A family on the other side of the world

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Martin-Pierre Rakatoson

October 31, 2003 - Mahabo, Malagasy highlands. I was accompanying my Malagasy friend, Martin-Pierre Rakotoson. This businessman, former minister, was running as mayor in his native commune, a small village lost in the mountains and surrounded by small hamlets 15 kilometers around, dotted between valleys and mountains.

He left me near the village dispensary, telling me he was going into the bush for a political rally near a hamlet several kilometers away. After talking to the doctor at the dispensary, I decided to follow in the footsteps of Martin's 4X4.

I inquired about his destination from one of his old friends whom he had introduced to me. So I walked for a good hour along crop fields at the beginning, then small woods. The hills were mostly bared and allowed me to see my way ahead. I followed the tire tracks of the vehicles. The tracks were easy to follow, the ridges of the tire treads neither being blown away by the wind nor pounded by yesterday's rain.

Around 5 p.m. I had not yet found Martin. For safety reasons I decided to turn back, because I did not want to be caught by the darkness which falls very quickly at this latitude.

On my way back, I noticed a trail leading off in another direction and decided to check it out. Since leaving the village, I thought I heard songs coming from that direction as I walked. But when I stopped to listen more intently, all I could hear was the sound of the wind in the tall grass of the bush.

Did I have auditory hallucinations? However, I continued in this direction. After 15 minutes, I saw from the top of a hill, the convoy of trucks parked below. So I continued and 30 minutes later I could clearly hear the speeches, screams and djembes echoing. These sounds had nothing to do with the chants in my head, but if I had followed them from the start I would have arrived much faster.

I walked down the slope and slipped through the crowd during Martin's speech. On seeing me, he stopped dead and introduced me to the crowd - I didn't understand a thing, because everything was in Malagasy. Once the surprise was over, he resumed his fiery speech, punctuated by cries of support and music from the djembes.

Later, Martin-Pierre asked me how I had managed to find him in the bush. I refrained from telling him that I had been following the sounds in my head and instead talked about the tire tracks and luck.

It was a time when I went to Madagascar a couple of times a year. Martin-Pierre and his wife Suzette made a great place for me in their family. When I arrived my room was ready. Often Martin would lend me an old Renault so I could take the maid shopping or pick up his daughter Anja from the Antananarivo medical school.

I was like this distant cousin, receiving the confidences of Anja and Dare, these young adults on whom Martin had a lot of hope and those of the parents who, for their part, confided in me their hopes, their worries or their distress of seeing their children. carve out a place for themselves in this changing country.

(Dare et Anja)

Anja, Dare and I often listened to traditional Quebec music.

Today, I still have contact with a few family members. I often imagine myself taking a plane, landing in Ivato, taking a taxi to be dropped off in front of the gate of the house and ringing the doorbell to see their face, their smile and feel the warmth of this family, to the other side of the world.

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Adhering to the "code of responsible adventure", I do not geolocate with precision the places I explore, except in a few rare exceptions such as my trips to the Arctic or during a relevant historical reference.

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Texts, drawings, videos and photos © Marc-André Pauzé - all rights reserved.

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