Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where the *&%$ is my Sugar?

So we've landed back in Tana. Usually I feel a little rocky when traveling between the first and third world, if I may use this old-fashioned, politically incorrect term. My mother's favorite saying that translates into something like: men may travel on a horse but the soul follows on foot, is even more accurate these days when you can cross a distance of 5,000 miles in 11 hours.

Lost in my own home
Although I am used to living in two worlds, returning to our house in Mada felt different this time. I took a rather long  break, the longest ever, during which time I did not think very often about Madagascar. I have to admit that in my country, Holland, Madagascar does not really live. Anyway, when we came back home last night after having traveled in six countries where we slept in at least 20 different beds, I had the strangest sensation: I felt lost in my own house. Literally. For example: I could not find the sugar anymore, nor the coffee cups and I kept opening the wrong cup boards.  This has never happened to me before.  For a little while I thought I was  having a few senior moments, but my daughter had the same: she too could not locate the sugar anymore!

Home is where...
Fortunately it was only a matter of time, after a day I opened all the right kitchen cabinets again. But it made me re-think about the question: where is my home? What does 'home' mean to me? Home is where the heart it, says the famous proverb, but what does that mean? Is my heart where my family is, where my roots are, where I'm working and living, or where I can find the sugar without any trouble. These questions are particularly valid being an expat.

I've found my answer: home is where I open the kitchen cabinets and at once  find exactly what I need without any hesitation!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Taste of Madagascar in Belgium

To get a visa for Antoine, my stepson who will come live with us in Mada for two years, we went to the Madagascar Embassy in Brussels yesterday. Michel had prepared the visa application very rigorously and as such it was not a problem: we got a three-month courtesy visa in no time. Amazing!

Madagascar restaurant
To celebreate this remarkable event we went to the one and only Malagasy restaurant in the Belgium. Probably the only restaurant from Madagascar in northern Europe. Located at St Catherine Place in Brussels, a hip neighborhood where you can eat from all continents in the world, it's called Madagasaskari and it's very small  but cute. On the menu are of course Malagasy national dishes like Ravototo, Romazava and brochettes. The mango and guave juices are not fresh but bottled yet very tasty. They even have Three Horse Beer and rum arrangĂ©  - rum flavoured with vanilla or pepper.  The restaurant is owned by Thierry and his wife, - he happens to be the son of friends of ours in Tana. Thierry explains that there are about 250 Malagasy in Belgium, this sounds about the same as the number of Belgians in Madagascar. Only 5% of his clientele isactually  from Madagascar, he estimates, but they are proud to have a national restaurant in Belgium.

Cute decor

Comparing the goods
Of course we could not help comparing the dishes from Madagaskari restaurant with those in the real Madagaskari. Our verdict: as tasty for sure...but the portions and prices are disproportionate. A Malagasy from Madagascar would fall of his dining chair when he'd see the miniscule portion of rice and the big prices.  Obviously - and understandably - they have been adapted to the context of being in hippest area of the capital of Europe. And that is worth something too.

Brochettes with peanut sauce - yummie

Madagaskari restaurant owner Thierry and us in Brussels