December 20

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Stories from the Small Continent- When it Rains

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Getting home before the rain

The rainy season is finally upon us in Tana. I’ve heard so much about the terrible rain and finally I’m getting to experience it firsthand. You’d think a gal from Ireland would be well used to a bit of precipitation but nothing quite prepares you for the heavens opening like the way they do in Madagascar. They happen about once or twice a week but are becoming more frequent and ferocious and are usually accompanied by floods, road blocks and power cuts. 7 people were washed away when violent torrents of water swept through the city last week. Many of the temporarily erected dwellings were washed away making the poverty and despair even more harrowing for the most vulnerable people in the city. The poorly built drains cannot cope with the volume of water causing sewage and disease to spread more quickly.

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Tana Gridlock

The whole of Tana comes to a grinding halt during these downpours. Even the taxi drivers won’t budge. God help you if you’re stuck in the gridlock when the rains come. You can write off the rest of your evening. Coping with the traffic here has taught me to be more patient and as my mother would say “offer it up”.  It’s really something else. The city was built originally for a population of a few hundred thousand but has seen a population explosion in the last few decades with current estimates of well over 2 million. The streets were not designed to accommodate so much traffic. What tarmac was on the roads has been washed away in the last few weeks and the potholes grow bigger by the day .The street traders occupy every available space of footpath leaving the cratered roads to the thousands of pedestrians and drivers. You need to be a gutsy driver to weave your way through it all and now that Christmas is upon us it’s even worse.

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Commuters

Since the rains started the mosquito numbers have dropped off and I am less tormented with these fighter pilots whizzing past my bed at night frantic that they’ll penetrate the perimeters my mosquito net. However the wet weather has seen an increase in cockroaches fleeing the floods to the safe haven of my kitchen. I thought we could get along if they knew their boundaries and kept to the downstairs but a few nights ago I could hear one scuttling across the parquet floor of my bedroom. I couldn’t sleep a wink and the following day went on a killing spree. I sprinkled death dust on the kitchen floor and behind every cupboard. The idea is they walk on it and then bring it back to the nest to cause mass destruction. It seems to be working a treat and for the last few mornings I have been greeted with cadavers all over the kitchen floor on their backs with their many legs in the air. When I complain of my insect woes to my colleagues in the office they just laugh it off. Even my housemates seem to find my behaviour neurotic. Maybe in time I could learn to love them but I dont think I’ll be staying here long enough for that relationship to blossom.

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An uninvited guest