Madagaskar : Meltdown week!

Bake-off shows have cake week, tart week etc, but I can describe last week as meltdown week. I suppose of the kind where something goes wrong in a nuclear reactor and the fuel overheats and melts everything. Let me start with the worst one.

I received a phone call from a French man who runs a diving business on the island and who I have never met. I was quite happy to hear from him as I was recently told that he often visits Lovako school in Ampamata and donates things like exercise books, pens and balls. He also indicated that he would like to build another classroom. So far, so good. I told the teachers at Ampamata to give him our card so that we could get in touch, because we could do with another partner. For some reason, the information was not shared. I have the feeling that the teachers thought that they could personally gain something from this man by hiding the fact that we are part of the project. Why do I think that! Malagasy culture 101. My reasoning was shared by Euphrasie. Without an introduction or greeting, this man accused me of abusing the teachers, paying them just about nothing and that they could not even buy a bag of rice. Well mister, few Malagasy people are able to buy a bag of rice anyway, but I refrained from reacting and allowed him to continue. I agreed to a meeting as I find it difficult to speak French on the telephone.

I asked Euphrasie to join our meeting the next day and from the moment he sat himself down, he continued where he left off and escalated to telling me that the school is simply not working my way and he will build a classroom and “take care of the ‘poor, mistreated’ teachers. And on and on it went. I asked him how long he has been in Madagascar. A full four years and proud of his…er profound knowledge of how things work here. Well, I felt my inner nuclear reactor rapidly reaching boiling point. I was not going to let it boil over though. I calmly informed him that he will do nothing unless we agreed with it. I saw that he was beginning to dislike me intensely and when Euphrasie mentioned that we have another school, he retorted that he was not remotely interested in anything else that I was doing and so the dislike was reciprocated. Euphrasie stood up and left, she was so annoyed and there was nothing left to say.

That evening I checked out the website of the diving business and the very first photo that appeared was that of Lovako school. It doesn’t take much brain power to figure out where this was going. I am so devastated by this betrayal. We suspect that it was one specific teacher and therefore Euphrasie and I will go to Ampamata on Thursday. This requires renting a speed boat, because Gabriel is still out of action. It means an expense which we can ill afford.

Meltdown…take 2!

After the guys had finished the roof of the first three classrooms, we noticed that they did not fit the capping which goes right on the top. We were assured that it would be done before they went home that day. We had a thunder storm that night and when we arrived at school the next morning and I saw the roof sans capping, I did boil over. I walked into the classroom and was surrounded by wet books and damp boxes. I was more heart broken than angry to be honest, as replacing books is impossible. I called Zachary and he took one look at the mess and froze in his tracks. I think I sounded like a character from a Shakespearean drama when I literally cried out, ‘Oh Zachary, why…?’ I just had to fall down on my knees to complete the picture, but there was no need as I could see that he would have preferred it if I had shouted at him in anger. Dries had to lead me away and it must have looked as if I was heading straight for the ‘maison dix-huit’, an euphemism the people use to refer to the place in Antananarivo where people with mental problems go. Fortunately Tana is a long way from here.

I am relieved to report that Dries had his own mini meltdown on Saturday morning when he saw how poorly the very last part of the roof was finished off, because the workers were so rushed. That means that he has to get back onto the roof and fix it himself. The whole point of hiring people was to enable him to focus on other jobs. Well, in a perfect world that is…

I am trying to share all of this in a lighter tone, but the possible consequences of the encounter with the French man, could be serious. His agenda does not appear to include us and we had the experience with JoshGen School where an attempt was made to appropriate the school. We have been left deflated and bruised by what’s been happening and when you add the other challenges of trying to keep everything going, we are somewhat discouraged.

There was a ‘silver lining’ last week apart from the fact that the roof was done. Alice forwarded her report card and I can only say that obtaining 95% for Maths, is in my book a remarkable achievement, especially when the rest of the marks were not far behind. Words like ‘a joy, diligent, responsible, positive attitude and delightful sense of humour’ were used to describe her. Before I start to sound like a swooning parent, I’ll leave it there.

Please pray for my trip to Ampamata tomorrow (Thursday). Pray for wisdom above all and the strength to keep going.