October 30:

Ramona is better, and that's a very good thing.  I'm also better,
having gotten over my major diarrhea and queasy stomach, but I'm not
up to going to Church with Doug and Ramona, for a few reasons, the
main one being that the service is three hours long, and I just know
I'll have an urgent need in the middle of it.

The music, they tell me, was beautiful.  Three hours sailed by.  I
have trouble imagining that, but as computer person, I get bored...

When Doug and Ramona were done, they came by to fetch me (which was
nice of them) with Lanto driving (which was VERY nice of him -- he has
a family and it's Sunday, after all).  We go to a restaurant which has
music, and French food.

When I eat, I want to hear the people I'm eating with.  I don't know
about you, maybe you eat with people you don't want to hear.  On one
hand, my heart goes out to you, but on another, we'll you're dealing,
and that's good.

The music was OK, mostly -- no real complaints, there -- but I'm in
Madagascar, and I'm having such trouble getting Malagasy food.  Either
the places are unsanitary, or they're French, with a couple of
signature Malagasy dishes on the menu.  I'm thinking it's like going
to an Italian restaurant, and ordering the burger -- that is, it's
cliche Malagasy food, not a real representation of the diversity of
the food here, and on the menu for people (like me) who think the
French can stuff their cream sauces where the sun doesn't shine.

Sorry, France, I hear you have good cheese, I'm just frustrated at
both my own ignorance: "Is this ALL the Malagasy eat?  Rice with zebu
and casaba leaves?  Cause that's all I ever see on these fru-fru
French restaurant menus."

So I overeat.  Again.  Man, I gotta start walking to SALFA to lose a
pound or so.  The hills here will help my gut.  Hopefully the long
drives will be over soon, for me, and I can be more active.

We see what's left of the Royal Palace.  The queen was here until the
French blew up part of it.  They fought a British-trained, but badly
equipped Malagasy army, and beat them over the course of several
battles, culminating in the one here at Antananarivo, where, yep, they
targeted the palace, and they had more/better cannon, so the Malagasy
capitulated, resulting in the banishment of the queen.  

Which is not to say the Malagasy had no cannon at all, no, they had
British cannon -- leftovers from Waterloo, according to our guide.
You see, the island had been in shared custody of France and England
earlier, as a waypoint for the spice trade.  After England got control
of the Suez canal (engineered by the French Fernand de Lesseps), they
lost interest in Madagascar and let the French take over.  The
Malagasy didn't fancy getting taken over so much, hence the battles
and banishment and such.

The palace had been turned into a museum by the French, and had been
one until the present day.  Well, it's more of a monument than a
museum, now, but they still charge admission, which is certainly right
and proper.  The palace burned down, with a vast amount of Malagasy
history in the form of artifacts and documents inside in the early
1990's.  They're using the gate fee to rebuild parts of it, with the
aim to rebuild the whole.  That job gets more and more daunting as the
stone skeleton which remains twists, bends and falls, over time.
The cyclones which Madagascar experiences aren't helping.

Some of the contents of the palace/museum are in the prime-minister's
palace 200 meters away.  That's also been turned into a museum and is
actually a reconstruction -- it burned earlier, but was reconstructed
enough to accept artifacts... well, here's a story.

Lanto was at home with his family, and heard on the radio that the
palace was on fire.  That was about 6:30pm.  He, like many Malagasy
ran to the site to try to help.  They battered down the front door,
rushed inside (some, like Lanto, with water soaked clothes to keep
cool and flame-resistant) and pulled out ANYTHING that they could.
They did that for an hour or so, when it got too hot inside to get
anything else.

As we walk through the small exhibit of artifacts in the presidential
palace museum, Lanto is a little disappointed: "There's nothing on
view which I pulled out." he explains.  I'm disappointed, too.  That
would have been helpful for me to imagine the scene.  People sobbing
as they watched their history -- poorly documented as it is, with not
even definitive floor plans for the palace and grounds on record --
burn away.

Lanto then takes us to see both his current house, which is small but
has a great location for him at work, and to the site of his new
house, currently under construction, out in the boonies.  He'll have a
one hour commute each way to get to work.  I'm horrified that he'll
have all that car time and so much less family time.  But the house
(which looks like it'll be very nice) is on land adjacent to his
wife's family's land, so several relatives live in close proximity,
and it'll be good for the kids and wife.  He will see less of them by
as much as two hours a day, though.

The house is near a graveyard -- or rather a crypt city.  Malagasy
typically bury their dead, but in recent times, there's been a trend
toward crypts.  About four feet high by six foot square, these hold a
family's bodies.  At intervals, they exhume bodies and rewrap them in
new shrouds.

Anyway, it's shads of poltergeist here, because Lanto's way home can
feature a shortcut through the cemetery.  We do take that path, and
wind our way through the dead on a dirt road, before getting back to
pavement, then civilization, then Tana.