Sunday, October 2, 2016

Naming Names...err Roads in Madagascar

My quest to name some of the streets in Antananarivo came out of a desire to lend some order to the disordered chaos that is the Antananarivo road system.  One of the first things you learn living here is that there's no such thing as an address.  Places are located by landmarks and existing businesses (i.e., take your second left after you pass the Jovenna gas station).  If you look carefully on google maps you will see hundreds (at least) of unnamed roads/routes/alleys/streets/lanes and boulevards.

Until about one year ago, you used to be able to go into google mapmaker and make corrections/additions to their existing map.  This meant that you could name roads, add restaurants and business for example.  If a confluence of local cartographic devotees deemed your input worthy they could approve and voila: one small step for the Kruzoo and one giant leap for Madagascar...or something like that.  So one night I went on a quite a tear and named some 20 roads and landmarks.

So for posterity's sake, I thought it prudent to note here everything that I named before I forget (or google gets wise...who knows they are probably reading this now...watching me...watching you).  There are a multitude of streets that I also named after historic Malagasy figures but I didn't write those down and I can't distinguish those from those that are already legitimately on google maps--and I can't find a way to go back into mapmaker and see all the changes/additions that I made.  Incidentally, I went on mapquest and they must build some of their maps from google maps because some of these streets below showed up there too.

Street and roads named during the illustrious three year cartographical reign of the Kruzoo:
  • Morakrusebe Alley:  literally translated to a little bit of a lot of Kruses alley
  • Ronald Reagan Loop:  I thought long and hard about the perfect name for a street that would irk my uber-liberal State Department cousins when they noticed it for years to come--who better than the conservative lion Ronald Reagan.
  • Rue Macee Elizabeth: named for our beautiful oldest daughters
  • Rue Francois Bayle: named for Tamatave born French musician and well-known composer in the electronic art music scene (try not to LOL--or MDR--that that is actually a thing)
  • Rue Anicet (Abel) Andrianantenaina: named after the most (only?) well known Malagasy footballer
  • Rue Annabelle: named for our dearly beloved deceased oldest puppy dog who died here this past year.
  • Lac d'Emily: named for the love of my life
  • Elhoff Alley: named for Emily's dad David Elhoff--a longtime alleyman
  • Jackson Alley: for our joyful little baby boy
  • Ladybird Lake:  named for our dearly beloved deceased youngest puppy dog--she was named after Ladybird Lake in Austin--which was named for Ladybird Johnson--wife of our 36th president
  • Lake Michigan:  named in honor of the Kruse lineage that progenated from the Great Lake State, plus it's pretty funny to name what's basically a swamp after a huge lake in the US.
  • Coronado Beach: named this for the most beautiful beach in America--the one in Madagascar is just a tiny sliver of sand you can trek down to from the back end of the Talinjoo hotel in Fort Dauphin.  Once there you will find lots of great shells and waves smoothed rocks.
The Chefs (I love to cook so I figured pourquoi pas--which is incidentally, also the name of a great little downtown Tana restaurant):
  • Rue Bobby Flay--Love me some Bobby--especially his BBQ tv show
  • Mario Batali Lane--American chef and TV personality--he always annoyed me a little bit so I am glad that he will remain behind (metaphysically at least) here in Tana
  • Rue Paul Bocuse--auteur of french nouvelle cuisine who emphasizes high quality fresh ingredients
  • Emerill Lane--American tv personality/chef--my buddy Dug Hales indoctrinated me to his cooking show during our flight school years.  He kicks it up a notch.
  • Rachel Ray Lane--American tv personality/chef--my buddy Doug Hales indoctrinated me to her cooking show during our flight school years.
  • Rue Boyardee Chef--Italian-American culinary lion whose factory ran 24/7 during WWII to produce army rations.
  • Rue August Escoffier--20th century French cuisine lion with a walrusuva moustache--the perfecter and codifier of the five french mother sauces.  His influence lives on in the Malagasy haute culinary world today.
  • Julia Child Terrrace

Other Notable Mada Posts:
'Veloma' List of Poems/Notable Prose Written While In Madagascar
Veloma List of Madagascar Posts
Our 'Veloma' Restaurant List
Things I Love About Madagascar (TILAM): Drumline, Bubba, Chameleons, Dancing, Bazaars, Clouds, Tennis and more

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Leaving Tangier: Loved it Because this was a sad, tragic, beautifully written tale about loneliness, despair, hope and home (Morocco, 2006/2009)

Leaving Tangier (2009)

Loved it Because this was a sad, tragic, beautifully written tale about loneliness, despair, hope and home.  In other words, it encompasses the entire range of the human condition that you expect a great novel to cover.  Ever since living in Morocco as a fifth grader, the country has had an allure for me.  In grad school, my thesis compared state responses to Berber populations in Morocco and Algeria--I know...thrilling stuff. 

Originally published as Partir in 2006--the english translation came out in 2009.   The strength of this novel is that it doesn't hold back in its indictment of the Moroccan government's societal failures but also doesn't hold living in Europe as a golden solution to the problems of most Moroccans.  Much of the narrative focuses on a young man named Azel who wants to flee to Spain so fervently that he will eventually do... almost anything. 

Another interesting aspect of Leaving Tangier is its examination of the nebulous moral compass of its characters.  Azel in particular is disgusted with the corruption and crime inherent in his nation's society and refuses to take part of it.  But he is eventually willing to forgo his own sexuality and desires in order to flee Morocco--for Azel this is a choice that starts a slow disintegration of the very fabric of his being.  This stands in stark contrast to the voyage of his sister who works hard to maintain her identity and a certain extent...of course...because in this story we see that ultimately no one can live without compromise.  

Leaving Tangier stands the test of time as I read it ten years after its publication.  It's a timely tale about the harsh reality of immigration and emigration and the depths that desperation drive one to.  And it's Jelloun's eye for tender observation and magical realism that cements the novel as a modern classic.  Indeed the novel's closing lines are a siren call for all immigrants:

He’s the immigrant without a name! This man is who I was, who your father was, who your son will be, and also, very long ago, the man who was the Prophet Mohammed, for we are all called upon to leave our homes, we all hear the siren call of the open sea, the appeal of the deep, the voices from afar that live within us, and we all feel the need to leave our native land, because our country is often not rich enough, or loving enough, or generous enough to keep us at home. So let us leave, let’s sail the seas as long as even the tiniest light still flickers in the soul of a single human being anywhere at all, be it a good soul or some lost soul possessed by evil: we will follow this ultimate flame, however wavering, however faint, for from it will perhaps spring the beauty of this world, the beauty that will bring the world’s pain and sorrow to an end.’  

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
 **See our 20162015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

My Kindle Highlights

Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun
You have 34 highlighted passages

Occasionally the men do allude to her, especially when the sea has tossed up the bodies of a few drowned souls. She has acquired more riches, they say, and surely owes us a favour! They have nicknamed her Toutia, a word that means nothing, but to them she is a spider that can feast on human flesh yet will sometimes warn them, in the guise of a beneficent voice, that tonight is not the night, that they must put off their voyage for a while.
this country is one huge marketplace, wheeling and dealing day and night, everybody’s for sale, all you need is a little power, something to cash in on, and it doesn’t take much, just the price of a few bottles of whisky, an evening with a whore, but for the big jobs, that can cost you, money changes hands, so if you want me to look the other way, let me know the time and place, no sweat, my brother, you want a signature, a little scribble at the bottom of the page, no problem, come see me, or if you’re too busy, send your driver, the one-eyed guy, he won’t notice a thing, and that’s it, my friends, that’s Morocco, where some folks slave like maniacs, working because they’ve decided to be
honest, those fellows, they labour in the shadows, no one sees them, no one talks about them when in fact they should get medals, because the country functions thanks to their integrity, and then there are the others, swarming everywhere, in all the ministries, because in our beloved country, corruption is the very air we breathe, yes, we stink of corruption, it’s on our faces, in our heads, buried in our hearts – in your hearts, anyway – and if you don’t believe me, ask old Crook’s Belly over there, old baldy, the armored safe, the strongbox of secrets, the one sipping a lemonade because monsieur is a good Muslim, he doesn’t drink alcohol, he goes often to Mecca, oh yes, he’s a hajji* – and I’m an astronaut! I’m in a rocket, I’m escaping into space, don’t want to live anymore on this earth, in this country, it’s all fake, everyone’s cutting some deal, well, I refuse to do that, I studied law in a nation that knows nothing of the Law even while it’s pretending to demand respect for our laws, what a joke, here you have to respect the powerful, that’s all, but for the rest, you’re on your fucking own… As for you, Mohammed Oughali, you’re nothing but a thief, a faggot – a zamel … an attaye …’ Azel was
none of his pals were in residence there. He was a past master at corruption, expertly assessing every man’s character, needs, weaknesses, neglecting no aspect of anyone’s personality, and he had a finger in every pie. You’d have thought he had a doctorate in some outlandish science. Al Afia could read only numbers. For everything else, he had loyal and competent secretaries with whom he spoke a Riffian dialect of Berber and a few words of Spanish. Everyone considered him a generous man: ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’; ‘his house is yours’; ‘the dwelling of Goodness’; and so on. To one man he would offer a trip to Mecca; to another, a plot of land, or a foreign car (stolen, obviously); to yet another, a gold watch, telling him, ‘It’s a little something nice for your wife.’ He paid the medical expenses of his men and their families and night after night he offered drinks to everyone at the bar that had gradually become his headquarters.
‘No one in power respects the message of Islam. They use it, but do not apply it. And our plan is precisely to do something different. We know what the people want: to live in dignity.’
I’ve been enriched by French culture, the culture of law, of rights, the culture of justice and respect for others. I found things in Islam that share this enlightenment, in sacred Muslim texts as well as in those of the golden age of Arab culture. I would like you to open your eyes and give meaning to your life.’ Suspecting that Azel had little interest
Noureddine’s parents had wept and refused to accept what had happened. Kenza, clothed all in white, was not allowed to attend the funeral: the women had to stay home, it was the custom.
Their recruits don’t travel by airplane, however: they choose busy times in the ports, at night, and sometimes they slip a bill or two into the policeman’s or custom official’s hand and that’s that. I know, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s the truth: the Islamists’ main ally is the corruption they claim to be fighting, because it’s thanks to baksheesh that they manage to slip past the border police.
Azel did not consider them prostitutes, but simply ‘social cases.’ That was El Haj’s favourite expression, and he had a whole theory on this subject.
He wondered for the hundredth time why Moroccans were clean at home and dirty in public, and remembered what his history teacher at the Lycée Al Khatib had taught him, that Morocco’s tragedy was the exodus from the countryside. Rural people flooding into the city continued to live like peasants, throwing their garbage out their front doors – in short, not changing their behaviour one jot. And it’s all the fault of the heavens, it’s the drought that forces thousands of families to leave their land to come beg in the city. That morning, there were many more stray cats than
Whenever Miguel forced a man to become involved with him, he regretted it, but he found a kind of perverse pleasure in feeling lonely and sorry for himself. He loved the ‘awkwardness’ of Moroccan men, by which he meant their sexual ambiguity.
Dear country (yes, it must be ‘Dear country,’ since the king says ‘My dear people’),
You know, from Morocco you can see Spain, but it doesn’t work like that in the opposite direction. The Spanish don’t see us, they don’t give a damn, they’ve no use for our country.
The alem did not mince words. ‘Never forget that women’s wiles are terrible: God Himself has told us so and put us on our guard. Know that Evil springs from the heart and body of woman, but that Good also knows how to take form there: think of our mothers… Above all, pay attention to the future of your daughters, here, on Christian soil. A few days ago, did not the police of this country summon a friend of mine, a virtuous man, to find out why he had beaten his disobedient eldest daughter? She had wanted to go out for the evening wearing make-up and ready for who knows what! God forbid! Do you realize that here they punish a family man for protecting his daughter’s virtue? The West is diseased, and we don’t want it to infect our children. Have you heard about those laws allowing men to marry among themselves and even to adopt children? This society is losing its mind! That is why you must be extra vigilant with your children, especially your daughters, so that they do not stray onto the paths of vice.
Like her girlfriend Achoucha, the neighbour lady Hafsa, her cousin Fatima, and hundreds of girls in her neighbourhood, Malika went off to shell shrimp in the Dutch factory down in the free zone of the port.
over a sea of limpid blue. Shelling more and more shrimp had turned her fingers completely transparent. Malika was afraid of losing them, afraid they would fall off like autumn leaves. She could bend them, but they hurt. When she went sailing with the wind, all her pain vanished. Often, in the air, she would encounter other children, each wrapped in a white cloth. They were going away somewhere, looking a little lost, but at peace. She had once been told that when children die, they become angels who go straight to paradise. Malika had just discovered that the way to paradise went past her terrace.
Whenever he was asked to describe his country, he would launch into some general observations sprinkled with a few home truths: in Morocco, you have to do as everyone else does: cut the throat of the sheep with your own hands on Aïd el-Kebir; marry a virgin; spend hours in a café backbiting people (or at best comparing the prices of the latest German automobiles); talk about TV programmes; drink no alcohol from
three days before Ramadan to three days after it; spit on the ground; try to push in front of other people; announce your opinion about everything; say ‘yes’ when you think ‘no’; remember to punctuate your sentences with makayene mouchkil (‘no problem’); and come home after having a few beers with friends to park yourself at the dinner table and stuff yourself like a pig. To round out the day, this pig will wait in bed for his wife to finish cleaning up so that he can give her a poke, but if she lingers a bit in the kitchen, he’ll wind up asleep and snoring.
the Italians were called wops, the Spaniards dagos, the Jews yids or whatever, and us, that hasn’t changed, we’re los moros, the wetback Arabs, we lumber out of the sea like ghosts or monsters! And now I’m off!’
Barcelona at the approach of dawn is a city that softens its sharp edges, becoming gentle, as generous as a dream in which all is well. The avenues are spotless. The houses are veiled in mist, which shrouds a few lights in the awakening city. Shaking off the robe of night, Barcelona welcomes the first passers-by; kiosks set out their displays, bistros arrange their tables on the sidewalks, the aromas of coffee and toast fill the air. The city wreathes itself slowly in the first glimmers of daylight. Filled with a quiet feeling of happiness, Kenza
When I told her that, my mother said, ‘You mean you think I was in love with your father? Love, what you young people call love, it’s a luxury, it comes with time or it never does.
We could have followed the example of many comrades and gone into exile in France, but the ten of us were drawn to this country where the sun shines all year round.
Tangier was like a circus full of those who live on the margins of society. I considered
So think about it, if you feel like forgetting your troubles: leave Europe without going back to Morocco – Cameroon will welcome you! These aren’t idle words, don’t forget: we are the land of promises given but above all, kept.
Miguel now realized that there was something terrifying about the loneliness of immigration, a kind of descent into a void, a tunnel of shadows that warped reality. Kenza had let herself be caught in the maze, and Azel, well, he had gone desperately wrong. Exile revealed the true dimensions of calamity.
Miguel had to face facts: no one can change the course of fate.
Azel was on the floor, his throat cut, his head in a pool of blood. The Brothers had slaughtered him like a lamb sacrificed for Aïd el-Kebir.
She’d felt this burning wound inside her for a long time, well before the advent of Miguel: the wound of waiting, ennui, and a future whose mirror had shattered.
Later that evening, she watched a rebroadcast of the king’s funeral, followed by scenes of allegiance being pledged to a young man, who was deeply moved by his duty to carry on the centuries-old traditions of his dynasty. It was then that Kenza felt the hour had come for her to go home at last to Morocco.
like Muslim cemeteries; they’re so much less depressing than the well-organized graveyards of other religions. Muslim cemeteries are simple, humble, and open; life shines on them with a magnificent light.
‘Go, go back home, there’s a boat waiting for you in Tarifa, you’ll see, you won’t be the only one going aboard: it’s a magic ship, and on it life will seem beautiful to you, the sun will always shine for you, so go, my weary beauty.’
‘Which one? The one in the tree or the one in the coffin?’ ‘The one in the tree. My men will bring the coffin on board. We are to deliver it to the authorities upon our arrival, but since I have no conception of time, or space either, for that matter, I can’t make any guarantees. So tell me, who is hiding inside that getup?’ ‘He calls himself Moha, but with him you’re never sure of anything. He’s the immigrant without a name! This man is who I was, who your father was, who your son will be, and also, very long ago, the man who was the Prophet Mohammed, for we are all called upon to leave our homes, we all hear the siren call of the open sea, the appeal of the deep, the voices from afar that live within us, and we all feel the need to leave our native land, because our country is often not rich enough, or loving enough, or generous enough to keep us at home. So let us leave, let’s sail the seas as long as even the tiniest light still flickers in the soul of a single human being anywhere at all, be it a good soul or some lost soul possessed by evil: we will follow this ultimate flame, however wavering, however faint, for from it will perhaps spring the beauty of this world, the beauty that will bring the world’s pain and sorrow to an end.’  
TAHAR BEN JELLOUN was born in 1944 in Fez, Morocco, and emigrated to France in 1961. A novelist, essayist, critic, and poet, he is a regular contributor to Le Monde, La Repubblica, El País, and Panorama. His novels include The Sacred Night (winner of the 1987 Prix Goncourt), Corruption, and The Last Friend. Ben Jelloun won the 1994 Prix Maghreb, and in 2004 he won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for This Blinding Absence of Light.