Exit From “Paradise”

I awoke on Easter Sunday, earlier than expected, seeing that it was my last day in “Paradise”. I started with a morning snack and repacked my pack for the eleven-hour flight to Paris. It was a great deal cooler Easter morning. The sun was strong but there was not the overwhelming heat as in the previous month. I went for a long walk on the deserted streets of Tana, trying to gain some perspective and reminisce about my voyage. I finally felt that I had ceased being a tourist and was finally a voyager who had come to some important realizations away from my tiny box in the sky, namely my third floor walk up apartment in the cement jungle of Toronto’s skyscrapers.

I had started my journey in a state of shock, having touched down in a rather remote African location, with optimism, excitement and a slight sense of fear. A month later, despite the hazards, the chaos and the harassments, I was sad to be leaving. I mused about my experiences in what one would have called a rather magical place in many regards. I started to regret my decision to leave without a few more days discovering Tana, which as the capital, likely has the greatest diversity on the island. As a photographer, I feared I was missing out on documenting a portion of the Malgache culture, albeit a gentrified and altered version of life on the island.

Everything was closed for the day, but this gave me, yet again an entirely different perspective on this crazy, crowded, hectic city. My pleasant walk resulted in encounters with people dressed in their Sunday’s best; wonderful hats, large smiles and laughter abounding. I could hear the church bells and the flutter of boisterous children scurrying here and there. The only thing that I found open was the shanty next door selling fried bananas and beignets. I munched on the last remnants of some Malgache delicacies as I finished packing. I even took in an afternoon nap, knowing full well I would not likely sleep in flight.

My only real concern, as the afternoon progressed, was the inability to withdraw money from the bank machines. My visa card would not work and I still had to settle my final bill at the hotel. I ended up being introduced to several local black market moneychangers. After many inquires, I was appalled to discover the exchange would mean losing 75% of the cash value as their payment for the transaction. I refused, seeing that this outrageous arrangement would not have been enough to cover the expense of my hotel visit. In the end, the hotel management, after some negotiations, was kind enough to take my remaining Malgache arias and the rest in Canadian dollars.

At nightfall my prearranged taxi arrived to take me back to the airport and back to something familiar. After about twelve-hours, I arrived in Paris the morning of Easter Monday. I finally embraced my family wearing jeans, t-shirt, a thin cardigan and my trusty dark silver flip-flops to a very damp 8C (up from the -3C throughout the night). I was still sun crisped and exhausted from the journey (of a lifetime) but grateful to be in the comfort of loving arms, despite freezing my butt off.