The wheels creak down, the plane rushes to a halt. One more security check. Sweaty, cramped, disheveled… we arrive in Antananarivo. I feel like a giantess in my glittered heels, towering above the Malagasy. Midnight somewhere just south of the equator. 6000 miles from home.
I awake to a familiar smell. A moment later I place it. The aromatic fumes of burning trash.
We make our way out of the city. One paved road. Route 2. People walking everywhere. Selling goods. Pulling carts. Working in rice fields. Making bricks. Zebu grazing in the rice fields. Rangy chickens crossing the road. Laundry drying on the grass and bushes. I am the privileged Vasa (white foreigner) that views humanity passing by from the window of a nice silver car in the competent hands of Misa, my parents driver, as he weaves around big trucks and carts. I feel as if I have stepped into someone else’s life. The life of the very wealthy.
Our first stop is at a Chameleon park. On a hillside on the edge of some forest. we make friends with chameleons, tenrec (hedgehog/guinea pig like creatures), boas, green geckos and leaf tail geckos, a tomato frog and a millipede.
It’s cold in the highlands. Winter in Madagascar, rain and cool air. Our journey ends down a few kilometers of dirt road next to preserves and national forests. In the middle of the forest is the resort Vakona Lodge. The sounds of the jungle greet us (and a fancy lodge with a fire place, French cuisine, and lychee flavored rum).
“Want to go to Madagascar?” I asked my partner Austin last December.
He looked at me for a moment, “Are you joking with me?”
“No, I’m quite serious. Do you want to go to Madagascar with me?”
We found ourselves experiencing a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy moment. I looked at him waiting for the answer. We were discussing in many ways what ‘we’ wanted to do with ourselves the following year. My parents had happened to move to Madagascar two years ago and had offered me two plane tickets to come visit them (or rather most of two plane tickets minus processing fees, which was still pretty much being offered two tickets to paradise). I was given the opportunity the moment they moved to come visit them with a friend, or by myself and use the second ticket as spending money, or to come with a ‘friend’.
I had been offered the most generous gift so that my parents could get me to afford a trip to visit them, and proceeded to spend the next two years twiddling my thumbs waiting for the right friend to invite.
“You’re seriously asking me to go to Madagascar with you?”
Seven months later, we are being checked through airport security in our full clown regalia. In red glittered high heeled shoes I tiptoe through the airport humming ‘defying gravity’ in my head and smiling at all the turning heads.
I am about to spend twenty-four hours in transit with a fellow in green glittered size 15 shoes. Inspired by our friend and clown mentor Jeff Green who once went clowning with Patch Adams in Costa Rica, we tip our hats, figuring we’ll be ready for anything as long as we have a substantial supply of clown noses on hand.