Birthday in Africa

Tamatave, Madagascar
March 28, 2001

Tonite’s my birthday. I’m turning 45 in no man’s land, Africa. Cheuk and David get me a piece of French pastry for 50,000 Madagascar francs. I keep the receipt for souvenir.

Szu celebrating Kwoi's birthday
Szu celebrating Kwoi’s birthday

It’s been a long day. Cheuk hits the sack leaving us two lounge lizards to fend for ourselves. David attracts the local meat like flies to Soupe chinoise. Three brown sugars bark up our tree for drinks and more. Fat Hana sits herself and beer in my lap. Her “Halle Berry” lookalike friend is licking her lips like a centre fold gal while pulling her G-string so high it must be scraping her stomach wall. Her other friend Black Vanilla so obviously lactating with her 2-inch nipples is literally blinding young David’s virgin eyes.

My limited high school French is barely good enough to get their bargain basement offer of $20 Canadian for a foursome. David wanted to run upstairs to wake Cheuk up to translate. I just wanna get this mama off my lap so I can get to bed by myself. There are some souvenirs that you just don’t want to bring home. I should have clued into the warning signs when we were given toilet kits supplied with US Aid condoms in our rooms.

After being awaken by the downpour this morning, I thought I was back in Israel again. It takes the cameras an hour to de-fog in this humidity after sitting in air con all night. This has become a daily ritual. The streets are flooded from the rain due to bad drainage. Even though the rain has stopped, it’s slow going with the pousse pousse that gets stuck in potholes hidden by the deep puddles.

We finally make it to Epicerie Liu on Boulevard Joffre. Mr. Liu’s little general store sells everyday sundries and supplies but mostly booze and cigarettes. It’s also a hangout where many of the unemployed riff raffs gather to get tanked. I think he even makes and sells his own moonshine. I film a customer that came in with empties and got them filled. We take Mr. Liu to a nearby park for an interview.

Mr. Liu had a lot to say about Madagascar, past and present. I was a bit confused by his regrets of being trapped in this poverty stricken Third World but yet he has and was able to send his children to universities overseas in cosmopolitan French cultural centres of Montreal and Paris where they have settled. So why is he still here?

We’re doing lunch today at Hotel Le Joffre for a change of pace. It’s apparently some kind of national holiday. I’ve never seen the streets booming since I’ve been here, but it feels like a ghost town today and we are sitting on this hotel veranda watching the world standing still… frozen in time. This old sleepy colonial hotel is like a set from “Year Of Living Dangerously”, except all the foreign correspondents have deserted… leaving just us in this empty time warped twilight zone with the waiters left to cater only us.