October 26:

This morning started with the leftover pizza, previously described.

It got better, too, in an odd way.

Rivo, Antoine and Sulu came by in a small truck to pick me up.  I was
waiting for them by the gate, where I saw Martin.  I gave him a
mystery book which I won't have time to read.  I think it'll take him
a long time, but I think he's bored anyway.  Very bored.

Turns out there's a lot of books available for reading (in English) in
the compound office.  But he cannot take any of those with him when he
goes, of course.

In the truck, we drive about 10 kilometers out of town.  It's a short
drive, really, passing out of the city, through the suburbs of
shanty town construction to a road which passes little shacks where
people lead around zebus, grow rice and make bricks.  Huge piles of
bricks form things which look like buildings, but are actually just
heaps.  There's space inside the heap, though, for them to build a
fire.  They maintain a smoky fire, inside, for long enough to back the
bricks, hardening them.

We progress through neighborhoods of poor people walking from place to
place, and on to the warehouse.  Our way is blocked by people bowling
in the street (or the dirt path which passes for one).  Small balls,
no pins, it resembles boccie more than ten pins.  When a bowler hits an
in-place ball, the owner of the balls knocked out thumps the bowler's
fist with his own, congratulating his opponent.

So past them, and into the warehouse, which is really about 15
containers with a roof over the whole lot.  The roof is ON the
containers.  They have become architecture.  You cannot move the
containers any more.  Some contain medicine, some gurneys and such,
some empty boxes, and one has all of Doug and Ramona Hall's computers.

We pick out seven, keeping the numbered screens and keyboards and
chassis and mice all together (Mouse #17 with Keyboard #17, Case #17
and Monitor #17, and Mouse #21 with Keyboard #21, Case #21 and Monitor
#21, etc).  Into the truck, we then pile (Antoine in the back with the
machines) and drive back through the bowlers, with whom we are
becoming friendly.  A few blocks away is a training center, and there
we disembark the computers on the porch.  There are puppies of three
types, here.  Two different breeds of dogs and one breed of human.
The humans are very cute, and so are the dogs.  They are all
interested in us when we're in the car, and keep their distance once
we get out.

The plants here are amazing.  I would like to get some pictures for
Ma, but haven't brought my camera.

We go back and, passing through the bowlers, get eight more.  We
further annoy the bowlers with our second load, and repeat the whole
process again with our third and last.  Total, about twenty-three
computers.  Now we take them inside.  Or rather that's the plan, but
we cannot, since we're waiting for a key.  We wait two hours.


On the porch.

Around 12:30 Olivier (a doctor who is the head of the family planning
part of SALFA, and has been the chief doctor at the nearby clinic in
past) head out in search of a decent restaurant.  There isn't one.
Instead we stop at a place with pretty good food, and lots of flies.

The flies aren't limited to the restaurants, however.  Open air
markets are all around us as we walk there and back.  Good looking
meat hangs in the openings of ramshackle shops -- it would act as a
compelling self-salesman if not for the flies, which are numerous and
very interested in the meat.  There are so many flies that the humans
have long since given up shooing them away.  The flies have won, and
have the run of the place.

Vegetables, fish, pork, cuts of zebu (essentially beef), sausages and
ground meat.  All gorgeous.  In a town with no refrigeration, few
places for people to wash their hands after going to the squat toilet,
and ten times as many flies as people.  This would take a while to get
used to.

We are hungry, though, and that's a great helper for tolerance.  The
restaurant we chose has a fly to human ratio is only two or three to
one, so we sit down.  Soon we are eating a traditional Malagasy meal.
It's good, but I'm eating fearfully.

Let's stop for a moment and look at what's on my plate.  
      Every family has their own seed.  So rice varies from place to
      place in town because some are rounder than others, longer,
      different tasting.
      Pork.  Very, VERY fatty.  Clearly there either for fat and
      energy, and these are a thin people, so I think that's the
      reason, or, you might surmise, for flavor.  There's not much
      meat on this meat.  Lots of fat, but little meat.
  Casaba leaf.
      Ground up.  Mashed up.  Have you had saag paneer or palak paneer
      in an Indian restaurant?  Of course you have, and if you haven't
      shame on you.  Go eat some and come back.  Remove the paneer and
      replace the spinach with casaba leaf, and there you have it.
Very yummy.  Really, very yummy.  And I'm afraid of it.

Reasonably so, it turns out, since I have a mild case of the runs for
three days afterward.

Doctor Olivier is a very good sort of fellow.  Olivier is his first
name -- Malagasy last names are a nightmare for Europeans: Very, VERY
long.  But the good doctor is running the giving the computers to the
various parts of the organization project and it's not what he does.
What he does is contraception, and I'm sure he's anxious to get back
to his work.  This project will cost him more than a week, and through
it all he remains a patient, indulgent host.

Things are better, birth-wise, now than in 1989.  The CIA World
Fact-Book said births were, on average, 6.8 or so per family in 1989
(I'm hazy on what I saw -- I'll get you specifics later... maybe) and
now in 2005, the CIA reports 5.3 children per couple.  Very good work,
doctor Olivier!  But that's not really his aim.  Overcrowding is not a
problem here, yet, and rather than reduce the number of births,
Olivier aims to get people here to space them out a little.  This
improves infant survival as well as mother survival.  Six births in
five years can kill a woman more effectively than six in ten.

When we return, we sit for a while longer, then when the key arrives,
much work is done by the wife of the director (she's very nice) and
the people with her to set up attractive tables with extraordinarily
long tablecloths.  Antoine, Olivier and I then set up the machines.
For running.  All of them.  The boxes are fine, but the keyboards are
a pain, and the monitors, due to their weight, are murder.  Antoine,
who works at the warehouse, is a trooper in this.  Wiry but strong,
he lugs monitors back and forth, and lasts longer than me before
collapsing in a heap, all the while wearing a dark blue windbreaker
labeled, in English, "Event Staff".

I kid you not.

I'm exhausted, so I am taken back to MELCAM.  I still need to take my
malaria pill with food, though, so I wind up walking to the store (my
first time unescorted, and I'm afraid I'll get lost, but I don't) to
get some bread and cheese -- the store seems not to sell eggs, which
either makes no sense or makes a lot of sense for a country where
EVERYONE has a chicken.  I literally run back to return before dark,
because without landmarks, I will certainly not be able to find my way

When I arrive, Honorine has food waiting for me.  The trip was

Dinner is spaghetti, and it's darn good.