October 22, 23, and 24:

Rene (my father) was very willing to drive me to the International
Terminal or at least to O'Hare in general, but the traffic was
horrendous.  So instead he dropped me downtown at the blue line, and I
took the train to the airport.  The train ride went OK, as did the
walk from the CTA, the O'Hare toy train ride, and the final hike to
the international terminal.

The lines were absurd.  Very long.  Competition for position in line.
People are not happy about the lines, and try to cut ahead.  The
ticketing line was worse than security, but not by much.

The plane was delayed for some medical reason.  They came directly to
my seat and asked me to get up.  Checking around the base of the seat.
They didn't find anything.  I assume they were looking for a lost
inhaler or some-such, but we never found out.  They made up the lost
time, and landed fine and on time but only on the tarmac.  To get to
the gate required a bus, and the process took longer than I would have
thought.  Luck would have it that any rushing was unnecessary.  My
connecting flight to Madagascar was delay by an hour -- time which we
did not make up, and so getting through customs, meaning buying a
visa, filling in forms and saying I had nothing to declare brought us
only to 1am or so.

Note the "nothing to declare" part.  That'll get interesting in a
minute or so.  Some of you are probably already cringing.

I have made two real mistakes on this trip, so far.  The first was
assuming that malaria was in the bush, not downtown.  The bathroom in
the airport (the objective of my mad dash through customs) was
swarming with mosquitoes.

It's 7:32 PM, and I hear a call to prayer or other Islamic cantor
(wrong word, I know) out my window.  Not sure if it's from a mosque or
just somebody's stereo.  I guess I'll know at 7:32 tomorrow.

So about the pills.  I'm two days behind in taking them.  Should
have started them in Chicago.  "Take two days before entering infested
area."  OK, full disclosure.  I only have 30 days supply.  I need to
take them seven days after I get home, and I wanted to believe that
I'd only need them for a fragment of the trip, mostly because I didn't
want to go and get MORE.  Wrong, Bucko.  

As I type this, I spot a little bugger in my room.  Actually, she's
really quite large.  I'm squishing the life out of her.  (Just
checking the spot she made on the wall to see if there's any of my
life in her... Looks like not.)

I have not yet prepared a bug killer outfit with Rene's magic bug-death
juice.  This because A. I'd have to do all my long sleeve shirts,
B. I'm exhausted.  During the day, today, anyhow.  Took a noon nap and
am fighting going to bed now to get onto a regular schedule.  I'll
sleep around 10.

It gets dark, here, for real.  Less lights and time zone magic mean
that at 6:30 it's dark and at 1am it's pitch black.  The power goes
out at 5:30 in some sections of the city for upwards of an hour.  The
power company has troubles.  Financial, technical, or political, I
don't know, but the blackouts are every day.  There are none in the
older part of the city, though, where the palace is.  (More on the
queen and her architecture later.)  I suspect that SALFA, in the
no-blackout zone, is benefiting from the proximity of both the palace
and the presidential manor -- a big, white house.

OK, mistake number two.  Declaring on entry (I'm realizing in
hindsight), means not having to pay taxes on what you have when you
LEAVE.  I have a lot of cash and a lot of tech junk.  I brought it in
legitimately, and will leave with it.  Will I have to pay fines?  I
may need the help of my hosts to get out of this one.

The way it happened was this: I saw a long line at the declaration
table, and went to the nothing to declare guy whom I asked "What do
you declare?  How would I know if I have something to declare?"  After
a moment's pause to think, he just waved me through.  Now I think that
he was just not sure what I was saying and didn't want to deal with
English, and that I may be a little screwed.  We shall see.  Better
that than malaria.  I am taking my pills now, every morning, like
clockwork, with breakfast.

Breakfast, like lunch and dinner, is made by the cook in this palace,
and she's very good.  I am having trouble convincing her of two
things: 1. This, Honorine, is too much food.  2. Honorine, can you
make me Malagasy food, please?  Just whatever YOU have for dinner.  I
can eat American food anywhere in America.  (Though I admit her food
is better than most in America.)

She assures me what she's having for dinner tomorrow is pizza.