From a distance everything appears to be beautiful: Countries, cities, fruits, crocodiles, ideas… When Madagascar came into our view the first time, there was this overwhelming glimpse of beauty. A sapphire blue sphere embedded the plane into the unknown, the great island of Madagascar cuts into the good old deep blue with its endless sugar white frontier of sand, like a white-out line someone has drawn onto a marine map. As if to say: from here on things are going to be very different to everything you've ever experienced. The island's hills and mountains that were once covered by rainforest are now covered by grass as far as one can see. From above, the landscape looks like the injured back of a crocodile and erosion washes into blood red rills which float into the rivers and make them appear to be open veins. Yet, it was an amazing picturesque appearance playing up to our eyes.
Although the colonialists did a good job in assimilate the Malagassy culture into a more European one, they could have done better in some ways and shouldn't have done it in most. Speaking French and English is helpful, of course. Malagasy is hard to understand and hard to learn. Its complex words like "Misaotra" (speak Mesa-utscha) meaning "Thank You" or "iraika ambin'ny folo" meaning "Eleven" are way too different to the semantic and language structures we are used to. However, even the Malagassy French is not always easy to understand, even not for the French.
Therewith it happened that we waited two days for our luggage. The airline we came with - Mauritius Air - forgot one of three containers of luggage in Mauritius. Seemingly there had been lots of misunderstandings between many airport employees. Although our flight had a delay of one and a half hours after a technician had hit a little bit to hard a part of the plane's left wing when he wanted to play easygoing and closed the big side flap with a cool punch. The flap had fallen of the plane and the wing became dysfunctional. Nevertheless they managed to solve the problem throughout a group of six men, one repair truck, an aluminum ladder and a couple of cigarettes.
The first sensual impression after leaving the plane on Madagascar was a warm moist breeze carrying a sweet taste of vanilla and exhaust gases. There were lots of police and security around, but they didn't do anything else than talking to each other. The whole airport seems to be a relict of the 1970s, even the passport control is kind of lax. So was the airline's baggage handling. Klara and I were giggling because of that, although with an undertone of insecurity about whether we'll ever receive our bikes since the airline forgot them in Paris already. Klara went to the luggage agent. And I fall asleep on my baggage cart when waiting for our other two bags to come over the conveyor. But they never came. The three very Muslims with their women completely cloaked into this mysterious black burka became as nervous as the white English family with its curious young twin girls and the belly crowned and grey speckled thirty something father. Many employees and upset passengers as well had a look behind the rubber curtain of the conveyer. They noticed an empty landing field with two empty luggage containers. No employee around. No bags. Not even a plane anymore. Meanwhile Klara accidentally became the lead of a long and loud row of people of every culture and race. Some were angry, some were amused. Klara had troubles to talk to the young luggage agent who hardly understood Klara's southern English dialect, but therewith she was holding back the whole line of around twenty five emotional people. She protected the luggage agent from an unbearable mob.
It seems that when it comes to essential problems and the unexpected then cultural and racial, fashion and habits, religious and prejudice borders disappear completely. Suddenly, everyone sat in the same boat, having the same goal and concluded - maybe subliminally - that we humans are essentially just the same wherever we go. We all are friends when we loose our baggage. Our habits, traditions and personal tastes are just superficial. Maybe we got used to them when we became bored the first time in history. Maybe we just forgot to not take everything too seriously. In that matter, Madagascar did what it is famous for: It unites the cultures in many ways. French, English, German, Indonesian, African, Chinese, Persian - its history is a long line of mixing the ultimate cultural cocktail. And we dive straight into it…