Friday, January 13, 2012

The Sankofa Concept

When I called my good friend Selaelo Maredi after not seeing him since 1992, what is that 20 years, it was if it was yesterday. He asked me where I was, and when I responded Melville, he couldn’t believe I was that close. I still can hardly believe it.

I set my phone to wake me at 7 a.m. I could hardly sleep the day before—I am going to see Selaelo I kept saying to myself as I went to bed too late. I’d just seen my younger daughter off to the airport. I was now alone, no company, no one to hang out with, to haggle with vendors, to zip my backpack, to tell me I am overreacting, to ask me when I want to pull over on the side of the road for a photo, “what is your vision Mommy?”

I get up, but I am late getting out after getting dressed, packing lunch and drinking my Vega or liquid breakfast. I am riding with a new taxi driver, Pieter, who is the same person who took TaSin to the airport. I have fired Freedom, who didn’t honor our reservation at the last minute. Burning bridges is something Africans do quite easily, whether that is continental or stateside—white skin privilege is a given. Dr. Franz Fanon’s “White Skin, Black Masks,” needs to be on the required reading list for our folks worldwide and for those with privilege too, just in case they’d like to interrupt this unconscious self-degradation. It’s the little things like forgetting the promise to one’s little sister, TaSin, when one has an opportunity to fill one’s taxi with five white passengers, (who, by the way, were flying standby, and ended up returning to the hostel that same evening). Just the day before, TaSin was getting a bracelet woven and up walks a white American and the salesperson puts TaSin’s bracelet down and was going to make the white boy’s first. Mind you, TaSin was buying four bracelets, one was mine. The guy had the nerve to give me a dirty look when I took his photo despite TaSin’s explanation that we were together.

No customer service training.

Reminded me of why my father hated shopping in Oakland. The black people in Oakland, didn’t like black dollars, even though they spent like white ones. They’d act like they were doing the customer a favor when he or she was why they had a job in the first place.

When I get to Selaelo’s in Alexandra Township he tells me two stories, both mean he is happy to see me. I will never forget the honor I felt when he asked me to keep him drum when he was in exile in the United States. It was like someone asking me to safeguard their heart. I returned it, of course, but I have never been so honored ever again.

I am in Jo’burg, South Africa, the Melville District, an area of Johannesburg along the outskirts of Sophiatown, a place in South Africa where people of all races lived harmoniously. At the peak of the Apartheid regime, this town was razed and African people, indigenous African people were sent to the Southwest Township or Soweto. Military trucks came in and removed families that rainy morning. Usually when I am in Africa I eventually feel a familiar vibe, but this place, South Africa, is unlike anything I’ve know thus far. The indigenous Africans live along the periphery of economic fault lines, as if nothing has changed except the faces of the oppressors. Granted women no longer clean white women’s kitchens, instead new immigrants from places like Zimbabwe do this dirty work, while kerchief covered South African heads sweep streets, train stations and latrines in public toilets.

As an African descendent in the Diaspora, I claim citizenship throughout the continent and usually I feel at home eventually, not here, at least, not until I went to Alexandra. There was something about this ghetto that spoke to me in a way that changed my view of South Africa. These people, perhaps because they are the people whose descendents sheltered a young Mandela. Perhaps it’s because my good friend, playwright Selaelo Maredi lives here with his family, older brother, nieces and nephews, three guard dogs—perhaps this is the reason why I now feel more comfortable.
Selaelo is a Diaspora citizen. For 14 years he lived away from home writing and producing plays with well known African American artists like Danny Glover and Caribbean star, Sidney Poitier, Ed Bullins, activists and artists, Alice Walker, Fania Davis and her sister, Angela Davis, and many others whose names escape me.

Presently, he is working on a play about violence against women, namely rape, which is at epidemic proportions here in South Africa. Daily one sees in the news accounts of rape and mutilation from President Zuma to pedophiles masquerading as school teachers. Most of these men, remain unprosecuted or exonerated (like Zuma). In a country the world has looked to as a model of social, economic and political justice, the people, the black people are still suffering: unemployment and undereducation, homeless and houselessness, hunger and illness. One wonders why so many flock to the city to work when options are so slim, but for parents who want to educate their children, the rural education is often worse than that in the townships.

Selaelo speaks of his father’s passing signaling the end of his former education. His uncle sent him to a fashion institute to learn a trade, design, only to find out that those jobs were reserved for whites and with his certificate, all he could do was iron. When asked why there was such a school run by whites who knew their students would never be able to work in the industry, he said, “for the money.”

Everything is for sale: identity, favor and sometimes privilege.

Diaspora citizenship is often commoditized, similar to the way women are commoditized—the female body takes the place of the abstract and often inaccessible pain body and relief is felt when this vehicle is tarnished or removed.

America is not seen with any love here. Our companies come and invest and then leave employees without any recompense when the pseudo feeling of ease disappears almost overnight. On a South African reality tour, we pass by many vacant factories in Alexandra, now places where shacks are built. There is no government regulation in the townships. The only time government comes in is to remove families from land with the promise of permanent housing, only to give that housing away once it is complete. There was a story about such a broken promise in last week’s paper. The families were told they had to wait a year for resettlement.

At the Market Theatre Tuesday evening, January 10, 2012, three plays opened, all of them reprises: Percy Mtwa’s “Woza Albert!,” this show directed by Prince Lamla, Dael Orlandersmith’s “Yellow Man,” directed by Lara Bye, and Anthony Akerman’s “ Somewhere on the Border,” directed by Andre Odendaal. All the plays look at war whether that is internal conflict or both. Armed with different tools and strategies the battles ensue, whether that is protecting the rights of the apartheid state to racist biased rule, as is the case in “Somewhere,” or looking for something outside of the day to day oppressive reality to believe in, to give one courage, as is the case in “Woza Albert!” when protagonists find Jesus’s second coming a reason to resist the norms they’d come to accept. It doesn’t matter if one goes to church, reads the bible or prays, Morena or Jesus is one’s representative and in a place where no one seems to care about the black South African, this is encouraging. The last play’s story, “Yellowman,” which I saw in Berkeley, California, is one of pigment, skin color, a topic black people whether colonized or enslaved share.

In the news here in South Africa, a singer recently had injections to make her appear white. She thought lighter skin would make her more attractive to her boyfriend, who is a millionaire. The procedure, which is irreversible, has made is so she cannot be out in the direct sun. She also has to have regular maintenance treatments which she says she can no longer afford, now that her boyfriend has left her. The story reminds me of John Howard Griffin’s, author of “Black like Me.” Both the singer and the author take injections to change their pigment, Griffin, to turn his skin black, the singer, to turn hers white. Griffin literally poisons his system and dies from liver complications.

Getting back to” Yellowman,” in the story, the lighter complexioned man is in love with a woman who is darker and she feels inadequate, similar to the singer. Set in South Carolina, the play has obvious resonance here.

One wants to belong. African people are relationship people, which means, we thrive in community not isolation.

America is a place where no one belongs except the Native Americans, the few left. As a person of African descent, I belong in that my ancestors are responsible more than any other constituency or group of people for the wealth founding families built this empire upon. I come from unwilling immigrants, not indentured, but captured and bound first physically, then spiritually and psychologically to such an extent that my people are a new people: no conscious connection to Diaspora lineage. Many of my people are not interested in exploring this connection to Diaspora, to ancestral memory(s), yet, without such an exploration we will remain lost, confused and enslaved to behaviors that guarantee our extinction.

Black history did not begin with European conquest, yet, this is the history most of us are conversant. In my work over the past 16 years, I have looked at the riff that occurred when Africans were taken from the continent renamed for a western explorer, a place formally known as Alkebulan or land of the blacks. Dr. Marimba Ani, calls this horrific period “the Maafa,” Kiiswahili for terrible occurrence or reoccurring calamity. The Maafa then is perhaps the worse crime against humanity in our collective histories, yes, even surpassing what happened to the Jews and Roma and homosexuals and some blacks during WW2. What is so horrific about the Maafa or African Holocaust is the way its history is unresolved 150 or so years later. A trauma unaddressed, does not go away, it just gets pushed down and appears in other ways, namely through behavior.

The Maafa Ritual is a way to address this silence. An annual event, it is a time when people of African descent come together to give our ancestors, namely, those who were not mourned, those whose spirits continue to wander, an opportunity to rest. The ceremony is predawn and takes the participants through the ordeal. There is a Door of No Return, where our ancestors passed, no knowing that this would be the last time they touched home-land. We have an altar for prayer and supplication and then in the circle we pour libations, give prayers, sing, dance –leaving space for spontaneity, so spirit feels free to have its way.

I have found in my travels that continental Africans are also addressing this PTSD or Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome coupled with what Selaelo called pull down syndrome, where one does not wish other like himself well, he or she tries to crush their progress.

In Rufisque, Senegal, there are women called The Congregation or who are skilled with addressing mental illness and aberrant behavior associated with such illness. The entire community is involved with the cure which involves music, song, dance and medicine. There are such healers in the Kikongo tradition as well and here in South Africa among the Sangoma.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Alexandra Township, Johannesburg, South Africa

Today was a crazy day. We were supposed to get out about 10 this morning and ended up leaving the hostel at 11:50 a.m. The tour guide was angry that we were not paying full price for the tour, even though, we'd drummed up additional business for him. They made 800 rand which was a lot less than he would have made if he'd had the courtesy to call and tell us he was delayed.

So the guy pouted for most of the journey there and then at the start of the tour, as we were about to go to the visit some residents who lived in an abandoned factory, the factory had been the site of a large fire too, but was now filled with shacks. He sat in the car and yelled at us to pay him 300 rand. We said no.

He called his brother, Freedom, whom I explained the situation to. We were cut off and then Freedom tried to call me back, but I didn't answer the call. Finally his brother and the driver, a sister who understood our plight and told her colleague that the time he was to pick us up was going to conflict with the tour they were on in Soweto.


He had the nerve to say that this was the worse tour he'd ever done. I agree, he took us places randomly, it felt as we didn't know where we were. We went to a Catholic church, but I don't know why it was a part of the tour. There we met two priests from Washington, who were a part of a parish in Oakland, Sacred Heart. I know the church and school. After the earthquake in 1986 the church had to be rebuilt. We had a bakery, sandwich shop across the street from it, Delightful Foods, Marcus Books was down the street (still is) and Kwaku had a African Learning Center next door to us.

It was a Pan African block with an artist shop on the other side of 4026 Grove Street. The street was renamed, Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

I digress.

So we look try to find Bonginkosi's friends. He lived here with his sister. Our driver lived here with he aunt. She showed me where. This place was rough, no running water, wet areas between the shacks. One had to climb over rocks and up blocks of partial stairs. It was often precarious especially when one wanted to avoid rodents--I presume mothers keep special watch over their children.

I am watching a film, called The Bang Bang Club as I write this. The film is about journalists, white photojournalists who are covering the conflict between Inkatha and African National Congress. The problem is the war is between two ethnic groups who have the same enemy, the Apartheid government. This war, perpetrated by the white South African government is distracting the world from the real atrocities--that is, the theft of a nation from a people.

We saw the hostels where the men lived during apartheid, the men who lived away from their families, working most of the year in Soweto in the mines.

This film, told from the perspective of a freelance photographer who lands in the middle of the conflict, gets nominated for a Pulitzer.

Sunday, January 8, 2012, on the ANCs 100th Anniversary, the Xhosa and Zulu, Sothu, live separately, go to separate schools--it's not a war, but after the agreement struck between the two political parties relationships are tenuous.

People are so angry or bitter or something besides happy, all I get are frowns and teeth sucking as only a pissed off South African can make (smile). A kid made the sound when I didn't give him money.

Today in Alexandra, where conditions are the worse I've seen to date, the people are so warm and friendly. They possess a spirit that remains undefeated, even in the face of circumstances where boy children at seven cannot live with their mothers in the women's hostel. It is a big place with 1000s of single units were the women share a kitchen and toilet/baths. Many women, young and older, still make their livings as domestic workers, just now, instead of working for families, they work for the South African government municipality.

I see black women cleaning toilets at the transit station, sweeping the city streets of Jo'burg, heads tied or wrapped at restaurants, while the men guard stores, police shopping malls. There are malls owned by black men, one South African in Sowetho, the other one in Jo'Burg and another I saw today, in Alexandra is owned by a Nigerian as is the one in Jo'burg.

Men sit around unable to find work while liquor signs are the main topic on billboards. I am happy to see a few small stores in the community. We buy candy for the little children we take photos of. One mother tells us that they haven't had sweets for a while. I buy twenty lollipops and twenty packs of bubble gum at one stand and twenty at another where the poor fellow has to run to several stores in both directions for change 30 rand from a 50 rand note. I would have bought more lollipops but he didn't have anymore.

One lady asked what brought us there, would our photographs get them out of the "shit" they were living in. I said, I certainly hoped so. Alexandra is so much worse that Soweto. Perhaps its the concentration of shacks, juxtaposed with the hostels which look like large apartments. Made out of brick, they remind me of the projects in New Orleans demolished after the great flood. They also look like the artist housing in New York. I think its called co-housing or something like that. In any case, it is subsidized housing there and here.

Now in New Orleans residents cannot find enough affordable housing since the demolitions.

We saw Mandela's old home there. Someone else lives there now. A community center highlighting the history of the area is under construction, but it has been under construction for years now. We were going to have an African meal, but the houseteraunt we went by wasn't open today. I was looking forward to a South African meal or at least seeing what one looked like.

This would have been the first meal included with a tour. I think we were to see a village, but that didn't happen or the visit to Sandton to see Mandela's statue, but I am happy we found Salaelo Maredi, and I got to see Alexandra.

Did I mention the famous director who was in exile in the United States? He produced plays in Berkeley and along the Pacific Northwest. One time while he was traveling he asked me to keep his drum. Pat, from Vukani Mawethu told me to go by the Alexandra clinic and ask for him, which we did. The first question had to do with his affiliation, Inkhata or ANC. I told them ANC.

We had to ask a lot and then this really nice woman, who worked in maternal childcare, took us around the clinic introducing me to other expats who all know each other. Finally she called her brother, who'd lived abroad and he had been a roommate of Salaelo's, talk about small world. He was still in Bloemfontein, but I called Selaelo and he invited me to go to Pretoria with him in the morning to check out his new play.

I am still trying to decide if I am going to Durban and to Cape Town. It is supposed to be really beautiful, but I am not sure if I feel like traveling. I'd like to see the countryside and the rural areas of South Africa, but I am not sure if I will see them on the minibus experience. I'd love to take the train, but I am not comfortable traveling alone given my experiences here, so we shall see (smile). Cape Town is not going anywhere.

Monday, January 02, 2012

2 January 2012

Back in Tana December 31, 2011

We just finished eating dinner: chicken brochettes with legumes, bread and ketchup for TaSin. It is just 9:53 p.m. I think I’ll go to bed. Nothing is happening up here and I went to bed late yesterday.

January 1, 2012

We don't get out early. TaSin has to undo something she did on her computer. She probably deleted something accidentally and has to restore it through the temporary files in Task Manager, so I guess I will do my grades.

We saw the fire eating man again; this time we saw him eat fire and extinguish the flame in his pants. We had fun wandering taking photos of fathers out with their families on a warm, dry Sunday afternoon. The afternoon typically means rain—the sky gets dark, the wind starts blowing and then comes the diagonal rain drops—rain storm. Across from the hotel is a pomegranate tree.

There was no water until the afternoon today; the electricity flickered as well, however the big problem is the water. When it came on, we did laundry. It is our last opportunity before South Africa.

January 2, 2012

Today we got out early, 8 a.m. Jany met us and we started our day before the sun got hot. We missed lunch but got a lot accomplished, even visited an area of Tana we hadn't seen before.

There were two boys singing blessings to the New Year by Ortana, which was closed. They were on the stairs we frequent when traversing the area between downtown and uptown. I started to take a photo and then stopped. I am going to stop second guessing myself. It is kind of intimidating hanging with a professional photographer with a camera that lets you capture what you see the way you see it. TaSin says it's the artist not the equipment. However, I am the one watching pictures vanish simply because what I see is too far away, the sun is making it impossible to see it clearly or the camera setting makes the image blurry. Maybe they will be there in the morning (smile).

I thought about Harry Belafonte and how proud he would be of the boys, who had strong harmonies. It was about lunchtime then and folks were either eating or napping, what happens when it is hottest. Our radius is predictable, we have traversed the same territory enough now to recognize photos we've shot or people we've seen, like the pineapple lady I saw yesterday. I hope she had a fresh supply. I also know some of the regular beggars, like a sweet little girl in a wheelchair. She has a lovely smile and sits with a can propped in her lap. She is in a wheelchair.

The boulevard where we people watch wasn't as busy as yesterday, but it was still busy. The mayor's office is down here and today a soldier played a song on his bugle. Yesterday or the day before they were drilling. I couldn't stop to watch because TaSin was leaving me.

Have I told you yet about crossing the street Madagasy style. Certainly this is tongue in cheek. The drivers speed up when they see people in the center of the street. We almost met a few angels many times over the past few weeks. We generally walk with the Madagasy people and cross with someone who is familiar with the rhythm of the traffic. Police direct traffic for a reason--safety (smile).

People do not have the right away. One time, there was motorbike on the sidewalk with us and its driver still had no consideration for pedestrians. TaSin kind of jumped out of the way with "where did he come from?"

As Jany crossed. The rule is, if you get left behind stay on the sidewalk and wait until the coast is clear again. This might take a while. Drivers here do drive like we do: driver on the left. I am not sure if I would drive. I am not certain about right-aways and signals or their absence. I know drivers rely on their horns and when you hear one, you are supposed to jump to the right so he can pass. I saw this alot in the country with shepherds and their zebu.

We went back by the coin exchange and got some old coins. Some of the bills have coin equivalents when the exchange was francs sans Ariary (which is at the bottom of the coin. I don't know why). Reminds me of the money in Senegal and Mali. The coins have zebu on them and one has a rooster, another a queen (French), and the other two I can't read. I will have to clean them up first. The oldest coin I bought is 1943. It's 1 franc. It is copper with a rooster on it. I think it is worth the least, but it is the prettiest (smile).

We picked up the stamps we ordered yesterday and then placed another order with another stamp maker. We went back to pick them up and realized I'd forgotten Pat. I just thought about how I also forgot Carol Afua. Oh well. We have to go and get Pat's stamp in the morning, since it started raining this afternoon.

We saw these two women wearing really lovely cloth, and asked them where they bought the fabric. Their answer is what took us to the part of Tana where the Indians live. We also saw some really fashionably dressed Muslim women, really stylish. I saw a man with two casts on his legs. I gave him a love offering. I saw a lot of old guys hanging out today, a bubble vendor and lots of kids eating ice cream. It was that kind of hot. Then, it is always that kind of hot in Tana: the hilly lovely capital of Madagascar.

Oh, before I forget, we went to a music store where one of the clerks looked like my brother. We had fun listening to music. There is a Madagascar artist who raps like Tupac, he really sounds like him. His message is from ghetto. One of his songs is about girl gangsters. Gangs in Tana are not like gangs in Oakland. The drug is marijuana and the biggest vice is prostitution. We saw a girl who looked like she was a prostitute this afternoon in Indian-town. She was wearing a copper colored wig and a short skirt. There are no handguns. I think the weapon of choice is a knife—if what happened to the tourists in the taxi in Morondava is any indicator. The bandits cut the throat of one of the drivers. He died.

We got more rubber gloves, ours have holes in both pair. We went by Shoprite too and got a free calendar, picked up more cashews and almonds, a towel for my wet face (smile), juice drinks for TaSin, water: Sainto for $1500 AR. We bought Eau Vive earlier. Because of the hills one has to think when one purchases items whether or not she can carry it up the hill (smile). I couldn't find packaged fried bananas, so I settled for the eastern mix sans, which I learned means --without chili. I had the one with chilies when we were on our road trip and it made my stomach hurt. The ingredients are roasted peanuts, potato chips and other interesting pretzels looking items, and something green like a leaf.

We went to a music store and listened to music. It was fun; we then bought a compilation CD and a CD with music from the south: Tsapiky featuring: Teta, Le Corrail Noir, Riake, Medicis, Tearano, Koezy, Zambey, Tsivery, Jafira, Laba and others. Another CD which is hot is called "Best of Best" (yes, in English, which made us think that Ameoba might have a Madagasy section (hum?). The Best of features artisrs from throughout Madagascar: Tense Mena, Jerry Marcoss, Lôla, Faqrah John's, Mima, Melky, Dat, Kôtry, Vaiavy Chila, Onja, and Wawa. We bought a DVD, Salegy Fever: La Fiévre du Salegy, with a concert featuring Wawa and many other artists like Vaneys, Vaiavy Chila, Lola, Black Nadia, Tafita, Rivera, DJ Bungalow, and Toto Mwandjani.

The recorded concert featuring Wawa live was in the north, Nosy Be area. That would have been the party for New Years. I have to find the spot for next year. I have yet to get my dance on for a New Year’s in the African Diaspora yet.

We are back at the hotel. Jany kindly translated the sayings on my Madagasy cloth—I forgot what they are called. I think we have five or six of them. He also told me about the royal family on the stamps I bought last week. I do have the queen who refused to be colonized by the Catholic church, the cool lady who tossed the converts off the cliff by her castle. After she passed, ruling over 30 years, the following queens, all three of them married the prime minister, Rainilairivony, who changed the law or constitution so that he was more powerful than the king. I have the stamp with the final queen as well. She is the one who the French General Joseph Simon Gallieni, helped escape the French and go into exile in Algeria. He is the one who donated his dwelling to the Madagasy government and is now a community center. It is not far from the Queen's Castle, which was burned down and the crown stolen.

We also tried to find DVDs to copy some of my photos and sims cards for my camera. We found three 8 GB at $40.000 AR each and 10 DVDs for $15.000 AR. That is $20 and $7.50 US respectively.

I did a little sewing, trimmed the edges of one of my pieces of fabric, blue with flowers. It says: "Ny Olon Tiana Tsy Mahalavin Tany," which speaks to long distance love. It says love bridges the distance.

I am not sure about that, unless one has frequent travel miles. It is a pretty piece of cloth. It was a remnant, and it matches my skirt from Senegal in navy with a lighter blue pattern of giraffes, masks, cowries, and elephants. I am also wearing my COA tee shirt from yesterday's dinner. I couldn't file my grades yesterday. I hope the system is up today.

I plan to complete the grades after dinner, the usual: brochettes du poulet, legumes with lots of garlic, "ail" in French "tongolo gasy," in Madagasy. We ordered a side of fritz. It wasn't as good as previous meals. Great one doesn't tip. No one expects it. Is tipping an American thing?

The staff could certainly use a tip here, perhaps more than waiters in the US. It's all relative.

It is storming now. We ate lychee to tide us over until the unsatisfying meal. Well, it was okay to me. I had been missing salad; I guess the chef heard me and grilled cucumbers on the brochette--yes, pretty creative cooking. With rules like: only eat food which is piping hot or peeled, one can only do so much gastronomically.

I wonder what people eat in South Africa? I am so excited. I want to dance every night and hangout grooving to music.

They speak English in South Africa. I don't think I can pass for South African, but who knows. There might be an ethnic group I can vibe with (smile).

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Starting the New Year in Madagascar

We got out about 12 noonish. Late. All the stores were closed. The balcony of the restaurant overlooks a big park. Each Sunday for the past three weeks, we've been coming back into town or out of town on Sundays, like Christmas (smile). So we were not able to walk down to see the amusements--It's really nice.

There were the Santas posing with brave little kids. The black man would put on his white Santa mask, his brown arms a mix match no one seemed to care about. There was a prop and one real Santa, the one we saw did a little dance while a mother gave her child a pep talk.

Most of the stores were closed, even vendors were absent; however, there were enough food vendors out, along with balloon salesmen and women. Parents were out with kids and as we stood on a corner behind the beach ball salesman we got some really nice photos.

TaSin is doing a series on dads and Madagasy men love their children and were out in large numbers. It was a mob of folks walking toward the park and away from the park.

When we got to the park, we looked at the games and rides from outside--there were just too many people. There was a train ride for families--it went in a circle. There was the ferris wheel, flying airplanes, an obstacle course for the bigger kids, a trampolin, plus slides and other climbing structures common to parks. There was even a huge inflated Snoopy.

Concessioners walked between the folks seated on the grass just enjoying the warm day--peanuts, salami which you could buy slices of, outside there were booths selling beer and other nonalcoholic drinks and Madagasy finger foods as well as meals.

The sky began to grow dark and we felt a bit of a drizzle and decided to head back to the hotel. We'd ordered stamps for friends, but decided to pick them up in the morning.

It didn't start raining until we'd been back for quite some time though. Dry is still better than soaking wet.

On our way down the hill, we stopped at the fancy bakery and TaSin had some rich pastry. She had a butter filled pasty and a pineapple filled one with whipped cream. This bakery is next door to the fancy hotel where the folks with lots of money stay (smile).

People smoke too much around here. The French, not the Madagasy. I haven't seen a Madagasy person smoking anything yet, just French people--men and women.

The sun is down, and there is the occasional lightning in the sky now.