same pattern. They begin with 10 minutes of stern faced interrogation before a critical moment when we deemed to have good intentions and are trustworthy. After this moment, there’s an eruption of excitement and we are suddenly asked to come and meet yet more people. We were taken to meet the head of education for the area and went through exactly the same process with him.
The next day, we met with the headteacher of the school in Mahanoro that we hoped to test. After briefly testing our intentions, she summoned 50 children to line up outside her
office. They greeted us with a a group ‘bonjour’ and a round of applause. What a privilege. The head of education explained what we needed – a poo sample and a wee sample. The explanation was given in a fantastically over-the-top way, with brilliant actions to accompany his words. The children found this absolutely hilarious. They must think that we foreigners are very odd, coming to Madagascar to collect these samples from them! We left sample pots with the children and they filed away back to their classes in an impressively ordered way.
I had shivers soaring through my body and struggled around the market in an attempt to help buy some vital things for our research. By the time we made it back, I was exhausted and had a pretty high temperature. I woke the next day determined to go to the school with the boys and help with day one of the research. It quickly became apparent that I was fooling myself and reality hit. It was really hard waving goodbye to the boys knowing that I’d be completely missing out on a day of research but a horrendous day in bed told me that it was the right thing to do. They returned and looked after me really well, very grateful to have them!
Fortunately back to good health today and ready to get stuck into work. Due to leave Mahanoro tomorrow and head into the extremely isolated Marolambo district for the bulk of the research. Can’t wait!