It is not always easy to trust.
I started my tour of Tana on the Avenue de l’Independance, where an army of beggars, street children, merchants and taxi drivers throws itself at any „vazaha“ (foreigner) who wanders down this boulevard. I guess the fact that I had to take my big camera bag – whatever I was thinking there – doesn’t help my cause. After buying food for 2 children, I am caught in the dilemma that I cannot feed all of Tana’s poor single-handedly, yet these people really ARE in need, and I really AM bloody rich as compared to them. Half the capital’s inhabitants lives below the poverty level, and I continue my walk feeling quite uncomfortable and trying to avoid looking at anyone.
As soon as I walk up the stairs to the “Haute-Ville”, the fancier part of town, I am no longer approached by beggars. Instead, I already meet somebody for the second time: Ernesto, an elderly man, who I had encountered before as I was leaving my hotel, and who had explained me how the standard of living has gone down since the political crisis in 2009, is suddenly standing in front of me again, as I stroll through a park. This coincidental meeting makes me feel less like stranger in this place, and my spirits are somewhat lifted.
Continuing my walk up and down steep streets with gigantic potholes, a guy slightly older than me starts talking to me and introduces himself as Mamy. Considering that I am a white woman, walking by myself, and taking into account my experiences on the Avenue de l’Independance, I am reluctant to open up. However, Mamy is not shaken off that easily, without being intrusive, so I gradually decide to try some trust and get a taste of the legendary genuine Malagasy friendliness. Turns out I don’t regret it, Mamy teaches me my first words of Malagasy, tells me about his music group and his family, and even walks me back to my hotel, without having any second agenda. Lesson of the day: While you are definitely on the safe side if you mistrust everyone, you will miss out on people, stories and experiences.
Back in my hotel room, I enjoy my first “Three Horses Beer” (I take a wild guess that it might not be the last one…). Cheers to the beginning of an adventure!!