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

"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.