October 25:

Honorine's pizza's pretty darn good, let me assure you.  But hang on,
I'll get there.

The morning started with a bananas and tea.  Honorine brings an open
bottle (but full) of water to the table and I drink that, like I have
been doing.  I also drink her tea.  Only that just means I drink the
hot water that she has prepared for tea, since I'm not supposed to
have caffeine with my malaria pills.  I'd wait to take it with lunch,
but, groggy me, when I pulled one out of the box I immediately popped
it into my mouth.  I am becoming more robotic as I grow older.  So I
had to get some food in right away, since you're supposed to take the
pills with a meal.

I don't know the area here.  I've walked back from SALFA, once, but
not to SALFA, and feel lost.  This is because the old city, that is,
the part I am living in, is on a hill and started being built when
the king and later the queen built houses up here.  These two factors
make navigation impossible.  1. To move around on hills, you need
switchbacks.  2. First, people built close to the royalty, then close
to those first builders, and so on, and so on, and so the roads
radiate out from the royalty and make concentric ovals around
them.  It's way worse than Boston.

The roads are straighter when you get down to the flatlands, but
looking at them from up here, they look daunting, too.

I went out for a walk to just get the hang of the immediate area
around the compound (more on the compound later), and went down a way
I hadn't before and up and around, found familiar landmarks and was
headed back to the compound when someone yelled something at me from a
car.  Hey, I live in Chicago, so I knew exactly what to do.  Become
deaf and keep walking, preferably in the way the car came from as
opposed to the way it was heading to.  But a woman flagged me with a
smile and I went back to the car.  Sulu, one of the folk from SALFA
was driving.  "Paul?"  Ahah!  I got in and he took me to SALFA.  Sans
laptop, sans camera.  Oops.  I missed that later.

I was earlier than usual.  It was about 8am, and the MIS folk weren't
there.  That's Rivo and Anatole, by the way.  More on them in a while.

Instead people were assembling in the first floor benches.  There were
bibles and hymnals set out.  While I tried to leave them in peace (I
don't belong there), Lanto waved me to the seat next to him.  I have
to tell you that it was like the cliche African experience: These
people can really sing.  Even with stray notes, these amateurs built
harmonies into the music, with was 12 note western scale but sounded
African, somehow, making the whole thing lovely.  I will have a
recording available soon.

Lanto introduced me and asked me to speak, at which point I
apologized for my horrid French, thanked them for letting me come,
complimented their singing, encouraged them to approach me with any
computer need, told them I was their servant, then got teary.  Lanto
translated for me for all this, hopefully not the last bit.

People with faith.  They have something I don't have and I don't want
to have.  But I envy them.

At the end of the service, everyone got up and circled around shaking
hands and greeting each other.  Shaking hands is big here.  HUGE.
Physical contact in general, but shaking hands in specific.  You do it
again and again.  Whenever you meet, at good points in a conversation,
you do it over and over.  It's great.

I was immediately approached by a fellow in the TB/HIV project.
They're currently only working on TB.  HIV will come when there's more
money for it, I expect.  Anyway, he had a pair of laptops.  One
worked, and the other behaved strangely -- no video and would only
turn off for a split second, then on again whether you wanted it on or
not.  I spent two hours disassembling, then reassembling it to see if
the video connector was loose.

First, allow me to say for the record how much I hate plastic
computers.  "I hate them a lot."  You never know how to disassemble
them.  Screws are easy and obvious, but snaps and tabs and trim and
all that crap, you never know whether to just pull harder.  Things
break, as was seen from the two other times it was taken apart (for
previous problems).  Numerous scars on this machine and a lot of
missing/wrong screws.

Second, laptops.  They just suck.  If you can live with a desktop, for
goodness sake, take that.  So much easier to service.

Anyhow, as I thought, I could do nothing for it.  It's possible it's a
particular part.  The place where the video cable plugs in is the same
little circuit board which has the on/off button.  It might be that
little board.  I'll make some calls, later in the week.

Then the guys in the statistics department wanted help with SPSS.
Turns out what they really needed was a network ODBC connection for
Access on two machines.  Then to set SPSS to read an Access file or
local ODBC alias.  I'd have a little bit of trouble with that if the
machine's help functions were in ENGLISH.  As is, I'm gonna have to
get back to him on that.

In between those things, I had lunch with Lanto.  A VERY good lunch.
He gave me a good tour of the area in between the restaurant and
SALFA, and taught me some history for the area.  More on Malagasy food
later.  (Here's a preview: it's good.) 

But while I was working on ODBC, the DSL arrived.  A MIRACLE.  We
worked on IP schemes and such and got it up.  (English speakers can
still be helpful in such situations because the context is so
limiting: I mostly said things like "The netmask.  Not possible.
Change this.")  Now they have a real Internet connection.  It's too
slow, though.  They need 1mbit or so, and they have a 128k line.  I'm
tempted to donate the difference and get them the real deal.

Now the fact that I didn't have my computer came into play.  Couldn't
send the stuff I'd written, or update the website.  Didn't have time,
anyhow.  It was 5:15 and people in SALFA work from 8:30 to 4:30, or
8:00 to 4:30 depending on whether you count morning religious

Walked home with Rivo.  He showed me his home, which is along the
way.  He has some darn fine looking chickens, and three daughters.
One is an infant, but the other two are clearly very pretty girls.
His wife is both nice and attractive, as well.

But the gap between the rich and the non-rich here is clear and
wide.  He showed me his, I showed him mine.  I felt bad about it --
It's like night a day.  He lives in a building which is nice on the
outside, but inside, it's small -- very low ceilings, in particular --
and what's inside seems like things which were available, rather than
things well suited.  Exactly what you'd expect where there's little
hard currency.

Honorine fed me her famous pizza.  A tiny one, because she knows now
that I eat less than she prepares.  She showed me her next larger pan
-- that would have been huge.  So this worked out well.  I had half
her pizza and some papaya for dinner, and the rest of the pizza for
breakfast the next day.

Darn good pizza.

A fellow I met this morning, Martin, came by to chat and work on his
English.  He is a teacher for bee-keeping in a town south of here, and
is working on a pamphlet in Malagasy on bee keeping.  One person
tending bees can expect 10kg of honey from seven hives.  That turns
out to be almost $100 in hard currency for the year.  That's a lot,
around here.

I walked him home after our chat.  He's staying in the same compound,
but even here there are haves and have-nots: he lives in one room,
with a mosquito net.  We have been chatting for an hour, in the
sitting-room of my apartment, which also has two bedrooms, a bathroom,
a kitchen and a patio with a magnificent view.