Last night I was out a little longer than I thought. In fact I didn't come home last night!
I taught my basic group for the last time on Monday from 2-3. Saturnin, a lovely, big, ex-sports teacher had invited me to his house after the lesson to have a genuine Malagasy meal with a real Malagasy family and I was delighted to accept. It took the best part of an hour to get to his village 'a la campagne' and while we walked to his house he asked if it would be alright if I stayed the night and went in to Tana with him in the morning. Options were one as far as I could see even though I had no change of clothes, no toothbrush or comb. He had a very nice house and once I had been greeted rapturously by Angel, his wife, he showed me his garden and I ate 4 or 5 bananas from his trees and a fruit I did not get the name of which looked a bit like a green plum tomato with a thick skin. I couldn't eat it. Angel then gave me a collection of green peppers and some pimentos (chillies) to take home to Maura. I was told NOT to wrap them in plastic because it would spoil the flavour but to keep it in the little straw bag they put them in.. No idea what customs will do about it but it was "for my spouse". We went inside and chatted for a while but with very little understanding and his youngest daughter complained that I had not brought any pictures of Maura or the boys. I thought I was going there for a meal or perhaps a beer.
Saturnin's English isn't great but one of his 3 daughters, the youngest (19?), prettiest one spoke good English so she accompanied us on a wander across the paddy fields and up the roads. Eventually we stopped at Herman's house because Saturnin wanted him to fix his computer. So we all trooped back, Herman got the computer working so I had the picture of us in the kitchen with Victoria which led to lots of questions about how many cars we had etc. to looks of wonder and a statement that we must be very rich which I punctured. Saturnin then said a long grace. Dinner was a feast with rice, bredd (a vegetable dish), cassava with pork, cucumber and tomato in oil and vinegar, and rabbit cooked over charcoal with a really nice vegetable again no idea of the name although I was told. It had a fruity texture and flavour which was lovely with the charcoal flavouring. Rano pongo to drink as always and fresh fruits so I had a couple of litchis, a Mahajunga mango and a peach. I was stuffed. So it was time to discuss sleeping arrangements.
There were 4 females + Saturnin + me so it wasn't difficult. Saturnin and I were to share the double bed and the girls sorted themselves in the other room. Angel was very concerned and warned me by giving an hilarious but, as it turned out, exactly accurate impression of Saturnin's snoring. I was given a new toothbrush and some flip flops and asked if I wanted a cold water shower which I declined which they all seemed to think was odd/dirty. I cleaned my teeth and used the loo then went into the bedroom where pjs were laid out for me and a mosquito net had been erected. We all said goodnight about 8.30 and moved to our separate rooms (separated by a hanging sheet door) and Saturnin walked in with a large bucket with a lid "for pishing in the night", he explained putting it in the corner of the room. He then went to the female rooms and said night prayers with them.
I slept really well and didn't notice Saturnin going to bed but, predictably, I woke at 3.35 dying for the loo. I thought about it for a few minutes then took advantage of the facility very quietly. Back to bed for about 10 minutes sleep before the girls' light went on. The middle daughter works at the Dairy and had to be there by 4.30 so all the ladies got up chatted and sorted themselves out and Angel went with her to buy milk for breakfast. We ate breakfast just before 6 a.m. just after Saturnin showed me the outside loo and the supply of torn newspaper which, when used, had to be put in a bucket and not down the loo. I had a pee.
Breakfast was different. We started with hot rice (of course) with a brown pile that I thought was chocolate but which was in fact pounded pistachio nuts with salt; it was a lot better than it sounds. The second course was not so good. Boiled manioc which is the root of the plant that has cassava as its leaves. They poured it with its water onto their plates and sprinkled it with sugar. I passed on the sugar which was a smart move because the manioc tasted like a very strong flavoured potato with a piece of almost string like straw passing through the middle. This was obviously a real treat so I forced myself to finish it. Third course was boiled milk in a bowl, again with sugar for them but not for me. As I was the guest I got most of the skin so again that took some getting down but then, thankfully coffee arrived already laced with a generous measure of sugar but I didn't care I had 3 cups. Saturnin tried some but no-one else did.
And that was my night with a Malagasy family. They were absolutely lovely and Angel is well named. She is huge with a heart to match and chatted away to me in Malagase as if I could understand every word. Saturnin's house was clearly way, way up the scale. It had electricity (although there were 3/4 power cuts in the few hours of evening I was there) and a well in the garden with beautiful fresh water. They don't wear shoes indoors but at the entrance to very room there are thickish pieces of material which you stand on so polishing the wooden floors as you walk around. He had two large ducks and a white kitten in the garden and a basketful (literally) of baby ducks which were taken into the house at night. Their lifestyle is elysian in many ways. It was a brilliant thing for Saturnin to have done and a brilliant opportunity for me and showed the advantage of living out of Tana even though it took an hour to get back this morning.
When I got back to St Germain this morning I got a real telling off from Pacurette and M. Jean-Marie who had been worried about me having a hypo somewhere or being attacked so I have promised to take my phone in future. Now I am knackered so I am going to have a nice cup of tea.