Its 4:15 AM on January 4th, and I’m taking my seat on the A bus from Saint-Pierre to Saint-Denis to catch a morning flight. Thanks to an unexpectedly diabolical strike by the power company on most of the island, the streets of Saint-Pierre are drowned in a sort of post-apocalyptic darkness, illuminated only by the disconcerting flashes of emergency lights in shop windows and the violet-blue bursts of heat lightening over the ocean. This isthe beginning of my month long trip to Madagascar and the Comoros: dark, terrifying, and tired.
Four weeks later, I’m dozing off in the backseat of my German housemate’s car as we drive south on the coastal highway from the airport to Saint-Pierre, as if no time had passed at all since my departure. I’m sure it had. Afterall, I had chased Indri Indri lemurs (described as four year olds in panda suits by Lonely Planet) through the jungle, enjoyed morning swims in the warm aquamarine waters of the Mozambique Channel, met a legendary Comorean activist/philosopher/chef named Zorro and a globe-wandering former Alaskan gubernatorial candidate in the same weekend, given in to the pressure of veteran gem sellers in the Malagasy highlands and ended up with a box of rubies, tasted organic Zebu steak doused in a white (Vermont?) cheddar sauce (in Madagascar), watched the floodwaters rise to my doorstep during a rowdy tropical rainstorm, spent four days in a Peugeot literally overflowing with mango, taken donkeys for walks through a red, sandy desert studded with enormous baobabs, ridden colorful rickshaws in the pouring rain, and made jokes about the witchcraft that Malagasy and Comorean story tellers loved to tell us about and consequently missed our flight back to French soil and spent three days stranded on a rain-soaked Comorean island. I had done things. But could this sudden deja-vu be proof that I had actually traveled through the fourth dimension and island hopped around the Indian Ocean without the friction of time slowing me down, as a Malagasy host had explained happens to normal people on a daily basis, and especially at the Antananarivo Airport? I had left Reunion, that much is for sure, but had I left the world of time as well?
Sounds insane, but drawing an example from a conversation I had with airport security in the Comoros in which I explained the contents of my backpack (a sweatshirt) and they thought I was sneaking a live chicken out of the country (in French, a sweatshirt “un pull” and a hen “une poule” are tragic phonetic cousins), I’ve long since given up on sanity.
My trip was less vacation and more initiation to folklore, legends, prejudices, superstitions, and mysteries of the large and small islands of the Indian Ocean, and it was becoming more and more evident that I had been paying attention to it all. But as I reintegrated back into my Reunion life of biking, teaching, and watching Latin American telenovelas dubbed in French with the AC blasting, all the mystery of January evaporated away, leaving behind the normalcy of December and November and all those months I’d already spent in Reunion, altered only by the arrival of unending downpours that so characterize the summer rainy season to become February.
So in short, that explains the lack of posts between New Years and Super Bowl Sunday.
I’ll put some pix of Madagascar and the Comoros up after I get back from the beach. It’s so hot!