The other side of Paradise

After interacting with a group of expats in a forum from Europe here in Madagascar, It is clear how they have installed themselves in Madagascar and they only live within their expat clannish  community and it has become a mutual admiration society .   I only interact with expats or foreigners at best 5% of my time here in Madagascar.   I steer clear of tourists mostly because when tourists learn that I have lived here for 16 years they want to ask questions, which is fine with me.  It is when they tell me their tour guides give then different information about certain aspects of Malagasy life that I have come to learn that their looks of confusion is heartbreaking.  I do not want to disrupt their Disney world Fantasy trip so I steer clear of tourists. Travelers on the other hand are far more interesting because they are seeking truth and knowledge but they are few and far apart. 
I myself live within the Malagasy Society some 95% of the time, mostly through my School Baobab of 130 students and their families and of course my wife's family which adds up to 800 people.  I have not gone " Native"  but I have blended my culture with the local cultures.  I know that I will never be accepted as Malagasy as I am know in the community from locals as "the American"  This brings me to the title of " the other side of Paradise"
I ask in this thread of what you see that tourists don't see, travelers get a sense of difference, and expats only skim the surface but find depth of local culture confusing, frightening and push back with their arrogance.
One of the refreshing feelings here is their is no "Political correctness"   that high haughty naughty sense of the first world projects, or I find they hide from reality. 
I am known as the American---though my neighbors call me papa- ( and the first name of my first born which is normal for all of society)  People here rarely know peoples first name ( unless they don't have children yet) and never the last name.  I know a driver here for hire but his name is squeaky voice, --he has a high pitched voice.
or the Black guardian and we all know him because he is as black as night on a moonless night.   My driver is called driver not his first name. If people do not know me I am known as Vasaha ( foreigner )  I know a couple of Zackys here but one is called "Zacky good morning"  because those are the only two English words he knows and says to me.   People here can say your fat or your skinny or how ask your weight or how old are you without a problem.   I find this refreshing, this is just the beginning of some thoughts of " the other side of Paradise"

I have been asked the question several times, "Why I don't like to hang out with ex pats"  Well the short answer is that I didn't travel 12,000 miles to hangout with my own tribe .

When I speak of my/our tribe, I as an American, and the French and other Europeans that live or work in Madagascar. Also many of the expats I do meet I would not make friends with them if we were back in our country/tribe, but expats feel compelled to hang with each other for a sense of similarity. For example. I would not and could not overlook the fact that a tribe member was a pedophile, that comes and lives in Madagascar for sexual tourism or retires here to exploit the young women,and many times teenage girls.  I am speaking of very old pensioners who are in the 60's and 70's that are all bent over when they walk down the street and look like a question mark.  #metoo problem in the USA is usually met here in Madagascar with poison, butchered with a knife or buried in the ground or set on fire as was done in Nosy Be a few years ago. 


  I am looking for a new experience- have been all my life. Even as a child in NYC, age 14ish- I would hang out with different gangs in different neighborhoods from the projects to the upper middle class.   I search and find the similarities of the different peoples and tribes I have met in my travels around the world over the  last 35 years. I recognize the differences, and I respect their traditions, customs and culture and I am color blind to the skin and search for their character and honest actions which has the universal traits within all peoples and tribes around the world over the thousands of years we have evolved as humans.     

As we returned to the subject of the other side of paradise and what can be difficult for foreigners to grasp is that here in Madagascar-- time does not equal money.    Living in the present, and not the future is paradise here on earth but for the vasaha this is confusing and frustration which can lead to anger.  Anger is also not a known property of the Malagasy- rarely seen, and not the Malagasy way unless pushed to extremes by the vasaha in my examples of sexual exploits of and by the vasaha.  Are their exploits within the Malagasy tribe, yes, but again rarely done because Malagasy live as a community not as a nuclear family. When Malagasy break these rules they will also face harsh punishments within their tribal community.   

Live as a community--- workers become part of the family ,whereas workers for foreigners are thought of as just workers with a 9 to 5 schedule, and separated from the family.  This causes confusion to the Malagasy feelings; and for the vasaha to live here in Madagascar, they have to welcome their workers as family for to do otherwise is to fall in to various degrees of harms way.  The other side of Paradise here is that we are all one big family where everyone knows each others problems and sufferings. 

Compare that to your home country in the first world and the multitude of  boundaries that are all around you that you call your sense of paradise.  But,  as one person trash is another persons treasure, well one persons freedom is another persons prison.  I prefer the other side of paradise here in Madagascar where there is a nice flow of freedom that flows throughout the community of friends, neighbors and workers. There is a certain amount of adjustment and acceptance to live here as I mentioned in another thread of what is takes to  be "The Seasoned Expat" https://www.expat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=732859   . If your other paradise is not what I mentioned above,   well then,  hanging out with other Expats is right for you.  Enjoy your life............

The other side of Paradise is about sorting out the difference between the Malagasy way and the colonized way.
Many of us are outsiders of this colonized society and yet are being subjected to the colonized ways even though the country has gained its freedom some 50 years ago such as to what the work ethic or moral concept should look like.
We outsiders have one foot in the western world and one foot in the Malagasy world.  I came here to become free of my own country and its venture to colonize other countries through nefarious and warlike and interference of other government institutions  ( sponsoring coups or the Sanitary generic term -regime change).  Madagascar has a peaceful undercurrent flow to it that frees one soul, compare that to  the powerful nations that interfere ( inter-fear) for power and wealth and greed.  It is the peaceful undercurrent flow of freedom that I tap into for my side of paradise.  However being connected to the first world I also see this trickle down attitudes of self righteous and arrogant habits of colonists who perpetuate the conflict between the colonized attitude and the Malagasy free society.  It comes down to these Vasaha are acting like "big fish in a small sea"  and want to impose their culture and customs in a society that has been around for two thousand years or 200,000 vasaha people vs 26 million Malagasy people. 
My thoughts and what I have come to understand is that--- I do no harm and let the society itself follow its own timeline.  For example I own a secular  school with 130 students grades K through 5.  I stress reading, writing and math within government guidelines  but when it comes to science I have to accept the local customs, such as the points in the sky are not suns with the possibility of other life forms living on other planets.   
I stress secular because here religion also has had little inroads to the society, though they try through peaceful means.  Malagasy has much to teach the first world if they would just listen.....
Having said that our ways and our information the Malagasy are also not willing to listen to our
information and I accept their abilities within their timeline as I accept the abilities and deficiencies within the time line of first world countries---think of this as you are having an out of body experience or a time traveler and and watching all societies without judgement .
Going forward--->  The rare few who make to higher grades may learn of this science, some may go onto being doctors in this country but never the skills of being a first world doctor but this society has a timeline and disrupting this timeline for power and wealth is a horror , in " My Opinion"   What is your opinion??
So my other side of paradise is a pleasure in accepting Malagasy rules of culture and customs that was built on ancient  ways, for others who cannot accept living here without all the comforts of their first world country, such as where is my electricity and water and internet....etc and disrupting their big fish little sea environment, thus their other side of Paradise becomes the dark side, where they bitch moan and complain and yet I could given the chance show them the beauty of all this if they would listen but can't even when they have lived here 20 years- instead their negativity is greater and they are toxic ex pats.
In balance- when I return to the USA at times, I enjoy the benefits that USA has but as I have spent some 16 years in Madagascar I come to compare the differences.  I am now a visitor to the USA or we visit Thailand or Mauritius...etc but the other side of Paradise for me is our home in Madagascar.

One of the things that I have seen with tourists that have had some trouble in another country and in this case,  Madagascar is that they think they have the same rights here as their country.  I can understand this tourist behavior because they don't get out much.
It is when expats who have come to live in Madagascar and when they get into some trouble that they cry out for their rights from their home country.   They contact their consulate or Embassy and say fix my problem that they  got themselves into in Madagascar not realizing that they created their problem and their home country cannot extend their rights to Madagascar. 

I will go a step further and explain that the rights they cry for does not even exist in their own country.  For rights is something that cannot be taken away and yet policies change, laws are deleted or made convoluted,  and these rights that you think you have in your country or in Madagascar  is an illusion much like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.....Let me make it clear that you have no rights here in this country or in your own, you only have privileges. Another way of saying this is that if rights can be taken away then these are not rights---just privileges.   

Once you understand this concept then you will be more careful about the conduct you display in your host country and understand to accept the rules and customs and culture of this land, and in this case Madagascar that you reside in.    Once you conduct yourself to the rules and culture and customs of the country you live in and you can not depend on your home country for help, you will then find harmony in Madagascar.  When you try to impose your believe system of your culture on that of the country you reside in, you will only find despair , depression or perhaps anger, a toxic expat,  and what will follow is that you may even try to go up against the rules of the country you reside in thus causing you trouble and you asking for help from your home country consulate or Embassy of which they cannot do much or anything at all except to explain or offer lip service that you now live, in your case,  in a sovereign country. 

I have seen this first hand recently for when my Malagasy family member was in jail by the Malagasy police 10 days ago, which turned out to be an error and he was released since he was not part of the university protests.
The good are always swept up with the bad.
At this jail,  I saw several Vasaha that were so bold as to have broken Malagasy rules because they thought their  "rights" were being trampled on.  That cost them dearly in jail time and money---if they had learned the lesson that they are not in their homeland any more they would have been more careful as to how to live their life in a foreign country, and  then Harmony would be their lifestyle of which they came here in the first place but forgot that the rules of their home country cannot follow them.  In understanding my advise you will find that the other side of paradise is Blissfulness.

That is great Alex tell me hows is for a white American to visit Antananarivo?
Any problems with that? Im from New York too  i,m might be there in November
whats your advise to me?
Thanks
Mike Sicilia  ***

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[at]gmike

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Sorry did mean any harm

Difficult to give such a general Answer.  This depends on your global travels and how street smart you are.  White is not a problem as you will not be discriminated against as in the USA.  You will be a target though because you will be seen as having money- just they way you walk and habits will be different.

This is why many people travel as tourists, they prefer to be shown a country as the tour guide thinks they would like to see from the tourists expectations, and the tour guide as seen many tourists so they know how the tourist thinks.  Example- I spoke with some American Tourists waiting at the Tana airport for their guide to show up.  I thought I would be helpful to show them Malagasy Money and how to convert  it to Dollars.  One tourist asked me what is the correct % to tip.  I said Malagasy people do not tip, if fact if you as the buyer are friendly, then the Merchant will give the tip or gift- even with or without asking for a discount.  The tourist said that the tour guide ( e mail correspondence)  said that 10 to 20 % was normal.  I said no tipping  ( my thinking- though I did not say it, was you ruin it for others who come after you),   but they, the tourists who just landed in the country a few hours knew more than I and could not except my 16 years of experience and I who am married to a Malagasy they trusted their tour guide who was going to take advantage of them. 
Your street smarts will tell you what to do, watch how the Malagasy conduct their business or transaction before you do, always ask for discounts, even your hotel and be patient and always alert to your surroundings and the people close to you and spot the ones afar who target you and follow you, especially when you walk out of a bank.

Good travels

Ok thanks that’s what I know, I should have no problem there,besides my friend she was born there ,and once I get there she will meet me at the airport.
Thanks again
Greetings from NY

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