A perfect Sunday in Toliara, starting with a visit of the ethnological museum. Once again, it’s good to have contacts – as I normally work during the museum’s opening hours, Delphin, who is a cousin of our lovely WWF driver Robert, has offered to give me a guided tour on a Sunday. So it happens that I spend about 1 ½ hours at the museum, which consists of one (!) single room, packed with ceramics, replicas of tombs, crafts and yellowed photographs on the walls. My interest in learning more about the ethnic groups living here in the South, and Delphin’s enthusiasm for his subject, make time pass fast. For the umpteenth times, I am trying to put myself into the perspective of a woman living in a southern Malagasy village. Getting married at 12, to then give birth to 8 to 13 children?! I learn that the architecture of the houses has remained the same over the last few centuries – as have so many other aspects of rural Malagasy life.
Afterwards, I don’t feel like going home, but take an extended tour of Toliara, even though the midday sun is boiling. Once and again, I am blown away by the effervescent liveliness of this town, the armies of pousse-pousses (rickshaws) hovering the streets, the multitude of fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants, live animals, pirated dvds and body care products for sale in the market and the many people populating the streets. The squeaking of bicycle breaks, discussions in Malagasy, the smell of chicken poo and grilled zebu skewers, impressions flying by, as I focus my attention on the road to avoid the potholes with my bike. I buy another specimen of the most gorgeous avocados I have eaten anywhere, and make a new friend in the market.
After an extended “sieste” (nothing moves here between 12 and 2), a swim and a meal of sambos and bananas, I can’t ignore the sound of drums and trumpets from the festival grounds – it’s time for the monthly spectacle of “Bel Avenir”, a local NGO. They work with kids and young adults, and every last Sunday of the month, the brass band, percussion, capoeira and circus troops make the streets of Toliara their stage, paralyzing traffic, and having pedestrians stop and smile.