11-11 - France Today, while checking out at the Shop Rite, I bumped into (literally) an older gentleman from Europe who has lived in Madagascar for many years. We walked out together, and as we walked, I asked him about the relationship with France. The people around me are missionaries, and don't talk politics, but this man was under no such constraints. He'd had a business where he owned a fleet of cars. They were French. He'd had a particular part go out on a large number of them. He'd ordered the part from France. After waiting a year, and being told of lack of inventory, over and over again, he began to look in other African countries. The part went out routinely in the older cars, after all. They must have them. What he found was no surprise - they were in stock in other countries. They were immediately available. "Ship them to me. I will pay the shipping. Just send them." and he was told "I'm sorry. We don't ship to Madagascar. You must get them from France." It's a mercantilist system, essentially. Whether it's car parts or phone calls, everything goes through the mother country, and that way the mother country always gets a cut. "Have you watched the television, here?" He asks. "The French ambassador is always on the television. Whenever anything happens, the French ambassador is there. Anything national. They scurry up and sidle in, they get on camera, they get in front. They're always making sure people understand that France is involved. The business here are mostly French, the politicians don't want to cause trouble with the old mother country, and the French make sure very little changes." "I had to wait two years for those parts. Two years." This store I've been shopping in is the place for foreigners. It's expensive, but it has all the nice packaged goods you'd find in the European aisle of your local upscale supermarket. They have a lot of soft cheese in wrapped packages, for instance, perfect for those of us fearful of open things where the ever-present Malagasy flies or sanitation issues might come to bear. Mocking Cow cheese is 3190 Ariary, which is about $1.60, or you can get the blue cheese variety, for $2.75. (The blue cheese version is better because it has all the imported, wrapped up goodness you want in a soft cheese but with the added feature of some actual flavor. I honestly think that's worth an extra buck.) You see french bread loaves everywhere, but here they are individually wrapped. My eyes are drawn, however, to the soap aisle, where food sanitation is not an issue. (We don't eat our soap, do we?) Here, you can buy unwrapped, unlabeled, third-world looking soap. I may do just that. I think Rene'll love it. I catch a ride to work, this morning, so I can bring my laptop. This allows me to upgrade some software, so I can load Korean sound files onto my IPOD Shuffle. I'm gonna learn some Korean. I hope. There are three people surfing in Rivo's office. They don't leave all day. It's like a drug. The connection, especially as they share it, is terribly slow, but they don't seem to mind. It's all fast and new to them. It bothers me, though, as I try to pull files. When I run big transfers, I know that they can't really function, because I am using ALL the bandwidth. But they don't grumble. We turn up the new network, and it goes without a hitch. Hopefully, no one will even notice that it's new -- they'll just complain about problems less or not at all. It's been nagging at me how I have accomplished very little here. Lanto has pointed out that I've evaluated the situation here. He's right. That took very little time, frankly. I'll do a write up over the weekend, which will make me feel better because it's something in hand. But it's not much of an accomplishment. Much better today was a class on websites. I had about eight students. It went very well. I only touched on image manipulation and HTML today -- that's for next week. Today, instead, we looked at good sites, and SALFA's, and I pointed out how each of the good sites kept on target, focusing the pictures and message at who they expected to look at their site. The ASPCA.ORG site featured prominently, as I showed them the dogs labeled: Donate Now! Tonight, I came into my apartment and tried the light-switch. Power was out, so I lit a candle and waited it out. Pat knocked on the door and was amused to find me sitting in the dark. "The power never went out tonight!" Pat beams. Oh, yeah, I recall, that particular light switch never worked.